The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara

Synopsis: Former corporate whiz kid Robert McNamara was the controversial Secretary of Defense in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, during the height of the Vietnam War. This Academy Award-winning documentary, augmented by archival footage, gives the conflicted McNamara a platform on which he attempts to confront his and the U.S. government's actions in Southeast Asia in light of the horrors of modern warfare, the end of ideology and the punitive judgment of history.
Director(s): Errol Morris
Production: Sony Pictures Classics
  Won 1 Oscar. Another 11 wins & 16 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
107 min

Is this chart at a reasonable height for you?

Or do you want it lowered?

- Fine.

- All right.

Earlier tonight...

Let me first ask the TV.

Are you ready?

All set?

Let me hear your voice level,

so it's the same.

- How's my voice level?

- That's fine.


Now, I remember exactly

the sentence I left off on.

I remember how it started,

and I was cut off in the middle.

You can fix it up.

I don't want to go back, because

I know exactly what I wanted to say.

- Go ahead!

- Okay.

Any military commander

who is honest with himself...

...or with those he's speaking to will admit...

...that he has made mistakes

in the application of military power.

He's killed people, unnecessarily.

His own troops or other troops.

Through mistakes,

through errors of judgment.

A hundred, or thousands, or tens of

thousands, maybe even 100,000.

But he hasn't destroyed nations.

And the conventional wisdom is...

...don't make the same mistake twice.

Learn from your mistakes.

And we all do. Maybe we make

the same mistake three times...

...but hopefully not four or five.

There'll be no learning period

with nuclear weapons.

Make one mistake

and you're gonna destroy nations.

In my life, I've been part of wars.

Three years in the U.S. Army

during World War ll.

Seven years as secretary of defense

during the Vietnam War.

Thirteen years at the World Bank.

Across the world.

At my age, 85...

...l'm at an age where I can look back...

...and derive some conclusions

about my actions.

My rule has been, 'try to learn.'

Try to understand what happened.

Develop the lessons and pass them on.

This is the secretary of defense of

the United States, Robert McNamara.

His department absorbs 10 percent

of the income of this country...

... and over half of every tax dollar.

His job has been called

the toughest in Washington...

... and he is the most controversial

figure that has ever held the job.

Walter Lippmann calls him both

the best secretary of defense...

... and the first one to ever assert

civilian control over the military.

His critics call him a 'con man,'

'an IBM machine with legs'...

...'an arrogant dictator.'

Mr. Secretary, I've noticed

in several cabinet offices...

... that little silver calendar thing there.

Can you explain that?

Yes, this was given by President Kennedy.

... 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23...

... 24, 25, 26, 27, and finally 28,

were the dates...

... when we literally look ed down

the gun barrel into nuclear war.

Under a cloak of deceit...

...the Soviet Union introduced

nuclear missiles...

...into Cuba...

...targeting 90 million Americans.

The CIA said the warheads

had not been delivered yet.

They thought 20 were coming

on a ship named the Poltava.

We mobilized 180,000 troops.

The first day's air attack

was planned at 1080 sorties...

...a huge air attack.

Kennedy was trying to keep us out of war.

I was trying to help him keep us out of war.

And General Curtis LeMay,

whom I served under... a matter of fact,

in World War ll, was saying:

' Let's go in.

Let's totally destroy Cuba.'

On that critical Saturday,

October 27th...

...we had two Khrushchev

messages in front of us.

One had come in Friday night,

and it had been dictated... a man who was either drunk,

or under tremendous stress.

Basically, he said, ' If you'll

guarantee you won't invade Cuba...

...we'll take the missiles out.'

Then, before we could respond,

we had a second message...

...that had been dictated

by a bunch of hard-liners.

And it said, in effect, ' If you attack...

...we're prepared...

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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    "The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara" STANDS4 LLC, 2023. Web. 4 Feb. 2023. <>.

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