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In the film documentary the fog of war, Robert McNamara, a former Secretary of Defense, talks about 11 lessons he learned. He addresses the actions taken by himself and the government during the Vietnam war. These lessons can also be applied to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In my opinion, the middle east wars are not in compliance with all 11 lessons learned.
“Lesson #1: Empathize with your enemy.” McNamara mentions how empathizing with the enemy won the Cuban Missile Crisis without going to war. When the Bush administration waged the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, they did not try to see from the point of view of their enemy. During the War on Terror, fear was promoted rather than understanding.
“Lesson #2: Rationality will not save us.” McNamara states that even rational people can make detrimental mistakes, which in the context of war can be extremely deadly. I do not think that invading Iraq was a rational decision, but many people believed it to be at the time. However, in the example that McNamara gives, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the rational decision was made in the end. In the case of the middle east wars, the irrational decision was made, so I think that the rationality of leaders is important.
“Lesson 3: There’s something beyond one’s self.” I think the point of this lesson is that we as people are inherently selfish, and we must consider factors outside ourselves and work towards goals that are bigger than ourselves. Thousands of civilians died during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, some people think that protecting ourselves is worth the cost. This turned more people against the U.S. and made Iraq a breeding ground for terrorists.
“Lesson 4: Maximize efficiency.” Efficiency should be measured by the weakening of the enemy and the fewer amount of lives lost, not the number of people we have killed. The goal should have been to get to Osama bin Laden while minimizing the number of deaths of soldiers and civilians. We had the correct location of bin Laden’s hideouts, but by the time U.S. troops got there, he was gone. If the goal was to prevent terrorism, the focus should have been defeating members of Al Qaeda, not Iraq which had no involvement in the 9/11 attacks.
“Lesson 5: Proportionality should be a guideline in war.” McNamara says that the damage inflicted during war should be proportional to what is trying to be achieved. Killing hundreds of thousands of civilians in an effort to stop a much smaller group of terrorists, is not proportional.
“Lesson 6: Get the data.” When making decisions on foreign affairs, facts should be used as a deciding factor rather than personal bias. It is easy to assume that biases are the truth. For example, once it was announced that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, it was believed even though that proved to be false.
“Lesson 7: Belief and seeing are both often wrong.” Our view can be altered to see what we want to believe, especially when the truth is much different than our beliefs. Middle easterners were assumed to be terrorists based solely on their looks, which made it easy to believe that Iraq was a threat to the U.S. when they were not.
“Lesson 8: Be prepared to reexamine your reasoning.” We should consider the opinions of our allies before deciding to go to war. The invasion of Iraq was greatly opposed by many United States allies, and the faulty reasoning should have been reexamined.
“Lesson 9: In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil.” This lesson could apply to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, since they were meant to avoid terrorism. However, I believe that the wars did not do enough good to justify the killings of so many people.
“Lesson 10: Never say never.” During a war, you can never be certain of the outcome. Even if the wars is won, it will still result in the loss of many lives. War should be a last resort when dealing with conflict.
“Lesson 11: You can’t change human nature.” When faced with important decisions, humans will sometimes make the wrong one. I think the Bush administration did not know how to deal with the 9/11 attacks and made quick decisions to show that they were taking a stand against terrorism. When dealing with nuclear weapons, these mistakes could potentially destroy entire nations. To prevent this, decisions on war should not be made hastily and should require careful consideration.
In conclusion, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were not in compliance with most of the lessons from the documentary. In my opinion, there was not a reasonable cause for the middle east wars to be justified. I think that the U.S. jumps into wars too quickly. I believe that there should be more of a focus on foreign diplomacy rather than endless wars. Wars cause an extreme amount of death and destruction and should only be used as a last resort.
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