Fog of War 11 Lessons

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Lesson 1: Empathize with your enemy : 

Lesson 1: Empathize with your enemy “Let me go back one moment. In the Cuban Missile Crisis, at the end, I think we did put ourselves in the skin of the Soviets. In the case of Vietnam, we didn't know them well enough to empathize. And there was total misunderstanding as a result. They believed that we had simply replaced the French as a colonial power, and we were seeking to subject South and North Vietnam to our colonial interests, which was absolutely absurd. And we, we saw Vietnam as an element of the Cold War. Not what they saw it as: a civil war.” –Robert McNamara

Lesson 2: Rationality will not save us : 

Lesson 2: Rationality will not save us “I want to say, and this is very important: at the end we lucked out. It was luck that prevented nuclear war. We came that close to nuclear war at the end. Rational individuals: Kennedy was rational; Khrushchev was rational; Castro was rational. Rational individuals came that close to total destruction of their societies. And that danger exists today.” –Robert McNamara

Lesson 3: There is something beyond one’s self : 

Lesson 3: There is something beyond one’s self “Brains are like hearts - they go where they are appreciated” – Robert McNamara

Lesson 4: Maximize efficiency : 

Lesson 4: Maximize efficiency “I analyzed bombing operations, and how to make them more efficient. i.e. Not more efficient in the sense of killing more, but more efficient in weakening the adversary. I wrote one report analyzing the efficiency of the B—29 operations. The B—29 could get above the fighter aircraft and above the air defense, so the loss rate would be much less. The problem was the accuracy was also much less. Now I don't want to suggest that it was my report that led to, I'll call it, the firebombing. It isn't that I'm trying to absolve myself of blame. I don't want to suggest that it was I who put in LeMay's mind that his operations were totally inefficient and had to be drastically changed. But, anyhow, that's what he did. He took the B—29s down to 5,000 feet and he decided to bomb with firebombs.” – Robert McNamara

Lesson 6: Proportionality should be a Guideline in War : 

Lesson 6: Proportionality should be a Guideline in War “Proportionality should be a guideline in war. Killing 50% to 90% of the people of 67 Japanese cities and then bombing them with two nuclear bombs is not proportional, in the minds of some people, to the objectives we were trying to achieve.” –Robert McNamara

Lesson 6: Get the Data : 

Lesson 6: Get the Data “Our judgment, our understanding, is not adequate. And we kill people unnecessarily.” –Robert McNamara

Lesson 7: Belief and Seeing are often wrong : 

Lesson 7: Belief and Seeing are often wrong “There's a wonderful phrase: 'the fog of war.' What "the fog of war" means is: war is so complex it's beyond the ability of the human mind to comprehend all the variables.” –Robert McNamara

Lesson 8: Be prepared to re-examine your reasoning : 

Lesson 8: Be prepared to re-examine your reasoning “Neither conscience nor sanity itself suggests that the United States is, should or could be the global gendarme.” “Coercion, after all, merely captures man. Freedom captivates him.” –Robert McNamara

Lesson 9: In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil : 

Lesson 9: In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil “Norman Morrison was a Quaker. He was opposed to war, the violence of war, the killing. He came to the Pentagon, doused himself with gasoline. Burned himself to death below my office. He held a child in his arms, his daughter. Passersby shouted, "Save the child!" He threw the child out of his arms, and the child lived and is alive today. His wife issued a very moving statement: 'Human beings must stop killing other human beings.' And that's a belief that I shared. I shared it then and I believe it even more strongly today. How much evil must we do in order to do good? We have certain ideals, certain responsibilities. Recognize that at times you will have to engage in evil, but minimize it.” –Robert McNamara

Lesson 10: Never say never : 

Lesson 10: Never say never “Never say never. Secondly, never answer the question that is asked of you. Answer the question that you wish had been asked of you.” – Robert McNamara

Lesson 11: You can’t change Human Nature : 

Lesson 11: You can’t change Human Nature “I'm not so naive or simplistic to believe we can eliminate war. We're not going to change human nature anytime soon. It isn't that we aren't rational. We are rational. But reason has limits.” –Robert McNamara

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