President John F. Kennedy And President Lyndon B. Johnson Essay example

President John F. Kennedy And President Lyndon B. Johnson Essay example

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Robert S. McNamara served as Secretary of Defense for the United States under both President John F. Kennedy and President Lyndon B. Johnson from 1961 to 1968. During his service, McNamara oversaw military action for one of America’s most controversial wars, the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War created a polarity of opinions in the United States over what the correct the course of war would be. Those who advocated for a cease fire were referred to as “doves” while those who preferred elevated military action were called “hawk”. One thing that these two parties could agree upon, however, was a timely end to this highly unpopular war. As the war continued to decline, McNamara’s involvement was scrutinized even more intensely. Popularly dubbed in media as “McNamara’s War”, a lot of the negative public opinion regarding this failing war correlated directly with McNamara’s image. He was criticized by both parties for either exercising too much military force or not enough. This unfortunate legacy of failure in Vietnam carried far past the end of his service as Secretary of Defense. For years after, there have been ongoing debates as to what factors led the outcome of the Vietnam War. It wasn’t until 1995 that Robert McNamara contributed his own viewpoint on where the responsibility for the result of the war fell. McNamara’s memoir, “In Retrospect”, chronicles his perspective on the role he played as Secretary of Defense. It is apparent in his memoir that the public image associated with McNamara is vastly different from the McNamara he presents. Ironically, this infamous war he was so commonly know for may have been a war that privately he did not support.[1] This raises the question—was this hawk actually a dove?
Prior to becoming Secr...

... middle of paper ...

...s always reflected the wishes of Johnson. Even his resignation was a reflection of Johnson’s wishes. In the years directly following his resignation, he still did not speak out against the Vietnam War despite his personal opinion on an outcome he saw as unavoidable. McNamara’s silence has to do with not only his continued loyalty to Johnson, but also his negative reputation in the media. McNamara was one of the media’s biggest scapegoats during the Vietnam War. While he did on occasion try and clarify his duties to the press, his was still viewed as the sole member for Johnson’s administration responsible for the outcomes of Vietnam. Media sources blamed him for the failure in Vietnam even past his resignation. This one sided view of McNamara’s character paired with his own personal ego would have prevented McNamara from sharing his views on the war with the press.

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