Robert McNamara's Other War: The World Bank and International Development

In This Review

Robert McNamara's Other War: The World Bank and International Development
By Patrick Allan Sharma
University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017
240 pp.

Robert McNamara was best known as the “whiz kid” secretary of defense under U.S. Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson and as one of the main architects of U.S. (and, by extension, South Vietnamese) strategy in the Vietnam War. But as the death toll from the war mounted and public opposition increased, McNamara left (or was perhaps pushed out of) the Pentagon and took the helm at the World Bank, where he served until 1981. His famous drive and energy radically transformed the bank: reformulating its mission, increasing the scale of its operations, and turning it into the preeminent global institution for supporting economic development. This useful book describes McNamara’s tenure during a turbulent period that saw the partial breakdown of the postwar international monetary system, two major increases in world oil prices, and China’s entry into the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Sharma analyzes the positive and negative aspects of McNamara’s enduring legacy at the bank, including his focus on reducing poverty and his insistence on rigorous quantitative analysis of both client countries and the bank’s own performance.

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