After digesting the comments on the earlier post, I've decided to take the quick and dirty way to address some of the comments.
First, I want to explain the intent of my post on McNamara.
Mike: Although I do agree that this has mostly turned into a trash-the-man-but-learn-nothing-from-his-mistakes post.
Well, Mike, it wasn't meant to turn into a "trash-the-man" post, it was always intended to be a "trash-the-man" post. I did not take the time to note this evil man's passing to prompt a lessons-learned discussion. I did it to express my everlasting contempt for the man and I'm glad I did it. I like to think a lot of other guys, now long gone from this planet, might agree with me.
My friend the Ranger wants to put the past behind, thinking it matters not other than as something to learn from. He doesn't want to judge McNamara. He wants to focus on the present. All well and good, Ranger, but in that case, what do we do about Hitler? About Stalin? Mao? Pol Pot? Do we just say "move on" and let's hope we've learned something? Santayana noted that those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it, which is why knowing history and making the appropriate judgments is all-important. If those of us who lived in the times of these "great men" who've failed the public trust don't go out of our way to express our opprobrium for them, we ensure that current and future "great men" will feel free to betray us again.
All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.
Ranger also seems to think that in my focus on McNamara, I'm somehow giving his bosses (Kennedy, Johnson) and succeeding presidents and sundry other politicians a free ride. Not so, Ranger. The day I made the post on McNamara was his turn in the barrel. The others have gotten theirs and will continue to get theirs from me. I'll note that I could not agree more with you in your jaundiced opinion of the American people and our collective failure to learn from the past. I am frankly often disgusted by many of my fellow citizens, but I, for one, will keep on truckin'.
Ael is another "judge not, lest ye be judged" or "walk a mile in another man's shoes" person. Ael also claims to have never had to truly test personal honor and dignity. Ael, not knowing who you are or what you do, I'll limit myself to observing that I doubt that. We are all tested throughout our lives. But government service, particularly at the level occupied by McNamara, requires a well developed moral compass, along with knowledge of and wariness of the pitfalls waiting to happen when dealing with powerful men. Contrast McNamara, Powell and countless others with Elliot Richardson, who, understanding where his loyalties properly lay, helped rid of us the scabrous Nixon and the rest of that motley crew. Officers under the Constitution take oaths to that Constitution. Nowhere in that oath is there any mention of personal fealty to any other person. The intent of the oath is to bind oneself to the American people, not to a politician.
Ael, you and Ranger don't want to judge. Me, it's my belief that part of my standard equipment as a human being is the gift of rational thinking and judgment. I do judge people and I will continue to do so. In my judgment, McNamara came up short.
Al explains the culture whence Colin Powell came, noting properly that the military protocol is to voice objections to the chain of command and then to keep one's mouth shut. Yes, Al, but Powell was no longer in the military. He had transcended the military and had moved into that sphere where action or inaction can grievously wound the nation. Those of who perhaps once greatly admired Powell can only be disappointed in his placing president and party over nation. I'm especially disgusted with Powell for his use of his bat man Wilkinson as a surrogate to tell the truth. Ever seen what Wilkinson has said? We should have heard that from Powell himself and we should have heard it when it made a difference. If I'm still around when Powell goes—doubtful because all of these perfumed princes live long lives—I'll pen a post about him. And I'll include his time in the Americal Division.
FDChief and Pluto get it. He provides the historic context and explains the opportunity that was lost. The Chief is a vengeful dude; he and I are of like mind. Pluto mentions Nuernberg. Yep, following orders just won't cut it. At least it didn't once upon a time in our fair nation.
Having writ, the moving finger moves on.