Robert McNamara, the Secretary of Defense during the Kennedy and Johnson
administrations, wrote In Retrospect because he wanted to ?Put Vietnam in context,?(xx).
McNamara wanted to explain why the mistakes of Vietnam were made, not to justify them, but
the record whenever possible.
People have often called Vietnam, McNamara?s war, because he made it his
values. Though as our government would soon realize he was not the man we had hoped for.
Diem needed to be removed from power, he was becoming more and more unpopular with his
people. The Kennedy Administration seemed split on how democratic Diem really was. His
administration supported a general?s coup to get Diem out of power. Diem and his brother Nhu
were both assassinated during this coup.
On November 22, 1963, Kennedy, himself, was also assassinated on the streets of Dallas.
had Kennedy not been killed. McNamara feels that had Kennedy lived he would have pulled us
out of Vietnam. His reasoning was that Kennedy had told his cabinet ?We are not going to
bungle into war.? Kennedy was ready to start pulling our troops out because it was obvious that
the war was un winnable.
The demands for U.S. military actions were growing.
Gulf of Tonkin. A second attack was supposed to have taken place on August fourth, but
McNamara has now concluded that the second attack never happened. Using the Gulf of Tonkin
event to his advantage Johnson went to congress. The Gulf of Tonkin resolution gave the
president the broad war powers. Meanwhile this resolution had been based on an attack that
might well have never taken place. McNamara discusses whether the Gulf of Tonkin resolution
what was happening in Vietnam nor how the Johnson administration would respond to it.
leniency when it came to its actions in Vietnam, it seems as if the Congress was misled on all
the facts pertaining to the Gulf of Tonkin.
After the Gulf of Tonkin U.S. military troops were increased in Vietnam from 23,000 to
themselves and yet we continued to fight on their behalf. He believes that we could have
injustices, McNamara feels that all other resources were not exhausted before we ventured into a
war that we had little hope of winning.
Our government overestimated the fall of South Vietnam, would it really have threatened
of Vietnam. They include that the U.S. embellished the danger it would cause us had we not
intervened, both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations lacked the knowledge of that specific
seems that whenever the Johnson Administration got the Tonkin Resolution passed they failed to
think of consequences before they reacted to a situation. McNamara is not only to blame for this
war many mistakes were made, including the entire administration, generals, and Vietnamese.
The disagreements within the state department were also a fundamental cause of this armed
conflict. McNamara makes it crystal-clear that many of the contentions were not fully
The basic reasoning behind us being in Vietnam was to advise the South Vietnamese on
fact cause many of the oversights made. There was no ?war cabinet? to focus on strictly on
Our Government must learn through these mistakes. It is obvious the mistakes that the
state department made during these fateful years. It may have been avoided had it not been for a
assassination of Diem, and the relatively unknown Gulf of Tonkin incidences.
When McNamara left the state department he had realized that the U.S. ?could not
achieve their objectives in Vietnam.? In the last few months of his term he came to the
conclusion that continuing on the present course would eventually prove fatal and cost many of
innocent lives. Johnson did not agree so he purposely left McNamara?s views out of discussions
regarding the next course of action. What they needed was a rapid end to this war, and he felt
of alternatives such as stopping the bombing of the north to bring about negotiations, transferring
the responsibility from our military to the South Vietnamese. Although he made his contentions
well-known to the president, the president was not ready to hear him. His last deed in regards to
Vietnam was to oppose General Westmoreland?s petition for 200,000 supplementary troops.
inexperience of the state department, though they were extremely intelligent, they were not
trained in the finer workings of the military which caused the escalation. Their were many times
when we could have pulled out of Vietnam, but they thought that it would cause the United
States to lose rank with the rest of the world. Both Administrations, I feel overstated the threat
that if South Vietnam fell to communism than the rest of the east would fall like a line of
dominoes. McNamara summed up alot of misconceptions of what really happened, he doesn?t
try and sugar coat he comes right out and says ?We were wrong, terribly wrong.? The book
makes a lot of valid points though it is hard to follow at times. In Retrospect has allowed me to
become painfully aware of a war that I knew relatively little about. This book shows reasons as
to why, right or wrong, we intervened in Vietnam, and why we should have withdrawn sooner
than we did.