Lessons from Rs Mcnamara

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Walking Along a Familiar Path

In Errol Morris’ documentary Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara, we follow the life and times of former United States Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara. The insightful piece follows his life from birth during World War I, his success at college, cunning business career at Ford Motor Company, to his involvement in World War II and his controversial political career during the Kennedy and Johnson presidential terms. Morris highlights the documentary around these eleven lessons that McNamara passes through during an interview for the film. In my opinion some of these ‘lessons’ are merely some opinions of McNamara and some seem to be spurred along by Morris, who is asking the questions in the background. I believe it is through some of these lessons that Morris uses McNamara’s success and failures to relate them to current issues such as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; and how we seem to be treading down a familiar path.

LESSON #5: PROPORTIONALITY SHOULD BE A GUIDELINE IN WAR

"In order to win a war should you kill 100,000 people in one night, by firebombing or any other way . . . Proportionality should be a guideline in war. Killing 50% to 90% of the people of 67 Japanese cities and then bombing them with two nuclear bombs is not proportional, in the minds of some people, to the objectives we were trying to achieve." Robert McNamara This comment by McNamara resonated through out the film. I knew that there was some bombing in Japan but not to this extent. Morris puts forth one of the most powerful uses of imagery to captivate the audience and bring these death tolls to a whole other level. McNamara resentfully cites a series of Japanese cities that were partially or largely destroyed and matches them to American cities of comparable size, and asks us to imagine those U.S. communities similarly ravaged. It's a strong point, graphically supported by Morris on screen by flashing names and...
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