tv Charlie Rose PBS July 10, 2009 12:00pm-1:00pm EDT
>> re:welcome tohe brast. tonigh robert mamin owwos. th fme seetyofefse durihe vietn and la presidoforldank died th wk ad 9 de listen tohi intviews ons >> we'rego to mistake i mean weple,ee ads, wgoing to make stakes andor g's makeistakes a opre bei kiedou ow you'vead a mtaut your lse a t out! w,f i bied theat ani dn't butld weldn't win it mitary. what freif w didn' asrevent comniofie, ould nger they of the west. and i tryiobalanc >> robertama i his
rose: bothisiohi iwe suasd by present. mcfore asmcma warathe vamca >> o fepower advtage is e ailitarydvta e: ct inhehs o or 50,000ericans aov three ioname. wrg,riwr warereis e wbo him scri a mggle me toerms hisacy. hifrndwaltcue twain p his e ptato the world redto w civure.otr for thos13 yearsng to good for tess unat arou t rl it n she themons witnim. cnamme to the dertment from rdotor company whas predent of theutaker hiam o wiz kids dbedhe
best a thete ovhaul pentagon burea and usherin ner but by timees i19,ama'onal pr hundone, along rort mar apared hi prramwi. in 1lohe puic me nng documentar "the fog of wa" re is bertamara in those oppearances henou lisn rd d hehapele say abouurwhsit y yo two ings.t i fit, you getifrent mess differemes om those whhave readts comp to those whoav ieeou havnewe" re. ths deul tie he ban who i believen fo theoreahtaft vi anviwathe m corad soldieryou e
my. d s mcnar i book. tselp us de what happen swe cane futur d that'sxactly >>os my peo ask the questi w.ey undendhy you i busaid ts aths neingo w dinly you looked at nismand "i hao writ." felt ild it, and that thiss into snd erving ande do me dress a mennd s ere'a ry iti otion tnkherefysiaas sci t. these e liny w broht toy te5r yrs ag t.s.llt wtewe s e g. and athe plate'etn pl fstw t
ifin hea w and you ur w yost uil end u don' whe u've b unth re: theend your >> that's t. >>os so lycod to writeth i verl sen yes. any intenttori the okut sawn oayand ite abre p t le lookacefle and fee comfortainwingessons he eernc s. cer of th books ener d ihoug i'reedit it so i can feel comfortable with these lessons i'l write the book. and by coincidence, i came acss a very yng man who h already written a small book on
vietnam whoeaches at the naval academy, profeor of htory. his intest is that. and he wanted to help me do the research on it. so i was caple then of doing what i hadn't been able todo bere. i didn't take any papers withme didn't have any diary. so that's h it came about. >> rose: the question that sti is tre, why not writ this book, why not come out. you began toave doubts earl when you left gernment, why nosay when you leftovernment "this war is a mistake" as you had pratelyxpressed to the esident. >> n no. that's... th is a colicated questi. >> rose: okay. >> pleasgive me time now to make this clear. what had expresd to the president d what i strongly believed was we uldn't win the war militarily. and my doub on that began very early. d you'll see in the book, every one statement is footnoted and documend. inecember 1965 i sai to the president thought there was
only a one in three cnce of winning the war militarily. i sa well, at best, o in two. the dialog is right there. said "do you mean to y we can't win it militarily?" i said "mr. psident, my judgment will not be shar by the secretary of state, byhe chairman o the joint chiefs, by many others,ut that's my judgment." as the years went by, gained increangly that belief. but-and this is the important point-- i believe it h threat was just asreat as the others did. >> rose:n 198? >> in 1968. you'rebsolutely right. rose: so anybody that wante bob mcnara s saythis war was wrong in 1968," it was imssible for bob mcnamara to say it becausee didn't believe ? >> i didt believe.... >>ose: it was wng, war, in 1968. >> let me not use quite those words. i didn't believehat there was no threat. i beeved that in a sense einhower's statement in 1954 of the minos and in 1961 to
president keedy and me if we lost ls and vietnam we'd lose all soutast asia. ifwe lost all of southeast asia we're likely to lose all of area, incling india. if we did that, the power of the mmunists against western europe a against this nation would increase. now, that wa what appeared to be at risk if we los vietnam. >> rose: that's the ideology that sped all of you. johnson, kennedy, everybody. >> absolutely. >> rose: we uerstand that. >> buthat i think by your qution those who asked this question don understand is it's one thing to say mamara believed and tol theresident at the war wasot winble militarily. it's another thingto say tt he believed thefore we should justay to hell with it and go. now i believwe should have said that then. but at tt time, i was still obsessed with th sovie threat. give me a cond to tell why. because ialways as questioners on the telhone or t.v.-- how old are you?
