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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review July 8, 2009 16 Tamuz

The McNamara Mentality

By George Will


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | The death of Robert McNamara at 93 was less a faint reverberation of a receding era than a reminder that mentalities are the defining attributes of eras, and certain American mentalities recur with, it sometimes seems, metronomic regularity. McNamara came to Washington from a robust Detroit — he headed Ford when America's swaggering automobile manufacturers enjoyed 90 percent market share — to be President John Kennedy's secretary of defense. Seemingly confident that managing the competition of nations could be as orderly as managing competition among the three members of Detroit's oligopoly, McNamara entered government seven months before the birth of the current president, who is the owner and, he is serenely sure, fixer of General Motors.


Today, something unsettlingly similar to McNamara's eerie assuredness pervades the Washington in which he died. The spirit is: Have confidence, everybody, because we have, or soon will have, everything — really everything — under control.


The apogee of McNamara's professional life, in the first half of the 1960s, coincided, not coincidentally, with the apogee of the belief that behavioralism had finally made possible a science of politics. Behavioralism held — holds; it is a hardy perennial — that the social and natural sciences are not so different, both being devoted to the discovery of law-like regularities that govern the behavior of atoms, hamsters, humans, whatever.


Two of behavioralism's reinforcing assumptions were: Things that can be quantified can be controlled. And everything can be quantified. So, pick a problem, any problem. Military insurgency in Indochina? The answer is counterinsurgency. What can be, and hence must be, quantified? Body counts, surely. Bingo: a metric of success.


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Not exactly. The behavior of the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong did not respond as expected to America's finely calibrated stimuli, such as bombing this but not that, and bombing pauses. Behavioralists were disappointed but not discouraged. They would give nation-building another try.


It was in reaction to the mentality that McNamara represented that the Public Interest quarterly was born. Its founders were intellectuals, many of whom were called "neoconservatives" when that designation was more relevant to domestic than foreign policy. The journal's mission was to insist that (as Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then a Harvard social scientist, said) the function of social science is not to tell us what to do but to tell us what does not work. What did not work in the 1960s, at home and abroad, was quite a lot.


McNamara died on a day when there was interesting news from Asia, the region of his torments: There was lethal ethnic rioting in China. That development refutes, redundantly, the prophecy of a 19th-century social scientist, Karl Marx. Believing that he had discerned the laws of social physics, he said that the coming of modernity — the rise of science and the retreat of religion under the rationality of market societies — would mean that pre-industrial factors such as religion and ethnicity would lose their history-shaping saliency.


So far, the 21st century is vexed by nothing so much as those supposed residues of humanity's infancy. Nevertheless, Marx's anticipation morphed into what Moynihan called "the liberal expectancy." It is the hope — liberals tend to treat hopes as probabilities — that the fading of those atavisms and superstitions has put the world on a path to perpetual tranquility.


The world McNamara has departed could soon be convulsed by attempts to modify Iran's behavior. Since a variety of incentives have been unavailing, more muscular measures — perhaps "surgical strikes," a phrase redolent of the McNamara mentality — are contemplated.


Some persons fault the president for not having more ambitious plans to prompt and guide Iranians toward regime change. That outcome is sometimes advocated, and its consequences confidently anticipated, by neoconservatives whose certitude about feasibility resembles that which, decades ago, neoconservatism was born to counter.


Well. Every four years we saturate New Hampshire — that small, English-speaking, culturally homogenous, ethnically temperate sliver of tranquil New England — with politicians, consultants, journalists and political scientists. And often we are surprised — even dumbfounded — by how unpredictably that state's people, with their native perversity, choose to behave in their presidential primary.


McNamara, like many who leave high office, never left the capital of this nation that believes people learn from history, and that therefore history is linear and progressive. But the capital, gripped once again by the audacious hope of mastering everything, would be wise to entertain a shadow of a doubt about that.


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