Chuck Spinney explains our broken OODA loop

Summary:  Today we have our of America’s sharpest observers, Chuck Spinney, explain what might be our core problem — our broken Observation-Orientation-Decision-Action loop. Until we can clearly see and act, even unlimited good will and patriotic spirit will accomplish nothing.


Some time ago, you asked me to comment on your statement that America’s problem is a broken OODA loop. A friend just sent me this quote by former Supreme Court Justice David Souter spoke with Margaret Warner at ‘Constitutionally Speaking’ in Concord, NH on 14 September 2012.

I don’t worry about our losing a republican government in the United States because I’m afraid of a foreign invasion. I don’t worry about it because of a coup by the military, as has happened in some other places. What I worry about is that when problems are not addressed people will not know who is responsible, and when the problems get bad enough — as they might do for example with another serious terrorist attack, as they might do with another financial meltdown — some one person will come forward and say: ‘Give me total power and I will solve this problem.’

That is how the Roman republic fell. Augustus became emperor not because he arrested the Roman senate. He became emperor because he promised that he would solve problems that were not being solved.




I think Souter is right about the most likely of general pathways in this direction (but it may in fact be a very low probability). A more modern variation of the Augustus scenario is Mussolini’s unelected pathway to power or, to a lesser degree, Hitler’s elected pathway. But analogies can be a dangerous way of thinking, because they can capture the imagination and blind one to the fact that each evolution of a pathway is and will be unique, flowing out of some kind of unpredictable competitive selection process driven by an interplay of chance and necessity taking place in the peculiar conditions of the immediate environment.

That said, there is no doubt the key similarity in Souter’s analogy is that the people in America today, like those in the Roman republic, do not appreciate who is responsible for their unaddressed problems. In terms of Boyd’s OODA loop, that ignorance implies their Orientation has hijacked their Observations and people are seeing what they want to see rather than what is. The mass media is complicit in this hijacking. When Orientation trumps Observation, problems will remain unaddressed, except by accident. (See my CounterPunch article for an explanation of how OODA loops are hijacked and why this outcome is inevitable.)

This inevitability helps us to understand why the Rovian political theory of manufacturing “reality” is so dangerous; and it is also why the soothing nature of Obama’s political practices and persona (which also work to protect the oligarchy of American deep state) may be equally dangerous over the long term. One fans the fires of discontent while the other reinforces and perpetuates the deeper forces causing that discontent. Sooner or later things will go boom, and the coming election will do nothing to change the direction of that trajectory, no matter who wins.

Update: a visual description of the OODA loop

Chart 3 from John R. Boyd’s The Essence of Winning and Losing (1996):

John R. Boyd, “The Essence of Winning and Losing” (1996)

Note how orientation shapes observation, shapes decision, shapes action, and in turn is shaped by the feedback and other phenomena coming into our sensing or observing window. Also note how the entire “loop” (not just orientation) is an ongoing many-sided implicit cross-referencing process of projection, empathy, correlation, and rejection.

For a great introduction to the concept of OODA loops — and how to use them — see “Boyd’s Real OODA Loop” by Chet Richards.  It will be time well-spent, useful for everybody!

About Chuck Spinney

Franklin “Chuck” Spinney retired from the Defense Department in 2003 after a military/civilian career spanning 33 years, 26 of them as a staff analyst in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He is author of many articles about US military and geopolitical affairs.

Some of his major publications:

  1. Defense Facts of Life: The Plans/Reality Mismatch (1985)
  2. The Defense Death Spiral, 8 November 2000
  3. Bill Moyers Interviews Chuck Spinney, 1 November 2002 –Won an Emmy as the best news magazine show of the year
  4. The Domestic Roots of Perpetual War“, chapter one in The Pentagon Labyrinth: 10 Short Essays to Help You Through It, ed. Winslow Wheeler (2011)
  5. A contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (2012)

Many of his articles are published at CounterPunch:

Other posts by Chuck Spinney at the FM website:

