Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
WE NEED YOU NOW MORE THAN EVER!

We don’t ask often, but when we do we really mean it. It costs a lot to keep our website afloat, and our growing audience, well over two million unique viewers a month (you read that right), eats up a lot of bandwidth–and bandwidth isn’t free. We aren’t supported by corporate donors, advertisers or big foundations. We survive solely on your support. Please, drop us a few dollars if you have the means.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Can Obama Put Down the Brie and Opt for Real Change?

by CHUCK SPINNEY

Chaliventures, lying in Fethiye, Turkey.

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 been taken 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. To this end, in the 1980s, the military reformers 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.

Incestuous Amplification is a common phenomenon in Versailles. It occurs when the preconceptions in the decider’s Orientation (which 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 overtime in response to changes in the interaction between the organism and its environment. The measure of merit is whether that 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 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 his 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 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 discussed 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 mutates by amplifying itself — the effect is a little like placing a microphone next a speaker when recording, only much 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 confusion and disorder that inevitably degenerate into chaos or death or extinction. Left uncorrected, the organism exhibiting an incestuously amplifying OODA loop becomes evermore 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 systems 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 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, I urge you to read carefully this recent essay by Andrew Bacevich, a retired Army colonel and professor at Boston University. Then ask yourself (1) whether or not the OODA loops of President Bush and his neocon henchmen have been highjacked by Incestuous Amplification and (2) whether or not the real world has intruded to such an extent that a sharp correction to the Decider’s OODA Loops is now desperately needed . If the answers to questions 1 and 2 are both yes, examine the list below and ask yourself you think is a Decider who is truly least prone to incestuous amplification and therefore most capable of injecting reality into the America’s OODA loop?

McCain (True or False)
Palin (True or False)
Obama (True or False)
Biden (True or False)

Franklin “Chuck” Spinney is a former military analyst for the Pentagon who became famous in the early 1980s for what became known as the “Spinney Report”, criticizing what he described as the reckless pursuit of costly complex weapon systems by the Pentagon, with disregard to budgetary consequences. Despite attempts by the his superiors to bury the controversial report, it eventually was exposed during a United States Senate Budget Committee on Defense hearing, which though scheduled to go unnoticed, made the cover of Time Magazine March 7, 1983. CHUCK SPINNEY retired from the Pentagon after 33 years and currently lives on a sailboat in the Mediterranean.

 

 

Your Ad Here
 

 

 

 

More articles by:

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

October 16, 2017
Vijay Prashad
A Tale of Two Islands
Ben Dangl
Profiting from America’s Longest War: Trump Seeks to Exploit Mineral Wealth of Afghanistan
Jan Oberg
Trump is Moving Toward War With Iran
Thomas S. Harrington
The Baseless Myth of the Poor, Propagandized Catalans
Steve Brown
When a Radio Host Interviews a War Criminal, Is It Churlish to Ask About His War Crimes?
Howard Lisnoff
Capturing the Flag
Patrick Cockburn
ISIS is Facing Near Total Defeat, But It Has Been Beaten and Come Back Before
Julian Vigo
The Fall of Harvey Weinstein and the Sexual Blindspot of Misogyny
James Munson
The Rich Can’t Achieve Plurality, But the Poor Can
Amitai Ben-Abba
The NIMPE Critique of Antifa
Robert Fisk
We Will Soon See What the Word “Unity” Means for the Palestinian People
Alice Donovan
Civil War in Venezuela: a US Joint Operation with Colombia?
Jimmy Centeno
The De-Mexicanization of Duranguito Barrio, El Paso, Texas
Martin Billheimer
The Phantom of Justice in Indian Country
Uri Avnery
The Terrible Problem
Binoy Kampmark
Dirty Ties: the University of New Haven and Saudi Arabia
Ted Rall
Imagine a Brand-New USA
Weekend Edition
October 13, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Richard D. Wolff
The Political Economy of Obama/Trump
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Man in the Soundproof Booth
Becky Grant
My History With Alexander Cockburn and the Financial Future of CounterPunch
Paul Street
Orange Thing: Should It Stay or Should It Go?
Ellen Brown
How to Wipe Out Puerto Rico’s Debt Without Hurting Bondholders
Andrew Levine
Loyalty to the Don
Patrick Cockburn
Underground in Raqqa
Linda Pentz Gunter
Could Trump be About to Kill U.S. Solar Industry Jobs?
Conn Hallinan
Of Leprechauns, Nazis, and Truncheons
Mike Whitney
Cowboy’s Boss Draws a Line in Sand: “Stand for Anthem or Else”
Geoff Dutton
Harvard, the CIA, and All That
Walter Clemens
Kakistocracy?
Judith Deutsch
Normality and Pathology in a Time of Extreme Crisis
Robert Hunziker
Trillion-Ton Icebergs and Record Stock Prices
George Wuerthner
Why California is Burning
John Grant
Mandalay Bay: Top O’ the World, Ma!
Brian Cloughley
The India-China Face Off
Pete Dolack
Pharmaceuticals Can be a License to Print Money
Oren Ben-Dor
A Second Brexit Referendum? The Argument of Autonomy
Gary Leupp
Is the President a Head Case?
Edwin Krales
Honoring Repulsive Behavior: Abominable Medical Experimenters    
Ron Jacobs
Riding the Dog
Jose Martinez
Unmasking Jerry’s Kids (er, Cowboys)
Jonathan Schmitt
Guns, Hate, and Freedom of Speech
Ramzy Baroud
What Is Behind the Hamas-Fatah Reconciliation?
Jonathan Latham
Have Monsanto and the Biotech Industry Turned Natural Bt Pesticides Into GMO “Super Toxins”?
Angelica Ortiz
My Fight for Land and Life in Colombia
Mark Weisbrot
The IMF’s World Economic Outlook in Theory and Practice
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail