Key Characters and Terms

Our Greatest Mistakes:

Our Profound Ignorance

Underestimating the Power of Nationalism




It has been said that the Vietnam War was a series of missed opportunities. I can only hope that the United States observes the lessons that can be learned from Vietnam so that we do not continue repeating the same mistakes in Iraq. Robert McNamara outlines five important goals for relationships between nations. He suggests that they should:

    • Provide all states guarantees against external aggression—frontiers should not be changed by force.
    • Codify the rights of minorities and ethnic groups within states—the Kurds in Iran, Iraq, and Turkey, for instance—and provide them a means to redress their grievances without resort to violence.
    • Establish a mechanism for resolving regional conflicts and conflicts within nations without unilateral action by the Great Powers.
    • Increase the flow of technical and financial assistance to developing nations to help them accelerate their rates of social and economic advance.
    • Assure preservation of the global environment as a basis of sustainable development for all. (McNamara, 327-328).



Realistically, I do not believe that the nations of the world are in a place where this model for international relations can be uninversally accepted-yet. I do however believe that with the appropriate mindset, we can use these suggestions as a goal to work towards. It is important to remember that not every conflict in the world can be resolved. However, we can avoid conflict if we are are open minded. “We [do] not recognize that neither our people nor our leaders are omniscient…We do not have the God-given right to shape every nation in our own image or as we choose”. (McNamara, 323)