The Fog of War is a documentary addressing disparity of the prevalent perception of McNamara who supported withdrawal to Kenn

The Fog of War



Course Instructor


The Fog of War is a documentary addressing disparity of the prevalent perception of McNamara who supported withdrawal to Kennedy; this decision was described as wrong by Johnson. Robert McNamara’s role in the 20th century wars as well as his philosophies regarding the wars which were based on the navigation of “The Fog of War.” Errol Morris has attempted to show the reasons behind the war which consumed almost 160 million people in the 20th century. The documentary is set up in 11 lessons where five of them are very reasonable and are analyzed in this writing.

Lesson # 1: Empathize with your enemy

According to Morris (2003), McNamara claims that lack of empathy largely contributed to the Vietnam War. U.S regarded the war as an extension of the cold war while the Vietnamese viewed it as a civil war and U.S got into the war without support from her allies. McNamara observes that U.S exploits her powers by using it unilaterally. According to the documentary, America uses her military and industrial power without reasoning properly. Individual decision making process in foreign policy is very significant in the midst of conflict. It can either fuel conflict or reduce the level of damages arising from wars. When an individual tries to understand the feelings and actions of the enemies, it would be very easy and even provide a mutually beneficial solution. McNamara asserts that Thompson understood Krushchev’s desire and this saved Cuba from American incursion during the Cuban Missile in 1962. Any individually who convincingly understands the enemy may provide solution to the challenge at hand by exercising empathy.

Lesson #5: proportionality should be a guideline in war

Considering the issue of humanitarian guidelines during war and therefore pilling on is very wrong and deadly according to McNamara who gave an example with bombing strikes over Japan. This action which was executed by LeMay was not proportional to the American objectives. An individual’s emotions regarding foreign policy may prompt one to make unfair stance towards a defeated enemy thus tainting future relationship between countries. Kindness and considering the objective of going to war and the level of damage is worth noting before invading an enemy. A foreign policy should aim at transferring an enemy from the adversarial state of mind to a complementary one so as to ensure sustainable relationship.

According to Morris (2003), McNamara felt that America could have not used the nuclear bomb yet General Curtis Lemay was already winning the war in Japan. Many lives were lost; almost 100, 000 of civilians yet this could have been avoided. The military tactical and strategic doctrine concerning foreign policy should be proportional and act as a guideline in peace. It is therefore apparent that an individual country must check on the proportionality of their action and compare it with enemies’ actions or reactions. Above all, peace is the most important thing to be considered before invading an enemy.

Lesson # 6: Get the Data

In this lesson, McNamara explains how he utilized it in describing market research that led to cheaper cars as well as safety belts when he was in Ford General Motors. He goes ahead to explain the Vietnam experience using the very lesson. Collecting the data is very vital as it normally speaks for itself though normally ignored. With his entrance in Ford, McNamara established a market research to determine the Volkswagen buyers and this really helped him in finding out the segment of American market not addressed by the company. Out of the research and data he collected from the field, the company manufactured Falcon, an economical car that generated a lot of revenue and profit. (Morris, 2003).Moreover, out of data collection, McNamara was able to understand the causes of accidents which included human error and mechanical failure and this led to introduction of seatbelts that really revolutionized the automobile industry. Morris (2003), believes that gathering information by an individual plays a crucial role in understanding an issue more deeply and even leading to a better and logical solution than avoiding data collection. Foreign policy requires deep understanding of other states and giving advice or even taking action based on the data collected rather than just acting or reacting blindly to an issue.

Lessons #10: Never say never

McNamara observes that a question asked should never be responded to directly instead, one should only answer a question he wished he would have been asked. He further posits that historians are not usually concerned with counterfactuals which could perhaps have existed. McNamara tends to believe in flexibility and adoption of the new better course rather than just sticking to something that does not even work well. It is worth understanding that circumstances normally change and therefore it would be good to adapt to new change (Morris, 2003)s.

As secretary of state, he took different position regarding the Vietnam War though he held the belief that the responsibility for the war lied with the president and that despite loving Johnson; they hugely disagreed on the war. He went ahead and stepped down from his role although he admitted that he was sorry for his errors (Morris, 2003). An individual foreign policy may be very effective if it is able to recognize the changes of circumstances by being flexible. This may help in understanding and accommodating new changes and avoid taking outdated and unreliable stances based on previous circumstances. With the current globalization and other international relation issues, it is important to understand the current affairs and make proper decisions based on this.

Lesson #11: You can’t change human nature

According to McNamara, reasons do not have limits and that everyone make mistake because it the nature of human. Also, he describes man as naturally war like and that the nature of man largely contributed to the Fog of War. This is absolutely relevant to the current affairs and should therefore be taken seriously. It is apparent that at the end of the day, the good qualities of human nature may save people from different war challenges However, McNamara believes that the complexity of the human nature my not end war any time soon regardless of human being rational.

Morris (2003), asserts that there is likeliness that war will never end because of the human nature that pre-empts war almost every time. All a long countries have engaged each other in various kind of wars yet the consequences of these wars does not seem to change people’s perception towards war. An individual foreign policy is always designed to defend a particular country from the potential enemies. However, the reactions to some invasion are disproportional and tend to affect even the civilians more than the military. The idea of fighting and invasion does not seem to change any time soon.

Countries are doing very little to promote peace since they are so much engaged in defensive and offensive strategies. This is evident on what currently happens in Syria, Egypt and many other countries that have always wanted to launch their missiles and show off their powers. Seemingly, any country’s strength is measured in terms of its capability to defend itself and successfully engage other powerful nations in the world. Weapons’ capabilities and sophistication as well as overall military overall strength play major role rating any country’s strength. The McNamara’s 11 lessons are generally significant and are very much applicable to the current society.


Morris, Errol. (Director). (2003). The Fog Of War: Eleven Lessons From The Life Of Robert S. Mcnamara [Motion Picture]. United States: Sony Picturesclassics.