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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

July 13, 2009 at 4:00 PM

War and Robert McNamara: learning lessons after Vietnam ‘architect’s’ death

In government, the nation is a politician’s guinea pig

That was an excellent and interesting piece on Robert McNamara [“The mind of Robert McNamara,” Opinion, syndicated columnist, July 10] and the arrogant confidence many federal politicians have in their abilities.

After working in a corporate environment for many years where money is gained voluntarily and then spent very carefully, I find the contrast with Washington, D.C., amazing. When a company rolls out a new product, they start small, say with a test group or small city, and then test it thoroughly, often making numerous adjustments in the process.

When politicians come up with a new idea, they typically go straight to a national rollout with virtually no real-world testing. In any sort of a normal company, this sort of conduct would likely get a leader fired and then sued for gross negligence.

While there are many problems in health care, hopefully federal politicians will try to act responsibly when trying out new and untested health care ideas.

— Chris Waldorf, Seattle

Let’s hope a lesson has been learned from Vietnam

Gen. David Petraeus came to Seattle to speak before the Seattle World Affairs Council [“Tough fight coming up, Petraeus says in Seattle,” News, page 3]. The thing he said that had the most impact on me was, “Tough months are ahead and difficult fighting will be necessary.”

In other words, get ready for the caskets to come home .(Some things are better left unspoken, especially where death is concerned.). But, as he said, it will be necessary. I asked myself, why is it necessary?

How much longer are we planning to continue on these by now endless invasions and wars? Do we ever learn?

Petraeus is a very clever man, a West Point graduate, but most of all a warrior. He, after graduating from West Point, went on to earn a doctorate at Princeton, where his doctoral dissertation was titled, “The American Military and the Lessons of Vietnam.”

I found this to be most surprising. Has he forgotten what we learned in Vietnam?

Thanks to Robert McNamara, the architect of that treacherous war, we lost 50,000 soldiers, on top of a very high number of civilians. This war went on for years, with nothing but bloodshed and devastation to show for it.

So I ask you: What has learned? To keep on fighting because it is necessary? Heaven help us if that’s the case.

— Jutta Kurtak, Bellevue

Comments | More in Foreign policy, military

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