In Search of Answers to the Vietnam Tragedy

February 9, 2000 at The National Press Club

The 20th century has been the bloodiest in recorded human history. During the century soon to end, 160,000,000 people have been killed in conflicts within nations and between nations across the globe. If we wish to avoid a repetition in the next century of the tragedy of the 20th, the time to start is now. We believe that lessons can be drawn from our past conflicts to advance peace among nations in the 21st century.

To that end, a small group of former policy makers and scholars from the United States have met with their Vietnamese counterparts over the past five years to revisit decision-making during the Vietnam War. The goal has been to draw lessons from the war and to propose systemic and policy changes to avoid similar tragedies in the future.

The result of this effort has been a new book, Argument Without End, co-authored by former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, Robert K. Brigham, Associate Professor of History and Director, International Studies Program at Vassar College, and James G. Blight, Professor of International Relations at the Thomas J. Watson Institute of International Studies at Brown University.

In the past few months, Secretary McNamara with Professors Brigham and Blight have begun work on a series of essays and another monograph examining conflict and peace in the 21st century. Specifically, the second phase of the Vietnam War Critical Oral History Project examines the peace process and lessons that can be drawn from its failures.

On Wednesday, February 9th, Vassar College will host an evening with former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara for alumnae/i, parents and friends in the Washington, D.C. area. During their program in Washington, DC, Secretary McNamara, Professor Brigham and Professor Blight will discuss the lessons learned from the Vietnam conflict and their implications for peace in the next millennium. This project is sponsored by Brown University, the Rockefeller Foundation and Vassar College.