Do we have a broken OODA loop? Or are we just stupid?
Summery: Three dozen posts on the FM website have described different aspects of America’s broken OODA loop. An op-ed by Frederick and Kimberly Kagan in today’s Washington Posts points to a different and darker diagnosis. It’s presented here so that we see all alternative explanations, however bleak.
The diagnosis of America as having a broken OODA Loop (our ability to observer, orient, decide, act) has several operational advantages. It’s emotionally neutral, reassuringly technical in nature. It points at no specific individual, assigns no blame. Best of all, this leads to a clear solution. We need only act differently: see more clearly, learn from our mistakes, plan and act better.
Today’s Washington Post has an op-ed that disproves this analysis, and suggests a darker answer. A simpler explanation of why we cannot accurately see our world and learn from our mistakes. Perhaps we’re stupid.
“Why U.S. troops must stay in Afghanistan”
Kimberly Kagan (president of the Institute for the Study of War) and
Frederick Kagan (American Enterprise Institute)
Since appearing on the national stage in 2007, this pair have a near-perfect record of producing fallacious analysis and bad advice. Cheerleaders for our mad vain wars, advocates for the two costly but unsuccessful “surges” (Iraq, Afghanistan), they are war mongers in the most literal sense (see What is a warmonger? Who are the warmongers?). (For a brief analysis of their current bad advice see this post)
Despite this record they remain geopolitical gurus in good standing, their advice prominently displayed by the news media and eagerly read by both decision-makers and the public. They are our failure to learn in tangible form.
Meanwhile the experts giving accurate analysis of our wars remain on the sidelines. We are like people who cannot tell brass from gold, or glass from diamond. We ignore experts who have consistently and accurately forecast the results of our wars, and offered advice that in hindsight appears prescient. People like Andrew Bacevich (Colonel, US Army, retired — now Professor of History at Boston U).
And most of all, Martin Van Creveld. Many years will pass before a historian produces an analysis of our wars more insightful than in his Transformation of War — written in 1991.
Even after a decade of war — with nothing to show for it but a decaying homeland (starved of public investment), plus thousands of crippled and dead soldiers — the Washington Post features the Kagans’ latest bad advice, while van Creveld’s “On Counterinsurgency” gets republished only here.
We can easily understand why the military-industrial complex pushes up leaders like Petraeus and the Kagans. They provide glittering logic to advance the MIC’s projects (lucrative for the MIC, while we pay). But why do we continue to listen to them?
Post your explanations in the comments.
Posts about the Kagans and their bad advice
- Who are the experts advising our generals? We know what they’ll say., 3 August 2009
- More bad advice about Afghanistan. Why do we continue to listen?, 6 October 2012
“On Counterinsurgency” by Martin van Creveld (2005)
- Introduction: The first lesson of our failed wars: we were warned, but choose not to listen.
- Part 1: How We Got to Where We Are
- Part 2: Two Methods focuses on President Assad’s suppression of the uprising at Hama in 1983 on the one hand and on British operations in Northern Ireland on the other, presenting them as extreme case studies in dealing with counterinsurgency.
- Part 3: On Power and Compromises draws the lessons from the methods just presented and goes on to explain how, by vacillating between them, most counterinsurgents have guaranteed their own failure.
- Part 4: Conclusions.
For a list of his publications and links to his other online works see The Essential 4GW reading list: Martin van Creveld