Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Shloky has an excellent series of data points from Boyd 2007:

Osinga On Boydian Influences
Boydian Maxims
Gudmundsson On The ANG
Lind On Barnett and IR
Hammes On 5GW
Hoffman On Modern/Future COIN

A review from reader Isaac, which he helpfully posted in my comments section ( Isaac should get a blog ).

"Additional notes and such by presenter:


I found it surprising that, according to Osinga, Boyd hadn’t used a slide of the OODA loop until 1995. He may have wanted to avoid over-simplification via encapsulation. Perhaps he didn’t feel comfortable until then that his students would realize that he was talking about much more than ‘the decision cycle’, as you well point out.

Osinga also discussed the shift from the technical to the doctrinal in the 70’s and 80’s as a reaction to our defeat in Vietnam. Boyd’s quote at the DNI site saying that, “Machines don’t fight wars. People do, and they use their minds”, flows right with this and all sound hesitance at becoming technology fetishists. Technological advances in warfare are more easily countered than the intangible advances made in our minds as the former represent closed systems, regardless of their other attributes, while the latter represent enhanced, open adaptability. If we’re able to generate rapidly changing environments for our opponents, we inhibit their adaptability while showcasing/utilizing/increasing ours. This mismatch is part of the ‘certain to win’ principle. The more uncertainty experienced by our adversaries, the more we’re able to survive on our terms.

The epistemological character of Osinga’s discussion of the expanded, full OODA loop, to me, admitted of shades of phenomenology in its stress of the individual’s experiences as central to feedback. After all, warfighters use their minds, right?


I found his discussion of the ‘Orientation’ element the most salient. Our orientation is at its best when it is ‘closest to chaos’, that is, when we experience the widest range of possibilities with as much ‘flow’ (feedback and other stimuli) as possible. It is this broad range which provides for a unifying theme in groups as the sheer amount of broadly informing stimuli and feedback creates a more open system. The more/better our information/knowledge the better, and the more intuitively/implicitly we are then able to act/react with less/out thinking, the more we, well, win.

This has implications regarding ‘Command Intent’, of course, in that the better the unifying theme, the better individuals are able to act independently. You noted this as well. In a perfect version of this world, by extension, a totally dispersed force with a strong enough unifying theme and excellent orientation would be capable of truly ‘organic’ swarm activity.

I’ll not attempt to delve into Lind here. Dan’s done some good work on that and your post covers much of what I’d have to say perfectly. He was as much King and Jester to his court assembled. I enjoyed both his acumen and antics immensely.

As for the generals, I’ve little to add.

Van Riper stated that he’d stop all training immediately and get back to Mission-Type orders across the board. This jibes well with both Ossinga and Richards. I also enjoyed his example of the game of chess to show the nature of interactively complex systems as opposed to structurally complex ones. You’re spot-on in your comments. Reductionism works with the latter as their elements are ‘near-static’, linearly-related and have little ‘action’, as he put it. One can easily lose control/understanding, however, of interactively complex systems like chess. He said that after very few moves in a game of chess, the players have surpassed a million possible moves and that there are 10128 possible moves in a full game. That’s a larger number than there are atoms in the universe, he said. Reductionism won’t help you understand chess, or warfare.

This was echoed by Zinni saying that ‘process warfare’ isn’t the answer. Mastering multiple processes is still step-by-step, sometimes on a such a scale that you can drown in it. Besides, if you’re consumed by process, you can’t adapt – not very Boydian, that.

Speaking of reductionism, Zinni also said something very refreshing in the face of those that would reduce all/most/many Muslims to terrorists, ‘Islamists’, or some such epithet. He’s lived in Muslim countries for 17 years and has yet to meet a Muslim who’s even spoken of every alarmist’s favorite – the ‘Caliphate’. He continued to say that institutions in society have to be culturally acceptable as/and ‘order’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘stability’.

Gray said that we need to get back to who we, as Americans, are as a people. I took this to mean (based on his tangential stories and other things) good, just, open, smart and free – imbued with a truly pioneering spirit and a joy of discovery. He said we must educate society as a whole and that, actually, we know nothing of the world compared to what we could in truth. He also said that Foreign Policy and Domestic Policy should work to balance the equation of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’. I must admit, I wasn’t prepared for such comments from a former Commandant of the USMC – and one of his magnitude at that. We were sitting in a building complex named for him. I’ll chalk that up to my own joy of discovery and hope for an anthropologist and/or philosopher in each future platoon."

Thanks Isaac!


The return of monster tdaxp graphics!!!!

1. The OODA Loop

2. The OODA-PISRR Loop

Labels: , ,

It's an honor to be re-posted on ZenPundit. Thank you. I've re-posted much of all of our 'Quantico Cartel' stuff on Lotus at work, along with some background docs, and it's generating some good discussion. And, yeah, maybe I'll get around to that other thing...
The honor is mine. Good material always gets pride of place here.

"I’ll chalk that up to my own joy of discovery and hope for an anthropologist and/or philosopher in each future platoon"

I note that Socrates and Wittgenstein were both noted for their performance in battle. David Kilcullen should like your sentiment as well.
A minor edit to Isaac's very lucid comment: "10128" should read as "10^128" or "10**128" or "1E128" (i.e., many quintillion times googol, or a 1 followed by 128 zeros). There are estimated at 10^80 particles in the known universe, so these numbers are mind-bogglingly big.

You may be familiar with Huxley's riddle of the monkeys: "Six monkeys, set to strum unintelligently on typewriters for millions of millions of years, would be bound in time to write all
the books in the British Museum."

However, the real answer (which we had to prove in my Thermodynamic class) is that a billion monkeys, typing a 10 keys per second without pause, would take more than 10^28 years just to type Hamlet. Since the Universe is less than 2E10 years old, the probabilities of random strings of Hamlet's "To be or not to be..." soliloquy are inordinately low.

The point is the general public's grasp of large numbers -- and associated probabilities -- needs to be bolstered if we are to make effective policy decisions.

sf/ shane
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