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Before the election last year there was a very interesting documentary I watched called “The Fog of War”. The film was made by Errol Morris and it documents the life of Robert S. McNamara, with McNamara speaking the entire time. The film is rather fascinating. I avoided looking at the film from a political standpoint; McNamara has not always been the most liked person in the world, but his analytical thought process is intriguing at times.

Robert McNamara has acted in several capacities including a teacher at Harvard School of Business, Lt. Col. in the Army Air Force, President of Ford Motor Company, Secretary of Defense during the Kennedy/Johnson administration, head of the World Bank and diplomat.

The film is a fantastic history lesson following McNamara’s life, including:

  • World War I
  • Strategic Bombing in World War 2
  • The Cold War
  • The Cuban Missile Crisis
  • Vietnam
  • The Nuclear Age

The amount of actual footage used is awesome. From the fire bombing of Tokyo to meetings and audio transcripts from conversations with Kennedy and Johnson in the Oval Office, it adds a reality and seriousness that you don’t find in a text book.

I would say that whether you agree with any of McNamara’s policies or not, disregard that. There is a great deal to be learned from the film and also a fair amount to be debated.

During the course of the movie McNamara lists the lessons he feels he has learned throughout his life. They are:
Lesson #1: Empathize with your enemy.
Lesson #2: Rationality will not save us.
Lesson #3: There’s something beyond one’s self.
Lesson #4: Maximize efficiency.
Lesson #5: Proportionality should be a guideline in war.
Lesson #6: Get the data.
Lesson #7: Belief and seeing are both often wrong.
Lesson #8: Be prepared to reexamine your reasoning.
Lesson #9: In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil.
Lesson #10: Never say never.
Lesson #11: You can’t change human nature.

Considering many of the current events of the world the film provides great insight into the same issues that we encounter today. I’d recommend visiting the official site to check out the synopsis and clips. There is approximately 7-10 minutes of clips from the movie which can be viewed from the site. In addition to a great film, the movie score by Phillip Glass did wonders.

Fog of War Official Site
Errol Morris – Filmmaker
Wiki – Robert S. McNamara
Phillip Glass – The Fog of War
Buy the Fog of War DVD on