Lessons from Rs Mcnamara

Walking Along a Familiar Path In Errol Morris’ documentary Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara, we follow the life and times of former United States Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara. The insightful piece follows his life from birth during World War I, his success at college, cunning business career at Ford Motor Company, to his involvement in World War II and his controversial political career during the Kennedy and Johnson presidential terms.
Morris highlights the documentary around these eleven lessons that McNamara passes through during an interview for the film. In my opinion some of these ‘lessons’ are merely some opinions of McNamara and some seem to be spurred along by Morris, who is asking the questions in the background. I believe it is through some of these lessons that Morris uses McNamara’s success and failures to relate them to current issues such as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; and how we seem to be treading down a familiar path.
LESSON #5: PROPORTIONALITY SHOULD BE A GUIDELINE IN WAR? “In order to win a war should you kill 100,000 people in one night, by firebombing or any other way . . . Proportionality should be a guideline in war. Killing 50% to 90% of the people of 67 Japanese cities and then bombing them with two nuclear bombs is not proportional, in the minds of some people, to the objectives we were trying to achieve. ” Robert McNamara This comment by McNamara resonated through out the film. I knew that there was some bombing in Japan but not to this extent.

Morris puts forth one of the most powerful uses of imagery to captivate the audience and bring these death tolls to a whole other level. McNamara resentfully cites a series of Japanese cities that were partially or largely destroyed and matches them to American cities of comparable size, and asks us to imagine those U. S. communities similarly ravaged. It’s a strong point, graphically supported by Morris on screen by flashing names and statistics at accelerating speed. “In that single night, we burned to death 100,000 Japanese civilians in Tokyo: men, women, and children. McNamara. Through this outrages example, I believe Morris was alluding to the large deployment of troops launched to fight small forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. Having twenty-five thousand troops fighting insurgent forces made up of small groups of guerrilla factions can be scene in some eyes as excessive and ill proportioned.
LESSON #6: GET THE DATA and LESSON #7: BELIEF AND SEEING ARE BOTH OFTEN WRONG. “At one point, the commander of the ship said, ‘We’re not certain of the attack. At another point they said, ‘Yes, we’re absolutely positive. ‘ And then finally late in the day, Admiral Sharp said, ‘Yes, we’re certain it happened. ‘ So I reported this to Johnson, and as a result there were bombing attacks on targets in North Vietnam. ” McNamara The important fact from McNamara is that the escalation of the Vietnam War started based on a misinformed from a single crew thinking they had been torpedoed. This seemed to be a decent excuse to start bombing runs, mobilize troops and deploy them in to South East Asia.
The parallels between these chain of events leading to the Vietnam War and the actions taken by the US government in launching campaigns against Afghanistan and Iraq are very similar. While the terrorist attacks on 9/11 were a violent catalyst to the conflict in Afghanistan, it was an isolated attack by a handful of terrorist. The US turned 9/11 into a raid on Afghanistan harboring factions of these terrorists, eventually overturning the government in power. Another similar lesson in which McNamara states we should “Get the data,” can be strongly related to the US government’s poor excuse to invade Iraq.
The speculation that Iraq was in the process of making or in possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) was largely fabricated ordeal backed by speculation and no quantifiable evidence. Since 2003, the US has still not found WMDs and have quickly skirted this issue under the rug while they change their war song as an action of freedom against tyrannical Iraqi government. LESSON #8: BE PREPARED TO REEXAMINE YOUR REASONING. ?”Were those who issued the approval to use Agent Orange: criminals? Were they committing a crime against humanity?
Let’s look at the law. Now what kind of law do we have that says these chemicals are acceptable for use in war and these chemicals are not. We don’t have clear definitions of that kind. I never in the world would have authorized an illegal action. I’m not really sure I authorized Agent Orange. I don’t remember it but it certainly occurred, the use of it occurred while I was Secretary. ” Another one of McNamara’s strong comments that relate to that there is a consequence to every action we take and that we must live with that consequence.
His job was tough, and he had to make some critical decisions for the ware fare of millions in which he, “Never had hindsight in making decisions at the time. ” This, I believe, was Morris’ big punch in the mouth to the powers of the George W. Bush administration and their actions surrounding the invasion of Iraq. Now, at the time of release of this documentary the Iraq war was still in the infant stages of development- Morris had no clue how the war would turn out but left us with a strong statement that someone would have to be accountable for starting an unjust war.
I was once told in a high school history class that, “History is written by the victors. ” McNamara sums this quote up with a brilliant look back into some of his actions during World War II “[General Curtis] LeMay said if we had lost the war, we would have been prosecuted as war criminals. And I think he’s right . . .. What makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win? ” Morris alludes through this lesson that someone will have to answer to these actions and wash the blood off their hands. Can we learn from history? Are we fated to repeat the mistakes that we’ve made in the past, again and again?
Or can we learn from history and from the past? These are some serious questions I believe Morris forces us to ask ourselves. I believe that Morris was trying to bring up similarities of the past rather than actually relating the Vietnam War specifically to the Iraqi War, showing us that we are still treading upon our past mistakes. If we don’t learn from history and the events that pass we will be doomed to repeat history, over and over again. “Don’t make the same mistake twice…one mistake can destroy a nation. ” Robert Strange McNamara

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