8 March, 2005 at 12:24 Leave a comment

Fog of War: 11 Lessons Life of R.S.McNamara

Just watched this film and got the following info from here

“…The Fog of War is a documentary film directed by Errol Morris and released in December 2003. The film includes an original score by Philip Glass and it won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
It traces the life of Robert Strange McNamara, United States Secretary of Defense from 1961 to 1968. While the Vietnam War is clearly the focus of the debate about McNamara’s legacy, the film begins during perhaps an even more crucial event in world history: the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. From this event comes one of the 11 lessons McNamara recounts of his life and service: “You have to empathize with your enemy.”
McNamara was interviewed for over 20 hours for the film. He can sound cruel at times, such as when he recounts his job in target damage analysis from bombing runs led by Colonel Curtis LeMay over Japan towards the end of World War II. It is soon obvious however, that he understands the moral dilemmas of warfare and the death of civilians. He also recounts many of the mistakes of the Vietnam War.
In an appearance at UC Berkeley, Morris said that he was inspired to create the movie after reading McNamara’s 2001 book (with James G. Blight), Wilson’s Ghost: Reducing the Risk of Conflict, Killing, and Catastrophe in the 21st Century. The entire webcast can be found at UC Berkeley News 

The Eleven Lessons

Importantly, these eleven lessons that lend structure to The Fog of War were created by Errol Morris; they are not explicitly McNamara’s. McNamara eventually went public with his own list of lessons, which can be found below.
1. Empathize with your enemy.
2. Rationality will not save us.
3. There’s something beyond one’s self.
4. Maximize efficiency.
5. Proportionality should be a guideline in war.
6. Get the data.
7. Belief and seeing are both often wrong.
8. Be prepared to reexamine your reasoning.
9. In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil.
10. Never say never.
11. You can’t change human nature.

Robert McNamara’s Lessons from Vietnam

• We misjudged then — and we have since — the geopolitical intentions of our adversaries … and we exaggerated the dangers to the United States of their actions.
• We viewed the people and leaders of South Vietnam in terms of our own experience … We totally misjudged the political forces within the country.
• We underestimated the power of nationalism to motivate a people to fight and die for their beliefs and values.
• Our judgments of friend and foe alike reflected our profound ignorance of the history, culture, and politics of the people in the area, and the personalities and habits of their leaders.
• We failed then — and have since — to recognize the limitations of modern, high-technology military equipment, forces and doctrine…
• We failed as well to adapt our military tactics to the task of winning the hearts and minds of people from a totally different culture.
• We failed to draw Congress and the American people into a full and frank discussion and debate of the pros and cons of a large-scale military involvement … before we initiated the action.
• After the action got under way and unanticipated events forced us off our planned course … we did not fully explain what was happening and why we were doing what we did.
• We did not recognize that neither our people nor our leaders are omniscient. Our judgment of what is in another people’s or country’s best interest should be put to the test of open discussion in international forums. We do not have the God-given right to shape every nation in our image or as we choose.
• We did not hold to the principle that U.S. military action … should be carried out only in conjunction with multinational forces supported fully (and not merely cosmetically) by the international community.
• We failed to recognize that in international affairs, as in other aspects of life, there may be problems for which there are no immediate solutions … At times, we may have to live with an imperfect, untidy world.
• Underlying many of these errors lay our failure to organize the top echelons of the executive branch to deal effectively with the extraordinarily complex range of political and military issues…

Does anyone know why it is called Fog-of-War? In McNamara’s own words, war is too complex for humans to comprehend and hence there is always a fog that prevents us from making the right decision everytime. I say that whatever that decision is, it is no stupid than the decision to go to war in the first place. Good day!


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