and mo of them ar 40, 45. i say,ell, i undstand your position, you don't understand ours. leme start by saying, we were wrg. but what have we done? rusk hadeen in world war ii, nnedy had been in world war ii. i d been there three, four ve years ofighting. the germans and theapanese when churchill said if we had arted earlier, we wodn't haveost the million that lost because we delayed. and what ruskaid-- and i ote memo in there from him-- i ver saw the memo until i bega to writehis book. rusk said to the presint in july of '65 "mr. president, if we don't stop them thereif we don'trevent lossf vietnam, there wi be a catasophic war." he mea world war iii. i think that was totly wrong. day. then i didt. i waconcerned. now, why was i concerned? i'm sorry totake so muchime but this is verymportant. >> rose: time we've got. >> i've gone tough world war ii in three or four years.
i had seen... after we won the war i d seen the sovts take overoland, hungary, czechoslovakia. i'd seen them try to subvert the established govements of ance and italy. when i came thepentagon... i wathere seven yes. in august of '61 the soviets tried to take berlin andwhen i caed larry ngor sta the supreme alli commander europe, he sat inmy office to ask how this was goingovolve he said "weay have to use clear weapons." think of it. in october '62, the soviets put nuear-equipped missile in cuba. we came da close to nuclear war. much closer than our public today understand in junef '67, the egypans said we're going t destroy israel and ey thought they'd have the sport of syria and the soviet union. the israelis preempted and knocked the hellut of them. ter there, the hotline was usedor a hot time, a cable w sent tourresident saying "if you want war, you'll get r.
" now, i'msyly tryin to cree e atmospre that in a sense we were ctives of. we misdged the soviet and communist threat in asia. no question abouthat. but there s a rean for it. >> rose: the historyf world war ii and the fear of commism." >> that's right >> ros back to my queion. u believe it had war was not winnable in1967 '68. not winnable >> not winnable militarily. >> rose: you believed tt in '67,' 6. >> that's corrt. >>. >> rose:hen did robert mcmara decide thear was wrong, wrong, terribly wrong? >> well, that's a. let me answer quily andhen perhaps we should go back a bit. relativelyater. five, seven yea ago, sething like that. becausat that time i beg to understand the communist threat was not wh i visualizedt to be and thought itwas in the '06s and even the '70s. it wasn'tntil.... >> re: so it wasn't until
1990? >>ell, no, the '80s. >> rose: was it befor the fall of saigo that you realized the r was wrong? >> i don't like to use that phrase >> re: is that your pase? "the waras wrong >> terriblyrong. but that was later. beforehe fall ofaigon, i continueto feel it wasn't winnable militarilyand therefore what i d propos to the president and what he eventually pushed and what presidentixon andissinger pushed was moving toward... to know,s and achieng them... negotiatedettlement,opefully which would allow us to diseage militaril without losing vieam. no uimately wedidn't lose vietnam. >> ros but we didn't ha the domino theory. >> you areo right sfwfrjts that's why i think e war was wrong? >> two menho i think lov and respected ch other-- johns and-- came to th point whe i couldn't convinc him and he
uldn't convince me. anwe had to part now, who took the initiative? i honestly don't know. but iwrote a memorandumn may of '67 and another memorandum on november of '67.... >> rose: allbout halti bombing? >> about halting bombing. turninthe mility action in a nse over to the south vietnamese vietnamese. reducing u.s. casualts, presring the north vtnamese to negotiations in ord to disengage. and , i knew, wasn't prepared at that time to accept that. the november 1 memo i delivered to him by hand. it has a little note o it, you can see th. said, mr. president, haven't shown this to anybody,not to dean rusk, n to the chairn of the joi chiefs, not to t national surity advisor beuse i know you may not agree with i d i won't show it to them until you authorizeme to. never to thisay have receivedn answer and i not criticizing johnson. i'm ju saying thathis was
the dilemma we were in. it was an impossiblesituation. what i felt responsib for was to behave in a way that didn't give aud and comfort to the enemy. johnson in his last eight months in officwas seeking to move tords negotiations. he was pursue... >> rose: but.. >> no, listen. >> rose: okay. >> he was pursuin aourse and he did achieve the beginning of negotiations in may of 1968 in paris. nixon was elect, as iecall, on a platform of endi the war. >> rose:secret plans. >> well, he was goi to endhe r. so he was engad in attempg renegotiatns. to be aolutely frank with you, my friend henryissinger would talk to mebout that. what could they do? butfor measx-secretary of defee to come out and say "i ow how to do this ando hell with what president johnson is trying to do ornixon and secret
diplomacy, to hell wit that, do it my way" that would have been irresponsible. >> rose: would it have bn irsponsible for you with the experience youad had to be part of an important debatein this country overne of the significant events the 20th century? this war? and what i has done in t consequencto the country, creating the cynicism you now speak out agait. >> if that debate could have contributed to ending e war, s. >> rose:ould it hav, in your judgment? >> wel at that time didn't thk so. >> rose: a now what do you think? >> well, i n't know all tt ck son was tryingo do. one of his key associate called me today,ust two hours ago and told me some of the things wa doing, others assoated with nixon at thatxact time. anthey... this associat of mine was trying... nixon's a friend of mi, was tryi to move towar netiation. i ink... of coue i didn't kn that at t time.
