Analysis of the Fog of War: Eleven Lessons by Robert S. McNamara
Essay title: Analysis of the Fog of War: Eleven Lessons by Robert S. McNamara
The Fog of War Eleven Lessons by Robert S. McNamara was in so much as a great representation of the life of Robert S. McNamara. It showed his life to be dramatic and traumatic in many different ways. The lessons he learned and shared during the documentary movie were truly astounding to me. I personally thought the movie was a tad bit on the boring side, but it was a documentary after all. The Fog of War was a very informative piece of work.
During Errol Morriss documentary, The Fog of War, Eleven Lessons by Robert S. McNamara former Secretary of Defense McNamara, one of the most infamous figures of the Vietnam era, proves to be a greatly compelling figure, someone who can be self-critical and reflective about the decisions he made to deepen our participation in the Vietnam War. Or someone who can speak truthfully about calculating how to make the United States fire bombing missions in Japan during World War II more efficient, even acknowledging the fact that had the United States lost the Vietnam War; he would’ve been most likely tried as a war criminal. Then McNamara closes down, refusing to respond to Morriss question to further reflect on the United States culpability in Vietnam. When I was viewing the film, I was not very surprised by those times, during the questions when McNamara refused to say anything further about the subject at hand. He shuts up so he wouldn’t say things that would show his true image for the interviewer to see. Although; his not saying anything pretty much said it all despite his futile attempts.
The film itself is, in my opinion, an adequate achievement. It mostly has features of talking-head footage of interviews Morris recently did with the eighty-five-year-old McNamara using a piece of video hardware, that a lot of documentaries use, that allows Morris and McNamara to look at each other eyes while McNamara also looks directly into the camera, creating a sense of togetherness between the interviewer and McNamara. Morris mixes in real footage of World War II and the Vietnam War with shots of tape recorders playing voice tapes of McNamaras dealings with President John F. Kennedy and President Lyndon B. Johnson. He also makes use of charts and graphs, time-lapse photography, and pieces of newspaper articles, but it went so fast I couldn’t keep up with it at all so it was hard to remember what information was on those articles so I couldn’t recall much of what I saw. The film attempted to be interesting by playing the depressing, mysterious background music. The result is, in my opinion, a boring film that you have to watch several times in order to gain anything from it.
Based around McNamaras eleven “lessons,” the documentary follows his life and career, starting with what McNamara says was his earliest memory, the joyous celebrations of the end of the First World War when he was only just two years old, with McNamara readily acknowledging the unlikelihood of such a very descriptive, early memory. This ordering sets the tone for the films repeated practice of confusing our ability to know or understand the world with absolutely complete certainty.
Rather than an apology, which is essentially designed to erase the past, McNamara provides us with at least a small window into the Vietnam era, albeit one obscured by the very “fog of war that he describes. McNamara repeatedly dodges questions that would make his part in the war seem to be the villains. He changes the subject on numerous occasions and backtracks several times in order to avoid any questions he finds damaging to him in any way.
The film challenges McNamaras trustworthiness in several places, sometimes through the audio recordings of past conversations with his superiors, and sometimes by the questions we hear Morris ask off-screen at certain point during the movie, but as Slate writer Fred Kaplan points out, McNamaras (usually self-serving) description of the events leading up to and after the Cuban Missile Crisis, Gulf of Tonkin Incident, and Vietnam War most undoubtedly undermines his credibility in his telling of his version of events but like Kaplan, I didn’t