  1. The Taliban Rope-a-Dome, 19 July 2009
  2. Can Obama, or anyone else, outmaneuver the war advocates?, 2 October 2010
  3. Chuck Spinney describes the next phases of the Afghan War: defeat, retreat, & demobilization, 9 April 2012

For More Information

(a)  Misinformation and Its Correction – Continued Influence and Successful Debiasing“, Stephan Lewandowsky et al, Psychological Science in the Public Interest, December 2012

(b)  Posts about America’s broken observation-orientation-decision-action loop (OODA loop)

  1. Everything written about the economic crisis overlooks its true nature, 24 February 2009
  2. The housing crisis allows America to look in the mirror. What do we see?, 8 March 2009
  3. The magic of the mainstream media changes even the plainest words into face powder, 24 April 2009
  4. The media – a broken component of America’s machinery to observe and understand the world, 2 June 2009
  5. We’re ignorant about the world because we rely on our media for information, 3 June 2009
  6. A great, brief analysis of problem with America’s society – a model to follow when looking at other problems, 4 June 2009
  7. Does America have clear vision? Here’s an “eye chart” for our minds., 15 June 2009
  8. The weak link in America’s political regime, 16 September 2009
  9. Attention fellow sheep: let’s open our eyes and see the walls of our pen, 16 October 2009
  10. America’s broken OODA loop in action: a swarming attack by ankle-biters in our intelligentsia, 26 February 2011
  11. Today’s geopolitical analysis.  Let’s laugh while America’s wealth flows down the drain., 11 August 2011
  12. A look at an enemy of America, and a discussion about the execution of al-Awlaki, 13 October 2011 — Facts are less important than our tribal loyalty.
  13. Facts are an obstacle to the reform of America, 20 October 2011



30 thoughts on “Chuck Spinney explains our broken OODA loop”

    1. Not necessarily. At some point those with horribly flawed Orientations may collide with an unyielding reality. At this point it should be obvious that one’s Orientation is horribly flawed and should be repaired. Consider this analogous to an addict “hitting rock bottom”, from which they can either re-Orient their life, or continue their downward spiral. While there’s no requirement that this re-Orientation will actually correct the problem, it does represent an opportunity to fix things.

      Maybe this is one way to help fix our broken democracies: help those suffering from such reality-induced crises of faith to find reality. And in the longer term, possibly work to bring about such crises.

      1. That’s a great summary of the themes on the FM website!

        (1) “At some point those with horribly flawed Orientations may collide with an unyielding reality.”
        I think we all agree that this will happen if we don’t change course — and that great effort should be invested to avoiding it!

        (2) “At this point it should be obvious that one’s Orientation is horribly flawed and should be repaired.”
        Our FM website’s comments contain living proof that this is not true.

        (3) “Consider this analogous to an addict “hitting rock bottom”, from which they can either re-Orient their life, or continue their downward spiral.”
        That’s a powerful metaphor! For more about it see The first step to reforming America, 7 December 2009.

        (4) “While there’s no requirement that this re-Orientation will actually correct the problem, it does represent an opportunity to fix things.”
        That’s what we attempting to do here. I suspect this is a generational-long project, unless we hit the iceberg first.

  1. This also suggests that fixing the mass media could fix the problem. This is an idea popularized by Dan Carlin, turn CNN, for example, into a real news network and they will outcompete the propaganda networks and fix one of the root causes of our problems. Politicians would have a much harder time manufacturing reality if the people were at all informed.

    1. “for example, into a real news network and they will outcompete the propaganda networks”

      That’s probably based on an incorrect assumption that people want accurate news. Fox News and MSNBC don’t thrive because their audiences want accurate unbiased hard news. We want hard core propaganda, short skirts and nice hair.

    2. I agree with FM – the people don’t want news. They want to be entertained. That’s why The Daily Show and Colbert are the most successful and popular news-sources in the country, at this time. I would be willing to bet that the forces of reaction are wondering how they can get inside The Daily Show’s control chain so that they can adjust its “left-leaning media bias” appropriately. (Since reality has a left-leaning bias, that will mean: “turning it into a pile of lies”)

      If the forces of reaction are smart, what they’d do is find someone who is actually funny, and start a comedic excrescence of Fox News. Quickly, before The Daily Show eats deeper into their audience. Watch for right wing comedy; it’s inevitable. I’m surprised it hasn’t already happened (though, fortunately Colbert has poisoned the well more than a little bit for that strategy)

      1. “They want to be entertained. ”

        That’s part of it, but only part of the success of Fox News and MSNBC. My belief is that people want smooth soothing propaganda, material that tells us that our values are right and just. That our worldview is accurate.

