Fog of War

Having now seen Fog of War fully, rather than just clips shown in other classes, I would change my view of it, and would gladly recommend it to people. It tells of Robert McNamara’s views on warfare, and how he learned these lessons not only from being Secretary of Defense, but from just living his life. Each of his eleven lessons is given good, solid, reasoning, built by his years of experience, narrated using footage from his past.

One of the points he made stood out to me in particular though, the idea that, to do good, to succeed in doing what you think is right, you may have to engage in terrible act, acts that would otherwise be considered evil. The example he uses to illustrate this is America’s use of nuclear weapons against Japan, where, in doing what we thought was right, saving our men and winning the war, we had to do something that, to do this very day, is outright banned, even in war, following what the outcome of what we did. This idea, that every good thing being done can be built upon a mountain of bad things, can be applied anywhere, at any time. In narrating the example, he says that, had we lost the war, he would be persecuted as a war criminal. The idea of this, being a criminal when what you’re doing goes wrong, reminded me particularly of Leopold II in Belgium, where, in his mind, and in the minds of his people, what he was doing was absolutely right, and understandable. To do good, to make his country rich, he had to go through evil, which was the enslavement and murder of a colony. While what he did cannot be justified, which is not my intent, it is to say that, these two actions are similar. While McNamara and America were successful, King Leopold II and Belgium were not. Because history is written by the victors, Leopold was the bad guy, while McNamara was good. This idea forces us to reexamine our past, as, because every war was won, every war was also lost. The winner of every war, every battle, had to engage of evil.

This new perspective, then, that nothing is ever good, gets a bit sad, but ultimately helps us, and hopefully, whoever is making the decisions in a time of war. The idea that one side can win a war, or that one can succeed, without committing acts that negatively impact another side, is impossible. Even the person who achieved their position through purely hard work, they stopped someone else who might’ve needed that position from getting it. The idea that “In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil”, does not mean to justify said evil, it means to warn against it, noting that one should commit only as many acts as needed to win their cause, and nothing more.

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