America’s broken OODA loop in action: a swarming attack by ankle-biters in our intelligentsia

Summary:  It’s fun to watch narratives form in the media, such as the one we examine today.  Often mindlessly wrong, but each probably fills some need in our collective psyche.  Unfortunately this embrace of nonsensical narratives is part of our growing inability to clearly see the world — which is rapidly weakening America.  Observation is the first step in the OODA loop.  If that fails, we fail.

By some mysterious process the chattering classes (Left and Right) often designate targets to be mocked, no matter if what they say is right or wrong.  Though this magic President Ford, one of our more athletic presidents, becomes clumsy, whereas the near-crippled, heavily drugged Kennedy was described as strong and active.  The deeds of some conservatives presidents make them among our most liberal presidents (see the posts for “name that liberal” in section three here).  Vice-president Quayle gets mocked by people without a fraction of his intellectual accomplishments (e.g., his Murphy Brown speech was years ahead of the pack).

While often amusing, it’s a serious element of our dysfunctionality.  The intelligentsia are an important part of our society’s sensory system, the means by which America observes and understands the world.. 

Today we have an example of piling on by the Left,  a memo from the online archive of the Rumsfeld library:

TO:               Doug Feith, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy
FROM:        Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense
SUBJECT:  Issues w/Various Countries
Date:           April 7, 2003

We need more coercive diplomacy with respect to Syria and Libya, and we need it fast. If they mess up Iraq, it will delay bringing our troops home.  We also need to solve the Pakistan problem.  And Korea doesn’t seem to be going well.

Are you coming up with proposals for me to send around?  Thanks.

This is leadership.  Mission orders (see Wikipedia), giving subordinates direction without specifics.   He does not command that they solve these problems.  Instead he asks them to use their creativity and knowledge to make suggestions.   Today we see the idle intelligentsia of the new media wing into action, swarming mindlessly.  Most present the memo without analysis, certain that it is self-evidently absurd. 

John Hudson, The Atlantic (staff writer):

“a Rumsfeld document reveals perhaps the least enviable weekday to-do list imaginable.”

Jason Linkins (reporter), Huffington Post:

Perhaps my favorite arm-waving, fix-everything-you-see executive memo ever. Only thing missing is something about solving Goldbach’s conjecture, and maybe a directive to get to the bottom of the whole Oak Island pirate treasure thing.

Matthew Yglesias (philosophy major and blogger), ThinkProgress:

… the most magical foreign policy memo in U.S. history, where then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld basically asked his undersecretary for policy, Douglas Feith, to go and solve all of the world’s thorny geopolitical situations with all the casualness of the grocery list my wife had sent me.

Joe Coscarelli (writer), Village Voice:

{It is} basically equating U.S. foreign policy with deciding Tuesday’s lunch order.  Observe the unrelentingly glib note in its full form … The greatest memo of all time.  Not a parody.  This seems to have been posted on Rumsfeld’s website (PDF) in order to help Barack Obama re-connect with disgruntled liberals.

Sahil Kapur (reporter), The Raw Story:

… what may well be the laziest memo of all time — especially on orders of high importance. … In no more than 56 words, Rumsfeld managed to ask Feith to find solutions to US foreign relations issues in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Pakistan, and Korea. He offered no guidance on what the issues were or how to deal with any of them, other than invoking “coercive diplomacy” — a broad concept if there ever was one — for Syria and Libya. 

Eric Lach (reporter) at TPM:  this is an “amazing message.”  

Alexis Madrigal (senior editor), the Atlantic:  “It left me flabbergasted.”

For more information

See Information & disinformation, the new media & the old.

About the new media:

  1. Cable Cut Fever grips the conspiracy-hungry fringes of the web, 7 February 2008
  2. Resolution of the Great Submarine Cable Crisis – and some lessons learned, 8 February 2008
  3. What do blogs do for America?, 26 February 2008
  4. The Internet makes us dumber: the Bakken euphoria, a case study, 15 April 2008
  5. When did “Dude” predict a recession? How severe?, 6 June 2008
  6. Making us dumber, chanting “Dude, where’s my recession?”, 3 June 2008
  7. Does reading Debkafile make us smarter, or dumber?, 15 June 2008
  8. A guide to sources of geopolitical insight on the Internet, 6 December 2008
  9. The future, always in motion and therefore difficult to see, 18 March 2009 — About Clay Shirkey’s analysis.
  10. A new news media emerges for our new world, unseen and unexpected, 9 July 2009
  11. The Raymond Davis incident shows that we’re often ignorant because we rely on the US news media. There is a solution., 18 February 2011

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