Robert McNamara is best remembered today for his momentous term as Secretary of Defense in the 1960s. Often overlooked because of this is his even longer tenure as president of the World Bank, one that reflected both the strengths and flaws of McNamara’s leadership. In Robert McNamara’s Other War: The World Bank and International Development
(University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017), Patrick Sharma
situates McNamara’s tenure within the context of the changes taking place both in international development and in the broader global economy. Sharma describes how in the two decades prior to McNamara’s selection to run it the World Bank was a relatively small institution focused mainly on financing infrastructure projects in the developing world. McNamara brought to the agency a determination to do more, dramatically expanding the number of staff employed and redirecting the focus of the organization towards fighting global poverty. While Sharma details the Bank’s success in expanding its access to financial resources and in establishing a key advisory role in development projects undertaken throughout the world, he also notes the more controversial aspects of McNamara’s time at the Bank, most notably the introduction of structural adjustment funding and the problems this would create for many nations after McNamara left the Bank in 1981.