THE FOG OF WAR: ELEVEN LESSONS FROM THE LIFE OF ROBERT S. MCNAMARA, by famous
documentarian Errol Morris (FAST, CHEAP & OUT OF CONTROL), is much more than
just a talking-head interview with an ex-politician. Using archival footage
and old audio tapes, the movie takes us behind the scenes as three different
presidents (Roosevelt, Kennedy and Johnson) wage wars and try to avoid them.
Robert McNamara, one of the "whiz kids" who turned around Ford Motor Company,
was one of "the best and the brightest" hired by JFK to be his Secretary of
Defense, a position he kept for seven years through much of the escalation
period of the Vietnam War. McNamara wants badly to leave you with the
impression that, if his advice had been followed, we would have cut our losses
and gotten out somewhat sooner.
Called "Mr. I-have-all-the-answers McNamara" by the press, he ruminates on the
waging of war. Morris organizes McNamara's thought into eleven different
truisms, from "Empathize with your enemy" to "Never say never." In the latter
section, for example, he advises officials to "never say never" and to never
answer the question posed but to answer instead the question that they wished
had been asked.
Extremely intelligent and eager to brag about it, McNamara sees historical
facts with unwavering accuracy, or so he believes. Certainly much of what he
says is controversial and thought provoking as is his claim that, if we had
lost World War II, the American military would have been prosecuted as war
criminals for the firebombing of Japan. He says this, in his matter-of-fact
style, not to admit any guilt or to express any regrets but just to reflect on
As fascinating as the film is -- and trust me, you're going to be glued to the
screen -- it's not at all clear what conclusions, if any, can be drawn from his
reflections other than that war is hell and it would be preferable if mankind
could just live together in peace.
THE FOG OF WAR runs 1:35. It is rated PG-13 for "images and thematic issues of
war and destruction" and would be acceptable for kids around 12 and up.
Copyright © 2004 Steve Rhodes