I thought the film, Fog of War was an interesting wrap up on our chapters over nationalism and imperialism. This film shed light on war like no other films I have seen in the past, it also shed light on the interesting person that is Robert McNamara. Throughout the film he gives an interesting overview of his time in the war industry, and for such a vilified character, you can’t help but begin to like him. He goes step by step through the lessons he has learned about war, and we come to the conclusion that he has learned much since his days. I especially like the part where he talks about how rational people can become easily irrational during a time of war. It was fascinating to hear how Kennedy, Castro and Gorbachev could have easily wiped out all life on earth, all over the pettiness on Nationalism. Another part of the film I liked is when McNamara discusses how he met with the North Vietnamese after the war was over and realized that both sides perceived the war to be over different things.
The North Vietnamese viewed the Americans as colonizers and aggressors, while he Americans viewed them as a dangerous political faction that needed to be stopped. Never did either side try for a minute to put themselves in the others shoes, like Kennedy and company had to do during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I was oddly disappointed when McNamara was talking about the Gulf of Tonkin incident, today it is widely accepted as a CIA coverup, yet there was no mention of this. Throughout the movie nationalistic attitudes can be seen over and over again. LBJ said that the psychological impact of seeing “U.S. Marines” would scare the Vietnamese into submission, the U.S. air command had no problem murdering and firebombing millions of Japanese civilians, but when a pilot lost his wingman it was a tragic occurrence. The Americans who were prepared to bomb Cuba, saw no problem with it, as if the civilians there were subhuman and did not deserve to live. It was just crazy to see how vicious nationalism can be, in class we discussed “banal nationalism’ (which was also in the film) but this is definitely a step beyond that.
I was most disappointed with the ending of the film, Robert McNamara seemed like he had been making progress and felt remorse towards all the people he was indirectly responsible for killing over the years. He even said he could have been considered a “war criminal” at one point, yet by the end of the film he refused to apologize. In the epilogue his demeanor became cold and calculated. He didn’t want to say he felt remorse for the people he had killed, because he did not wish to open a can of worms over Vietnam. In the end, I believe he would do it all over again, I think deep down he cared more about his strategies and his relationships with power. He of course did not like killing innocent people across the globe over two major wars, but if asked to do so again I am not sure he would say no. That is my honest opinion, nationalism is an infection that is hard to care. Nationalism can be a good thing, but it can also lead men astray.