The Madness of King George Revisited

by FRANKLIN C. SPINNEY

It is trite to say that madness occurs when the mind governing decisions and actions becomes systemically disconnected from the real world.

But in the Versailles on the Potomac, where madness has risen to a high art form, reinforced by pseudo science, ideology, and greed, all neatly packaged in compelling powerpoint briefings, transformative visions, and amplified by an adoring mainstream media, it is difficult to know what the real world really is. Faced with this reality in the 1980s, the military reformers in the Pentagon led by Col John R. Boyd found it necessary to develop a more precise working definition of madness: We concluded that madness occurs when the decision maker’s Observation – Orientation – Decision – Action (OODA) loop becomes increasingly distorted and disconnected from its environment by the existence of Incestuous Amplification.  Let me explain.

Incestuous Amplification is a common phenomenon in Versailles. It occurs when the preconceptions in the decider’s Orientation (that is, his/her repository of ideology, belief systems, cultural heritage, previous experiences, education, genetic heritage, etc) misshape the Observations feeding that Orientation. Note that the key word is misshape: there is no question that one’s Orientation always shapes everything that is apprehended in the environment, or that one’s orientation evolves and changes over time in response to changes in the interaction between the observing organism and its environment.  A six year old sees the world very differently than when he is sixty. The relevant measure of merit is whether that evolving Orientation produces Decisions and Actions that improve the match up between the decision-making organism and its environment, as it marches along the one-way arrow of time. But when the decider’s Orientation becomes infected by Incestuous Amplification, the opposite occurs — his or her Orientation distorts observations in a way that drives the interaction to toward an ever-increasing mismatch between the organism and its environment. Viewed abstractly, here is how it happens.

Incestuous Amplification, in effect, hijacks the Orientation of decider’s OODA loop by overriding Observations to a point where one’s Orientation induces the Decider to see and Act on what he wants to see rather than what is. (BTW … when a self-styled decider or change agent uses the words like “vision” and “transformation” in the same paragraph, it is sure warning sign that such a hijacking is well underway.) It follows that the Decisions and Actions flowing from this kind of Orientation must be disconnected from reality, except by accident or chance. But this initial disconnect is only the first order effect; subsequent effects remove any significant possibility of a lucky break. That is because the disconnect between the Actions and the environment that those actions purport to cope with pumps dysfunctional behavior back into the entire OODA loop, which then folds back on itself to magnify the mismatch. How this happens becomes clear when one realizes that the consequences of the first-order actions (which, as noted above, are already disconnected from the exigencies of the environment) create changes or external effects that are then fed back into the OODA loop as subsequent Observations. These new Observations are distorted again by the highjacked Orientation of the Decider, who sees again what he wants to see. This produces new Decisions and Actions, which, in turn, are even more disconnected from reality. And so the cycle not only repeats itself but it turn in on and amplifies itself — the effect is a little like placing a microphone next a speaker when recording, only the result is far more dangerous.

That is because, as any student of nonlinear dynamics in control theory or the theory of evolution by natural selection can tell you, this kind of positive feedback loop, if not corrected by some form of selection (natural or otherwise), must produce an explosive spiral of ever increasing mismatches, leading to increasing confusion and disorder that inevitably degenerate into chaos or death or extinction. Left uncorrected, the decision-making organism exhibiting an incestuously amplifying OODA loop becomes increasingly disconnected from its environment, but nevertheless blunders forward to the tune of its internal dynamics.

Without a correction, there can be but one outcome: the environment eventually intrudes to make the irrevocable decision. Put another way, all living organisms from the individual to a society can be viewed as open (thermodynamic) systems that must process a flux of matter, energy, and information to maintain their coherence. To do this, they must communicate effectively with their environments. Incestuous amplification has the effect of closing off the system from its environment, and any activity in a closed system always generates entropy, thereby making it impossible to maintain that system’s coherence. So, without a correction or a change that opens the decider’s OODA loop to an effective communication with the real world, the only uncertainty in the outcome is how long an OODA loop driven mad by incestuous amplification can last before it degenerates into chaos and is selected out.

Now, with this working appreciation of Madness in mind, let’s put these abstract ideas into action with regard to the America’s Iraq debacle.  Job 1, gathering the data has just been made much easier.  I urge you to read carefully  The Iraq War Ten Years After: Declassified Documents Show Failed Intelligence, Policy Ad Hockery, and Propaganda-Driven Decision Making and the links to the official documents it cites.  This compilation of official documents illustrates the “information” that was used by US decision makers to justify (to themselves and others) and to plan the run up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. These documents have been made accessible to anyone with an internet connection by invaluable The National Security Archive of George Washington University.

