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In the masterpiece, The Fog of War, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara presents eleven lessons based on his experiences in the Vietnam War. However, questions still emerge on whether the American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan complies with McNamara’s eleven lessons.
This essay seeks to explain why the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are in either compliance or non-compliance with the “lessons learned” from the film documentary titled “the fog of war.” The analysis of the themes of the movie reveals that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan comply with the lessons learned from McNamara’s movie.
Compliance with the Lessons Learned
The first lesson in McNamara’s movie is “empathize with the enemy.” Drawn from an incident in the Cuban Missile crisis in which President Kennedy, USSR’s Khrushchev and Fidel Castro almost plunged the world to nuclear war; McNamara argues that there is need to demonstrate empathy to the enemy even in times of war.
Blight and Lang (17) demonstrates that there was a possibility of the presence of a “US diplomat who had lived with Khrushchev in Russia and argued to JFK that he negotiates with Khrushchev rather than declare nuclear war.” In the perspective of Iraq and Afghanistan, the actions of the United States towards the two nations reveal a clear demonstration of empathy. Millions of taxpayers’ money is spent on humanitarian causes, security issues, and capacity building.
In the second lesson, McNamara posits, “rationality will not save us.” Within this lesson, concerns over Saddam Hussein’s totalitarian leadership rapidly grew, as the West demonstrated an increasing fear that Iraq was edging closer to acquiring weapons of mass destruction. Rationality in avoiding the conflict and eroding its relations with European nations would not have saved the United States from further terrorist attacks.
The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11, 2001, in which thousands of lives were lost, added a new twist into the U.S. relations with Iraq. However, before focusing on the situation in Iraq, the United States considered a massive mission in Afghanistan against the Taliban and Osama bin Laden. It is important to note that the mission in Afghanistan received global support that Iraq invasion.
Just as in the case of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, “there is something beyond one’s self” is a featured theme in the movie The Fog of War. The struggle on the part of the soldiers and the political class to portray the victories of the war indicates compliance to this lesson.
The compliance of McNamara’s lessons five, nine, and ten; proportionality should be a guideline in war, in order to do good, you may have to engage in evil and never say never respectively may be best analyzed from the impacts of Iraq and Afghanistan wars on US foreign policy.
The period of the Iraqi invasion was associated with an extremely high number of civilian and military casualties. The Bush Administration experienced resentment from most European nations and thus the inevitable damage to the image of the United States. According to Fallows (47), “the declaration that the American invasion of Iraq has been a mistake because of inability to find the much-hyped WMD that was a slap in the face for the Bush administration.”
Also, the support to the U.S. leadership after the invasion of Iraq was at its lowest point in history within the European Union. In the domestic context, the impact of the invasion on the U.S. foreign policy was best described as wanting.
The fact that the popularity and efficiency of the former President Bush drastically dropped is indicative of the inappropriate foreign policy manifested by the United States. This anti-Bush sentiment would later reflect in domestic polling that demonstrated the following result: “approximately 28 percent of the interviewed individuals indicated Bush as the most unpopular president in modern American history” (Cushman, 48).
The compliance of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with the sixth lesson on “get the data” revolves around the underlying fact just as the United States went into Vietnam without the knowledge on culture and history of Vietnam, they were caught in the same web in Iraq and Afghanistan. Wars that were expected to be over in less than a year have taken a decade and the end of the conflict is yet to be determined.
The United States continues to be bogged down in unpopular wars that continue to suck billions of taxpayers’ dollars. The compliance of both wars on the need to “be prepared to re-examine your reasoning” revolves around the truth that the United States got it wrong in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
In conclusion, the above discussions demonstrate that both Iraq and Afghanistan wars comply with the “lessons learned” from the film documentary titled “the fog of war.” The underlying themes of the movie capture the political, social, and economical aspects of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in a similar manner as the Vietnam war.
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Blight, James, and Lang Janet. The fog of war: lessons from the life of Robert S. McNamara. London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005. Print.
Cushman, Thomas. Matter of Principle: Humanitarian Arguments for War in Iraq. California: University of California Press, 2005. Print.
Fallows, James. Blind into Baghdad America’s War in Iraq. New York: Vintage Books, 2006. Print