The main idea put forward in film, The Fog of War directed by Errol Morris explores whether those who took part in the Vietnam War are contrite, or excusatory for the negative effects brought about by the war. The director supports his claims by staging a series of interviews with the then secretary of defense. He also uses other media resources such as television news and press reports dating back to the time of the war.
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Through these sources, the audience gets direct information about how the war started, proceeded, and ended. Through interviews, the director vividly brings out McNamara’s character and life history. McNamara’s endeavor to avoid the one question that seeks to know whether he was really doing the will of the people when he masterminded the war that killed many, shows some guilt or fear of judgment (Holden Para.9).
He responds by saying that his actions always hinged on tall orders from the president of people-by-people; therefore, obeying everything that the president said, meant doing the will of the people. McNamara’s career during the time he was the president of central bank, his family life including death of his wife, and his tenure as defense secretary are valuable pieces of information that the director explores.
Through the interaction between the director, McNamara, and a series of events like numerous phone calls during the interview describing events during the war, the audience is able to get a clear view of the Vietnam War and its effects.
Morris, the director of the film is concerned about the historical, economic, and social setting that prevailed during the Vietnam War. During the interview with McNamara, the director’s choice of questions seeks to unveil the historical events that accompanied the Vietnam War.
The mention of the fire lynching of Japanese nationals by firebombs and the bizarre bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki brings out the historical setting of the film. The life of McNamara at this historical time also underscores the social setting that Morris seeks to explore. At one point during the numerous series of interviews, McNamara talks about his social life.
He talks about the hard family life he led before engaging in any government duty or his time as a Defense Secretary. He talks of a tumultuous life that subjected his family to depression; something he believes accelerated the unfortunate demise of his wife (Powell Para.16). His life after serving as the President of Central bank also comes out.
A revelation comes out pointing out that during this period; he spent most of his time in activities to benefit the poor, as well as those inclined at making the world a better place. Conventional wisdom holds that, the Vietnam War caused mass destruction and downward slump of the economy (Risen Para.9).
This fact underscores the director’s interest in the then economic setting as shown when Morris and McNamara talk about issues such as comparison of bombing of a series of Japanese towns to bombing of an equal number of U.S towns that are of similar size. In this comparison, Morris seeks to explain the extent of damage to the Japanese economy courtesy of the war.
The film finds a lot of relevance in contemporary happenings. All over the world, political enmity exists between different nations and absence of an amicable solution to the same would result in similar war as the Vietnam War. The statement by McNamara, which explains why he did what he did, finds significance in the current society.
It shows how those working under powerful men are torn between doing what is right and wrong, since they act under directions from their superiors (Kaplan Para.12).
When asked why he willingly, as a Defense Secretary, approved the war, he categorically says that he was carrying out the orders of a democratically chosen president; after all, a president chosen by people would represent the people so his/her will is the will of the people. True to the theme of this film, peace between nations is an important tool for coexistence.
In the current world, there exist states that are purely enemies to one another; for example, the recent enmity between Iraq and the United States led to the death of thousands of Iraqis and U.S soldiers. Failure to resolve the impeding animosity resulted in forceful entry of the U.S soldiers into Iraq and bloodshed resembling the Vietnam War case ensued. This phenomenon indicates the importance of international peace.
The Fog of War film is relevant to peace and conflict studies since it carries the theme of conflict and peace. During an interview in the film, McNamara says that in the period preceding the Vietnam War, there had been a long period of cold wars.
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In other words, McNamara implies that even though there was nothing direct to insinuate war, there was tension between the two nations. The presence of cold war means absence of peace, which is a subject of discussion in the peace and conflict resolution studies.
Learning the failures by those engaged in this war, students would learn how the concerned parties should have resolved the conflict that led to the war as a way of conflict resolution.
Errol, Morris, dir. The Fog War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara. Radical Media, 2003. Film.
Holden, Stephen. “The Fog War.” The New York Times, 2003. Web.
Kaplan, Fred. The Evasions of Robert McNamara: What’s true and what’s a lie in The Fog of War, 2003. Web.
Powell, Bonnie. “Robert McNamara, Errol Morris returns to Berkeley to share lessons Learned from Fog of War.” UC Berkeley News, 2004. Web.
Risen, Clay. “The Fog of War.” Flak Magazine, 2003. Web.