After spending trillions of dollars, killing hundreds of thousands of (approaching perhaps a million) Iraqis, suffering over 4,000 US combat related deaths, and tens of thousands of wounded and stressed-out veterans, not to mention placing a huge indelible stain on our national honor, interested readers can use this Archive to take a tour down memory lane to understand the evolving Orientation that led to the Iraq horror story.  This is precisely the kind information needed to address the crucial question of whether or not incestuous amplification corrupted the OODA loops of the Deciders who created this catastrophe.  Surely given the magnitude of the disaster, this is a project worth pursuing.  Perhaps more importantly, it is feasible for you or anyone else to use this data to make the analysis.  To see why, I respectfully submit the following null hypothesis for your initial analysis of the question of whether or not the American OODA loop went mad in the run up to the Iraq War:

HO: The Decider’s OODA loop was not hijacked by the incestuous amplification of Decider’s Observations.

Note the careful wording of this hypothesis ensures that it can indeed be falsified should you choose to test the Archive’s data base to test its truth.  This construction has the added benefit of ensuring that you will not fall prey to the epistemological trap laid so carefully by Donald Rumsfeld and Condi Rice during this period: namely that “the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence.”

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

 

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

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
August 03, 2015
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Atomic Era Turns 70, as Nuclear Hazards Endure
Nelson Valdes
An Internet Legend: the Pope, Fidel and the Black President
Robert Hunziker
The Perfectly Nasty Ocean Storm
stclair
The Case of Alison Weir: Two Palestinian Solidarity Organizations Borrow from Joe McCarthy’s Playbook
Greg Fulton
Greece Succumbs to Imperialist Banksterism
Binoy Kampmark
Stalling the Trans-Pacific Partnership: the Failure of the Hawai’i Talks
Jose Martinez
Black/Hispanic/Women: a Leadership Crisis
Victor Grossman
German Know-Nothings Today
Patrick Walker
We’re Not Sandernistas: Reinventing the Wheels of Bernie’s Bandwagon
Norman Pollack
Moral Consequences of War: America’s Hegemonic Thirst
Ralph Nader
Republicans Support Massive Tax Evasion by Starving IRS Budget
Alexander Reid Ross
Colonial Pride and the Killing of Cecil the Lion
Suhayb Ahmed
What’s Happening in Britain: Jeremy Corbyn and the Future of the Labour Party
Weekend Edition
July 31-33, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Bernie and the Sandernistas: Into the Void
John Pilger
Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice
Roberto J. González – David Price
Remaking the Human Terrain: The US Military’s Continuing Quest to Commandeer Culture
Lawrence Ware
Bernie Sanders’ Race Problem
Andrew Levine
The Logic of Illlogic: Narrow Self-Interest Keeps Israel’s “Existential Threats” Alive
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Kos, Bodrum, Desperate Refugees and a Dying Child
Paul Street
“That’s Politics”: the Sandernistas on the Master’s Schedule
Ted Rall
How the LAPD Conspired to Get Me Fired from the LA Times
Mike Whitney
Power-Mad Erdogan Launches War in Attempt to Become Turkey’s Supreme Leader
Ellen Brown
The Greek Coup: Liquidity as a Weapon of Coercion
Stephen Lendman
Russia Challenges America’s Orwellian NED
Will Parrish
The Politics of California’s Water System
John Wight
The Murder of Ali Saad Dawabsha, a Palestinian Infant Burned Alive by Israeli Terrorists
Jeffrey Blankfort
Leading Bibi’s Army in the War for Washington
Mary Lou Singleton
Gender, Patriarchy, and All That Jazz
Robert Fantina
Israeli Missteps Take a Toll
Pete Dolack
Speculators Circling Puerto Rico Latest Mode of Colonialism
Ron Jacobs
Spying on Black Writers: the FB Eye Blues
Paul Buhle
The Leftwing Seventies?
Binoy Kampmark
The TPP Trade Deal: of Sovereignty and Secrecy
David Swanson
Vietnam, Fifty Years After Defeating the US
Robert Hunziker
Human-Made Evolution
Shamus Cooke
Why Obama’s “Safe Zone” in Syria Will Inflame the War Zone
David Rosen
Hillary Clinton: Learn From Your Sisters
Sam Husseini
How #AllLivesMatter and #BlackLivesMatter Can Devalue Life
Shepherd Bliss
Why I Support Bernie Sanders for President
Howard Lisnoff
The Wrong Argument
Louis Proyect
Manufacturing Denial
Tracey Harris
Living Tiny: a Richer and More Sustainable Future
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
A Day of Tears: Report from the “sHell No!” Action in Portland
Tom Clifford
Guns of August: the Gulf War Revisited
Renee Lovelace
I Dream of Ghana