Tuesday, July 7, 2009

McNamara: some suggested reading

Having said that I'm not going to be writing very much in July or August (see post for July 2 below), I think I can be excused for not making any substantive comment on McNamara in the wake of his death.

For those who may be interested, however, I'll mention a few books that might be worth a look. Deborah Shapley's biography of McNamara Promise and Power is well regarded but I haven't read it so can't comment directly; Paul Hendrickson's The Living and the Dead I've read bits and pieces of; Halberstam's The Best and the Brightest I haven't looked at in a long time. I also have not read most of McNamara's Vietnam apology In Retrospect.

Two books that I have read, both of which contain interesting material on McNamara and Vietnam and both of which I can strongly recommend, are:

Yuen Foong Khong, Analogies at War: Korea, Munich, Dien Bien Phu, and the Vietnam Decisions of 1965 (Princeton U.P., 1992; also in paperback). This was the author's dissertation, so not all of it is easy going, but especially for those interested in how policymakers use and misuse historical analogies, it's very valuable.

David Milne, America's Rasputin: Walt Rostow and the Vietnam War (Hill & Wang, 2008). This excellent, impressively researched work on Rostow is interesting on a number of points, including the relationship between Rostow and McNamara. (I reviewed this book in the Winter 2009 issue of New Politics; the review itself is not available for free but some other parts of that issue, as well as parts of the current Summer 2009 issue, are. The NP website is here.)

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