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Robert Strange McNamara

On 21 January 1961, Robert McNamara's political career began when President John F. Kennedy appointed him as Secretary of Defense. McNamara made a more significant contribution to the area of nuclear weapons strategy than that of his predecessors. In 1962, he urged a "no cities" policy in nuclear retaliation strategy. McNamara argued that the "principal military objectives, in the event of a nuclear war stemming from a major attack on the Alliance, should be the destruction of the enemy's military forces, not of his civilian population."

McNamara also introduced the concept of "assured destruction." This deterrent strategy was based on the premise that, if an aggressor launched a nuclear first strike on the US or its allies, the US would still have the capability to retaliate with enough nuclear weapons to

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assure an "unacceptable degree of damage" to the aggressor's territory. "Assured destruction" required McNamara to accelerate weapons technology and increase production in order to legitimize the retaliatory warning to the USSR. As the Soviet Union increased their nuclear capabilities and proved their ability to make the same claim, the term changed to "mutually assured destruction" or MAD.

In October 1962, McNamara was one of the key officials in the Cuban Missile Crisis, in which the US and the Soviet Union came very close to nuclear war. In recent years, McNamara has met with his Cuban Missile Crisis counterparts in Russia and Cuba to better understand the misperceptions that almost led to nuclear war. McNamara has become a proponent of eliminating nuclear arms.

During the Vietnam War, McNamara found himself increasingly at odds with the administration's policies, particularly when Lyndon B. Johnson became president after John F. Kennedy's assassination. His growing opposition to both US involvement in Vietnam and deployment of a major missile defense shield troubled military officials. Robert McNamara resigned from office on 29 February1968. President Johnson awarded Mc Namara the Medal of Freedom and the Distinguished Service Medal.