Skip to comments.Robert McNamara wanted to nuke China to defend India
Posted on 07/07/2009 12:07:11 PM PDT by MyTwoCopperCoins
LONDON: Former US defence secretary Robert S. McNamara, who has died in Washington aged 93, wanted America to attack China with nuclear weapons if it invaded India for a second time.
Although he became a hated figure among the worlds Left for his role as an architect of Americas war on Vietnam, one of his chief aims when he became the head of the World Bank in 1968 was to leverage the Banks aid to persuade India to tackle poverty more effectively.
McNamara was key to plans discussed by US President John F. Kennedy in May 1963 to defend India in the event of a Chinese attack just after the Sino-Indian conflict of 1962.
According to audio recordings released by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, McNamara tells Kennedy: Before any substantial commitment to defend India against China is given, we should recognise that in order to carry out that commitment against any substantial Chinese attack, we would have to use nuclear weapons.
Any large Chinese Communist attack on any part of that area would require the use of nuclear weapons by the US, and this is to be preferred over the introduction of large numbers of US soldiers, the New York Times quoted McNamara as saying in the recording.
After hearing from McNamara and two other advisers, Kennedy declares: We should defend India, and therefore we will defend India.
The very next year, McNamara was equally blunt with Indian Defence Minister Yashwantrao Balwantrao Chavan who was on a visit to Washington with a shopping list of weaponry.
According to a book by Chavans then private secretary, civil servant R.D. Pradhan, McNamara at their first meeting came down harshly on Indias lack of defence preparedness, particularly in its air force.
According to Pradhan, the American told Chavan: Mr Minister, your air force is like a museum. I wonder whether you are aware of the variety of aircraft in your force? You are still operating with Hunters, Spitfires, Vampires, Liberators, Harvards - exotic names of World War II vintage.
All these aircraft are only worthy of finding a place in a museum, he told Chavan, according to the book Debacle to Revival: Y.B. Chavan as Defence Minister 1962-1965.
In April 1968, Washington named McNamara as the President of the World Bank - a post that has traditionally gone to the US - and India was one of the first countries McNamara toured in November of that year.
It became a stormy event after McNamara - already a major hate-figure among Communists - chose to follow up his stay in New Delhi with a visit to Kolkata at the height of the extreme-left Naxalite movement in that city.
McNamaras visit, aimed at offering aid to West Bengal, led to an outbreak of hostile demonstrations all over the city.
There was a bitter clash between police and protesters at Dum Dum airport, leading to many injuries and forcing authorities to ditch plans for McNamara to drive to the city.
He took a helicopter instead, but as the chopper flew over Calcutta University, said the Manchester Guardian on Nov 11, 1968, violence broke out in College Street - the academic hub of the city - where protesters burned tramcars and locked the Vice Chancellor in his office.
McNamara has come to Calcutta to offer funds from the World Bank without which the city might literally die, the paper said.
Two years later, at a World Bank meeting, McNamara referred to a statistic that more than 100 million Indians earned less than 32 dollars a year and asked several times how are they really surviving what is their future, according to a history of the World Bank.
Nobody really seemed to know, so the subject was closed, said the minutes of the meeting.
Oh he was hated among the Right as well.
Worst SecDef ever.
Everyone hated that guy. I don’t know how he lived with himself for what he did.
That would not have been pretty, to say the least. Nobody’s saying anything about what the USSR’s anticipated response would be, either. The Bear was very much on the prowl in those days and would not have taken kindly to a nuclear power projection at its back door.
The Chinese and Russians had border clashes in those days. The Russians told Kissinger they were going to preemtively nuke the ChiComs and wanted Washington to green light the operation, which Washington declined to do.
Wow. What a world changer that would have been.
Bob was sure full of nutty ideas. Maybe this was his attempt to make up for botching Vietnam.
Couple of thoughts:
The Kennedy doctrine shifted nuclear strategy away from “Massive Retaliation” and toward something called “Flexible Response”. In theory this meant that the US might use nukes earlier & in small parcels as part of an overall battlefield strategy. In reality once there was an initial nuclear exchange the ‘incentives’ for all sides would be to fire their entire inventory before their Command & Control Systems went offline.
My second thought — and perhaps this is more likely — is that McNamarra was playing poker with the hawks. In effect he was saying, “we can do little (conventionally), so we need to go nuke” hoping that the hawks within the Kennedy administration would fold.
Ahhhh... the Hawker Hunter was a second-generation jet fighter. It was pretty effective as a fighter-interceptor. All those other aircraft were WW2, but they would have been reasonably effective if protected by the Hunters.
The problem was the altitude. The Sino-Indian War was fought in the Himalaya's. Ask any WW2 air crew who flew the Hump from India to China how difficult it was just to navigate & fly safely though those mountains.
That man managed to mess up the Vietnam War, For Motor Company and the world-wide banking system all in one lifetime.
There’s always hope!
It was after that that Kissinger engineered Nixon’s trip to China. He played the Chinese off against the Russians. The Grand Game. The Bad Old Days.
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