You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

The McNamara Papers

Fifty years of Robert McNamara coverage in 'The New Republic.'

Former Secretary of Defense and World Bank head Robert McNamara died today at age 93. To mark the occasion, we compiled our best pieces on him from over the years. 

The Editors, December 26, 1960: “Kennedy’s Men”

The Editors express doubts about McNamara’s readiness to serve as secretary of defense, wondering whether someone with so little foreign policy experience could lead such an important department.

Raymond D. Senter, September 28, 1963: "Rebellion In The Air Force?"

Senter attributes unrest in the Air Force to Defense Secretary McNamara's too-rigid leadership. 

Alex Campbell, June 26, 1965: “The Secretary of Defense”

In this long profile, Campbell writes about McNamara’s opposition to nuclear weapons, his political future, and how his staff felt about having to be in the office by 6:30 a.m.

The Editors, May 7, 1966: “Capital Portraits”

The Editors write their observations of McNamara while he was testifying before the Senate on foreign aid and Vietnam, describing him as "likeable" and saying "[h]e knows the answers; knows them before senators ask the questions."

David Sanford, September 10, 1966: “McNamara’s Salvation Army”

Sanford argues that McNamara’s effort to help the poor by expanding military service for them is dubious given the number of loopholes for the affluent.

The Editors, December 9, 1967: "Exit McNamara"

The Editors discuss the reasons behind McNamara's abrupt 1967 resignation as Secretary of Defense.

David Sanford, May 24, 1969: “More Studies, And More People”

Sanford writes about the need for birth control research funding to help slow population growth, something McNamara pushed for as president of the World Bank.

Harry G. Summers, Jr., April 29, 1985: “How We Lost”

Summers writes about how the structural framework of defense set us up for failure in Vietnam.

Jacob Heilbrunn, March 22, 1993: "The Hollow Man"

Heilbrunn reviews Deborah Shapley's biography of McNamara, Promise and Power: The Life and Times of Robert McNamara, but describes the book as an unreliable account of McNamara's life.

Mickey Kaus, May 1, 1995: "Who's Sorry Now"

Kaus writes that McNamara shouldn't be cut any slack just for acknowleding his Vietnam mistakes in his 1995 memoir In Retrospect.

Eugene McCarthy, May 15, 1995: "The Vindicator"

Former Senator Eugene McCarthy describes the public's response to that same memoir. 

By TNR Staff