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Ron Callari: War On Terror Arouses Peter Principle

War on Terror arouses the Peter Principle

By Ron Callari

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Mass Destruction. Minimal Destruction. Big Leaders. Small Leaders. When it comes to war, does size really matter?

According to the philosophy of the Peter Principle, people are eventually promoted until they reach a position for which they are incompetent. The effect as it pertains to George W. Bush makes it increasingly apparent the leader of the free world might not have what it takes. But what he has to give might be the best that he can do.

Bush’s War on Terror sales pitch to take out Saddam Hussein was to uncover his supposed covert weapons of mass destruction. After exterminating 1000s of Iraqis and allowing over 800 of our own armed forces to perish, irony underscores his ineptitude. The GWB showed the world, that no one really needs WMDs. We can just as easily desolate portions of the globe with a minimal number of firearms.

War is war. It doesn’t matter if we club someone over the head or bean ‘em with a sling-shot. When you add WMDs to the mix, the only difference is you accelerate the process of annihilation. Bush couldn’t find the big stick, so he walked tall with all the small sticks he could muster.

The Peter Principle is based on the premise that in any organization new players typically start out in the lower ranks. The process of climbing up the proverbial ladder can go on indefinitely, until one reaches a position where he or she is no longer competent. At that moment the process typically stalls, since the established rules note that it is cumbersome to "demote" someone. So, are we all saddled with our own dilemma? Do we accept the small Peter versus requesting a bigger one?

In evolution, this same process applies. Man tends to develop up to his adaptive evolutionary ability. In Bush’s case, we are living in the Ice Age, and a lot of our fellow cave dwellers still believe that he is the man to hold the barbarians at the gates.

John Stewart from Comedy Central’s The Daily Show likes to say that Bush isn't stupid, we are. He couldn't talk to us the way he does if we weren't.

However calling the President and Americans cretins would absolve us of responsibility, which is not accurate. We all have a certain amount of culpability in this matter.

As a result of the Peter Principle in play, it is often people’s shortcomings that make them most endearing. Bush’s lack of fluency in the English language actually breeds sympathy. Similarly, while Bill Clinton’s oratory eloquence differentiated him from his successor, it was his peccadilloes that made him more human. We wouldn't ridicule FDR because he couldn't walk. Is it less cruel to laugh at Dubya because he can't talk?

Bush's assorted malapropisms, gaffes, and spoonerisms imply that his lack of fluency is tantamount to an absence of intelligence. But similar to Reagan, Bush avoids blame for all his implausible assertions and outright falsehoods by wearing the cloak of the amiable dunce. If he knows not what he does, blame can be redirected. And as history unfolds, we can see this being played out with the resignation of George Tenet, the banishment of one Iraqi informant named Ahmad Chalabi and the reactions to the September 11th Commission reports.

Our acceptance of the Peter Principle allows Bush to outperform by merely getting by. And while this counters rational judgement, it is this elitist disdain that actually helps cement Bush's mass appeal.

Whether he is searching for weapons of mass destruction or leveling a Middle Eastern country (just because it is there), this is immaterial in the world according to Bush. For this Peter…in this sphere of influence…size just really doesn’t matter.

That is, until the next erection…er, election!


Ron Callari is a freelance journalist and editorial cartoonist who resides in Jersey City, New Jersey. He and co-creator Jack Pittman produce kidd millennium cartoons weekly.

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