secondlace, i knew things were going on a that me. for me to stand on the outside and second guess this cret diplomacy i thk would have been irresponsible. >> rose: you and yourhildren have never discussed this war? >> no, that's not quite correct. >> ros i read that. >> well, youe half right. what i said in the book and what i said on diane sawyer's ogram last week was that i never fully scussed my feelings or the w with my children andy wife. it was very, very difficult to do so >> rose: help us understand that. >> well,t was so complex. ve tried to tell you today and i'm not sure yr viewerswill understand even aer your dialogue with me. theomplexity, as i sugsted. we were almost obsessedwith this soviet threat ifou face the psible of nuear war twice within 4 or 36
mohs-- and, by th way, there'in the book reverence memoranda from t chiefs that said now mr. secretary and mr. esident we believe you should do a, b, c. and if you do itou may welcome in conflict with e soviets and the chinese and if thathappens you're going to ve to go to nuclear war. w, these are terriblethings and to have that onhe one si d feel you can't complish it militarily on the other. >> rose: you cannot cvince... >> how can you talk to your wife and children aut it? >>ose: i find that almost impossible to believe,hat the complexi of the iue not wa standing allhat is too difficult... it seems to me it hasomething ngor do with very deep a personal emotis that you felt about this r, not e complexi of it and the forces at workere. >> oh, yeah. >> rose:ut having to do with pain and dp sense... el sgr well, no, n, perhs tt's... you' quite right on that. but it's these two linked togeth, you see. put veryimply, i didn't hav the answer.
and people we being killed. how can you talk about that withoudeep emotion? you ought to feel deep emotion about it. i did. now, we... i don mean to say ere wasn't contact with it. let me take a second to tell you this. rose: but... >> my children were deeply involved inall this. my middle child,aughter, had a very close fend who literally ornized the protest marches, led the prost marches against the white house, against the presidt, against me. my daughter brought them home to dinner and we had dinner together severalimes and on one of these occasions after dinner we went int the libry, we talked to 10:30. s last words ase left the room were "well, nobody c be all bad whooves the mountains as much you do." now his name was sam brown. a ye ago he was nominated to be aassador to the c.s.e., the uncil on security and cooperation in europe. nator helms was opposing his nomination because hsaid this guy was araitor during vietnam
and toell with him, we're not going to cfirm him >> rose: the demonsttor who led the mccarthy mccain. >> so sam asked me to write a letter t senator helms to say he wasn't araitor, which i did. >> rose: but let me come back to family in a nse. u believe, if i understand it, thathe stress ofietnam had a profound impt on your family. >> it brought ulcers to my wife and ulce to my son. and trauma to all. >> rose: becausef the consuences of the decions beinmade and the fact that lives were being lost over policy. >> yes. yes, yes. anyone who haseenesponsible, whether it be a uniformed military officer or an official of government responsible for sending men to risk their lives muste haunted bythe deaths that occurred. and all of us o have had that
responsibility know we've made mistes. some big some small. e same colel that we were lking about earer.... >> rose: he's going tobe on this broadcast. >> heays he sent men to death. he's the most decorat living soldiein the army. he isn men to death and a sense it haun him. it haunts m course it does. i believe today that ho chi minh was not a follower of stalin d kruschevwhich i thought he was at the te. he was a tito. he was an asian tito. i believed the war in south vietnam was not a war of foreign aggrsion. i believe was a civil war. ielieve that it was the power of nationalism thatwas at ske there. i believe that under those circumstances no foreign army can substute for the people of thatcountryeciding a civil
r themselves. it's impossible. no these beliefs, they may seem oious to you. th weren't obvious to me five years ago. >> rose: i've... but let me a this question. >>'m wiser today >>ose: let me as this question. >> tt's why i w able to write. >> rose: let me ask this question. then if you had belied what you just said... >> iould have written it... two thing let me just say this. i would have wtten the book the moment i believed it. number one. rose: no questions? >> no question about it. rose: the moment you belved that, yowould he written the book. secondly, what if you'd come to thatonclusion as a... >> if i had come t it in '65.... >> ros66, '67, '68. >> tell you i wouldave fought like hel to stop the war and whdraw... take our losses and get out. and is, by the way, is one th lessons. we're going to make stakes. i mean w the people, we, the leaders, we're going to make stakes. and for god's sake, when you make mtakes and peoplere being killed and you know you've
made a mistake cut yr losses and get out! now if i believed en what i've just told you, i would have fought to my dth to get out. without anyuestion. i didn't believe it. what i belied was half right. we couldn't win it militarily. what i feared w if w didn't least prevent cmunist control ofietnam, we would endanger the security of the west. and i was tryingo balance those. i went to the world bank, was there 13 years. the otheday the "neyork time called it a. it's the st job in the world but it isn't a sinecur and i worked m tail off fo 13 years to try to advance the welfare of the three billion people in theeveloping countries. and i'm proud it. now, i d't know howistory ll judge me. >>rose: but when somebody ces along and sayscnamara did that cause he needed some way to ease his aching so about the responbility... >> thas total bony!
