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10 September 2014
... by the unwinnable war in Vietnam, would drag His Secretary of Defense right into the bathroom with him. The Commander in Chief sat on the toilet, shitting and shouting, and it was grim, Which made RobertMcNamara make things up and gag. Airlines, doctors, concerts, restaurants – and politics and girls – Are balmy tropical topics which, while counting the tiles, a traveller enjoys. The King’s ...
22 June 1995
Derailed in Uncle Ho’s Victory Garden: Return to Vietnam and Cambodia 
by Tim Page.
Touchstone, 248 pp., £14.99, April 1995, 0 671 71926 2
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In the Lake of the Woods 
by Tim O’Brien.
Flamingo, 306 pp., £5.99, April 1995, 0 00 654395 2
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In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam 
by Robert McNamara.
Random House, 432 pp., $27.50, April 1995, 0 8129 2523 8
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... way, is introducing us to his own ghosts. Two, former British war photographer Tim Page and former American grunt Tim O’Brien, face the darkness squarely. The third, former US Secretary of Defence RobertMcNamara, merely pretends to. In his own way, however, each writer tells the story of a quest or a flight, a search for redemption and understanding, a search for the truth, or an escape from it ...

Sterling and Strings

Peter Davies: Harold Wilson and Vietnam

20 November 2008
... going to say, but that the president himself made changes to the text. Although Johnson ‘did not like the word “dissociate”’, the vice president, Hubert Humphrey, and the defence secretary, RobertMcNamara, confirmed that ‘the prime minister’s position was well understood’ and ‘there would be no hard feelings.’ As the war in Vietnam progressed, however, opposition among the public ...

Those Genes!

Charles Wheeler

17 July 1997
Personal History 
by Katharine Graham.
Weidenfeld, 642 pp., £25, May 1997, 9780297819646
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... case for Johnson, Graham found him surprisingly receptive. But when Tuesday’s Washington Post reported that Johnson was in the picture angry black delegates and labour leaders rushed to protest to Robert Kennedy, who flatly denied the story. John Kennedy waited until the nomination was safely behind him before he approached Johnson directly. LBJ, whose advisers were telling him to turn down the offer ...
17 December 1981
The Money Lenders 
by Anthony Sampson.
Hodder, 336 pp., £7.95, September 1981, 0 340 25719 9
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... an explosion in which the Fund and the World Bank were eclipsed. The head of the third bank, the Bank of America, a man called Tom Clausen, lurks in the background. Since he has now taken over from RobertMcNamara as chief of the World Bank, he would almost certainly have taken a more prominent role in Sampson’s book but for one thing: he was the only top banker who could not find time to see ...

Arty Party

Hal Foster: From the ‘society of spectacle’ to the ‘society of extras’

4 December 2003
Relational Aesthetics 
by Nicolas Bourriaud, translated by Matthew Copeland.
Les Presses du réel, 128 pp., €9, March 2002, 2 84066 060 1
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by Nicolas Bourriaud, translated by Jeanine Herman.
Lukas and Sternberg, 88 pp., $19, October 2001, 0 9711193 0 9
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Interviews: Volume I 
by Hans Ulrich Obrist.
Charta, 967 pp., $60, June 2003, 9788881584314
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... enough to linger, eat and talk. Or a scattering of bulletin boards, drawing tables and discussion platforms, some dotted with information about a famous person from the past (Erasmus Darwin or RobertMcNamara), as though a documentary script were in the making or a history seminar had just finished. Or, finally, a kiosk cobbled together from plastic and plywood, and filled, like a homemade study ...

Levittown to Laos

Thomas Sugrue: The Kennedy Assassination

22 July 2010
The Kennedy Assassination: 24 Hours After 
by Steven Gillon.
Basic Books, 294 pp., £15.99, November 2009, 978 0 465 01870 3
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... staunchly Cold Warrior foreign policy team. He presided over the escalation of the war in Vietnam, aided by Kennedy holdovers – among them, the enormously influential secretary of defence, RobertMcNamara. By 1968, with more than half a million American troops stationed in the former French colony of Indochina, his massive military expenditure began to starve his Great Society. And second ...

Cuba or the Base?

