… ” In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence ” claimed sociologist Laurence J. Peter in his 1968 book, ”The Peter Principle”. That is, eventually individuals are promoted to a position where they are no longer competent. Peter claimed the Peter Principle to be a special case of his theory, whereby he observed that anything that works will be used in increasingly more challenging applications until it fails.
McNamara as Secretary of Defence in the Kennedy Administration, personified a generational change. He was a technocrat, an administrator and statistician who had specialized in statistical analysis of the effect of bombing civilian populations. He was part of a new managerial wave , known ironically as ” the best and the brightest”, a phrase coined by journalist David Halberstram. Like the Peter Principle, McNamara a former president of Ford Motor Company rose to a level of tragic incompetence. His statistical models of the Cuban Missile crisis were rendered irrelevant since they were based on false and misleading intelligence. The Kennedy public relations savvy created a McNamara myth and the same formula was repeated in Vietnam, unravelling itself as the Peter Principle observed. McNamara and the hot shots were aiming for a Korea style cease fire though the context of Vietnam as a guerilla war with the U.S. and an internal civil war, were very different than Korea.
Whether McNamara was incompetent or not,perhaps he had the job because he was unqualified. War is the business of the Pentagon and the Vietnam war created an industry of popular entertainment on anti-war Vietnam sentiment which was extremely violent and non-pacifist. Films like Deerhunter, Platoon, Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket are typical of this genre of film which are quite extensive in terms of quantity.
The criteria for a true anti-war culture is not to predispose the audience towards war. However, most anti-war films fall short of this standard as they tend to glorify violence rather than condemn it. Paul Goodman has stated , ” The images of senseless violence, horror, and waste that are usually employed in the commercially successful anti-war film without doubt have a pornographic effect and remain in the soul as excitants and further incitements”. And further, ”…such anti-war films do not provide a clear anti-war message; they are actually entertainment spectacles centering around the theme of violence and warfare and to be entertained on such a theme is damaging”.
The following clip is a French documentary from 1966 called the Anderson Platoon that is not particularly mainstream.