loved it! i went there because i wanted to do it a i was very pleased that i did have the opportunity. >> re: when you look now at the future and the ssons that are to be learned, is there some lesson here about people in power... and i come back to how longt took, in a sense, that no one can... dn't... some lesson abo listening, some lesson about making se, you know, tha.. >> i'm goi to givyou what yoll think is the wrong answer. >> rose: no, i don'think so. go ahead. >> don't ways listen to t polls. don'tlways listen to the majority of the ngress. don't always listen to the majority o the press. the majority of people through the polls, the majority of t ngress, the majory of the press were in support of what was going on i vietnam duri much of thateriod.
that doesn't absolve us as leaders or wt we did. we were rponsible to lead, not foll. and we ledwrongly. so that's one lesson. i hope people all understand that. e leaders are sponsible to lead, not follow. that'she first point. cond point, for god's sake, i n't want the peopleto take the leon you shouldn't serve in vernment, you'll get crucified. i said the other night a the morning... i said on t.v., the morning ter my children, all three of them separately called and they just were most in tes. they were so pleased. >> rose: thiwas... >> this was theay after the diane sawyer sw where i was almost in tears myself. but what i said on that show was ter seven years of stress and trauma a pain in the family, i beeve every one of us-- my
wife, crai, my son, kathy my daughter margi my dahter, - were better for the seven years of government service and that's the message i want to leave to the american people. fo god's sake when yr vernment asks you to see, serve. it's your obligation, it's your duty a you'll be better for it. that's wt i believe. >> rose: and what di they say? >> ty were in tear th so believeit. >> rose: that nothinghat happened ould rob a sse of serving country? >> that's correct. that's correct. >> se: if the call had come agaiafter all that you've been through, you don't regret the day that y acceptedjohn kenny's request? >> it wathe pudest day of my life and is. and i dd do it all over ain.
hopefully wiser. bu wiser or not i'd do it all over again. and i want t seevery american do that. >> rose: what lessons are applicable to today? especially some comparisons are ing made between iraq and vinam. >>ell, i don't want to... by statg lessons i don't want to suest that these should be applied to t iraq situation. if y think so, do it. but these are lsons thatapply in general to security. >> rose: a right. >> the first lson is empathize with your oppont. now i don use the word "empathyas synonymou with symphy. i use the word empay as understand your opnent. we did not understan the north vietmese. they didn'understand us. with one exception. we really didn't unrstand uschev. e one exception was toy thompson criticaloment in a sense prevented the nuclear war. >> rose: heaid to presidt kennedy... >>e said to mr. knedy, you'rerong, presidentennedy.
