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The Fog of War (2003)

By luck, I saw yesterday this great documentary —  in fact, a collection of interviews with Robert S. McNamara, the former US Secretary of Defence. If you are interested in History, especially of the Second World War and the 1960s, I highly recommend that you watch it.

The movie is very well put together, and explains very well the background behind what McNamara says.

But the best part is this exceptional opportunity to hear who has certainly been one of the most important statesmen of the period. There are some fascinating moments, e.g. when the interviews move from McNamara’s role during WW2 (killing the maximum number of people, by optimizing air strikes against Japan), to his tenure at Ford Motors (where, among other things, he saved lives by discovering that no-one had considered improving car safety; Ford was one of the first US car manufacturers to introduce seat belts, in 1955). In both cases, he used the same highly analytical, fact-driven approach — with far-reaching consequences in both cases.

By 1959-1960 he had become President of Ford, and was possibly the highest-paid corporate executive on Earth. Yet he resigned in 1960 when Kennedy asked him to become Secretary of Defense, a role that paid considerably less. For seven years he held that position, and was next to the President when the Missile Crisis erupted or when the US decided to intervene in Vietnam… which also leads to tense moments during the interviews.

I also discovered General Curtis LeMay, which McNamara describes almost as a caricature: a cigar-chomping man of very few words, focused on only one thing: inflicting as much destruction as possible. McNamara met him first during WW2, but he had to work again with him again during the 1960s. In fact, when Kennedy and McNamara were busy trying to avoid a nuclear war against the USSR, LeMay was apparently jumping up and down behind them, asking when he would be allowed to drop nuclear bombs over Cuba — scarily close to General “Buck” Turgidson in Dr. Strangelove... Now I’m really curious about the character.

Highly recommended.

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