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Memorable Quotes from

The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the


Life of Robert S. McNamara (!!"#
Robert McNamara: I'd rather be damned-if-I-don't.
Robert McNamara: If we can't persuade nations with comparable values of the
merits of our cause, we'd better reexamine our reasoning.
Robert McNamara: In the end, it was luck. We were *this* close to nuclear war, and
luck prevented it.
Robert McNamara: I think the human race needs to think about killing. ow much
evil must we do in order to do good.
Robert McNamara: !esson "#: $he indefinite combination of human fallibilit% and
nuclear weapons will lead to the destruction of nations.
Robert McNamara: &n% militar% commander who is honest with himself, or with
those he is speaking to, will admit that he has made mistakes in the application of
militar% power. e's killed people - unnecessaril%. is own troops or other troops.
$hrough mistakes, through errors of 'udgement. & hundred, or a thousand, or ten
thousand, ma%be even a hundred thousand. (ut he hasn't destro%ed nations.
Robert McNamara: &nd the conventional wisdom is: don't make the same mistake
twice. !earn from %our mistakes. &nd we all do. )a%be we make the mistake three
times, but hopefull% not four or five.
Robert McNamara: $he%'ll be no learning period with nuclear weapons. )ake one
mistake and %ou're going to destro% nations.
Robert McNamara: I was on the island of *uam in his
+General Curtis LeMays',
Robert McNamara: command in )arch -./0. In that single night, we burned to
death one hundred thousand 1apanese civilians in $ok%o. )en, women and children.
Interviewer: Were %ou aware this was going to happen2
Robert McNamara: Well, I was part of a mechanism that, in a sense, recommended
it.
+regarding his and Colonel Curtis LeMay's involvement in the bombing of Japan
during World War II,
Robert McNamara: !e)a% said if we lost the war that we would have all been
prosecuted as war criminals. &nd I think he's right. e... and I'd sa% I... were behaving
as war criminals.
Robert McNamara: !e)a% recogni3ed that what he was doing would be thought
immoral if his side has lost.
Robert McNamara: (ut what makes it immoral if %ou lose and not immoral if %ou
win2
+from October 2! "#$2! regarding the %oviet missiles in Cuba,
John F. Kennedy: We're not going to get these missiles out of 4uba, probabl%,
an%wa%... b% negotiation.
Tommy Thompson: I don't agree, )r. 5resident. I think there's still a chance...
John F. Kennedy: $hat he'll back down2
Tommy Thompson: $he important thing for 6hrushchev, it seems to me, is to be able
to sa%, 7I saved 4uba, I stopped an invasion7.
+recounting the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis,
Robert McNamara: )% deput% and I brought the 8ive 4hiefs
+&oint Chiefs of %taff,
Robert McNamara: over and we sat down with 6enned%.
Robert McNamara: &nd he said, 7*entlemen, we won. I don't want %ou ever to sa%
it, but %ou know we won, I know we won.7
Robert McNamara: +General Curtis, !e)a% said, 7Won hell... we lost... we should
go in and... wipe 'em out toda%.7
+Mc'amara laughs,
+from the (pilogue,
Interviewer: &fter %ou left the 1ohnson administration, wh% didn't %ou speak out
against the 9ietnam War2
Robert McNamara: I'm not going to sa% an% more than I have. $hese are the kinds of
:uestions that get me into trouble. ;ou don't know what I know about how
inflammator% m% words can appear. & lot of people misunderstand the war,
misunderstand me. & lot of people think I'm a son of a bitch.
Robert McNamara: +)uoting a message from *hrushchev to *ennedy concerning
the Cuban Missile Crisis, 7We and %ou ought not pull on the ends of a rope in which
%ou have tied the knots of war. (ecause the more the two of us pull the tighter the
knot will be tied. &nd then it will be necessar% to cut that knot, and what that would
mean is not for me to explain to %ou. I have participated in two wars and know that
war ends when it has rolled through cities and villages, ever%where sowing death and
destruction. 8or such is the logic of war. If people do not displa% wisdom the% will
clash like blind moles and then mutual annihilation will commence.7
Robert McNamara: I'm not so naive or simplistic to believe we can eliminate war.
We're not going to change human nature an% time soon. It isn't that we aren't rational.
We are rational. (ut reason has limits. $here's a :uote from $.<. =liot that I 'ust love:
7We shall not cease from exploring, and at the end of our exploration, we will return
to where we started, and know the place for the first time.7 >ow that's in a sense
where I'm beginning to be.