Monday, May 16, 2005

The Fog of War

Happened to watch this last night... was very interesting. It was a film in which Robert McNamara (US defense secretary during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the early years of the Vietnam war) discussed his life and gave 11 lessons which he had learnt. They were:

1. Empathize with your enemy.

2. Rationality will not save us.

3. There's something beyond one's self.

4. Maximize efficiency.

5. Proportionality should be a guideline in war.

6. Get the data.

7. Belief and seeing are both often wrong.

8. Be prepared to reexamine your reasoning.

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

10. Never say never.

11. You can't change human nature.

A lot of those got me thinking... lesson 11 is something that the Christian is very aware of (as is 3), but a couple of the others have interesting consequences if accepted. Lesson 2 is something that I could definitely do well to take on board at times, but the one that really gets me thinking is actually 9. I guess it comes down to asking yourself if that is an acceptable axiom to live by? Is it a correct and even righteous view of the world that says that in order to reduce the evil in the world, evil acts will probably be necessary. I wonder what leads to a more chaotic value-system: that, which says that evil may be necessary in order for good to come about; or what I guess is the more common contemporary view - that the moral value of an act is judged on the basis of it's intention, so killing can be good if the end is good. McNamara seemed to take the view that killing is always bad, but we should do bad if the end is good (but not call the act good). It was very interesting to see that there were some actions during his tenure as Defense Secretary that he clearly felt a deep sense of responsibility for (there were some that he didn't too), and that some of those that he believed were right even though he felt a sense of guilt as a result of having had to make those decisions.


At 8:17 AM, Blogger Pete said...

Yeah, I've got this on DVD, a fantastic documentary, very moving. The one I've taken on board, and since noticed is missing from most international relations, is lesson 1. You can't get past how truly profound it is; it would change the world.

At 7:23 AM, Blogger Si said...

I agree... I'm guessing the difficulty politically is doing so whilst still acting as a representative of your constituents (and maintaining the constituents' belief of that).


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