Political campaigning at all levels in America has become a very bruising contest between increasingly polarized camps, a form of combat.
Karl Rove and his ilk have become masters of “wedge issues” and of the politization of everything; from the Justice Department to the General Services Administration.
Swift boating opponents, poisonous push polls, voter suppression, voting machine tampering, paid hatchet jobs, dredging up old misinformation, these are the weapons and tactics any candidate must be ready to face.
Politics may have been dirty business always, but today in America, Democratic candidates must engage in hand to hand combat with a relentless adversary who only cares about winning regardless of how.
Combat is the framework of politics today, and politics is the activity we must engage in to reclaim our country.
So listen up. Today, if you engage in any form of combat you must understand OODA Loops or risk being outfought and outfoxed by your adversary. An intro below the fold.
OODA Loops were though up by USAF Col. John Boyd, one of the greatest mavericks and thinkers ever to wear a uniform. Some serious military writers today may tell you that Boyd may be the greatest military thinker since Sun Tzu, 2500 years ago.
There is much much more to John Boyd than OODA Loops. He lead a heroic and unparalleled life in the Air Force and he was one of a kind in many ways. But OODA Loops are his main claim on posterity. John Boyd’s thought is the hottest thing in military academies and research institutions around the world.
This is an OODA Loop in its most basic (and misleading) form;
Boyd’s insight came after an enormous amount of work he and his now famous “acolytes” did in the Pentagon to understand aerial combat. In particular; why during the Korean War, American F-86s performed so much better in dogfights even though its primary adversary the MiG-15 and the F-86 were so evenly matched. The key was in the shorter transition time between maneuvers (instantaneous rate of turn).
Boyd was a Korean War F-86 veteran and the top instructor in Red Flag excersices at Nellis AFB where he was known as “40 second Boyd” because he could get on anyone’s 6 o’clock in a dogfight within 40 seconds after starting in the 12 o’clock position. In other words he could win any dogfight.
Here is the key concept that applies to aerial combat, warfare in general, business AND political campaigning;
If you stay inside your opponent’s OODA Loop you will win
If you can Observe (suck in all given inputs from the environment, your senses, your instruments, your adversary), Orient (digest these inputs through your intellect, taking into account everything you know that applies to your current situation) and make a Decision (what are you going to do to defeat your enemy) and then Act (put your decision into effect) and finally follow this with a new OODA Loop and do it faster than your opponent, you will shoot him/her down.
Let’s take a short detour. Here is the tip of the iceberg of the body of knowledge about Einstein’s Theory of Relativity; E=MC2 (Energy equals mass times the speed of light squared). But once you open the hood on Relativity, E=MC2 quickly becomes;
Not so easy to understand but far more accurate and descriptive of Einstein’s thought.
But this is the end result of this innocent looking equation:
If we open the hood, a simple OODA Loop diagram becomes;
Here is an excellent FlashedPowerpoint on OODA Loops and the Iraq Occupation. It seems to me that Pentagon brass is still just paying lip service to John Boyd. Believe me when I tell you that most Boyd disciples and students are very upset at BushCo decision to go into Iraq and how the occupation has been conducted since even though Dick Cheney still may brag about using Boyd’s theories in the Gulf War and in the invasion of Iraq. Most will agree that the Iraq Insurgency operates deep inside the Pentagon’s OODA Loop.
Political campaigns are a form of combat. Campaign managers that understand the OODA Loop and its implications to politics will have a huge edge over their adversaries.
Our adversaries are aware of OODA Loops.
So what about the blogsphere Shockwave?
In my opinion, the blogsphere can be a critical if not the most important component in 3 of the OODA Loop phases.
Observe; we are thousands of observers, reading newspapers, other blogs, books, watching TV, attending political meetings and events, driving around. There are more of us than them in this crucial phase.
Orient; again, thousands of us participate in community blogs like DailyKos, MyLeftWing, Political Cortex and Booman Tribune. We digest all these inputs, we comment on other people’s thoughts, we recommend, we write our own opinions. We bring to bare a massive amount of knowledge and experience. Those memes, ideas, suggestions and thoughts we generate are filtered through very efficient (albeit imperfect) mechanisms. We comprehend reality much faster than any single group of consultants or pundits.
Decide; the thousands of progressive, liberal, Democratic and in general anti-Bush bloggers are a source of plans, tactics, connections, resources that can put together the information and choices that those who can Act can take advantage off.
A couple of examples;
mcjoan wrote this front page diary; Post-Veto Planning
Here she explored what to do after the upcoming Bush veto of the funding legislation with the withdrawal benchmarks and timelines. This is a perfect example of the blogsphere Observing, Orienting and offering choices for decision making to the highest levels of the Democratic Party, the only entity capable of actually acting. mcjoan’s diary and thread were way ahead of anything our adversaries tried to think through.
I loved JuliaAnn’s diary on the Baghdad Bloggers cited by Bush to prove that the “Surge” is working; Those Iraqi bloggers sure write like Karen Hughes
JuliaAnn and LithiumCola quickly debunked the BushCo psy-ops on all Americans. Bloggers observed and quickly oriented themselves in response to this BushCo fabrication.
I am sure political workers, pundits and candidates are reading the blogsphere for ideas, suggestions, interpretation or as Boyd would say; Observation, Orientation and Decision. This is what we are good at. Sometimes we can go beyond and Act.
Bloggers are quickly becoming part and parcel of political campaigns. Hopefully not to subvert the blogsphere itself, but rather to extract knowledge, wisdom, ideas and plans from it and eventually even to catalyze action through it.
A healthy progressive, liberal and Democratic blogsphere in combination with candidates and campaign managers who also understand John Boyd’s OODA Loop is a recipe for victory in 2008 and forever.
Here is a great source of information about OODA Loops, John Boyd and the current thought of his disciples and students; Defense and National Interest.
And here are a couple of good books that can get you started on OODA Loops and John Boyd.
Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War by Robert Coram
Certain To Win: The Strategy of John Boyd, Applied to Business by Chet Richards