    3. I know people want to be entertained, I just think that real life is more interesting than the fake worldview produced by Fox News and MSNBC. I don’t think their ratings are really all that great, especially for the younger and more lucrative demographics. Comparing to other reality-based entertainment I think of the Gordon Ramsay shows which are entertaining for their adversarial nature, they wouldn’t be as interesting if everyone got a lollipop and a pat on the head at the end.

      I think you could take some of the success from The Daily Show and roll that into real news programs.

  2. I have contended for some time now (circa 1988) that the purpose of both American political parties is to eliminate our democratic republic and replace it with a dictatorship. Why? Because every democracy that has collapsed due to economic conditions has devolved into dictatorship. Look where congress has consistently aimed us and you will probably see why I came to this conclusion.

    That being said, I believe that (of all people!!) Richard Nixon threw them a curve ball that they were not prepared to deal with. He eliminated the gold standard, thus leaving us a fiat currency pegged by nothing. That means that all US debt (which is denominated in dollars) is, more or less, ignorable. We can not be insolvent unless congress refuses to pay the bills. Astoundingly, they actually threatened to do that last year (by refusing to raise the debt limit).

    Both parties are clearly supporting the moneyed class. Gee! Big surprise! You could’a knocked me over with a feather!! When has this not been the case for a very extended time period (say, 50 years) in any civilization? If you did not expect this, go read, “Pride and Prejudice” just to see how much such a situation was taken for granted!

    Modern Monetary Theory shows why the Republicans, in their most recent attempt to eliminate our democratic republic, failed. They do not understand the nature of modern money, nor the implications of how said money is created. The good news for the GOP is that the Democrats are just as clueless. However, it seems that the Republicans HAVE discovered one of the barriers. Debt does not matter–we do NOT have to “pay it back.” For a more detailed (but not too intense) explanation try the video here:

    Meanwhile, the Republicans, having discovered that the national debt does not need to be payed back (since, in effect, that would eliminate all but the borrowed money in our economy, and thus be catastrophic), and that deficits are the only permanent way to increase the economic GDP, have discovered that instead of driving the US into bankruptcy (theoretically impossible), they must instead declare bankruptcy through gimmick (refusing the raise the debt ceiling). That is the most dangerous situation the US currently faces. Unlimited wire taps, targeting of civilians and citizens for death (aka terrorist suspects), failure to enforce the few economic regulations that even exist, and using the police force to intimidate citizens (see Occupy Wall Street for an example) all pale in comparison to the possibility of the Republicans in congress deciding to end the republic by refusing to raise the Debt Ceiling.

    There should be no debt ceiling. A debt ceiling, by definition, is a limit to how large we will allow our economy to grow. That is not just dangerous, it is, in the end, sociopathic.

  3. “See this link for an explanation of how OODA loops are hijacked and why this outcome is inevitable.”

    Sounds interesting, but I can’t find any link.

  4. Chuck Spinney’s prediction has already occurred, which is why it’s so accurate. (Easy to predict when your prediction involves…the past!) The military coup in America occurred on 9/11. After that date, America became de facto controlled by the military, and all things that had previously been civilian were promptly militarized.

    From the TSA doing VIPR traffic stops on cars to randomly searching people on trains to the DHS becoming corporate copyright cops under color of so-called “national security” authorization to shut down websites deemed to engage in copyright infringement without a warrant, to incidents like the pre-emptive militarized arrest of non-violent political protesters in their homes before they could even protest, on the basis of anti-terrorism laws, America is now a completely militarized garrison state. Americans today exist in a state of de facto martial law, the only differences from actual declared martial law being a lack of night-time curfews and no requirement for internal passports. I predict these additions will come in Obama’s second term.

