Eleven lessons from the life of Robert S. McNamara
A film by Errol Morris
Yesterday I watched two documentaries. This review deals with the first of these documentaries, the Fog of War. Errol Morris' Oscar-winning film is a fascinating insight into the life of Robert McNamara in his own words and also through archival footage. McNamara served as the US Secretary of State for 7 years under Johnson and Kennedy. He subsequently became the President of Ford motor company and the President of the World Bank. He is credited for developing statistical policy analysis, introducing seat belts and airbags into cars and increasing efficiency in aerial bombing operations.
In the film McNamara provides lessons he has learned in his life and speaks candidly about his involvement in major political controversies including the Cuban missile crisis, the Tokyo Bombing, the Vietnam war, and other political events within the US.
One of the eleven lessons in the film relates to the laws of war. McNamara states that the human race needs to think more about killing and conflict. He admits that the Tokyo Bombings resulted in the deaths of 100,000 in one night and that many other cities in Japan were destroyed in whole or in part. These attacks were not proportionate to their objective and therefore if the US had lost the war, he would most probably have been prosecuted as a war criminal.
The film is a fascinating portrait stretching from 1918 to McNamara's interview before his death. The film feels like being at a lecture given by McNamara or a mini-film episode of the West Wing. The film can be watched online in its entirety.