FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

How Drones Destroy Their Own OODA Loops

by FRANKLIN C. SPINNEY

Gaeta, Italia 

This report by independent journalist Gareth Porter is extremely important.  Porter, one of our finest investigative journalists, highlights one of the central problems in drone warfare:  How imperfect feedback loops drive our perceptions of effectiveness and thereby distort our decisions regarding regarding the  follow on strike operations in the drone campaign.

The result is a self-referencing phenomenon known among Pentagon reformers as incestuous amplification. The process is quite simple: Imperfect feedback distorts the Observations flowing into the Orientation of the Observation – Orientation – Decision – Action (OODA) loops of the strategists and decision makers who are making the tactical and strategic decisions regarding future drone strikes.  This disconnects the entire decision process from reality, because Orientation is the analytic/synthetic activity in the mind that makes sense out of the Observations, including the feedback on a strike’s effectiveness.  The disconnect of Observations from Reality allows preconceptions and belief systems  to hijack the synthetic function of Orientation.  This produces a kind of ideologically-based self-delusion that biases the analyses leading to tactical and strategic decisions.  Put bluntly, the decision maker sees what he or she “wants” to see rather than “what is,” and acts accordingly.  The decision-making result is almost always a decision to do “more of the same,” thereby amplifying the mismatch further.

Without explicitly saying so, Porter has provided us a case study on how the entire strategic decision process has folded inward on itself, and in so doing, has disconnected the flow of decisions from the unfolding reality.  But there is more.   Porter describes how that disconnect has flowed out of the White House, the CIA, and Pentagon into the Orientation of the think tanks and the mass media, and by implication, into the collective mind of the population at large.  The delusional power of this incestuously amplifying OODA Loop is one reason why apparachiks in the White House, the CIA, and the Pentagon are telling reporters that drone warfare is the “only game in town.”  They literally can not think of anything else.  Fighter pilots have a term for the death spiral created by this mental state: they are out of altitude, airspeed, and ideas.

And, so it is not at all surprising that Porter shows how the only game in town is producing a series of tactical and strategic blunders — i.e., killing of innocent civilians and children.  These blunders will increase the resolve of our adversaries and blow back to violate the criteria of a sensible grand strategy.

This self-inflicted wound is feeding a still expanding strategic and grand strategic debacle that any student of the seminal work by the American strategist, Colonel John Boyd  would recognize in an instant.  (Readers interested in learning more about Boyd grand strategic, strategic, and tactical theories will find a compendium of his briefing papers here.)

A debacle is now inevitable, because, as Boyd demonstrated beyond a shadow of doubt, our decision makers have made precisely the kind of disconnect in their own OODA loops that they should be trying to inflict on their adversary’ OODA loops — and in so doing are writing themselves a prescription for increasing disorientation, which will increase the confusion and disorder among the drones making these decisions, resulting inevitably in a failure at the tactical and strategic levels of the so-called counter-terror war.

Franklin “Chuck” Spinney is a former military analyst for the Pentagon and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. He be reached at chuck_spinney@mac.com

COMING IN SEPTEMBER

A Special Memorial Issue of CounterPunch

Featuring recollections of Alexander Cockburn from Jeffrey St. Clair, Peter Linebaugh, Paul Craig Roberts, Noam Chomsky, Mike Whitney, Doug Peacock, Perry Anderson, Becky Grant, Dennis Kucinich, Michael Neumann, Susannah Hecht, P. Sainath, Ben Tripp, Alison Weir, James Ridgeway, JoAnn Wypijewski, John Strausbaugh, Pierre Sprey, Carolyn Cooke, Conn Hallinan, James Wolcott, Laura Flanders, Ken Silverstein, Tariq Ali and many others …

Subscribe to CounterPunch Today to Reserve Your Copy


Franklin “Chuck” Spinney is a former military analyst for the Pentagon and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. He be reached at chuck_spinney@mac.com

May 03, 2016
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Resumé: What the Record Shows
Michèle Brand – Arun Gupta
What is the “Nuit Debout”?
Chuck Churchill
The Failures of Capitalism, Donald Trump and Right Wing Terror
Dave Marsh
Bernie and the Greens
John Wight
Zionism Should be on Trial, Not Ken Livingstone
Rev. John Dear
A Dweller in Peace: the Life and Times of Daniel Berrigan
Patrick Cockburn
Saudi Arabia’s Great Leap Forward: What Would Mao Think?
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Electoral Votes Matter: Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders vs Donald Trump
Chris Gilbert
Venezuela Today: This Must Be Progress
Pepe Escobar
The Calm Before the Coming Global Storm
Ruth Fowler
Intersecting with the Identity Police (Or Why I Stopped Writing Op-Eds)
Victor Lasa
The Battle Rages on in Spain: the Country Prepares for Repeat Elections in June
Jack Rasmus
Is the US Economy Heading for Recession?
Dean Baker
Time for an Accountable Federal Reserve
Ted Rall
Working for US Gov Means Never Saying Sorry
John Eskow
The Death of Prince and the Death of Lonnie Mack
May 02, 2016
Michael Hudson – Gordon Long
Wall Street Has Taken Over the Economy and is Draining It
Paul Street
The Bernie Fade Begins
Ron Jacobs
On the Frontlines of Peace: the Life of Daniel Berrigan
Louis Yako
Dubai Transit
Bill Quigley
Teacher, Union Leader, Labor Lawyer: Profile of Chris Williams Social Justice Advocate
Patrick Cockburn
Into the Green Zone: Iraq’s Disintegrating Political System
Lawrence Ware
Trump is the Presidential Candidate the Republicans Deserve
Ron Forthofer
Just Say No to Corporate Rule
Ralph Nader
The Long-Distance Rebound of Bernie Sanders
Ken Butigan
Remembering Daniel Berrigan, with Gratitude
Nicolas J S Davies
Escalating U.S. Air Strikes Kill Hundreds of Civilians in Mosul, Iraq
Binoy Kampmark
Class, Football, and Blame: the Hillsborough Disaster Inquest
George Wuerthner
The Economic Value of Yellowstone National Park
Rivera Sun
Celebrating Mother Jones
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir and Postcolonialism
Mairead Maguire
Drop the Just War Theory
Weekend Edition
April 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Peter Linebaugh
Marymount, Haymarket, Marikana: a Brief Note Towards ‘Completing’ May Day
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
Richard Falk
If Obama Visits Hiroshima
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail