We finally watched three movies we’ve had from Netflix for weeks: “The House of Sand and Fog”:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0315983/, “The Fog of War”:http://www.errolmorris.com/ and “Girl with a Peal Earring”:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0335119/. The House of Sand and Fog was great but very very sad. Girl with a Pearl Earring was booorrrriiiing – making a fictional movie about how a painting was made is a bad idea.

But The Fog of War was good. Not great, but good. It’s intended to be a lesson about war, what works and what doesn’t as told by a man in the center of the Cold War. But to me, it shows how someone simply trying to make the world a better place, “Robert McNamara”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_McNamara, is both praised and vilified at the same time. He did well tactically in WWII, helped resolve the Cuban Missile Conflict peacefully, became President of Ford Motor Company and turned them profitable again, but then went back to government to become the Secretary of Defense and got mired in Vietnam and eventually fired. And that’s his legacy. All the successes and he’s forever to be remembered as the “warmonger” of Vietnam.

There are good lessons for anyone involved in conflict, not just states at war, such as to empathize with your enemy, get as much data as possible, etc. What I thought was most interesting is McNamara talking about a General LeMay’s beliefs about war…. essentially kill them before they kill you and rationalize it later. One thing that doesn’t seem to be as true of war these days that I’ve never understood is that the targets are almost exclusively civilians. In WWII, they firebombed Tokyo simply to destroy it and kill as many people as possible and that was meaningful to victory. Today we tend to target military operations almost exclusively (or so we’re told).

But given the times, you’re left with one of McNamara’s recommendations: never go to war unilaterally. He says that if you can’t convince your allies that your war is just, it probably isn’t. Too bad Rumsfeld isn’t as smart as McNamara.