Why did McNamara have such good figures? Why did McNamara have such good staff work and Ball such poor staff work? The next day Ball would angrily dispatch his staff to come up with the figures, to find out how McNamara had gotten them, and the staff would burrow away and occasionally find that one of the reasons that Ball did not have comparable figures was that they did not always exist. McNamara had invented them, he dissembled even within the bureaucracy, though, of course, always for a good cause. It was part of his sense of service. He believed in what he did, and thus the morality of it was assured, and everything else fell into place. It was all right to lie and dissemble for the right causes. It was part of service, loyalty to the President, not to the nation, not to colleagues, it was a very special bureaucratic-corporate definition of integrity; you could do almost anything you wanted as long as it served your superior.
In the absence of expert [senior military] advice, we have seen each successive administration fail in the business of strategy - yielding a United States twice as rich as the Soviet Union but much less strong. Only the manner of the failure has changed. In the 1960s, under Robert S. McNamara, we witnessed the wholesale substitution of civilian mathematical analysis for military expertise. The new breed of the "systems analysts" introduced new standards of intellectual discipline and greatly improved bookkeeping methods, but also a trained incapacity to understand the most important aspects of military power, which happens to be nonmeasurable. Because morale is nonmeasurable it was ignored, in large and small ways, with disastrous effects. We have seen how the pursuit of business-type efficiency in the placement of each soldier destroys the cohesion that makes fighting units effective; we may recall how the Pueblo was left virtually disarmed when it encountered the North Koreans (strong armament was judged as not "cost effective" for ships of that kind). Because tactics, the operational art of war, and strategy itself are not reducible to precise numbers, money was allocated to forces and single weapons according to "firepower" scores, computer simulations, and mathematical studies - all of which maximize efficiency - but often at the expense of combat effectiveness. An even greater defect of the McNamara approach to military decisions was its businesslike "linear" logic, which is right for commerce or engineering but almost always fails in the realm of strategy. Because its essence is the clash of antagonistic and outmaneuvering wills, strategy usually proceeds by paradox rather than conventional "linear" logic. That much is clear even from the most shopworn of Latin tags: si vis pacem, para bellum (if you want peace, prepare for war), whose business equivalent would be orders of "if you want sales, add to your purchasing staff, " or some other, equally absurd advice. Where paradox rules, straightforward linear logic is self-defeating, sometimes quite literally. Let a general choose the best path for his advance, the shortest and best-roaded, and it then becomes the worst path of all paths, because the enemy will await him there in greatest strength... Linear logic is all very well in commerce and engineering, where there is lively opposition, to be sure, but no open-ended scope for maneuver; a competitor beaten in the marketplace will not bomb our factory instead, and the river duly bridged will not deliberately carve out a new course. But such reactions are merely normal in strategy. Military men are not trained in paradoxical thinking, but they do no have to be. Unlike the business-school expert, who searches for optimal solutions in the abstract and then presents them will all the authority of charts and computer printouts, even the most ordinary military mind can recall the existence of a maneuvering antagonists now and then, and will therefore seek robust solutions rather than "best" solutions - those, in other words, which are not optimal but can remain adequate even when the enemy reacts to outmaneuver the first approach.
Edward N. Luttwak