Tuesday, February 01, 2005

10 Lessons From Robert S. McNamara*

1. The human race will not eliminate war in this century, but we can reduce the brutality of war - the level of killing - by adhering to the pricnciples of a "Just War", in particular to the principle of "proportionality."

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

3. We are the most powerful nation in the world economically, politically, and militarily - and we are likely to remain so for decades ahead. But we are not omniscient. If we cannot persuade other nations with similar interests and similar values of the merits of our proposed use of that power, we should not proceed unilaterally except in the unlikely requirement to defend directly the continental U.S., Alaska, and Hawaii.

4. Moral principles are often ambiguous guides to foreign policy and defense policy, but surely we can agree that we should establish as a major goal of U.S. foreign policy and, indeed, of foreign plicies across the globe the avoidance in this century of the carnage - 160 million dead - caused by conflict in the 20th century.

5. We, the richest nation in the world, have failed in our responsibility, to our own poor and to the disadvantaged across the world to help them advance their welfare in the most fundemental terms of nutrition, literacy, health, and employment.

6. Corporate executives must recognize there is no cntratdiction between a soft heart and a hard head. Of course, they have responsibilities to stockholders, but they also have responsibilities to their employees, their customers and to society as a whole.

7. President Kennedy believed a primary responsibility of a president - indeed, "the" primary responsibility of a president - is to keep the nation out of war, if at all possible.

8. War is a blunt instrument by which to settle disputes between or within nations, and economic sanctions are rarely effective. Therefore, we should build a system of jurisprudence based on the International Court - that the U.S. has refused to support - which would hold individuals responsible for crimes against humanity.

9. If we are to deal effectively with terrorism across the globe, we must develope a sense of empathy - I don't meant "sympathy" but rather "understanding" - to counter their attacks on us and the Western World.

10. One of the greatest challenges we face tody is the risk that terrorist will obtain access to weapons of mass destruction as a result of the breakdown of the Non-Proliferation Regime. We in the U.S. are contributing to that breakdown.

(*These "lessons" are listed on the dvd version of Errol Morris' "The Fog of War", a film everyone interested in Americas cold war years should see.)


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