the flawed extrapolation

focused through the fog of war

the vulgar escalation

to construct the winning score

bent with age and wisdom

he admitted they were wrong

there were things they couldn’t measure

they killed a million Vietcong


and so it’s now another country

it’s now another fight

it’s not a cold war proxy

this time maybe we’re right

but there’s American soldiers dying

and every week I read their names

and our leader might be lying

and I’m worried just the same


and though I hope this time it’s different

I’m not entirely sure

we ever learned the lesson

from McNamara’s war



© 2018 by Rob Siegel. All rights reserved.





03 – McNamara’s War

he was the best and the brightest

the numbers guy from Ford

anything he couldn’t measure

could simply be ignored


with his whiz kid friends from Harvard

handpicked for the new frontier

analysis of data

crunch the numbers answers clear


so when the ghosts of Dien Bien Phu

started rapping at the door

events were set in motion

for McNamara’s war


he analyzed the bombings

he yields and the troops

he parametrized the models

he anesthetized the truths


a rational objective

they’d let the war expand

to the point where the north’s losses

should be more than they can stand


he tracked all of the metrics

from the air and ground attacks

the inputs were the people

the outputs body bags


half a million strong

so the Vietcong

should choose to fight no more

a fundamental error

in McNamara’s war


cause the dominos were never going to tumble

the hearts and minds were never ours to win

the red tide sure flowed when it came out

58,000 soldiers veins

the master of the details had to flee

the picture was too big for him to see