The OODA Loop, and 42nd Boyd

Proteus reminds us of history and shows us what we should see about US military leadership. There are lessons in organization, leadership, tactics, and strategy that apply to an endeavor. There are stories of leaders fighting upstream against inertia and embedded paradigms. Here are some of the thoughts in the 2 part blog article.

My motivation is simple: if the US goes to war, I want her to win. I want to win with as few American casualties as possible, and then, second, with as little collateral damage as we can possibly manage.

I think the spectacular success of the Surge is due less to the number of boots on the ground than it is to something far more important.

Looking back on the rise of the insurgency, it seems as if the average Iraqi did not know what to make of America. I suspect that many would have been far more supportive a long time ago, if it were not for the image of a helicopter atop a building in 1975 and a line of desperate people running for their lives. To work with Americans may have been what many wanted to do much, much sooner.

this battle may or may not be won on the streets of Baghdad and Fallujah and Ramadi, but it absolutely can be lost on the CBS Evening News? One would think the insurgents would need a multi-billion dollar, worldwide high-tech satellite network to spread their propaganda. But, being the generous people that we are, we have gallantly lent them ours.

it took three years of observing a steadily deteriorating situation on the ground in Iraq before a new orientation-decision-action was initiated. That’s way too much observation and way too slow a response.

This is not firepower. This is not attrition. This is, rather, an intelligent, delicate, sophisticated, maneuver-based strategy. A light, but sometimes deadly touch. Fingertip control. Water flowing downhill, into the cracks which our enemy cannot fill. … If this continues, Gen. Petraeus will have walked into the camp of the enemy and used his own sword against him. That is a profound species of victory.

No one will ever know how many American lives John Boyd has saved in Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. But it is a large number. And it is perhaps the most fitting monument to a man who is all but unknown among the nations whose children – on both sides – were saved from attrition warfare.

CRM [Cockpit Resource Management] has been hugely successful. In fact, a pilot/surgeon was so impressed with the results that he has taken many of aviation’s best ideas – written checklists, sterile conversation and actively-shared decision-making and briefing – into the operating room where many shockingly preventable mistakes continue to be made. Here too Gods have to be challenged. But the results speak for themselves… and even the most arrogant Captain would rather learn some new tricks than take two hundred people, himself included, into the ground.

Ken Burns’ Gettysburg provides a study in contrasts. There, too, were gallant American soldiers dealing with a mismatch between tactics and tools. There, too, was a learning experience. There may be impatience in how long it takes to learn, how long it takes to reveal the necessary leaders, in the struggle with the bulge in the middle of the bureaucracy, and in the costs of advance.

While the Iraq wars illustrate the pain and the cost, we must not let that diminish the admiration and respect that we should accord to the achievements made in the very fundamental and often invisible aspects of the effort.

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