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The Fog of War: Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara Paperback – March 25, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0742542211 ISBN-10: 0742542211 Edition: First Edition

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The Fog of War: Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara + The Fog of War + In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 307 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers; First Edition edition (March 25, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0742542211
  • ISBN-13: 978-0742542211
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #466,628 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When Robert Strange McNamara ran the Vietnam War as secretary of defense from 1961 to 1968, he let it be known that he had all the answers, and that those who didn't agree with him were not as smart nor as well informed as he was. After being forced to resign in 1968, McNamara refused to discuss the Vietnam War until his book, In Retrospect, was published in 1995. In that controversial apologia, he allowed that he "made mistakes" in Vietnam, but stressed that every other top official in Washington did as well and that he based his policies on incorrect information supplied by the military. McNamara (b. 1916) conveyed that same message in Errol Morris's Oscar-winning 2003 documentary The Fog of War. Brown University political scientists Blight and Lang retread McNamara's testimony in the documentary and add other archival material to look primarily at the big decisions of WW II (in which McNamara served) and the Vietnam War. The authors are not dispassionate observers. They present what amounts to a glowing assessment of McNamara and the Errol Morris film, for which they served as advisers. They speak of McNamara's "passionate concern for the human future" and his "hard work and courage." They refer to the Morris film as "an artistic triumph" and "a brilliant work of art." The authors pay lip service to McNamara's many critics from across the political spectrum, but the book feels most like strategic support for McNamara's mea culpa and for military intelligence reform generally. (May)
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Review

Essential reading for anyone interested in drawing lessons from the Vietnam war. (Robert K. Brigham, Vassar College; author of Guerrilla Diplomacy)

It is difficult to imagine a book more terribly relevant than The Fog of War. James Blight and janet Lang weave together a compelling narrative, important historical documents from the Cuban missile crisis and the Vietnam war, and gripping exchanges of old adversaries met in dialogue in order to offer readers Robert McNamara's darkly prophetic 'lessons.' In so doing, they brilliantly engage the turbulent, complex, endlessly fascinating life of this remarkable public figure. This book is certainly one of the surest guides through the fog, and we would be wise to pay attention. (Edward T. Linenthal, author of The Unfinished Bombing: Oklahoma City in American Memory)

This book should help teachers and students use Errol Morris's 'The Fog of War' as a launching pad for debating Robert McNamara's lessons about war and peace. (Graham Allison, co-author of Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis and director, Belfer Center for Science and International)

Jim Blight and janet Lang's book is a novel achievement. The documentation, and their enormously helpful commentary, complements the film in an incredibly valuable way. This book should be read by anyone who wants to understand the perilous world we live in. (Paul L. Wachtel, distinguished professor of psychology, City University of New York at City College)

This fascinating book is rich with lessons for leaders, citizens and students. It is hard to put down. I hope that more of our leaders will pick it up. (Joseph S. Nye Jr., University Distinguished Service Professor at Harvard; author of Soft Power)

Robert McNamara is the single most important government official of our times. In the winter of his life, McNamara—through the skillful and talented medium of Blight and Lang—reflects on his mistakes, the lessons he has drawn from them, his empathy for his enemies, and his willingness to reexamine his own reasoning. And he seeks now to persuade us, passionate as ever that each of us, mighty government officials or ordinary citizen, will be better if we remain skeptical of our certainties. (Jorge I. Dominguez, director of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University)

Passionately and effectively, Blight and Lang extend McNamara's anti-war lessons by deepening our insight into his life, and with dramatic and revealing documents and oral history dialogues about crises in which he played a leading role: the Cuban missile crisis; the Vietnam war; and the World War II fire- and atomic-bombing of Japan. The result is a classic handbook, at once terrifying and yet hopeful, about how easily the killing can start and what can be done to prevent it. (William Taubman, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning 2004 biography, Khrushchev)

In his Academy Award-winning film, Errol Morris transformed the popular vision of Robert McNamara from a creator and cold accountant of death and destruction into an agonized, thoughtful, sympathetic public servant. For their part, James Blight and janet Lang have documented the challenges Robert McNamara faced throughout his seven years as America's Secretary of Defense. They have provided fascinating, often chilling selections from correspondence with and between Kennedy, Khrushchev, Castro, Johnson, and other players during the Cuban missile crisis and the Vietnam War. This previously classified material, together with thoughtful commentary from scholars and observers, and the helpful views of Blight and Lang, provide a valuable background to the lessons McNamara draws from 'The Fog of War.' Just as Morris's documentary is 'must' seeing for all thoughtful Americans, the Blight/Lang book is 'must' reading. (Chester L. Cooper, former CIA, State Department, and White House specialist on Vietnam, and the author of The Lost Crusade: America in Vietnam
A gripping documentary accompaniment to 'The Fog of War,' the collaboration of McNamara and Morris, and Blight and Lang, is destined to eclipse Graham Allison's Essence of Decision with an altogether darker, and even more equivocal vision—a multimedia complex of scholarship and art. (James K. Galbraith, The Lloyd Bentsen Professor of Economics at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin)

A fascinating and instructive book that builds on Morris's brilliant film. Accept the latter-day McNamara's interpretations and explanations or not, The Fog of War—both the film and this volume—deserve, indeed demand, to be grappled with. (Fredrik Logevall, Cornell University; author of Choosing War: The Lost Chance for Peace and the Escalation of War in Vietnam)

This excellent book is more than a companion volume to the Oscar-winning documentary. The historical case-studies, declassified documents, and vivid photographs shed important new light on Robert McNamara and his efforts to learn from the triumphs and tragedies of his public life. (Scott D. Sagan)

Perhaps no political leader of such magnitude ever subjected himself publicly to the introspection and analysis that Robert McNamara has. In The Fog of War, we see a man struggling with momentous decisions and consequences, a remarkable tour of past and future horizons of great significance for how the United States conducts its foreign policy. James Blight and janet Lang stimulated the creation of this unique treasure, and now they have brought us a version with revealing context and depth, wrought with clarity, intelligence, and urgency. In all ways, it is an important and rewarding book. (John Tirman, executive director of the MIT Center for International Studies)

Those interested in national policy decision-making or strategy and policy at the Naval War College courses will find this book and film of interest. (LCDR Youssef Aboul-Enein, MSC, United States Navy Dcmilitary.Com)

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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By EMM on September 6, 2008
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Good book for the academic, as follow-up to the movie. This is the equivalent of expanded footnotes to the conversations in the movie. McNamara is fascinating and wherever you stand on your opinion of him, the book provides a wealth of thought, discussion and response to his interviews in the film.
See the movie first and if you need more context, pick up this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Marcio Antonio do Carmo Ferreira on August 22, 2013
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This film shows a mature man reflection about what he se saw and what real did when he was in charge of the main crisis the U.S.A have in XX Century. It is a complete confession.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By G. R. Farley on August 10, 2013
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Follows the dvd very well. Good insights and makes you wonder what MacNamara's thoughts were as his life came to an end. His life and work with two presidents shows what can happen when things get set in motion and nobody knows how to stop the train when it is careening downhill, everybody can see the catastrophe coming, but can't stop what is happening.
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Choose this rating cause the book enveils many things about Viet Nam war and the Cuban missile Crisis that were unknown.
The way the matters are shown are are very interesting. Can't be any better.
I recommend to people involved in History. To people who are involved in Politics and in studying the wars throughout the world.
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