present kennedy, we had a soft ssage from kruschev that we coul accept. we have a tough messa that we couldn't accept. the tough mesge had been publicized before we received it. e soft message was sent in secret. we wante to.... >> rose: but t soft message ca before the tough message. >> well, it's a littl uncertain. a little uncertain. you're right, it did but it's not clear in... in any event, whicmessage to spond to. tommsaid "you' got to respond..." the majity of nnedy's advisor said "resnd to the tgh message." >> rose: including you friend genel lemay. >> yeah, but tommy said "mr. president, respond the soft message the president sa that'shat's ong with you, tommy, youon't understand politics. no political leader can put out a tough messagein the public d in a sense accept a lesser deal than that. he couldn't survive. mmy said "mrpresident, i know that man, i've lived with him. i knew his wife." he and jane, his wife, had live with kruschev,acations and
otherwe. he said "i belve he wl accept youracceptance of the soft message." nnedy said, "we, it' a risk but i'llo it." uschev did. he prevented a nuclr war. >> ro: because thompson believed hwas looking for a way out. >> tt's right. and he knew what kenne wanted. >> rose: suose we had empathized with the nort vietnamese, what coulde have done. they didn't empathize with us. >>ose: but wecan't worry about that. >> well, it's hard r only one party on. but what we could have done... the second lesson for my life is for god's sa communicate with yourpponent. that'srue in business and it's true with non-governmentals and it sure as hell true in security relionships. we did not ve any contact directontact, between president johnsoand ho chi minh during th entire period. we came closest in a deal that, in a sense, i worked on with henry kissinger who was then professor at hvard. we came damnclose togetting . >> rose: it wod have been possible? >>t would have been possible. >> rose: for the t of them t
ta? >> thas right. well, or to have a high-ranking emissary to go over the. and the "new york times"ad an article that said tt husse was trng to make a deal with usefore. >> rose: and lebanese businessmawent to see ricrd pearl in london >> yh, but my god assuming for the moment.. >> a very disrbing article. >> it was disturbing. >> rose: and the c.i.a. rejected it accding to the "new york time" right? >> well, was going to say, that was hussein's ideand i'm not suret was. but it was, he cse a damn poor way of communating. you don't do through third-level dividuals who can be disregarded >> ros but the mainhing is communate with thenemies and find out what they're. find out what theirequirements are and what yours are and see if you can bring them together. >> onef the thingsfor me having made th movie that is disturbing is ostensly robert mcnara is talkg about events tt occurd 40, 50, 60
years ago. this was not intentional, but it became more d more obviss we worked on the film even though he's talking about history, is he cld just as easily be talkg about events that occurred four, fi, six days ago which gis me a funny fling. >> rose: what kindof feeli? >> the question are we doomd? i would call it a feeli of despr, if you like. are we dood to repeing endlessly the mistakes that we've made in the past. can we do thing differently? s earliest memy... i should allow m to describe it rather than myself,ut it's of world r i, armistice day, 191
wion's war to end all wars. if you like a preventative war... >> andhe people thought wd achieved that objective. howwrong they were. we human beings killed 160 milln other humanbeings after the time president wilson ought was a war to end all wars. we killed them in colict, with nations across borders i e 20th century. is that what we want for the 21st? it's not what i wa. and my books a my stements and to some dege this film are directed towd trying to move toward that objecti. avoiding 160 million fatalities in the 1century. my friends he been killed in the island wars in the pacific. rose: gdalcanal... >> a iwo jima and the marianas and so on. so i understood what was ing done. and there was a reason f it. but couldn't have done it with less human killi? we leveled 69 cities.
i'm forgotten howany in tal we killed. something li 900,000. shouldn't there be se proportionality? should t human race se up a.... >> rose: b was the same thi truebout the bombings in vietnam? could we have ne it without.. >> yes. i think we could have. >> rose: were you that wise then? >> n i wasn't. >> rose: was it some conclusion you'come to lat about proportionnay? >> it wasn't car. >> ros it wasn't clearo you. >> itasn't clear to me and today isn't clear... i think it's clear to me, it's not cle to mh of your audience, it's not clr to the humanace. we the human race have not established anyudicial framework wiin whi war a crimes agast humanity can be carrd out. we have se up a court, the internional court of crime ainst humanity. our country is one of the few major countries at have not supported that. i know why. ey're concerned that our people will be... >> rose: broug to the fore.
>> brought to the court by ammar qaddafi or someby. and there's reason to fear that but there are many safeguards i the internatial court procedures and we can negotiate more we ought to cept the objective of tryingo set som acceptable standards for tt that wl reduce cualties. >> rose: youon't want to second guess rumsfeld. >> absolutely not. i want to stop you oneecond. 71-- you won't believe this, 71 recorders, t.v., radio, magazine newspar, from all over the world, australia, brazil, western europe, have ked me to comment iraq. i haven't resnded to one. the ason is i think it is irresponsie for an ex-sretary of defense to comment in a way on the acons of a presint who's eply involved in war wit hundreds of thousands o our citizens at ris and he is crying out very delica negotiations with the u.n. andther counies. i haven't said a word and i'm notgoing to.
