FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 23, 2017
Dave Brotherton
Trump, Moral Panics and Resistance
Jonathan Cook
One State: Trump Has Reminded Palestinians What It Was Always About
Bill Quigley
Ten Examples of Direct Resistance to Stop Government Raids
Linn Washington Jr.
Bigot Boy Business: Trump Exposes His Ignorance and Intolerance, Again
John W. Whitehead
The Illusion of Freedom: the Police State Is Alive and Well
Ralph Nader
Restricting People’s Use of Their Courts
David Macaray
Women As Labor Union Organizers
Kathy Kelly
Friendship in Defiance of War
Doug Weir
Why Did the US Use Depleted Uranium Weapons in Syria?
Steve Horn
Former GOP Congressional Staffer Follows Revolving Door, Now Latest Keystone XL Lobbyist
Binoy Kampmark
From Rights to Repentance: Norma McCorvey and Roe v Wade
Thomas Knapp
The Target of the “Border Adjustment Tax” is You
Chris Zinda
Open Letter to Neoliberal Environmentalists
February 22, 2017
Mike Whitney
Liberals Beware: Lie Down With Dogs, Get Up With Fleas
John Grant
On Killers and Bullshitters*
Peter Linebaugh
Catherine Despard, Abolitionist
Patrick Cockburn
The Bitter Battle for Mosul
Ted Rall
Sue the Bastards? It’s Harder Than You Think
Yoav Litvin
The Emergence of the Just Jew
Kim Scipes
Strategic Thinking and Organizing Resistance
Norman Pollack
Mar-a-Lago, Ideological Refuge: Berchtesgaden, II
Fred Donner
Nixon and the Chennault Affair: From Vietnam to Watergate
Carl Kandutsch
Podesta vs. Trump
Ike Nahem
To the Memory of Malcolm X: Fifty Years After His Assassination
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Tough Talk Won’t Fix Chicago
Paul Donnelly
Betsy DeVos and the War on Public Education
Ebony Slaughter-Johnson
The End of an Alliance for Police Reform
Richard Lawless
Wall Street Demanded the Nuclear Option and the Congress Delivered
Liaquat Ali Khan
Yes, Real Donald Trump is a Muslim!
Ryan LaMothe
“Fire” and Free Speech
CounterPunch News Service
Bloody Buffalo Billboards
February 21, 2017
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Finance as Warfare: the IMF Lent to Greece Knowing It Could Never Pay Back Debt
CJ Hopkins
Goose-stepping Our Way Toward Pink Revolution
John Wight
Firestarter: the Unwelcome Return of Tony Blair
Roger Harris
Lenin Wins: Pink Tide Surges in Ecuador…For Now
Shepherd Bliss
Japanese American Internment Remembered, as Trump Rounds Up Immigrants
Boris Kagarlitsky
Trump and the Contradictions of Capitalism
Robert Fisk
The Perils of Trump Addiction
Deepak Tripathi
Theresa May: Walking the Kingdom Down a Dark Alley
Sarah Anderson
To Save Main Street, Tax Wall Street
Howard Lisnoff
Those Who Plan and Enjoy Murder
Franklin Lamb
The Life and Death Struggle of the Children of Syria
Binoy Kampmark
A Tale of Two Realities: Trump and Israel
Kim C. Domenico
Body and Soul: Becoming Men & Women in a Post-Gender Age
Mel Gurtov
Trump, Europe, and Chaos
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail