THE FOG OF WAR: Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara

James G. Blight, Author, Janet M. Lang, Author . Rowman & Littlefield $55 (224p) ISBN 978-0-7425-4220-4 ISBN 978-0-7425-4221-1

When Robert Strange McNamara ran the Vietnam War as secretary of defense from 1961 to 1968, he let it be known that he had all the answers, and that those who didn't agree with him were not as smart nor as well informed as he was. After being forced to resign in 1968, McNamara refused to discuss the Vietnam War until his book, In Retrospect , was published in 1995. In that controversial apologia, he allowed that he "made mistakes" in Vietnam, but stressed that every other top official in Washington did as well and that he based his policies on incorrect information supplied by the military. McNamara (b. 1916) conveyed that same message in Errol Morris's Oscar-winning 2003 documentary The Fog of War . Brown University political scientists Blight and Lang retread McNamara's testimony in the documentary and add other archival material to look primarily at the big decisions of WW II (in which McNamara served) and the Vietnam War. The authors are not dispassionate observers. They present what amounts to a glowing assessment of McNamara and the Errol Morris film, for which they served as advisers. They speak of McNamara's "passionate concern for the human future" and his "hard work and courage." They refer to the Morris film as "an artistic triumph" and "a brilliant work of art." The authors pay lip service to McNamara's many critics from across the political spectrum, but the book feels most like strategic support for McNamara's mea culpa and for military intelligence reform generally. (May)

Reviewed on: 04/04/2005
Release date: 03/01/2005
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 307 pages - 978-0-7425-4221-1
Open Ebook - 224 pages - 978-0-7425-8022-0
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