McNamara, briefing the committee as secretary of defense, contended that the US would be unable to oversee "selective proliferation" and that the Soviet assistance that the US required would not materialize if the US permitted its allies to acquire nuclear weapons. He argued that this would lead only to greater instability in an already unstable region and would harm efforts to contain communism at home and abroad.
The McNamara line was never officially adopted by the administration or Congress, but it did have the effect of slowing down the process of bringing other nations into the nuclear club and of pressuring those countries to which we offered arms not to leave us out of new alliances or deals. It also helped create a climate of fear among our allies about being left alone with the Soviets. The final result of all this hard work on the part of Henry Kissinger (then undersecretary of state) and Paul H. Nitze (then director of policy development at the Department of Defense) was to limit the spread of nuclear weapons in anticipation of future conflicts.
Here are some other important facts about the McNamara line:
- It was called such because it was stated by Robert S. McNamara, who served as defense secretary from 1961 to 1968.
- Its purpose was to show foreign leaders that the United States would not be able to keep an eye on their activities if they joined together and acquired nuclear weapons.
McNamara highlighted that it was just luck that kept the world from descending into nuclear war. Rational people like Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro came dangerously near to causing national devastation. According to McNamara, the possibility of nuclear war exists now. Lesson #3: There is something greater than oneself. One must look beyond one's own self-interest to keep humanity in check.
In conclusion, McNamara claims that war is an evil, but necessary evil. Without war, humanity would still be living in caves somewhere in Europe or Asia. War provides progress and innovation which benefit everyone as a whole. Although war destroys much including human life, it also creates new opportunities for improvement. McNamara felt that unless someone took charge and started thinking about future generations, mankind was doomed to repeat its mistakes over and over again.
McNamara believed that only two options existed for preventing another world war: become a tyrant like Hitler or Stalin, or live in peace with your neighbors. He concluded that because tyranny seemed easier to achieve, and more people were killed by tyrants than by wars, then wars were indeed a good thing.
McNamara's views on war differ from those who believe that war is an acceptable solution for any problem. They claim that if only both sides wanted peace, there would be no need for violence.
The strategy of "flexible reaction" was instituted by the new president and his Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara. The United States might use this technique to call on...