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Robert McNamara

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``Well, clearly, one should address the basic issue, which is the political rivalry between East and West,'' McNamara says. ``We have become almost paranoiac, as a people, with respect to the Soviet Union. We exaggerate their strengths, we underestimate our own, and we keep ourselves in a continual state of anxiety with respect to them.''

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This anxiety, he continues, ``has a lot to do with a movement away from our traditional values.''

For 200 years, he argues, the United States has ``supported freedom and liberty and democracy.'' But over the last 40 years, he says, American governments have backed Nationalist Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek, the Shah of Iran, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, and Nicaraguan President Anastasio Somoza Debayle.

``Support of those regimes,'' he says, is ``not consistent with the social, political, moral values I wish to pass on to my children.''

The problem, he says, has arisen because the citizenry has accepted ``actions inconsistent with our national heritage and national traditions, in order to strengthen our position vis-`a-vis this `communist' threat.''

``It is that, of course, which leads to this tremendous - I consider [it] excessive - expenditure on military weapons,'' he says. ``I think we pay a very, very heavy price for failing to deal more effectively with this East-West tension,'' he adds.

For McNamara, better East-West relations include a stronger Western Europe. ``This should be one of our objectives for the 21st century,'' he says, ``to help and encourage Europe to act in a more unified fashion.

``I think that today the West suffers because to a considerable degree it's fragmented. If we could reduce that fragmentation by assisting and encouraging Europe to unify itself - economically, politically, and certainly in terms of defense - we would be much better off.''

With that, McNamara turns to the second major issue on his agenda: the population problem, brought so sharply to his attention during his years at the World Bank.

While he acknowledges that some areas of the world face severe overcrowding, he says that ``the problem today is not, on a global basis, density of population.'' What he describes as ``the carrying capacity of the world'' - the globe's capacity to support its population - is ``greater than the existing world's population.''

The problem arises instead, he says, from ``the imbalance of population growth rates on the one hand and social and economic advance on the other'' - which ``leads to human misery.''

``In sub-Saharan Africa as a whole,'' he says, ``with the population of something on the order of 350 million people, food production growth rates - on average, per capita - have been negative for 10 years.''

``Now, 10 years ago malnutrition existed,'' he says, ``and if you have had a negative per capita food production rate since that time, then there's less food per capita today than there was 10 years ago.''

``That kind of a situation is bound to have political repercussions - and it has had,'' he says, mentioning attempted coups as well as successive waves of migration. ``And lest one think these migration problems are limited to Africa,'' he notes, ``look at our own problem with Mexico.''

There, he says, the problem arose from very high rates of population growth several decades ago. The result, he says, is ``a rate of increase in their labor force that is one of the highest in the world, roughly 3.2 percent per year.''

``The Mexicans want to live in Mexico,'' McNamara says, ``but the operative word is live. And if they can't live there, they're going to live here,'' especially given the 2,000-mile-long US-Mexican border that, he says, ``cannot be protected no matter how much we expand the Immigration Service.''

``I think we must recognize as a fact that for many purposes we are one market,'' he says, adding that ``we have no choice but to take either their men or their goods.''

In dealing with global population issues, McNamara says he sees two ways forward. One is to help nations reduce their population growth rates. In this regard, he says, better distribution of and education about contraceptives is part of the answer.