Fog of War

This documentary did a nice job educating us about Robert McNamara and his experiences largely during his time as Secretary of Defense, also touching on moments throughout much of his life. The documentary is centered around “eleven lessons,” each being discussed and brought to light in retrospect of the experiences, footage, recordings, etc. shown in the documentary. Many of these lessons are developed and to be learned from in hindsight of the conflicts they are derived from.

The term “fog of war” is a phrase describing the aspect of war in which it becomes difficult to keep a clear vision of what is happening and what is to be done, as the level of awareness and certainty becomes “foggy” in the chaos of battle. When you lose sight of the big picture, you lose any relevant reasoning you once had. This term in a broad sense is the common ground between these historical events in the documentary and how they each played out. As McNamara stated throughout the documentary, judgment often became impaired (fog of war), and they often lost sight of the big picture. In the case of his involvement under Lyndon B. Johnson, they were usually at odds, in terms of action and solution. Every circumstance that occurred influenced the next, and the opinions and ideals of all individuals became further and further apart. Conflicting agendas put McNamara in a tough position, as he was forced to do what he felt was in everyone’s best interest, while trying to meet the president’s intentions. There are reasonings behind every decision, but in the “fog of war,” meaning becomes lost as the sense of certainty is lost.

I really enjoyed the documentary. It is not really a matter of whether you like McNamara or not. This documentary really opened him up, and gives us the insights of these firsthand accounts of war and power. There were many topics touched on that have been discussed in class, many of them concerning the ideas of nationalism and geopolitics, and the use of power. As we saw in the documentary, there are always different motives on either side of a war. I think McNamara feels somewhat guilty about how things turned out, and realizes that things probably could have been done differently, and just as effectively, if not more. I think this all comes back to the final lesson in the documentary, which states that you cannot change human nature. Power is a part of human nature, and with power brings war. As the Fog of War reiterates, we lack the ability to fully comprehend all complexities within the heat of war, nor should we ever expect to.


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