If we'd lost the war, we'd all have been prosecuted as war criminals. And I think he's right. He, and I'd say I, were behaving as war criminals.

— Robert McNamara

The most instructive Robert McNamara quotes that will transform you to a better person

We do not have the God-given right to shape every nation in our image or as we choose.


One must take draconian measures of demographic reduction against the will of the populations. Reducing the birth rate has proved to be impossible or insufficient. One must therefore increase the mortality rate. How? By natural means. Famine and sickness


At my age, 85, I'm at age where I can look back and derive some conclusions about my actions. My rule has been try to learn, try to understand what happened. Develop the lessons and pass them on.


The picture of the world's greatest superpower killing or seriously injuring 1,000 noncombatants a week, while trying to pound a tiny backward nation into submission on an issue whose merits are hotly disputed, is not a pretty one.


Brains are like hearts - they go where they are appreciated.


Short of nuclear war itself, population growth is the gravest issue the world faces. If we do not act, the problem will be solved by famine, riots, insurrection and war.


A computer does not substitute for judgment any more than a pencil substitutes for literacy. But writing without a pencil is no particular advantage.


It was a perfectly beautiful night, as fall nights are in Washington.

I walked out of the president's Oval Office, and as I walked out, I thought I might never live to see another Saturday night.


Poor planning or poor execution of plans is simply to let some force other than reason shape reality.


The indefinite combination of human fallibility and nuclear weapons will lead to the destruction of nations.


All those involved in the firebombing of Tokyo .

. were war criminals interviews recorded in the movie The Fog of War.. the firebombing of Tokyo occurred before the atom bombs.. 100,000 civilians died in one night from American bombs.. 500,000 altogether over several days say some.


The greatest contribution Vietnam is making-right or wrong is beside the point-is that it is developing an ability in the United States to fight a limited war, to go to war without the necessity of arousing the public ire.


About Robert McNamara

Quotes 48 sayings
Nationality American
Profession Public Servant
Birthday October 16

There is no more important task in a democracy than resolving the differences among people and finding a course of action that will be supported by a sufficient number to permit the nation to achieve a better life for all.


One solitary God-centered, God-intoxicated man can do more to keep God's love alive and His presence felt in the world than a thousand half-hearted, talkative busy men living frightened, fragmented lives of quiet desperation.


Neither conscience nor sanity itself suggests that the United States is, should or could be the global gendarme.


General, you don't have a war plan! All you have is a kind of horrible spasm!


What makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?


One cannot fashion a credible deterrent out of an incredible action.


I think the human race needs to think about killing. How much evil must we do to do good?


I formed the hypothesis that each of us could have achieved our objectives without the terrible loss of life. And I wanted to test that by going to Vietnam.


Elimination of nuclear weapons, so naive, so simplistic, and so idealistic as to be quixotic? Some may think so. But as human beings, citizens of nations with power to influence events in the world, can we be at peace with ourselves if we strive for less? I think not.


Belief and seeing are both often wrong.


They'll be no learning period with nuclear weapons.

Make one mistake and you're going to destroy nations.


Engagement is the conscious inhabitation of your body and mind.

Practice is happening when your open awareness is moving with, in and through your embodied activity. Intrinsic to practice is your conscious participation with your life. Engagement is the conduction of your free and open awareness through your activities, whatever they may be.


It would be our policy to use nuclear weapons wherever we felt it necessary to protect our forces and achieve our objectives.


Action should be founded on contemplation, and those of us who act don't put enough time, don't give enough emphasis, to contemplation.


Management is the gate through which social and economic and political change, indeed change in every direction, is diffused though society.


I want to say, and this is very important: at the end we lucked out.

It was luck that prevented nuclear war. We came that close to nuclear war at the end. Rational individuals: Kennedy was rational; Khrushchev was rational; Castro was rational. Rational individuals came that close to total destruction of their societies. And that danger exists today.


I like to run down to the beach and have a little swim in the nude in the morning.


There are many ways to make the death rate increase.


Never answer the question that is asked of you.

Answer the question that you wish had been asked of you.


The war in Vietnam is going well and will succeed.


To this day we seem to act in the world as though we know what's right for everybody.


All the evidence of history suggests that man is indeed a rational animal, but with a near infinite capacity for folly. . . . He draws blueprints for Utopia, but never quite gets it built. In the end he plugs away obstinately with the only building material really ever at hand--his own part comic, part tragic, part cussed, but part glorious nature.


That's one of the major lessons: no president should ever take this nation to war without full public debate in the Congress and/or in the public.


Kennedy was trying to keep us out of war.

I was trying to help him keep us out of war. And General Curtis LeMay, whom I served under as a matter of fact in World War II, was saying "Let's go in, let's totally destroy Cuba."


We see what we want to believe.


We burned to death 100,000 Japanese civilians in Tokyo - men, women and children. LeMay recognized that what he was doing would be thought immoral if his side had lost. But what makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?


In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil


I don't object to its being called "McNamara's war.

" I think it is a very important war and I am pleased to be identified with it and do whatever I can to win it.


Coercion, after all, merely captures man. Freedom captivates him.


Rationality will not save us.


I would characterize current US nuclear weapons policy as immoral, illegal, militarily unnecessary, and dreadfully dangerous


Measure what is important, don't make important what you can measure


The commitment of government to deal with the population issue is of course essential....There are many ways to make the death rate increase.


It is true that at the time [1962] we had a strategic nuclear force of approximately five thousand warheads compared to the Soviet's three hundred.


The 'realist' conception of continuing old-fashioned 'balance of power' politics may have been well founded in the past, but it is inconsistent with our increasing interdependent world. On moral grounds alone there can be no justification for the 20th century level of killing. To settle disputes without violence must become the primary goal of foreign policy for every nation.