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The Fog Of War

Deleted by topic administrator 07-22-2006 09:28 AM
Aaron LarsonPerson was signed in when posted
10:50 AM ET (US)
Here's an example of "thinking" from the right - or should I say, brain-dead ranting, which demonstrates how far our nation's political right is from understanding any of the lessons of history, let alone McNamara's lessons of war:
I suppose it would be considered lacking in nuance to nuke the Sunni Triangle.

But so goes the unanimous vote around my household - and I'm betting millions of others - in the aftermath of what forevermore will be remembered simply as "Fallujah."

Wouldn't it be lovely were justice so available and so simple? If we were but creatures like those zoo animals we witnessed gleefully jumping up and down after stomping, dragging, dismembering and hanging the charred remains of American civilians whose only crime was to try to help them.
No understanding of history. Everybody, child and adult, is the "enemy" - and the "enemy" are nothing but animals and savages, completely different from us. So it would be okay to commit genocide. Bravo Kathleen.
Parma Y.
05:36 PM ET (US)
Although I have been as leary as some about comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam, the more I read about the latter and the longer the former unfolds before us the more I see similarities between those conflicts -- from an American perspective, of course. I agree that McNamara comes across in the "Fog of War" as he no doubt is, a bright and capable man; smart, if you will. But smart people are everywhere in Washington, at least they were when the Democrats ran the place. In the film, the hubris that led to the Vietnam imbroglio and associated disasters is still visible in the not so contrite 85-year-old; certainly, a lesson to be learned. (And what about the picture of Curtis LeMay that comes through this movie? It removes the sappy sentimentality of the "greatest generation" hoopla like a full-strength acid bath. What a monster.)
For me, the most telling episode of "Fog of War" was McNamara's contention that Kennedy, if he had lived, would have pulled out of Vietnam in fairly short order. In 1995, even in 2002 and perhaps most of 2003, such a notion might have seemed plausible. But I don't think there is so much difference between George W. Bush and Kennedy in this one respect. A workable endgame requires extraordinary talent, commitment and diplomacy, plus luck beyond score. (Step one is recognizing that you need an endgame.) Such a serendipity of circumstance probably would have eluded President Kennedy as surely as it seems to have eluded Mr. Bush.
Thanks for adding the "Globe and Mail" piece to the discussion. My favorite line: "The Iraq action...would have been far better conceived if its executors had read Mr. McNamara's works instead of the Book of Revelation." I suppose this point gets at the nub of McNamara's Vietnam critique: "...[that] the United States could not, by itself, properly analyze the actions and ground-level conditions necessary to achieve the complex and ambiguous goals of a war -- reversing the influence of communism in Asia, in Vietnam's case, or bringing democracy to the Arab world, in Iraq's.
" 'And the reason I feel that is that we're not omniscient,' [McNamara] said. 'And we've demonstrated that in Iraq, I think.' "
McNamara apparently believes that America's failure to "appreciate the complexities of Iraqi culture, and therefore to anticipate the extended guerrilla war it is now engaged in," could have been avoided by heeding her allies, and perhaps that is true. But I am skeptical that a consensus among the powers that be, even in conjunction with McNamara's other lessons, can save the US or any other nation from disasterous policies and engagements every time (current economic theory comes to mind). While it is remarkable that both the Vietnam and Gulf War II catastrophes were distinguished by the lack of support of America's allies, a more general lesson from the observation that "we're not omniscient," I would suggest, is "know your limitations." After all, wasn't one of the lessons "human nature will not change"?

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