Promise and power: The life and times of Robert McNamara

Promise and power: The life and times of Robert McNamara

Brief Reviews Although he does point to real problems, the simplicity of his analysis and the absence of answers detracts considerably from his case. ...

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Brief Reviews Although he does point to real problems, the simplicity of his analysis and the absence of answers detracts considerably from his case. With regard to NAFIA, Perot notes deficiencies-in particular, the “giant sucking sound” of manufacturing jobs disappearing to Mexico-and argues for their being corrected before ratification. He places the cause of the shift of jobs and manufacturing facilities squarely on the discrepancies between the two countries’ wages, benefits, and standards. This alleged loss of manufacturing in the United States implies an increase in the U.S. national debt and prevents the country from producing the materials required during war. But Perot’s shallow analysis and scare tactics don’t hold up: low Mexican minimum wages are offset by high American skills, Perot presumes scant economic literacy from his readers; he makes no attempt to explain the underlying principles of international trade and economics. Perot’s candid and straightforward arguments are doomed by their own simplicity. Although his basic rhetoric makes for easy reading, it does little to enlighten the reader in the ways of North American trade. Darian Unger

and Power: The Lifeand Times of Robert McNamara By Deborah Shapley. New York: Little, Brown, 1993. 615 pp. $29.95. Up to now, Robert McNamara has avoided most questions about his personal role in U.S. defense policy, and, short of a court order, has declined discussion about Vietnam completely. Shapley fills the vacuum well, providing in Promiseam! Power a character sketch as much as a history. She follows McNamara through his childhood in California, his Army staff positions in World War II, his successful career in the Ford Motor Company, his seven years as the most controversial defense secretary ever, and his tenure as president of the World Bank. Shapley’s study consists mainly of public history, drawn from secondary sauces and offering few revelations, Her microscopic examination of McNamara’s personality and motives make the book important. Using newly available declassified memoranda, oral histories, and McNamara’s testimony during William Westmoreland’s libel trial against CBS, Shapeley chips away much of the shell surrounding McNamara’s personal views and the positions he took in private discussions. McNamara granted Shapeley twenty interviews (as noted, a rarity in itself), but only offered “clarifications” on previously published statements or testimony when the subject turned to Vietnam. Shapley plainly admires her subject’s drive and intelligence, but she draws an unflattering portrait of him. McNamara emerges as the ultimate staffer, a man of duty who set his conscience aside when he thought necessary, a cyborg willing to compromise to toady up to his patron of the moment (Henry Ford II, Kennedy, Johnson). Ultimately, McNamara’s conscience did win out, but even then he has rationalized rather than expressed regret for his past actions. Shapley perfectly captures his complexity of purpose and ambiguity of principle. B.D.B Promise

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