Robert “Strange” McNamara died this week (yes, Strange was really his middle name). I cannot imagine that his home or grave will be strewn with piles of flowers the likes of Michael Jackson or Princess Diana. No.
He lived to the ripe old age of 93. Rather ironic that the man whose decisions sent hundreds of 20 year olds to their deaths in Vietnam should himself die of old age.
Yet his longevity gave him the opportunity to reflect on his life and the decisions he had made. In his book, In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam, and later in the Errol Morris film, Fog of War, this very brilliant man did something that people in the public eye seldom do – admit that he was wrong; that he made mistakes; mistakes which yielded dire consequences.
I have always admired people who do the right thing. And even more so, those who have the courage to step outside the protective shell of ego and admit when they are wrong. Robert McNamara had nothing to gain through this admission, other than to urge a cautionary footnote to history; that if we don’t learn by our mistakes, we will be condemned to repeat them.
I am not going to eulogize McNamara here. Rather than toss flowers on his grave, if you have not seen it already, watch the Fog of War. A trailer to the film is included below.