    The military today totally controls the budgeting process in America. Any discussion of cuts to any military programs are completely off the table: even if an American law requires cuts in military spending, that law will be summarily nullifeid. The only budgetary items which can be debated in America today are civilian programs. The military in America largely controls the intelligence services (former Gen. Petraeus is in charge of the CIA) and the drug enforcement services (JSOC and the U.S. Marine Corps are now heavily involved in anti-drug enforcement overseas, soon to get involved on American soil no doubt), and has now taken over copyright enforcement, as the recent massively illegal militarized surveillance and paramilitary raid on Kim Dotcom’s house in New Zealand shows.

    (While the Kim Dotcom raid took place in New Zealand, it was organized and instigated in the United States, an example of American lawlessness now extending to the rest of the globe. Not only has America abandoned the rule of law within its own borders, it now ignores the laws of other countries as it increasingly sends kill teams and kidnap teams illegally overseas to kidnap and murder citizens of other countries not even charged with a crime.)

    In effect, America has undergone a “soft coup.” No mirror-sunglassed colonels have taken over the White House — because they don’t need to. The colonels in the Pentagon already control America’s budget, our foreign policy, and most of our domestic law enforcement policy, which has now become paramilitary to the point where militarized police use antiterrorism laws against citizens who engage in uncontroversial actions like non-violent political protests.

    For example, see this article about a recent (May 2012) bipartisan congressional bill that would make use of Pentagon military psyops legal against U.S. citizens within America. As Juan Cole points out: “Nothing speaks more urgently to the creeping fascism of American politics than the assertion by our representatives, who apparently have never read a book on Germany in the 1930s-1940s or on the Soviet Union in the Stalin period, that forbidding DoD and the State Department from subjecting us to government propaganda `ties the hands of America’s diplomatic officials, military, and others by inhibiting our ability to effectively communicate in a credible way.'”

    If you don’t think the military now controls essentially every aspect of American life, take a look at “The National Security Education Program (NSEP), within the Pentagon budget projection for Fiscal Year 2012, says its mission is to `provide a cadre of highly qualified candidates for employment in the national security community.'”

    We’re not on the brink of a military police state, we’re already there. Today, if I walk down the street, machine-gun-armed riot-armored goons can demand that I produce my “papers” and if I refuse, I will be beaten, tased, pepper-sprayed and choked in a chokehold and dragged off by a dozen different flak-jacketed heavily-armed thugs while K-9 police dogs savage my genitals. That’s the kind of thing that has previously only been seen in the former Soviet Union, in Nazi Germany, or in military dictatorships in South America.

    That’s not a civil society. That’s America as an armed garrison camp where all citizens are now “subjects of interset” liable to indefenitive detention (we can’t call it ‘arrest’ because there are no charges) and summary execution without cause or explanation.

  5. A lot of the online chatters (especially by preppers) seem to think (hope?) the future goes like this… collapse, followed by anarchy, followed by the establishment of tiny fiefdoms under their own control. History shows collapse, followed by martial law, followed by very long periods of unrelenting repression and suppression, followed by a picking over of the remains by any group which happens by…

    But, are we at the point of the Princeps? While history is generally recurring, it is seldom explicitly recurring… so, at risk of being too literal, I think the next step will be revealed when we meet our Sulla. Most will see him as a hero, but some will see him for what he is… another step on the way down.

    1. Frank raises a good point, worth discussing at length.

      Under stress many American have retreated into end-time fantasy, modifying Christian eschatological (about the end-times) mythology to suit their needs. Much of this runs to imagining utopias. Resiliant local communities of hard-work honest neighbors (unlike the more plausible Mad Max scenarios). Even Christians induldge in wordly fantasies of worldly ends and beginnings (modeled after Noah). Larry Burkett’s books are a pure expression of this. Most are economic collapses, but Solar Flare (1997) is a pure expression (billions die, leaving the remnant to construct a pure society).

      These serve an important purpose by diminishing cognitive dissonance. Awareness of the danger creates a need to act, which we can defuse through belief in fantasy.

