This documentary film from film maker Errol Morris is an exploration of the views of Robert McNamara on warfare and his role as Defence Secretary to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. It is structured around 11 lessons which he passes on from the wealth of his experience. The title comes from the idea of how difficult it is to make decisions in the time of war.
Morris makes use of archive footage, both news coverage of McNamara when he was in post and film of conflicts, to illustrate his points. His eleven lessons had been previously outlined in a book the former Defence Secretary wrote but he keeps them general and does not apply his own lessons to specific wars. I suppose this is to protect the notion that they apply regardless of context but the evasion of specific information on Vietnam is telling.
It is a fascinating film, McNamara comes across as the man who wanted to do the right thing. He avoids making a judgement on his own tenure in office. He emphasizes his role as in the service of a President, not surprising since he gave up a much more lucrative role as executive at Ford to enter the cabinet. He is less forthcoming when invited to make a judgement on the war in Vietnam. This is the hole in the film but it is one that speaks eloquently, as you would expect: Errol Morris is a good film maker.
‘The Fog of War’ is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?