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The Fog of War
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Academy Award(r)-winner for Best Documentary Feature, THE FOG OF WAR is the story of America as seen through the eyes of the former Secretary of Defense, under President Kennedy and President Johnson, Robert S. McNamara. McNamara was one of the most controversial and influential political figures ofthe 20th century. Now - for the first time ever - he sits down one on one with award-winning director Errol Morris (The Thin Blue Line) to offer a candid and intimate journey through some of the mostseminal events in contemporary American history. As leader of the world's most powerful military force during this nation's most volatile period in recent years, McNamara offers new and often surprising insights into the 1945 bombing of Tokyo, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the effects of the Vietnam War. Featuring newly released Oval Office recorded conversations with Presidents John F. Kennedyand Lyndon B. Johnson, THE FOG OF WAR received critical acclaim for its up-close and personal insider
The Fog of War, the movie that finally won Errol Morris the best documentary Oscar, is a spellbinder. Morris interviews Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, and finds a uniquely unsettling viewpoint on much of 20th-century American history. Employing a ton of archival material, including LBJ's fascinating taped conversations from the Oval Office, Morris probes the reasons behind the U.S. commitment to the Vietnam War--and finds a depressingly inconsistent policy. McNamara himself emerges as--well, not exactly apologetic, but clearly haunted by the what-ifs of Vietnam. He also mulls the bombing of Japan in World War II and the Cuban Missile Crisis, raising more questions than he answers. The Fog of War has the usual inexorable Morris momentum, aided by an uneasy Philip Glass score. This movie provides a glimpse inside government. It also encourages skepticism about same. --Robert HortonSee all Editorial Reviews
- 24 never-before-released additional scenes
- Robert S. McNamara's 10 lessons from his life in politics
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I met him twice. Once, in India in the mid-90s while I was the defense attaché at our embassy in New Delhi, he visited as a private citizen. The other time, I was an instructor at the Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, and he was participating in a seminar. I am thankful that on both occasions I treated him with respect even though I felt he had blood on his hands.
My bottom line is that I now feel that McNamara was a selfless public servant who tried to make the best possible decisions based on the information available. Alas, the information was often flawed and incomplete, and some of those decisions were tragically wrong. We also have to remember that the Vietnam War took place in the larger context of the Cold War and concurrent with a tumultuous domestic scene. Even so, McNamara will remain a polarizing figure in American history for decades to come.
McNamara acknowledges the evil of the fire bombing of Tokyo in which he participated as Curtis LeMay's aide, but defends the measure as necessary for doing the ultimate good of ending the war. He deplores war, but is realistic enough to acknowledge its inevitability and gropes for rules to limit its incidence and effects. His discussion of the Cuban Missile Crisis is chilling, and is confirmed by recent studies of archival material from the old Soviet Union. The military pushed for a preemptive raid, and had Nixon won in 1960 that's exactly what we would have done. But Kennedy's reluctance to do so is vindicated by evidence that Soviet field commanders had tactical nuclear weapons and the authority to launch them into the U.S. mainland. The raid would have provoked World War III. McNamara credits a former U.S. Ambassador to the U.S.S.R. for the famous decision to ignore Krushchev's second belligerent telex and respond to his first more accommodating message. McNamara deplores how close we came to nuclear war in the 1960s and acknowledges the simple chilling truth that very rational people are still capable of extraordinarily irrational acts.
On Vietnam, McNamara portrays himself as advising Kennedy on the un-winnability of the war and the need to withdraw all advisors. Kennedy agreed, though McNamara acknowledges that such a decision is always in flux and capable of revision given the politics at work. He believes that Kennedy would never have escalated the way Johnson did. But McNamara does not give any convincing explanation for why policmakers felt compelled to escalate and why he did not take better advantage of the resources that were deployed. On this latter point, Westmoreland and his war of attrition methods have been the subject of much crticism, which Morris does not touch on in his interview. Abrams, who replaced Westmoreland after McNamara left, followed a more viable policy of holding territory and building native support. McNamara's defense that he was a "good soldier" following Johnson's escalation order does not address why he did not follow better methods in Vietnam. This may have been McNamara's most egregious error.
This is a great and compelling film.
The video is broken into separate topics. It is a powerful video as McNamara bares his soul.