How Should We Remember Robert McNamara?

To the Editor:

Robert S. McNamara should be remembered as a dedicated patriot who learned from past mistakes and sought to restore America’s reputation as a leader in search of peace and justice. After leaving office, he became convinced that an international criminal court might help deter atrocities and illegal wars. In a joint Op-Ed article in The New York Times in December 2000, we called upon President Bill Clinton to carry forward the lessons of Nuremberg.

Hamstrung by the misguided recalcitrance of major powers, the International Criminal Court is still not authorized to try anyone for the crime of aggression. The most important teaching of Nuremberg was that aggressive war is a punishable offense that must apply equally to all.

Mr. McNamara learned that lesson too late. Better late than never.

Benjamin B. Ferencz
New Rochelle, N.Y., July 7, 2009
The writer was a prosecutor at the Nuremberg war crimes trials.