>> see, thiss where we do disagree. >> rose: what do you disagre about? >> i thinkthat it's very portant for robert mcnamara to speak out abt these issues. rose: i do,oo. >> inow he has very, vy strong feelings. i knowhe said thgs to me in private. ment >> i'll kl you if y repeat them! >> and, in fact, i won't repeat them out of respect for him and our relationsp. but i know that he has spent a fe... a large fraction of a lifen plic service. d he has learned a lot of thingsrom thatife. and it's imrtant that he brings that knowledge to bear. >> ros but he isot doing it total. you know he's not, earl, ce on! >> now wait a second.... >> rose: you just said that! >> i thin that he cld be more outspoken. >> he specifically thinks i should comment on th iraq situation. in the book,in retrospecand in the other two books i drew
lessons. but those lessons can be applied to iraq. let people read the books and apply e lessons. i'm not going to critice my president when 's in a war. up into but let me just suggest to you thaone of the imrtant things tt you underlined other than empathy and other than counication is that we need to ha public debate about the tse esntial issues. you talk about tt time after time but you're not willing to participatin the debate beuse of the silly rule you have. >> we ven't had a public debate. >> rose: you can participate in it. >> nobody asked me >> re: oh, but... ls of peoplesked. u just tol me every porter that's ever come t you aed you to participate in dete. >> ty dn't ask for that. they wanted a one sided comme. >>ose: fair enough. suppe i put together a grou of pple including former secretaries of state and secretaries of defense toalk out where ameca goes iraq and ter. you won't participe in that? you won't tell ushat you think if, in ft, it might be important to theirection and
decisions the countrtakes? the debe, not so much what happens here. well, let me sa i thinkor seor official to debaten the midst of a war is the wrong time. our people are at rk. the debate may encourage t enemy. >> maybe it's even more critical we debate during war. >> i understand that. but justhink this through. it may encourage thenemy. look what happened a few days ago.... >>ose: they always say that. that's what theysaid in vinam and u know that. >> all rht, all right, b it's true. look what happened few days ago when t israeli general criticiz israeli policies. that certain encouraged the palestians. is that wh we want. >> rose: encouraged them to do what? >> to be tougher. to thi there's weness in the israelis. takefor example.... >> rose: wait a minutedo you think he should not ha said that? we should not have in an interview witthose three israi journalists should t have raised questions for consideration? >> h didn't raise them for consideration, he said "our
policies are wro." >> rose: no, he spoke tohe issu.. yes, he did. but he ske to the issue of how ey were treating th palestinians a as to ether it was counterproductive and whether they wer creatingore problems. this isn't... listen. donald rsfeldin his famous me which came leaked out of the ntagon raised these very same questions. did he not? the secretary of defense raid questions. >> in a differe way. the implication of the israel general's mments as i read themas that he believed e israelishould change those policies and i a sensehe palestinians should expect changes. >> rose: i think i would gue... whatever the decisi oughto be made by the israelis they should ke the decisn. >> yes. >> ros he's an israeli. >> i agree. >> he raised the question as t what was ithe best interest of his country! i agree. rose: you have said that debate is in t best interest of cision making. >>ut it dends on when the debate takes pla. >> rose: but it shouldn't just be... suose tommy thompson ha't been there!
the decisi in that cabinet om... >> that s a closed debate. >> rose: john kennedy sai that if, in fact, newspaps had printed some this, that he ght not have made som mistakes that he made. you know that. >> take, fraction... >> rose: you know that. >> waia minute.... >> rose: with we making any inroads here? >> no. >> rose: you stl thinkt's not important to have a debate? >> oh, i think it's important to dete. >> rose: notmportant for a former sectary of defense who hasn't been. who hn't been secrety of defense since the '60s, more than25 years a, to speak out and say "this is what i've elevened d this is wt thjudgment at 85 i hav about public events"? >> there's several points. the first points that i dot have the informatio the president hasandthe secretary of defse has. >> ros maybe he doesn't ve thinformation you have in a different way. >> the judgmt andxperience. but in any event i'm not going to participate in public debate. >> one does not have to be niscient to speakut. >> rose: exactly.