  6. Pingback: Financial Crisis update – a must read!! | Faith + Hope + Love

  7. i don’t believe Daemon and Freedom, novels by Daniel Suarez, have been discussed on this site. The author brings up the corruption and militarization of our society and resolves it by giving the common man super powers through technologic innovations. In the end, the common people of course win in a shoot’em out finale reminiscent of the ending in the movie, Independence Day. Fiction of course, entertaining and silly at times, but interesting that the author is bringing the concerns discussed here to the main stream world. But one of the functions of art is to bring attention to real world problems. Witness Kathe Kollwitz and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird.

  8. The logic of OODA seems to be based on the highly questionable assumption that the decision-makers orientation is actually able, in certain situations, to touch reality in some way. But what if this is not the case, what if all of our reasoning ability must necessarily be circular because of certain limits to knowledge and to the grasping of truth​?

    If we can only end up speaking in metaphors than don’t we, in our political thinking have to assign priority to the importance of process over substance?

    There always seems to be a gap between how we reason and how we judge—with circularity able to close this gap by reshaping our premises in light of the directions and ends of action we wish to pursue.

    The problem may be our quest for certainty.

    We may be in a transition from a regime of uncertainty to a regime of certainty—with all of its catastrophic consequences.


    1. Interesting… So an OODA loop, while grossly inaccurate, could give someone a tactical advantage over an opponent if their orientation is marginally better than their opponents. While a properly function OODA loop should correct inaccurate assumptions over time, success over the (less worthy) opponent could lead to the conceit that the original assumptions were, in fact good.

      This would seam to be the situation with the current crop of neo-con politicians and their associated neo-liberal economist. When traditional liberal politicians stumbled and Keynesian economics failed, the neo-x types came in and changed the scene…

      But now the neo-x types have not only stumbled, but have fallen flat on their faces! Why hasn’t their OODA loop improved? Well, perhaps they attained preeminence too quickly and lacked the time to hone their actions, or perhaps it’s something much deeper. Perhaps, at the core of their Orientation is the belief that they CANNOT BE WRONG! and if Observations show them to be wrong, then the Observations must be inaccurate, because they CANNOT BE WRONG!

  9. I’m afraid Frank’s analysis sounds accurate. The best solution for people convinced that America is going to collapse in the foreseeable future involves emigration. Of course, it’s always remotely possible that America is undergoing a temporary episode of totalitarian mania: the examples here would be Germany or Japan from the 1930s to the 1940s. The problem with that forecast is that both those societies were defeated decisively by a relatively benevolent external power which then occupied the countries and forced them to restore their democratic institutions.

    It seems highly unlikely that America will be defeated decisively by any benevolent external power which then occupies us with troops and forces us to restore our basic institutions like a functional legislature (now absent), a chief executive with limited non-dictatorial powers (now absent), a court system which respects the law and functions effectively (now absent), a police force which obeys the rule of law (i.e., no civil asset forfeiture, and so on), and a political system which isn’t a snakepit of corruption (now absent).

    It seems more likely that the post-collapse future of America involves something like the former Soviet republics (the “-stans”) which split off from the main empire and rapidly degenerated into orgies of corruption and repression. Particularly if you’re a young person in America, the best advice today would be to get a superb college eduction by loading up on hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt at an Ivy League universe, then leave America permanently for some other first-world country.

    Chuck Spinney, unless I’m mistaken, now lives outside the United States. He appears to have made the smart move and abandoned our dying society. I may well soon follow suit. Other notable Americans seem similarly inclined. Steve Wozniak, one of the inventors of the personal computer revolution, recently applied for Australian citizenship because he’s sick of the technological backwardness of Shithole America and is enthused about the new gigabit internet nationwide fiber-to-the-home rollout in Australia:

    “Despite his status as a technology icon, Mr Wozniak said he was not connected to a broadband service in his home in California, classing the options available to him as a ‘monopoly.’ ‘There’s only one set of wires to be on and I’m not going to pull strings to get them to do something special for me,’ he said …. ‘I’ve sat with our FCC commissioner and told him that story in his office, but it’s not going to happen. We just don’t have the political idea to bring broadband to all the people who are 1 kilometer too far away.'”

