What are we talking about today?

Some days have themes. I don't necessarily post something in each of these topic areas every week.

Sunday: Church-related or spiritual things.
Monday: Running.
Tuesday: Books.
Wednesday: Transportation.
Friday: Green living.

21 October 2010

Well, This Is Depressing

I'm reading In Retrospect, by Robert McNamara, for my rhetoric class. And it's depressing.

This is not a book review: I still have to write a paper over this thing, so I'm not interested in reviewing it. But here's a quick synopsis: McNamara was the Secretary of Defense for the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, and was a big part of the decision-making process leading to the Vietnam war. Of course, the whole big mess was already in process when Kennedy took office, and it just went downhill from there for a variety of reasons.

This book is a mea culpa of sorts; it evaluates the decision-making process that McNamara was involved in, debunks a few myths, and shares the ideas and reasons they had for the course they took. At every step he uses his hindsight (which I'm sure is painfully more than 20/20 for him) to talk about what they should have done, or the questions they should have asked.

I'm so glad I'm not in those shoes. Goodness knows there are times in my life that I'd happily redo and change some decisions, but to have regret and "coulda, shoulda, woulda" on that scale... Wow. No, thanks.

But I'm reading along, as I so often do with historical books/movies/etc., and I keep hoping it will end differently. Maybe if I read it carefully, Kennedy won't be assassinated. Or McCarthy wouldn't have had all the Asia experts removed from government. Or South Vietnam will find a way to solve the problem themselves... or the whole Western world will be less terrified of Communism... or Johnson will find another solution. Maybe if I wish hard enough before I open the book again, history will have re-written itself and the course of the last 60 years would have been different.

I had the same problem when I watched Titanic. I really, really wanted it to end better. It did not. Or the 20th anniversary of the Challenger tragedy-- I watched the footage and wished that someone would cancel the countdown, but they didn't. And I covered my eyes after about 60 seconds and waited for the shouts of the crowd to stop, and when I looked back up... nothing but smoke. Every time.

And so it is with In Retrospect. Dangit.

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....Petty Witter said...

Not my cup of tea at all, I'm going to pass on this one. Good luck with the rest of your reading of it.

Su said...

I don't blame you! I would never have picked it up if not for this class. It's interesting, yes, but not enough to re-read once I write the paper.

Clarissa Draper said...

Sounds depressing, in retrospect, not sure I would want to read it either.

Su said...

It's not only depressing; it's also quite long. :/ But hey, I've finished it, so that's all good.

Kate said...

Long is okay, but yeah, it is rather depressing!! I've often had the same thoughts though! Like the space shuttle blowing up! I watched it happen and even all these years later, I find myself thinking "maybe it was only a bad dream"! Then you look at some of our politicians and things that COULD have been avoided--makes you want to ask them ALL some questions--WHAT WERE YOU THINKING? Oh well, life goes on!!

Su said...

What is interesting about this book (maybe I'll post about it again after I finish the paper!), is that he does tell us what they were thinking. There are plenty of people, still, who think the correct course was obvious at the time, but I don't believe that anything is that simple. Which is one of the things that makes this book (and the other stuff I mentioned) so heart-wrenching; we can see how it happened & wish that something-- ANYTHING-- had interfered to give us a different outcome.

I was eight (maybe nine?) when Challenger happened, and it kept me awake at nights, but not as much as when I read all the analysis for the 20th anniversary that said they were alive when the shuttle hit the water. I don't know how I never heard that before. :(