“Finance was soon a power of its own. It principal driving force was Bob McNamara, and [his] basic philosophy was:
“Whatever the product men and the manufacturing men want, deny it.
“Make them sweat and then make them present it again, and once again delay it as long as possible. If in the end it has to be granted, cut it in half.
“Always make them fight the balance sheet, and always put the burden of truth on them.
“That way they will always be on the defensive and will think twice about asking for anything.”
— from The Reckoning by David Halberstam
[Note 1: Robert McNamara may not be a name familiar to some readers. As an executive and later Ford Motor Company President McNamara’s arrogance, refusal to innovate and invest in the future and his belief that he could manage a company without understanding the product it made played a significant role in destroying Detroit’s position as automobile capital of the world.
[McNamara (and he was by no means the only culprit) nearly killed what had been the 4th largest U.S. city when I was born. (It is now the 18th largest.)
[For my generation born after World War II, the largest generation in U.S. history, Robert McNamara was a household name. In 1961, President John Kennedy (JFK) hired McNamara from Ford to become his Secretary of Defense. After Kennedy’s death, McNamara served President Lyndon Johnson continuing McNamara’s role as the principal force who designed, implemented, and took the actions resulting in the U.S. losing the War in Vietnam. From 1961 to 1968, the Vietnam War was frequently referred to as “McNamara’s War.” Arguably, McNamara was more responsible for the War in Vietnam than the Presidents under which he served. Pulitzer Prize winning biographer Robert Caro estimates that the Vietnam War and its extension into neighboring Cambodia and other southeast Asian countries may have resulted in a death total of 10 million people.
[Note 3: I am obsessed with the future of Detroit. Here is a link to my first article in the series: http://www.e-architect.co.uk/columns/detroit-dying-special-report
[Note 4: Stay tuned to www.e-architect.co.uk for the second column in the series Is Detroit dying? If you see me on the street before this article is published chase me back to my computer. ]