On the web – the Whiz Kid departs, Af-Pak strategy and more…

– With yesterday’s US-Russian pledge to reduce strategic nuclear arsenals came news of the death of Cold Warrior, Robert S. McNamara, former US defence secretary and later president of the World Bank. Thomas Lippman offers a sympathetic portrait of a man who will be forever remembered for his role in Vietnam. Indeed, The New Yorker asks whether the original Whiz Kid is likely to be the “Ghost of Wars Past, Wars Present, or Wars Yet to Come”.

– Turning to those wars present, Rory Stewart, the former British diplomat turned Harvard academic, offers a critical perspective on current Af-Pak strategy in the current LRB. “Obama and Brown”, he reflects, “rely on a hypnotising policy language”, which “misleads us in several respects simultaneously: minimising differences between cultures, exaggerating our fears, aggrandising our ambitions, inflating a sense of moral obligations and power, and confusing our goals. All these attitudes are aspects of a single worldview and create an almost irresistible illusion”.

– In a similar vein the American military scholar, Andrew Bacevich, laments “the consequences of strategic drift” in current US overseas engagements. “The urgent need”, he suggests, “is for the administration to articulate a concrete set of organizing precepts — not simply cliches — to frame basic U.S. policy going forward”.

– Finally and on a different note, offering a preview of his latest book, Cass Sunstein – of Nudge fame – asks what leads us to hold extreme views. His answer: “group polarisation”.