Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.
After serving in World War II, Robert McNamara became the Ford Motor Company’s first president outside the family. Weeks later, he was named America’s youngest-ever U.S. Secretary of Defense (at 44), after which he painfully buried John F. Kennedy and bore the brunt of vitriol over America’s involvement in Vietnam.
Before his 2009 death, McNamara orchestrated, oversaw and observed enough in seven years of politics to long abide by a key truth of increasing instability: Insanity is the independent variable keeping existence from eradication.
The belief that rationality will not save us — and that only pure chance prevented the Bay of Pigs from blooming into nuclear war — felt as frighteningly true in 1962 as it does now in 2010.
That’s one of 11 lessons McNamara recounted from his life in Errol Morris’s stunning 2003 documentary, The Fog of War. Narratively prodded by Morris’s aggressive editing trademark, McNamara’s thorough confession probed the morals, intimidation, fear, respect, stubbornness and blind luck that fed his triumphs and tribulations.
It’s difficult to imagine anyone from George W. Bush’s administration coming forth in 30 years with such awe-inspiring, agenda-free candor, contrition, insight and misgivings about America’s foreign policy.
McNamara sought neither absolution for wrongdoing nor credit for success in front of Morris’s camera. Fog merely chronicled how history weighed on one man’s shoulders and served as a resonant voice of experience to express the idea that America should consider killing and conflict in the 21st century in a manner that’s not meant to intimidate, invade or influence.