The first pointer involves the role of the U.S in the Vietnam War. McNamara was one of the principal U.S leaders that orchestrated the war which resulted in the deaths of 3 million Vietnamese and 58,000 Americans. In the documentary, 85 year old McNamara (playing himself), speaks about the Congressional resolution that gave credence and legality to the Vietnam War.
It was later learnt that the U.S Congress, Kennedy and McNamara himself all wrongly interpreted the torpedo incident in the Gulf of Tonkin, which never took place in the exaggerated fashion it was reported (Petrakis).
The second pointer to the film’s theme involves the firebombing of 67 Japanese cities by the U.S in 1945 that killed nearly 1 million Japanese (Turan), including a single event in which about 100,000 Japanese were scorched to death in Tokyo. Colonel Curtis Le May, who directed the military operations, along with McNamara (his assistant at that time), were both convinced that the firebombing would bring about a speedy end to World War II. McNamara supports the decision of LeMay and himself that led to so many horrific Japanese deaths by exemplifying it to one of the 11 lessons he learnt in life, namely, “In Order to Do Good, You May Have to Engage in Evil” (Petrakis).
The last pointer to the documentary’s theme involves the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. Colonel Curtis LeMay and McNamara actively featured in it. This time however, the two leaders managed to pull back inches from the brink of what would have been an outright nuclear war between the U.S and the Soviet Union. Leaders of both superpowers were certain of their individual interpretations of the crisis that did not deserve such certitude,