The recent passing of Robert S. McNamara reminded me of an excellent HBO drama on the subject of American policy in Vietnam. “Path to War” starrred Alec Baldwin in a surprisingly touching role as JFK and LBJ’s defence secretary, and Michael Gambon as LBJ. Based on Robert Dallek’s award winning biography of Johnson, the film focuses on the period from LBJ’s landslide reelection in 1964 up to his decision not to run again in 1968.
What’s fascinating about the story is its explanation of how the calm, rational escalation in Vietnam came about, and how both men became tortured by their decisions. It also depicts LBJ’s battle for civil rights, including a wonderful scene when Johnson faces down racist Alabama governor George Wallace.
The movie also stars Donald Sutherland as McNamara’s sucessor, Clark Clifford, and is well worth viewing purely as a intriguing example of how essentially decent, intelligent people just screw up.