Remembering Robert S. McNamara through 'The Fog of War'

Former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara has died at 93, and with him goes a certain perspective on the 20th Century: the perspective of a man intimately involved in the military actions that defined both America and the world. World War II, Korea, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam — they all transpired on his watch.

In 2001, McNamara sat down with documentarian Errol Morris for a series of conversations that would examine the lessons he'd learned over the course of that life — lessons like In Order to Do Good You May Have to Engage in Evil, Empathize with Your Enemy, Proportionality Should Be a Guideline in War — and the result was the exemplary, Oscar-winning film, 2003's The Fog of War. Some have called McNamara a warmonger; a monster; an unethical, immoral machine. The question of whether he was a necessary monster isn't one for me to answer, but listening to a man like this take his own measure is transfixing. His vantage point on history was unrivaled.

"What makes it immoral if you lose, but moral if you win?"

Comments (8 total) Add your comment
  • ia

    As a 13 yr.-old to 19 yr.-old teen (as well as a young 20-something) who went thru the agony of the coverage of The Vietnam War on my family’s TV screen daily, I solidified my need to be an American pacifist, as did my entire family. RIP, Mr. McNamara. Thank you for doing Errol Morris’ powerful documentary “Fog Of War.” And thank you, Mr. Morris, for bringing this strong documentary to the American public. If there is anyone out there who hasn’t seen it, DO SEE IT. War IS wrong and NOT the solution for keeping peace in the world. America, The Vietnam War was our wake-up call, and you are STILL NOT waking up!

  • Tuzo

    The Fog of War is one of the best documentaries I have seen. It has unparalleled insight and is a history lesson, a philosophy lesson and a psychology lesson all rolled into one.
    This should be required viewing in schools (obviously for high school students). In fact, I feel like re-watching it right now.

  • Nathan

    RIP Robert McNamara, probably one of the most important American figures of the 20th century.

  • Nancy/Ca.

    It is my fervent wish that he will be eternally haunted by the 56,000 dead American soldiers that fought in Vietnam FOR NOTHING. My brother was drafted,they made him a machine gunner,and we still consider it a miracle he made it home alive!!

  • Briana

    RIP. Yet another dead person. Ed, what did you start?

  • Youtuber

    Go to Youtube and watch
    LITTLE MONKEY BOY CLIMBING
    its an adorable video!!!

  • Peter

    McNamara will forever burn in hell because he’s responsible for the death of over 50,000 young American boys and countless innocent people. He should’ve been tried as a war criminal for the fire bombing of Tokyo which resulted in burning of over 100,000 civilians.

  • Suzanne Oxford

    I was in high school when Vietnam War started back in 1963. It had a very impact on my generation as many of my friends were drafted into war and many died there too. I vaguely understood McNamara’s part as Secretary of Defense, but at that time I really did not understand the working of government too well. Now I look back and think what a waste of young men and waste of our resources too. But I feel that Robert McNamara has enough guilt for what he did and do not wish to punish him even more. Anyway he is gone and must answer to God in Heaven for his role in killing so many of our generation. I am sure he will not rest easily with this on his conscience.

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