Errol Morris, brilliant documentarian, produced this piece, The Fog of War, basically an in-depth interview with Robert McNamara with footage of the time about which Mr. McNamara is speaking interspersed throughout.
I found the film to be excellent. I was a teenager at the time trying to make sense of what seemed absurd to me then. Hmmm, I’d have to say, after watching Mr. McNamara’s comments from an insider’s perspective, it seems even more absurd to me now.
Mr. McNamara’s comments on how systems “think” and “make decisions” were enlightening and frightening. I am more horrified now than I was at the time with the man, the president, Lyndon B. Johnson. Mr. McNamara’s comments in the movie, while reflecting upon the times of his service to our nation, are more apropos today than our current political structures seem to wish to acknowledge. Would that our leadership would be more responsible and responsive to the peoples of our nation and the world! But, that’s just my opinion.
Robert S. McNamara‘s Ten Lessons:
- The human race will not eliminate war in this century, but we can reduce the brutality of war – the level of killing – by adhering to the principles of a “Just War,” in particular to the principle of “proportionality.”
- The indefinite combination of human fallibility and nuclear weapons will lead to the destruction of nations.
- We are the most powerful nation in the world – economically, politically and militarily – and we are likely to remain so for decades ahead. But we are not omniscient. If we can not persuade other nations with similar interests and similar values of the merits of our proposed use of that power, we should not proceed unilaterally except in the unlikely requirement to defend directly the continental U.S., Alaska and Hawaii.
- Moral principles are often ambiguous guides to foreign policy and defense policy, but surely we can agree that we should establish as a major goal of U.S. foreign policy and, indeed, of foreign policies across the globe: the avoidance in this century of the carnage – 160 million dead – caused by conflict in the 20th century.
- We, the richest nation in the world, have failed in our responsibility to our own poor and to the disadvantaged across the wolrd to help them advance their welfare in the most fundamental terms of nutrition, literacy, health, and employment.
- Corporate executives must recognize there is no contradiction between a soft heart and a hard head. Of course, they have responsibilities to stockholders, but they also have responsibilities to their employees, their customers and to society as a whole.
- President Kennedy believed a primary responsibility of a president – indeed “the” primary responsibility of a president, is to keep the nation out of war, if at all possible.
- War is a blunt instrument by which to settle disputes between or within nations, and economic sanctions are rarely effective. therefore, we should build a system of jurisprudence based on the International Court – that the U.S. has refused to support – which would hold individuals responsible for crimes against humanity.
- If we are to deal effectively with terrorists across the globe, we must develop a sense of empathy – I don’t mean “sympathy,” but rather “understanding” – to counter their attacks on us and the Western World.
- One of the greatest dangers we face today is the risk that terrorists will obtain access to weapons of mass destruction as a result of the breakdown of the Non-Proliferation Regime. We in the U.S. are contributing to that breakdown.