Wolfowitz = McNamara, Chapter 402

"Jeez louise. How much inner peace does it suggest about a person if he refuses to talk about the event for which he will always be principally known?"

By James Fallows

From John Cassidy’s (very good) profile of Paul Wolfowitz as head of the World Bank, in the New Yorker:

Wolfowitz refused to talk about Iraq specifically, but he told me that he still believes in the vision of a moderate, democratic Middle East.

Jeez louise. How much inner peace does it suggest about a person — the most famed intellectual in the Bush administration — if he refuses to talk about the event for which he will always be principally known? (”John Hinckley refused to talk about shooting President Reagan specifically, but he told me that he still believes in his vision of a happy future with Jodie Foster.”)

There is of course a precedent: Robert McNamara’s flat refusal to discuss the Vietnam war for 27 years after he left the Pentagon — going first, of course, to the presidency of the World Bank. I know, from asking during those years, that McNamara was willing to talk about world poverty, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the threat of nuclear proliferation, and many other (important and worthy) topics. But not the event for which he will always be principally known.

McNamara finally broke his silence in 1995, with his book In Retrospect. My reaction at the time now looks somewhat harsh. It is impossible not to acknowledge the worthiness of what McNamara has done in the nearly four decades of his post-Vietnam life. There is a steely logic and public- mindedness connecting the chapters of his life. But The Fog of War did not suggest a person 100% at peace with his role in history and his own explanations of it. I await the version of this film starring Paul Wolfowitz.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2007/04/wolfowitz-mcnamara-chapter-402/305837/