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07/07/2009

Robert McNamara , by Arnold Kling

Today's Washington Post has six op-ed pieces. Three are on Sarah Palin, who resigned as governor of Alaska the other day. The other three are on Robert McNamara, who died yesterday.

Palin is known for hunting moose. McNamara is known as the architect of the Vietnam War. The op-ed writers generally take a more respectful tone toward McNamara.

Palin represents small-town America. McNamara was comfortable among business and academic elites. It is easier for me to relate to McNamara than to Palin.

I often say that an important step in my journey away from the left was reading David Halberstam's The Best and the Brightest and seeing how someone as intelligent and well-intentioned as McNamara could have blind spots. One could argue that McNamara is exhibit A in my case against what Thomas Sowell would call the unconstrained vision, which holds that certain people have so much knowledge and moral strength that they should be given great power over the rest.

David Ignatius writes,


perhaps the memory of this brilliant and tragic man will keep us from being too certain of our own judgment--and encourage us to consider, even when we feel most confident, the possibility that we could be wrong.

Not bloody likely. I worry that today's equivalent of Robert McNamara is Peter Orszag, who I fear is poised to do for our health care system what McNamara did for Vietnam.

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