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Quotes of the day: Robert McNamara

Published Monday, June 08, 2015 @ 9:55 AM EDT
Jun 08 2015

Robert Strange McNamara (June 9, 1916 – July 6, 2009) was an American business executive and the eighth Secretary of Defense, serving from 1961 to 1968 under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, during which time he played a large role in escalating the United States involvement in the Vietnam War. Following that, he served as President of the World Bank from 1968 to 1981. McNamara was responsible for the institution of systems analysis in public policy, which developed into the discipline known today as policy analysis. McNamara consolidated intelligence and logistics functions of the Pentagon into two centralized agencies: the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Defense Supply Agency. Prior to public service, McNamara was one of the "Whiz Kids" who helped rebuild Ford Motor Company after World War II, and briefly served as Ford's President before becoming Secretary of Defense. A group of advisors he brought to the Pentagon inherited the "Whiz Kids" moniker. McNamara remains the longest serving Secretary of Defense at over seven years. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)


A computer does not substitute for judgment any more than a pencil substitutes for literacy. But writing without a pencil is no particular advantage.

Be prepared to reexamine your reasoning.

Belief and seeing are both often wrong.

Brains, like hearts, go where they are appreciated.

Coercion, after all, merely captures man. Freedom captivates him.

Elimination of nuclear weapons, so naive, so simplistic, and so idealistic as to be quixotic? Some may think so. But as human beings, citizens of nations with power to influence events in the world, can we be at peace with ourselves if we strive for less? I think not.

I would rather have a wrong decision made than no decision at all.

If we can't persuade nations with comparable values of the merit of our cause, we better examine our reasoning.

In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil.

It isn't that we aren't rational. We are rational. But reason has limits.

Management is the gate through which social and economic and political change, indeed change in every direction, is diffused through society.

Neither conscience nor sanity itself suggests, that the United States is, or should or could be the global gendarme.

Never answer the question that is asked of you. Answer the question that you wish had been asked of you.

One cannot fashion a credible deterrent out of an incredible action.

Poor planning or poor execution of plans is simply to let some force other than reason shape reality.

Rationality will not save us.

Short of nuclear war itself, population growth is the gravest issue the world faces. If we do not act, the problem will be solved by famine, riots, insurrection and war.

The indefinite combination of human fallibility and nuclear weapons will lead to the destruction of nations.

We see what we want to believe.

What 'the fog of war' means is: war is so complex it's beyond the ability of the human mind to comprehend all the variables. Our judgment, our understanding, are not adequate. And we kill people unnecessarily.

What makes us omniscient? Have we a record of omniscience? We are the strongest nation in the world today. I do not believe that we should ever apply that economic, political, and military power unilaterally

You can never substitute emotion for reason. I still would allow a place for intuition in this process, but not emotion.

You can't substitute emotion for reason.

What makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?

That's one of the major lessons: no president should ever take this nation to war without full public debate in the Congress and/or in the public.

To this day we seem to act in the world as though we know what's right for everybody.

Categories: Quotes of the day, Robert McNamara


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