Piero Gleijeses: Guantánamo

26 March 2009
Guantanamo: A Working-Class History between Empire and Revolution 
by Jana Lipman.
California, 325 pp., £17.95, December 2008, 978 0 520 25540 1
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... strategy, was the central factor in Khrushchev’s decision.’ ‘I want to state quite frankly that with hindsight, if I had been a Cuban leader, I think I might have expected a US invasion,’ RobertMcNamara, Kennedy’s defence secretary, confessed in 1989. ‘I should say, as well, if I had been a Soviet leader at the time, I might have come to the same conclusion.’ Lipman offers a new and ...
10 October 1991
Kennedy v. Khrushchev: The Crisis Years 1960-63 
by Michael Beschloss.
Faber, 816 pp., £18.50, August 1991, 0 571 16548 6
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A Question of Character: A Life of John F. Kennedy 
by Thomas Reeves.
Bloomsbury, 510 pp., £19.99, August 1991, 0 7475 1029 6
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... House conversations taped by Kennedy (years before Nixon), and from the records of conferences on the Cuban missile crisis held in the late Eighties, which included key participants like Rusk, Bundy, McNamara, Gromyko and Dobrynin. He is therefore able to offer insights into the thinking of both sides. His thesis is that, while Kennedy showed considerable skill in handling the main foreign crises of his ...
13 November 1997
The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House during the Cuban Missile Crisis 
edited by Ernest May and Philip Zelikow.
Harvard, 728 pp., £23.50, October 1997, 0 674 17926 9
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‘One Hell of a Gamble’: The Secret History of the Cuban Missile Crisis 
by Aleksandr Fursenko and Timothy Naftali.
Murray, 420 pp., £25, September 1997, 0 7195 5518 3
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... Naftali uncover no scepticism (nor any surprise or alarm, for that matter) on the part of the Soviet leaders privy to these extraordinary reports. The Americans, too, had unruly fears. In June 1962 Robert Kennedy asked a Russian confidant whom he rightly thought to be an officer in the KGB: ‘Tell me Georgi, is there anyone in the Soviet leadership who advocates a decisive clash with the United ...
21 January 1988
... attack. On the left, the Peace Movements have argued that it has led to an unstable arms-race which can only end in disaster. On the right, commentators such as Lord Carver, Enoch Powell and RobertMcNamara have argued that deterrence means that nuclear weapons would never be used even if war broke out. Thus the threat to unleash them is increasingly incredible. As Mr Powell put it, ‘the crucial ...

Deadly Embrace

Jacqueline Rose: Suicide bombers

4 November 2004
My Life Is a Weapon: A Modern History of Suicide Bombing 
by Christoph Reuter, translated by Helena Ragg-Kirkby.
Princeton, 246 pp., £15.95, May 2004, 0 691 11759 4
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Army of Roses: Inside the World of Palestinian Women Suicide Bombers 
by Barbara Victor.
Robinson, 321 pp., £8.99, April 2004, 1 84119 937 0
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... something far worse, preferably from another culture or world, with which no reasonable human being could possibly identify. But apart from being evasive, this is inept. In the film The Fog of War, RobertMcNamara presents the first of his 11 rules of war: ‘Empathise with the enemy.’ Suicide bombing kills far fewer people than conventional warfare; the reactions it provokes must, therefore, reside ...

National Treasure

Christopher Hitchens

14 November 1996
Jacqueline Bouvier: An Intimate Memoir 
by John Davis.
Wiley, 256 pp., £14.99, October 1996, 0 471 12945 3
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... finally died. Every American female I know took it entirely personally. My scoffs were absolutely at a discount. And then I read a memorial interview with that old self-server and mass-murderer RobertMcNamara. He recalled an occasion, quite early in the Lyndon Johnson presidency, when Jackie had come up to him at a reception in New York and beaten her fists on his chest, calling on him to stop ...

Pure Vibe

Christopher Tayler: Don DeLillo

4 May 2016
Zero K 
by Don DeLillo.
Picador, 274 pp., £16.99, May 2016, 978 1 5098 2285 0
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... When​  Libra came out in 1988, the American writer Robert Towers said that it had made Don DeLillo the ‘chief shaman of the paranoid school of American fiction’. ‘Paranoid school’ doesn’t get you very far – Pynchon and Mailer, both broad-brush ...
1 April 1999
The Gift of Time: The Case for Abolishing Nuclear Weapons 
by Jonathan Schell.
Granta, 240 pp., £9.99, November 1998, 1 86207 230 2
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... not. Schell organises The Gift of Time around interviews with these new nuclear apostates, an ideologically diverse group with impressive credentials: for example, the former US Secretary of Defense RobertMcNamara; Lord Michael Carver, the former chief of the British Defence Staff; Bruce Blair, who has written extensively about nuclear command and control issues; Fred Iklé, who headed the US Arms ...

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