    Source: “Wozniak likes NBN so much, he’s applying for citizenship,” Financial Review, 25 September, 2012.

    The corruption and collapse of American society is now creating a vicious cycle in which American infrastructure is falling increasingly far behind the rest of the world because of bribery and monopolies and crony-capitalist payoffs, which then slow U.S. R&D development and economic growth so badly that it causes further lag behind the rest of the world’s technology, which in turn forces the American crony-capitalism monopolies to raise their prices in order make up for the lost profit as people increasingly abandon American-made technology for better foreign technology. And in those cases like internet access where better foreign technology isn’t available, Americans increasingly abandon it entirely in favor of free wifi, or, in the case of wildly overpriced American cable TV, bittorrent downloading.

    * Americans pay four times as much as the French for an Internet triple-play package—phone, cable TV and Internet—at an average of $160 per month versus $38 per month.
    * The French get global free calling and worldwide live television. Their Internet is also 10 times faster at downloading information and 20 times faster uploading it.
    * America has gone from #1 in Internet speed (when we invented it) to 29th in the world and falling.
    * Bulgaria is among the countries with faster Internet service.
    * Americans pay 38 times as much as the Japanese for Internet data.

    Source: “Why Your Phone, Cable & Internet Bills Cost So Much,” Yahoo news, 24 September 2012.

    Projecting this trend into the future, you can see that in another 30 or 40 years, America will bear the same relationship to the rest of the world that Uzbekistan or Kazakhstan does today. The smart move for Americans, particularly young Americans, is to leave now rather than wait for the inevitable decline into a hopelessly backward and corrupt kleptocracy.

  10. Although Chuck spends a fair amount of time bobbing around on his boat, he is a US citizen and maintains a residence in this country.

  11. Meanwhile, the United States government has now declared Julian Assange an “enemy of the state,” placing him in the same category as Al Qaeda.

    If anyone has any doubts that this means the military-prison-surveillance-torture complex has assumed total control in America, there’s a simple test:

    If, a few months from now, when the sequestration legislation becomes active, the U.S. military suffers its share of required budget cuts along with the rest of the government, then I’m wrong and a fool. The military is not in control of America.

    But if, on the other hand, when the sequestration laws come into effect, our military suddenly finds itself mysteriously exempt from these laws and suffers no budget cuts, then I’m right and we will know that the American military actually controls the United States.

    I’m willing to bet that the U.S. military is now above the law and untouchable and that money will not in fact be sequestered from the American military budget.

    Any takers?

  12. I find it somewhat terrifying that Justice Souter (who certainly qualifies as part of the elite) basically described the whole “removing the burden of self-government from our shoulders” scenario that Fabius has so well described time after time. The descent won’t be like in the movies, our Caesar will be someone who promises to “fix all our problems” if give him absolute power. If the severity of our current dysfunction registers at his level there may yet still be hope/time.

  13. Another way of putting “crashing into reality” is:

    “For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled”. Richard P Feynman, re the Challenger disaster.

    Swap ‘strategy’ (or policy) for ‘technology’ and we have the current World in all its glory, political, financial, military, strategy .. et al.

    But, one thing you have to remember, if you follow Thatcher’s famous maxim “there is no society, we are all individuals”, then what is disasterous for your society (or even the World) may be ok for you personally, especially if you are sociopath.

    I always took this (now called ‘neo-liberalism’) dictum as a definition of a society of sociopaths. Though because not everyone is that, it means you inevitably end up with a society ruled by sociopaths. Since if you waste your time ‘trying to do the right thing’ you will be out competed by a sociopath, who is only focused on what is right for them .. now.

    As sociopaths gain the levers of power, then they will become psychopaths. Note there is no psychological difference only behavioural. What we label as psychopaths are those that kill, directly or indirectly. Any sociopath will kill if they think they can get away with it. Once they are powerful enough, then they will.