>> let me give one example from the movie and it's certainly one of robert mcnamara' fundamental lesson it a lesson about multilaterism. he says in t course of the movie that we didn't listen to any of our allies if we had listed to o allies in the coue of vietnam, we woul't have been there. it's airect quote. weouldn't have been the. now, this is actually a question for you. do you see any parallels in the cuent situation? >>'m not going to answer that question. >> rose: well, thereou go. >> on saturday, the critical moment, saturdayctober 27, 1963, thatas the crical ment. theresident had. his council there, t chiefs, the secretaries of statend defense annational security advisor and director of c.i.a., we gued all day long about what to do. we weren sure. we hadn't been ableto get the damn missile out we had to get them out. but we had photographs of missile on t soil of cuba the c.i.a.aid we dot think
the warheads are there yet. the first tch of 20 warheads are coming on a ship that will be there in two or three days. we'd had a ctingency plan of attacked develed. e first day's air strike w plannewith shorties, larger than any dayn kosovo. we had 180,000 troops mobilized in soheast u.s. ports. we had the shipping there. we were ady to go. at 4:00p.m., the chief said, mr. president, we recommend unanimously thatyou underke th attack withinwo days. it wasn't until 29 years later in january, 1992 that we learned thatt that moment the soviets had about 170uclear rheads on the soil of cub stup already there. >> roughly 90 tactical a roughly 80 tbe used in the ssile to attac 90 millio americans. that's how youmake mistas. >> ros or you have bad intelligence >> well, but we d a damn good telligence outfi
i have emendous admiration for the c.i.a. >> rose: we they wrong about e number of nuclear rheads? >> you're dn right. but can intelligence peopl be perfect? no! you've goto understand that. >> rose: perft is nothe difference between sayi there are none on the island and having 92. >> well, thpoint i want to ke is there are serious limits that wl never be overcome to the intelligence you will he and ve to depend on in relation to ese critical decisions and you beer be damn careful. andfortunately we lucked out. because at that moment kruschev saw,... he literal saw these 180,000 troops and he fearedn invasion and when kennedy sent that answer to him, i'm gog to call it the soft message and basically acceptedhe deal kruschev so feared tt the war would art before he cld tell kennedhe accepted kendy's acceptance that he sen a system downo the public radio transmitter in moscow, he said
"hold that transmitter open, i have a message." it took normally s hours to mmunicate a message fro kruschev to kennedy, written and translated and p io code and send it and decode it and sd it to thwhite house. he was going to get it donen, efct, s minutes. weearned of his acceptae of kennedy's proposal, the action that delayed... that preveed nuclear war. we learned it over the publ radio. >> rose: i want to ask this question, which isff the beaten path. comparjohnson and kennedy. yosat with them, served with them. >> i can't do tha in two minutes or 20 minutes or whever. >> rose: d you get into th, earl? not really. >> well,es, wedid. not to coradict anybody. >> i had... >> come on! >> i didn't really compare them, i talk about each. i had... maybe theoint to mak is aboutjohnsonecause
ultimately i left. i had tremendous respect and affection for joson. i think he had respectnd affection for me. at the e we disagedotally. and something d to ve. and i was out. and i said to my friend kate graham, the former publisher of the "washington post." you know, to ts day-this is five or sevenears ago befe she died. i sa "to this d, kay, i n't know whether i quit or i was fid." she said "you're out of yr mi, of course you were fired." the rean i didn't know is because i ha tremendous respect for johnson and i wante totay for as long as i cou be of help. anyhow, i le and that was the proper thing becausee and i were in total disagreemen >> i remind in this conversation of how diffult you are to interview. >> rose: i reminds me, too, beuse i've been here before. (lghter) >> because one ing is that you have this implacable sense of
rectitude. there are things tha are prop topeak about and things which are improper. >> io and i feel it very strongly. >> inow this. >> ros we can respt you for that. >> no doubt about it. >> rose: d you think robert mcnamara is at pce with himself? no. what human being is? i hopehey're not. >> rose: if you're n, what are you noat peace about? >> think it's on of hi virtues. >> i'm not at peace because i haven't been able to coince other people-- or ateast enough other people-- the soundness of some o my jor thoughts. that i think are in their interests and thinterests of the human race. >> rose: give me the most important of those. >> the most important of those is the one that chirac and blare referred to the grtest threato security in the 21st century. the riskf nuclearwar. that's most important. it's not cepted and it should be and i'mintent to increase its acceptce. >> rose: i think we accept that but... >>ell, i don't think we....
>>ose: we accept it but we don't do eugh. we're not dog enoughto... >> we're no applyi that. >> re: we haveo have this part of this conversation. you expect him to say... you did bad thgs, he said. what did you mean? >> thear in vtnam for me is a very bad tng. >> rose: well, he didn'to the war in vietnam. >>e was certainly part of the war effort. he was the secretary of defense in theennedy and johnson administration >> rose: he coulhave resied on principle. >> he could resigd on principle. there armany, many, many questions abou the '60s, what happened in the war, the tragedy the true tragedy notnly that we'vstarted the war but en after he left the johnson administrationn 1968 the war continued until1975 with
millions of vietnameseying and tens of thousds of americans. >> rose: you've hrd this before on th program en that the central thing that happened about that was thatpeople felt like tt even after you acknowledged that you ha realized cerin things about the war, you didn' speak out en then. >> well, that... again, f an ex-secreta of defense to eak out against a war.... >> rose: b americanswere ing. >> but more americans... i the first place i mig have been wrong because almo all of my associes believed i was wrong. but assuming was corre and i think in hindsight i was, by speaking out publicly in the midst of a w, more americans could die. it would have given aid and mfort to the enemy. d that's absurd to suggest. >> rose: well, did youo in... >> i sure as hell went in a spokto johnson i writing and orally. and at that's all on the reco. that's why wbroke. rose: and youow say the
etnam war is wrong, of course. >> well.... >> rose: youon't sayhat. >> that's t quite what i say. >> rose: whadoes he say? >> this is not wel understood. >> well. >> let me me this point and i n't want to appear to be self-servi so i brought with me a thing i'm going to read. >> rose: fai enough. >> this is a little note from... i think was the "new york times." yes, the "new york times," february 1 of thisear. and it says... it refers to a book by a man namedeegan and keeg wrote a book and he says "the vietnam war was n the brain child of tee or four ople. it was a pduct of a whole way of thinking out the world. it was for better or worse the logical conseence of the policy of containmen" which is t policy we follod r 50 years set up by george cannon. and the brept and depth of support for american policy in etnam, certainly the elite tellectual class was enormo. let' not suggest that it was somehow just the bundys or
roows, this was natial consens. is war was part of the cold war. it was a logical derivative of the cold war. now, i think we were wrong in many of our judgment but at theime when you recognize how close we've come to warwith the soviets-- three tis in my seve years as secretary, september of '61, october of '62 and june of '67 we came close to war with the soviets. this vietnam was part that. today th isn't recnized. it should be. >> rose: you eected somethin.. you wanted him to confront whatith respecto vietnam? there are s many questions. ong them, certnly mr. mcnara's silence aer he left the johnsondministration.
