McNamara's gift to me

Clarice Feldman and Rosslyn Smith
The other day I cruised a few sites known to be frequented by veterans.  Whoever owns the beer emporium closest to the grave of Robert Strange McNamara is going to be doing a ton of business shortly.  The most common refrain among Vietnam era veterans was they couldn't wait to piss on that flaming idiot's corpse. 

I was reminded of how the Pullmans were buried in Graceland Cemetery some twelve feet down under overlapping layers of concrete, railroad ties, tar, metal cables, etc., to prevent their former employees from digging them up some night because of lingering hard feelings over the
Pullman strike. But George Pullman died only three years after the brutal strike so the lingering animosity was understandable.   Forty years later the scorn for McNamara aming aging Vietnam era veterans remains strong enough to scorch asbestos.

Reading their comments, I recalled the earful my academic advisor gave me about McNamara while the Vietnam war was winding down. Professor Bill Clark had been a W.W.II mustang who stayed in after the war was over. When in 1974 the producers of the TV show M*A*S*H introduced the character of Sherman T. Potter played by Harry Morgan, a W.W.I private who had become a surgeon in the Army medical corps, I thought they must have been in one of my political science classes. Potter's calm authority, breadth of experience and common sense approach to problems matched Clark to a Tee. 

Bill Clark would probably be among the first to belly up to the bar in order to have a full ammunition pouch for the final salute to the worst Secretary of Defense ever.  Clark has not served in a combat position under McNamara.  His disdain was that of a man of genuine wisdom for the elitist who thinks he is the smartest person in the room. The person who thinks that having once been at Harvard makes one superior to everone of a less esteemed background and that there is nothing to be learned from such inferior beings. To Clark,  McNamara epitomized the clueless Ivy League expert who has read all the books but whose ability to actually accomplish a mission approaches minus infinity.

Clark had drifted into intelligence work after Korea, taking foreign language classes and other academic course work as needed to do the mission. He'd enliven his classes with tales about how after training a colleague in several obscure languages for countless months in order to post him under the cover of military attache to an embassy in the Balkans, the man was proclaimed persona non grata in less than three weeks.  When McNamara became Secretary of Defense, Clark knew he'd have to retire as there would be no promotions forthcoming in McNamara's Pentagon for a field grade officer without a college degree.  "The Colonel" had the last laugh on that one.  He quickly found a university that admitted him directly into their graduate program, then got tenure at a college more interested in the quality of the substancel between his ears than the number of letters after his name.  

Clark's disdain often extended to the then current Republican administration of Richard Nixon.  Clark knew most of his students hoped to go to law school.  When the topic of the Watergate investigations came up, he quipped to us "I don't know what to make of all these bright young Washington lawyers. They haven't even learned to recognize the elements of a felony when they commit one."

Bill Clark was probably the best teacher I ever had. In many ways, Robert S. McNamara gave me a priceless gift because if that insidious disease of the best and the brightest has not struck the Pentagon when it did,  Bill Clark would probably have stayed a warrior.
     
The other day I cruised a few sites known to be frequented by veterans.  Whoever owns the beer emporium closest to the grave of Robert Strange McNamara is going to be doing a ton of business shortly.  The most common refrain among Vietnam era veterans was they couldn't wait to piss on that flaming idiot's corpse. 

I was reminded of how the Pullmans were buried in Graceland Cemetery some twelve feet down under overlapping layers of concrete, railroad ties, tar, metal cables, etc., to prevent their former employees from digging them up some night because of lingering hard feelings over the
Pullman strike. But George Pullman died only three years after the brutal strike so the lingering animosity was understandable.   Forty years later the scorn for McNamara aming aging Vietnam era veterans remains strong enough to scorch asbestos.

Reading their comments, I recalled the earful my academic advisor gave me about McNamara while the Vietnam war was winding down. Professor Bill Clark had been a W.W.II mustang who stayed in after the war was over. When in 1974 the producers of the TV show M*A*S*H introduced the character of Sherman T. Potter played by Harry Morgan, a W.W.I private who had become a surgeon in the Army medical corps, I thought they must have been in one of my political science classes. Potter's calm authority, breadth of experience and common sense approach to problems matched Clark to a Tee. 

Bill Clark would probably be among the first to belly up to the bar in order to have a full ammunition pouch for the final salute to the worst Secretary of Defense ever.  Clark has not served in a combat position under McNamara.  His disdain was that of a man of genuine wisdom for the elitist who thinks he is the smartest person in the room. The person who thinks that having once been at Harvard makes one superior to everone of a less esteemed background and that there is nothing to be learned from such inferior beings. To Clark,  McNamara epitomized the clueless Ivy League expert who has read all the books but whose ability to actually accomplish a mission approaches minus infinity.

Clark had drifted into intelligence work after Korea, taking foreign language classes and other academic course work as needed to do the mission. He'd enliven his classes with tales about how after training a colleague in several obscure languages for countless months in order to post him under the cover of military attache to an embassy in the Balkans, the man was proclaimed persona non grata in less than three weeks.  When McNamara became Secretary of Defense, Clark knew he'd have to retire as there would be no promotions forthcoming in McNamara's Pentagon for a field grade officer without a college degree.  "The Colonel" had the last laugh on that one.  He quickly found a university that admitted him directly into their graduate program, then got tenure at a college more interested in the quality of the substancel between his ears than the number of letters after his name.  

Clark's disdain often extended to the then current Republican administration of Richard Nixon.  Clark knew most of his students hoped to go to law school.  When the topic of the Watergate investigations came up, he quipped to us "I don't know what to make of all these bright young Washington lawyers. They haven't even learned to recognize the elements of a felony when they commit one."

Bill Clark was probably the best teacher I ever had. In many ways, Robert S. McNamara gave me a priceless gift because if that insidious disease of the best and the brightest has not struck the Pentagon when it did,  Bill Clark would probably have stayed a warrior.