Robert McNamara: 1916-2009

Former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, the "architect" of the Vietnam War, died this morning. He was 93.

At least this summer of Celebrity Death is taking out the McNamaras along with the Maldens.

JFK brought McNamara to Washington from Ford, because in the '60s (as today, probably) it made sense that a man who was quite good at managing a car company would best be able to manage the Pentagon, a corporation that produces war. And McNamera's dispassionate, analytical approach helpfully separated the messy details of death from the business of war, allowing everyone in Washington to accept burned villages, dead children, and wholesale destruction as a series of encouraging charts and graphs, showing progress in terms of thousands of dead enemies.

McNamara knew the war was unwinnable by the middle of 1965. And millions of tons of bombs and missiles indiscriminately rained down on North and South Vietnam and it became an open-ended commitment to a war of attrition between that realization and his resignation in 1967. After his resignation he refused to say a word about what he knew, and the war continued, for no good reason, until 1975.

His eventual, late-in-life apology was both too broad and too narrow. He was sorry that the entire ideology of the ruling class was wrong. He was sorry that no one listened to his limited objections. He was sorry Curtis LeMay was such an evil scumbag.

He was a narrow-minded number-crunching company man, exactly the sort of amoral little functionary we should never, ever allow to make decisions of life and death. A better man, perhaps, than a cold-blooded Machiavellian like Kissinger, but just as destructive.

At least until someone at Sony figures it out, you can watch the entirety of The Fog of War at YouTube.

[Photo: Time Life Pictures/Getty Images]