what'sreally interestin... >> rose: >> let me interrupt just f a moment. wasn't sint when irote that book in trospect. >> this was much later. >> laid out the decision maki process. the decisions that were wrong and thelessons th should be leard from it. >>yes. >> nobody else has done anything like that. t only in vietnam but other situations are comparable. that's whashould bexpected of every lear. >> and i think is extraordinary an interesting book. one of a kind in many, many ways. rose: b.... >> um, 's not that there's someidden "but"ere that hasn't bee addressed. there are going tobe many many unsolved mysteries about vieam about robert mcnamara.
>> about the human race killing people. they're unsolved. these are difficult issues. >> solved queions, if you like, about evi about the problem of evil a whe it comes from. >> o of the greatest theologians said "how muchvil should bdone to achieve good." that's abasic problem. >> ihink we have thisery simplistic ia that ev is the product of evil people. that the are a host of ias in t wingsubbing their nds together conning, calculating, plotting. and then the solution is just, well, let's find out where they are andet's go get them. les kill them. let's lock th up. and there you have it. a solution to the probl o ev. but wh if evil is much rder to identify?
what if we're all capable of it? >> and what i attimes is necessary too good? that was lieber's point. >> yes. i'm reminded-- and have been rended again and again in the course of making the movie-- ho complex these decisions were that this man faced. this inot to excuse wt he did or to apoloze for him. that's not my role. nor would i want to do so. i felt part-- and sel feel-- part of ts enterprise o trng to exami history a a man's role in it. it's a very odd movie, because you see movies about story, you'll see fiv, six, seven,
eight or more characters argng with eac other this movie contains oy o indivial, robert namara. sometimes i e the show figure, sometimes i see the 85-year-old mcnamara arguing with the 45-yearldmcnamara. and we can ask ourselves, isit the same man or are these different men? orn what way are they the same? or in what y are ty different? one thing that io know for sures that the enterprise of tryingo figure out whwe are and why weo what we do is a very deep and important enterprise and for better for worse,his man is engag in . >> that's what i've been deting myself tofor 5 years. and i make no apologies f it. is an essenti step ward advancinthehuman race.
will i ever understand why he wot speak out against the current administration? i probably won't! >> no. >> rose: don't think you will. >> loyty? >> no, 's not loyalty. it's... >> a sense of... what is proper and impper? >> it's a sense of what's in the intere of the american people today when amecans are dying in iraq. that's not th time for an ex-secretary of defense to, as you call it,speak out. >> rose: whado you think of the idea that all at is requed for evil to triumph... >> is what? >> rose: i for good men, in this cas not to spe up. >> well, i ha spoken ou in retrospect. >> rose: but i talking about current situations. again, it's nothat youe going toome down on one side or the other,t's to spk out. >> read the book and you decide whether it applies to current situation. >> rose:ut you are the figure. you are the person. you can't sa "read the book and you can decide."
yway, i want to mo beyond that >> i think you're runninout of me. >> rose: mbe, i'll be okay, though. i'llake that choice. what did you... in this search to expin, to understd, to come to terith, how far are you on that? i me, is it... have y rehed where you wanted to be in ter of... >> let me tel you, i'm 87 years old and i'm running outf time. so therere i'm sort aclerating the proce. in sense, th's why iid the film >> rose: was this a kind of tharsis for you? >> no, no, not catharsis. >> rose: well, then what. >> it s a chance to... >> t reach... >> to reach a large audience with ideas tt are very controversial anto stilate eir thinking. andebate >> ros robertcnamara, dea at aged 93.