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Robert McNamara Quotes

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Robert McNamara Quote: “Brains are like hearts – they go where they are appreciated.”

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

— Robert McNamara



Robert McNamara Quote: “Measure what is important, don’t make important what you can measure.”

Measure what is important, don’t make important what you can measure.

— Robert McNamara


Robert McNamara Quote: “Rationality will not save us.”

Rationality will not save us.

— Robert McNamara


Robert McNamara Quote: “In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil.”

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

— Robert McNamara


Robert McNamara Quote: “Poor planning or poor execution of plans is simply to let some force other than reason shape reality.”

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

— Robert McNamara


Robert McNamara Quote: “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.”

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.

— Robert McNamara


Robert McNamara Quote: “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.”

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.

— Robert McNamara


Robert McNamara Quote: “We see what we want to believe.”

We see what we want to believe.

— Robert McNamara


Robert McNamara Quote: “We do not have the God-given right to shape every nation in our image or as we choose.”

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

— Robert McNamara


Robert McNamara Quote: “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.”

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.

— Robert McNamara



Robert McNamara Quote: “Neither conscience nor sanity itself suggests that the United States is, should or could be the global gendarme.”

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

— Robert McNamara


Robert McNamara Quote: “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.”

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.

— Robert McNamara


Robert McNamara Quote: “The indefinite combination of human fallibility and nuclear weapons will lead to the destruction of nations.”

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

— Robert McNamara


Robert McNamara Quote: “Let’s go in, let’s totally destroy Cuba.”

Let’s go in, let’s totally destroy Cuba.

— Robert McNamara


Robert McNamara Quote: “I like to run down to the beach and have a little swim in the nude in the morning.”

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

— Robert McNamara


Robert McNamara Quote: “Never answer the question that is asked of you. Answer the question that you wish had been asked of you.”

Never answer the question that is asked of you. Answer the question that you wish had been asked of you.

— Robert McNamara


Robert McNamara Quote: “I would characterize current US nuclear weapons policy as immoral, illegal, militarily unnecessary, and dreadfully dangerous.”

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

— Robert McNamara


Robert McNamara Quote: “General, you don’t have a war plan! All you have is a kind of horrible spasm!”

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

— Robert McNamara


Robert McNamara Quote: “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.”

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.

— Robert McNamara


Robert McNamara Quote: “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.”

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.

— Robert McNamara



Robert McNamara Quote: “The war in Vietnam is going well and will succeed.”

The war in Vietnam is going well and will succeed.

— Robert McNamara


Robert McNamara Quote: “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.”

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.

— Robert McNamara


Robert McNamara Quote: “One cannot fashion a credible deterrent out of an incredible action.”

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

— Robert McNamara


Robert McNamara Quote: “What makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?”

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

— Robert McNamara


Robert McNamara Quote: “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.”

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.

— Robert McNamara


Robert McNamara Quote: “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?”

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?

— Robert McNamara


Robert McNamara Quote: “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.”

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


Robert McNamara Quote: “I think the human race needs to think about killing. How much evil must we do to do good?”

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

— Robert McNamara


Robert McNamara Quote: “Action should be founded on contemplation, and those of us who act don’t put enough time, don’t give enough emphasis, to contemplation.”

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

— Robert McNamara


Robert McNamara Quote: “Management is the gate through which social and economic and political change, indeed change in every direction, is diffused though society.”

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

— Robert McNamara


Robert McNamara Quote: “A computer does not substitute for judgment any more than a pencil substitutes for literacy. But writing without a pencil is no particular advantage.”

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

— Robert McNamara


Robert McNamara Quote: “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.”

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.

— Robert McNamara


Robert McNamara Quote: “They’ll be no learning period with nuclear weapons. Make one mistake and you’re going to destroy nations.”

They’ll be no learning period with nuclear weapons. Make one mistake and you’re going to destroy nations.

— Robert McNamara


Robert McNamara Quote: “There are many ways to make the death rate increase.”

There are many ways to make the death rate increase.

— Robert McNamara


Robert McNamara Quote: “To this day we seem to act in the world as though we know what’s right for everybody.”

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

— Robert McNamara


Robert McNamara Quote: “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.”

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.

— Robert McNamara


Robert McNamara Quote: “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.”

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.

— Robert McNamara


Robert McNamara Quote: “It would be our policy to use nuclear weapons wherever we felt it necessary to protect our forces and achieve our objectives.”

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

— Robert McNamara

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