Is America Inside Its Own OODA LOOP???
January 26, 2005
Thread-1: Boyd and Military Strategy
Many Blasters have discussed and explained the strategic theories of Colonel John Boyd. I will only summarize his ideas here; new subscribers or interested readers can find these Blasters as well as Boyd's work throughout the DNI archive, particularly Thread 1. Boyd built his theory of conflict around the moral - mental - physical aspects of an organism's decision cycle—what he called the Observation - Orientation - Decision - Action Loop. Boyd showed that an OODA Loop (the decision cycle of an individual or any collection of individuals) is an open, far-from-equilibrium process. This is a crucial finding: students of chaos theory, systems control theory, or the theory of evolution will immediately recognize the implications of such a construction: the OODA Loop is capable of expansion and growth, but it is also inherently unpredictable and its pathway can lead also to chaos, because it incorporates positive as well as negative feedback control loops. OODA loops are enormously powerful, but with that power comes real danger.
The most dangerous form of positive feedback comes from the most powerful part of the OODA Loop—the Orientation activity. Orientation and the ability to change one's Orientation give the OODA Loop both its power and its vulnerability.
Observations feed into Orientation, but they are also shaped and filtered by the lens of Orientation. The idea of an "objective" observation existing independent of the observer is a myth still held by many hidebound defense analysts, sociologists, and economists but is now rejected by most anthropologists, biologists and physical scientists.
Observations feed into the organism's Orientation activity. Boyd showed how Orientation exhibits a shaping pressure on what is seen and on the interpretation of what is seen. Decisions and actions flow out of this two-way interplay of Observation and Orientation. He showed why the most dangerous internal state of an OODA loop occurs when the Orientation process becomes so powerful that it force fits the organism's observations into fitting a preconceived template, even when those observations threaten the relevance of that template.
In essence, like the communist ideologue, the organism sees what it wants to see, interprets events the way it wants to interpret events, and sees no reason to change. It makes decisions and actions accordingly. When this happens, the loop has turned inside itself. It loses its capacity to adapt to changing external circumstances, and in effect, the open far-from-equilibrium system becomes an incestuously amplifying closed system—and echo chamber amplifying its own echoes: Any tendency toward self-correction breaks down, because Observations of the results of its Actions are fed through the same non-adaptive template, over and over again. The organism becomes increasingly disconnected from reality.
The power of Boyd's intellectual achievement is that he showed why the inevitable result of such an inwardly focused OODA Loop is a build up of internal confusion and disorder (entropy). He showed why, when such loops are put under menacing pressure, the confusion and disorder naturally expands into panic and chaos, which in turn can generate overload, paralysis, and even collapse. Boyd's entire strategy of conflict centered on the idea of inducing his opponent's OODA loop to turn inside itself.
But you don't need conflict to close an OODA loop. A closed OODA loop, with the attendant build up of entropy, can be also be the result of a self-inflicted wound, as was the case in the old Soviet Union.
With these thoughts in mind, I urge you to read carefully the attached article which appears in the current issue of Newsweek International. Judge for yourself whether or not America is in danger of folding itself inside its own OODA Loop.
(note: The original can be found at the web link cited.)
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