    Some have categorised quite a few recent US and UK leaders as sociopaths, of the ‘charming’ type. In each case, as soon as they could get away with it, they killed people. Oh at first remove by ordering war, but if you get your jollys doing that then it is the safest way personally.

    Now you get to the point where you in the US have a President who, every week, selects those who will die … personally. And, he has been doing this for years.

    I leave it to others to speculate about the personality type who could keep doing it.

    But once we went down this route then it became a positive feedback mechanism. You create an environment where sociopaths would dominate, then they fought hard to create an even more conducive environment for them. Until you have, well our society. No one at the top end ever gets punished and can do anything, if you are at the bottom then you have ‘ a giant boot crushing you forever’.

    Sociopaths promote sociopaths. I’ve seen this happen. So once the top is dominated, then the next level get filled up .. then the next and so on. This seems counter intuitive, but in fact sociopaths prefer other sociopaths in positions of power. They don’t trust them of course, but they understand them.

    Their worst enemy (in their minds) is the honourable person, especially if they competent. Sociopaths will actually unite (temporarily of course) to destroy such people.

    Collectively, if there is enough in positions of power, they will destroy everything that is good and decent and effective. A wasteland is their legacy. And, if they are dominant in a powerful society, then that wasteland will cover a lot of other places.

    1. “Thatcher’s famous maxim ‘there is no society, we are all individuals’”

      There are two important aspects to this Janus-like quote.

      First, it’s a misquote. Here is what she actually said, from the transcript of an interview on 23 September 1987 with Douglas Keay:

      “There is no such thing as society. There is living tapestry of men and women and people and the beauty of that tapestry and the quality of our lives will depend upon how much each of us is prepared to take responsibility for ourselves and each of us prepared to turn round and help by our own efforts those who are unfortunate.”

      Second, it’s an accurate statement of an increasingly common belief in America. We see this in the decay of our means of collective action: voluntary organizations, of unions, and widespread contempt for government — both as a actual entity and even in theory as a positive force in society.

      Our ruling elites must laugh at our stupidity, for this renders us weak. Meanwhile they build vast organizations to implement their will. Reshaping existing organizations — such as CATO, the GOP, and the national Chamber of Commerce — into advocates for their interests. Building think-tanks to advance their interests. Creating networking opportunities for them to better understand their common interests, forge social ties, and coordinate their activities. They understand collective action quite well.

  14. Because I hadn’t heard the expression before, I linked to the phrase “Deep state” listed up in the body of this article and found this entry which is of interest: “The American Deep State“, John Glaswer, AntiWar, 27 May 2011.

    Re Margaret Thatcher:

    In 1974 I was sitting in blistering heat in San Antonio with a friend who had recently immigrated from London. A tall attractive woman in a tweed suit and oxfords sat down near by. “British?” I asked. She was Margaret Thatcher’s secretary. At the time, Thatcher was head of the Conservative Party and several years away from being Prime Minister. The woman had been sent on a one month tour by herself to get to know the United States. My London friend later explained that Thatcher’s “secretary” meant that she was essentially Thatcher’s chief of staff and that she didn’t work directly for Thatcher but was a civil servant. Basically an apolitical position, serving the Crown.
    FM Note: Excerpt from Glaswer’s article:

    Osama bin Laden was killed in “posh Islamabad suburb” where he lived for six years and, as Eli Lake recently wrote in The New Republic, “almost certainly relied on” some elements of Pakistan’s military and intelligence apparatus to do so safely and secretly. This process was enabled by what Lake calls Pakistan’s “deep state.” That is, Pakistan’s national security bureaucracy is sufficiently muscled and autonomous to work relatively independently of Pakistani political leaders.

    He describes Pakistan’s deep state like so: “a network of current and retired intelligence and military officers who are actively undermining the official policy of Pakistan’s government.” What Lake’s article astoundingly misses is that this seems a perfect description of the situation here in the U.S. Neoconservatives like Lake have found it extremely difficult to comprehend when condemning other nations for profound evils or institutional failures: for them it is a grave and reproachful wrong, even threat, while our exact behavior or mishap is either forgiven by default, or utterly imperceptible, as seems to be the case with Lake.

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