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The Fog Of War

THE FOG OF WAR: ELEVEN LESSONS FROM THE LIFE OF ROBERT S. McNAMARA is a 20th century fable, the story of Robert S. McNamara, an idealist who saw his dreams and ideals challenged by the role he played in history, as he both witnessed and participated in many history-altering events.


Director: Errol Morris
Year: 2003
Time: 95 min

 The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara
(2003) on IMDb

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Read In Retrospect: the Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam, published in 1995, to learn more about McNamara’s views on the Vietnam War and the lessons he learned.

Learn more about the 1995 Hanoi Conference, when McNamara met with Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap, in Argument Without End: In Search of Answers to the Vietnam Tragedy, published in 2000.

Read up on the work of the World Bank, which aims to “end extreme poverty within a generation and boost shared prosperity” where McNamara went on to work after serving as Secretary of Defense. 

Delve deeper into the work of director Errol Morris, watching one of his other fine documentaries. Visit his website to learn about his films, writings, and lectures. 

Related Articles and Resources

Reporting the First World War

“War correspondents fight on many fronts. Censorship is the most persistent and pernicious. From William Russell reporting the war in the Crimea to the wars of today, the correspondent struggles to tell it how it is. The censor comes in many guises but usually in uniform, and his veto is final. A state of war exists between the reporter and the establishment – and the reporter invariably loses.”

Continue reading on the Telegraph.

Behind the World War II Fire Bombing Attack of Tokyo

“When the United States launched a bombing operation over Japan on Mar. 9, 1945, firebombing was hardly a new tactic. But the scope of the damage was unprecedented: as TIME framed it the following week, the fire in Tokyo destroyed ‘approximately 9,700 acres, or 15 square miles,’ versus a single square mile that was destroyed by a Luftwaffe attack on London in 1940.”

Continue reading here.

Interview With the Filmmaker

“I could probably sit here for several hours and tell you so many of the other stories that I’ve heard from McNamara, but I needed to make a movie, and, in truth, part of the process of making a movie is leaving things out. In fact, you’re leaving out so much more than you end up putting in – what you get to see is the tip of an iceberg. Most of the material that I produced is missing.”

Read the full interview on Sense Of Cinema.

Errol Morris Remembers McNamara

“Robert McNamara, who died Monday at age 93, offered an appraisal of the Vietnam War in the 2003 documentary THE FOG OF WAR. Director Errol Morris, who made the award-winning film, says the war was an ongoing investigation for McNamara.”

Listen to the podcast here.

War Crimes

“At the heart of the concept of war crimes is the idea that individuals can be held criminally responsible for the actions of a country or its soldiers. War crimes and crimes against humanity are among the gravest crimes in international law.”

Find out more on BBC.

The Dictatorship of Data

“Robert McNamara epitomizes the hyper-rational executive led astray by numbers.”

Read the full article here.

The Philosophy of War

“Any philosophical examination of war will  center on four general questions: What is war? What causes war? What is the relationship between human nature and war? Can war ever be morally justifiable?”

Defining what war is requires determining the entities that are allowed to begin and engage in war. And a person’s definition of war often expresses the person’s broader political philosophy, such as limiting war to a conflict between nations or state.”

Read the full article here.

The Interrotron

Click here to find out about the ingenious design behind Errol Morris’s indelible trademark of showing people making eye contact with the camera.”


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