P.S., McNamara's lesson for today

My friend César Chelala has reminded me of his 2004 article, a good supplement to the "obit" by Charlie Degelman we posted yesterday.

McNamara's lesson for today's politicians | The Japan Times Online

And just what is that lesson? Not one that they'll find easy to learn, because that would require a humility uncommon among politicians. It's really a double lesson: First, "We could be wrong" -- a very hard idea for men in power to accept, but a ncessary first step. And then, "We must to listen to those that disagree with us and those whose experience has taught them things we can't know." Beyond humility, that requires highly developed listening skills. It also implies a respect for international law, which is one kind of codification of the voices of others. Abraham Lincoln, FDR and perhaps one or two other U.S. presidents have had such skills. We are fortunate that another is in office now.

Howard Nemerov's poem The Makers, about "the first poets, the greatest ones... the ones who worded the world...," closes with this stanza:
They were the first great listeners, attuned
To interval, relationship, and scale,
The first to say above, beneath, beyond,
Conjurors with love, death, sleep, with bread and wine,
Who having uttered vanished from the world
Leaving no memory but the marvelous
Magical elements, the breathing shapes
And stops of breath we build our Babels of.


Robt. McNamara's apologia pro vita sua

Charles Degelman isn't ready to forgive the architect of death in Indochina. The question is, how could a man so bright pursue a course so wrong and so ineffective in achieving his ends? Was it just a stubborn refusal to admit that he'd made a mistake? Or did he achieve some joy from tallying the body count of foes? Charlie and I were both in the struggle to stop him, as parts of what grew to be a very big movement against the war. McNamara's belated tears are just water on the cheeks. See Charles Degelman's well-deserved irreverent obit.