The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara
2004
This Oscar-winning documentary traces former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara's career from government to the World Bank; but his work during the Vietnam War -- examined through archival footage and interviews -- is the real highlight.

Scott Hardie: “It was ok.”

In a year of political documentaries questioning the wisdom of war (and the wisdom of those who question war), this one proved nearly unassailable for the age of its titular interviewee. Apparently it's true that anything gets respectable if it lasts long enough: McNamara is as arrogant now for patly condemning war as he was then for making it, and yet he is given a free pass by the mostly liberal critical body for having the courage to, what, condemn the firebombing of a hundred thousand people? As usual McNamara is all too happy to seem anti-war while making statements that ultimately justify war, but at least he's wise enough to back off from giving a real apology for his errors in the Vietnam War because he knows by now that veterans' pride is more important than his own. As for this film, it is doggedly paced, but Philip Glass's score gives it some intermittent perk, and there are some creative visual ideas such as dropping statistics from a bomber. I wish it had contained more revelations, but McNamara has by now already said what he's going to say about the war, so the best this film could hope to accomplish was to collect and clarify his points. It is admirable for its humanitarian heart, but it is simply not compelling, and the Bush administration's refusal to acknowledge criticism makes it impotent as a case against the war in Iraq.

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