Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Fog of War Discussion

Hi Everyone,

Some recent posts have focused on how best to deal with the situation our country finds itself in Iraq. I recently rented the DVD of "Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert McNamara" and I think it provides an excellent starting point for a discussion - indeed, it was intended to do just that.

I will list them here and my hope is that they will spark some comments to replace all the comments that we (who am I kidding) - Bell Curve - deleted in the recent excellent upgrade. But it was worth it, the upgrade was great.

First, some background: What ever you may think of Robert McNamara he is certainly one of the most intelligent and experienced Americans of the 20th Century. When WWII started he was an assistant professor of Economics at Harvard - most people would consider themselves very accomplished if that was all they ever did. When the war started he became an efficiency expert for the Army Air Force (later the Air Force) and served under Curtis Le May in the Pacific - the command that fire bombed Japanese cities and dropped both Atomic bombs. After WWII he went to work for a struggling Ford Motor company where he not only helped turn the company around but instituted seat belts for the first time - saving an estimated 20,000 lives a year (that was the estimate at the time, its saved far more I'm sure). In 1961, JFK asked McNamara to be his Secretary of Defense. McNamara was a key advisor when the Kennedy Administration avoided full scale nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis. McNamara served both JFK and LBJ through much of the Vietnam war. After LBJ fired him in 1968, McNamara became the president of the World Bank which gives long term loans to developing countries to alleviate poverty and economic depression. To say that this man's life has had its share of moral contradictions is a bit of an understatement! Anyway, at the end of the film (which I strongly recommend!), McNamara presents 10 lessons that he's learned over the course of his life.

"1) The human race will not eliminate war in this century, but we can reduce the brutality of war - the level of killing - by adhering to the principles of a ‘Just War’, in particular to the principle of ‘proportionality.’
2) The indefinite combination of human fallibility and nuclear weapons will lead to the destruction of nations.
3) We are the most powerful nation in the world –- economically, politically and militarily -– and we are likely to remain so for decades ahead. But we are not omniscient. I we cannot persuade other nations with similar interests and similar values of the merits of our proposed use of that power, we should not proceed unilaterally except in the unlikely requirement to defend directly the continental U.S., Alaska and Hawaii.
4) Moral principles are often ambiguous guides to foreign policy and defense policy, but surely we can agree that we should establish as a major goal of U.S. foreign policy, and indeed, of foreign policies across the globe: the avoidance in This century of the carnage –- 160 million dead -– cause by conflict in the 20th century.
5) We, the richest nation in the world, have failed in our responsibility to our own poor and to the disadvantaged across the world to help them advance their welfare in the most fundamental terms of nutrition, literacy, health and employment.
6) Corporate executives must recognize there is no contradiction between a soft heart and a hard head. Of course, they have responsibilities to stockholders, but they also have responsibilities to their employees, their consumers and to society as a whole.
7) President Kennedy believed a primary responsibility of a president –- indeed “the primary responsibility of a president -– is to keep the nation out of war, if at all possible.
8) War is a blunt instrument by which to settle disputes between or within nations, and economic sanctions are rarely effective. Therefore, we should build a system of jurisprudence based on the International Court -– that the U.S. has refused to support -– which would hold individuals responsible for crimes against humanity.
9) If we are to deal effectively with terrorists across the globe, we must develop a sense of empathy –- I don’t mean sympathy, but rather ‘understanding’ -– to counter their attacks on us and the Western World.
10) One of the greatest dangers we face today is the risk that terrorists will obtain access to weapons of mass destruction as a result of the breakdown of the Non-Proliferation Regime. We in the U.S. are contributing to that breakdown."



Gaoshan said...

1) I think that is a nice ideal, but that it cannot work. Either human nature will take over and things would get out of control, one side will have a different interpretation of brutality (or "just" for that matter) or the losing side would get desperate and go to extremes.

2) Maybe... see my last point in the above comment.

3) We aren't omniscient? But, but... Karl Rove is, isn't he? I think this is a no brainer. Too bad the Bush administration blew it out of the water.

4) Sure we can. Wait a minute... no we can't.

5) Yes. Though I would question just how much responsibility we have to "the disadvantaged the world" as the practical application of this responsibility seems to result in a lot of killing and misery.

6) Yeah... and "Thou shalt not kill" either.

7) Really? See that is the problem with "great" ideas like this. To me that means, stay out of war. To Kennedy it meant, confront our enemies now so we don't have to stop them on our doorstep... thus, Vietnam.

8) Another "Great Idea"... Now, who's gonna be the cops?

9) Here, here. How come no one in power now seems to think this?

10) Yes we are/have been and I fear that someday, the US will reap this "reward"... and, sadly, I can kinda understand why we might.

Anonymous said...

In regard to McNamara's lessons from his life, it seems to this person still working on enlightenment, that reduction in the brutality of war was probable as long as we focussed on negotiating. Now it will be much harder and may have moved from the probable to the much more difficult. The re-structuring of nations seems to be a foregone conclusion as ease of travel and communication quickly spreads information around the world. Going to war should be a last resort and the way to make this more likely is through education which studies the perceived goals of previous wars as well as the unforeseen consequences.

It would be a positive note if the 100 years from 1860 to 1960 became known as "the bloodiest century in history" as that would mean it had become unique. If that happens then the U.S. will have learned to use its resources as benign leverage rather than malignant armament. We are obliged as caretakers of these resources to be responsible world leaders, especially in terms of Non-Proliferation agreements.

After release from subsistence living, it would seem that groups of people (as well as individuals)need to be better off than others by some form of comparison. Even within Socialism as practiced in Communist countries, this competitive-greed caused trading behind the scenes with an apparent goal to amass personal wealth.

While I agree that it is the absolute responsibility of world leaders to avoid war, we elected the second Bush president after the first Bush demonstrated a proclivity for using military force. Both Bush presidencies have been extremely militaristic. I wonder if Osama Bin Laden executed his plan when he did to maximize the liklihood of military response, knowing the son is like his father in that regard?

With the increase in speed of communication, the ever "shrinking" of the world, and the movement away from tribes and toward larger units of government, I agree that we need an International Court. Part of the obligation of this court would be to find common moral ground on which to base win-win negotiations.

Signed -- Half-Enlitened

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