Former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara has died at 93, and with him goes a certain perspective on the 20th Century: the perspective of a man intimately involved in the military actions that defined both America and the world. World War II, Korea, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam — they all transpired on his watch.
In 2001, McNamara sat down with documentarian Errol Morris for a series of conversations that would examine the lessons he’d learned over the course of that life — lessons like In Order to Do Good You May Have to Engage in Evil, Empathize with Your Enemy, Proportionality Should Be a Guideline in War — and the result was the exemplary, Oscar-winning film, 2003’s The Fog of War. Some have called McNamara a warmonger; a monster; an unethical, immoral machine. The question of whether he was a necessary monster isn’t one for me to answer, but listening to a man like this take his own measure is transfixing. His vantage point on history was unrivaled.
“What makes it immoral if you lose, but moral if you win?”