In the movie "The Fog of War," Robert McNamara, U.S. Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War (’60-’67) takes stock. At my age, 85, I’m at age where I can look back and derive some conclusions about my actions. My rule has been try to learn, try to understand what happened. Develop the lessons and pass them on.
He quoted LeMay as saying that if they lost the war they would be tried as war criminals. That is not quite the same thing as saying that he (or LeMay) thought they were war criminals.
If an act can only be justified as being likely to bring victory, and you lose tha war, does it become a war crime in retrospect?
I was shocked when McNamara said he was basically a war-criminal and would have likely been tried as such had we not won the war. Truly excellent documentary.
I found this film pretty amazing, in terms of the amount of candor Morris got out of McNamara. His avoidance of certain questions, or refusal to go into further detail, might be connected to this idea that he had deep political disagreements with some of the people (like LBJ) he was very close to, and as he sais, loved. I suspect that it's not just about not stepping on toes, but you (in your comment) may also be right that M seems quite resistant to admitting ERROR: he alludes to learning from the past but also asks a lot of rhetorical questions of the form, "What else could we do at the time?" I'm sort of sympathetic with the idea that we act with the best intentions (if we are sincere morally serious people), but that doesn't guarantee that we won't make mistakes. So there is something puzzling about McNamara (and that's part of what makes the film really brilliant - that it really shows a kind of living paradox trying to work itself out).
Hal, maybe he just didn't want to admit that he was too proud or chicken to publicly admit back then that he was wrong?
That's a curious response to the question about why he didn't speak out, basically that he doesn't want to discuss it because it would be too inflammatory. And yet here he's just spent over an hour revealing thoughts and opinions which are extremely surprising and revelatory coming from someone in his position. I can't help wondering if the implication is that the true explanation for why he didn't speak out would be even more controversial than his apparent reversal of support for wartime policies. Maybe there was some kind of highly unsavory pressure brought against him to ensure his silence.