Trump, OODA Loops, and Chaos

Michael Walsh wrote a column in The New York Post last week. It’s a good one. A couple excerpts.

And yet, the economy is humming, hosts of regulations have been rolled back, the unemployment rate is down, job openings are soaring, taxes have been cut and black joblessness is at an all-time low. Prototypes for the wall along the Mexican border are being tested, raids by ICE are rounding up dangerous illegal aliens and the “travel ban” against several Muslim nations was argued last month before the Supreme Court, where the president’s authority over immigration will be upheld.

In foreign affairs, the two Koreas are talking to each other, with a summit between Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un slated for June in Singapore, the ISIS “caliphate” has been effectively destroyed and just last week Trump yanked the carpets out from under the Iranian mullahs and canceled the nuclear deal negotiated — but never submitted to the Senate for ratification — by the Obama administration.

Indeed so. As I said in a comment last week, when you write with your finger on the beach, you have to hold back the tide.

The truth is, as much as they hate Trump’s policies, the president’s enemies hate the man even more. Donald Trump offends the establishment on a personal, visceral level. His opponents are the same folks who idolized Adlai Stevenson and thought Ike was just a dolt who somehow won World War II. Who worshipped John F. Kennedy (but were repelled by LBJ), hated Nixon, thought Reagan was an amiable dunce and erected shrines to Obama. They are the Ivy Leaguers, the credentialists, the Georgetown establishment for whom there is only one right way to conduct a presidency, and that is the Harvard-Democratic-groupthink way.

What Trump understands, however, is what many great leaders have understood: that “chaos,” not consensus, is the way ideas are tried and tested. That if someone or something isn’t working, scrap it and try something else. Results are what count, not consistency: Trump’s ability to morph from saber-rattling lunatic to charming glad-hander infuriates them because they see it as phony.

To me, this isn’t so much chaos, as it is the president’s learning curve and getting the right people in the right slots to make his vision work. George Marshall all through the thirties kept lists of officers he thought could lead American armies in war. Of the men on that list – well only Fredenhall who lost at El Guettar didn’t work out. The rest, well, you know the names as well as I do, Eisenhower, Patton, Bradley, Hodges, MacArthur, and many more, thanks to Marshall’s superb planning. Trump didn’t have that opportunity.

Nor was he especially familiar with international diplomacy, any more than you and I are, so there has been a steep learning curve for him, not helped by the hostility here and abroad, which he shares with Eisenhower and Reagan. Pretty good company, I’d say.

Over the course of my life, I picked up the concept of the OODA Loop. It was developed by an Air Force officer, Colonel John Boyd, and it defines the lifeblood of competition, not only in the furball of aerial combat, that was COL Boyd’s milieu but in American business. I wrote about it here, but here are some of the basics.

  • Observe: This means mostly that you’ve been paying attention to all sorts of things. You know what’s going on in the world and what your opponent might be up to.
  • Orientation: This is your background, specialized knowledge and genetic make up and all sorts of other things that your mind uses to filter information. For instance, if you tell me on the phone that the light in your kitchen doesn’t work and that there is a burning smell; I’d tell you to turn off your electricity , and if the smoke smell persists, call the fire department. And since that’s my business, I’ll be there as soon as I can. If my specialty was something else, I’d likely tell you something else. A lot of orientation is experience. To use the Air Force again, if memory serves during WW II they found that if you survived 5 missions you were far more likely that the gross statistics showed, to finish your tour.
  • Decide: Make a decision, define the mission or whatever you choose to call it. This is where a lot of problems happen. It seems that it rarely happens that we get to make a decision on our own anymore. We have so much support infrastructure and it cost so damned much, that we think we always need more information or to consult or whatever. In my Doolittle example above; that’s the message to Pearl or Washington or a council of war. Any of these slow you down. One of the problems our opponent’s have (either big businesses or in the military realm) is that they usually have to get permission to act; often at a ridiculously high level.
  • Action: Do it and do it fast and then do something else. Keep doing things so fast that the opposition can’t ever keep up.

If you read that article, and the ones referred in it, you’ll know that is why America is so formidable, in business and in war, it’s the reaction time, multiple things going on so close together that they all run into each other. In other words, from outside, when done well, it looks like chaos. It also looks like Donald Trump’s America.

What is the Washington way? Well, Jessica once wrote about The Council of Florence, which was attempting to heal the Great Schism between the East and the West. That post made me fall off my chair laughing because for us it was about something else, something contemporary. It also describes ‘the Washington Way’ very well. This is too long already, but I’ll give you a taste.

There was a crisis, that was why they were meeting. Unless action was taken, then something unpleasant, and possibly worse would happen. It had taken time to get to this point. Those present were, of course, only protecting the dignity of their offices, and no one should think that any asperity in their conversational ripostes was anything to do with personal pride or arrogance, these men were, they all agreed, humble men, servants of the servants of God – and as such it behoved them to guard fiercely the dignity of the office of which they were but stewards.

So, talks about talks had produced a meeting in which there would now be an opportunity for all those present to talk.  As one might have expected from such educated and even intellectual men, the talk was of high quality; had there been an olympiad for such things, giving out the gold would have been a very difficult task; it would certainly have involved more talks to ensure that the criteria established were so finely tuned that they would be able to pick up the echo the nuance of the inference which would surely bring the prize. Still, there was not, so at least there was one less thing to discuss.

Do read it all, and see if it sounds familiar to you. How did that council work out? Well…

In this way, seven months passed most pleasantly in the Italian city of Ferrara. Unfortunately, money was running out to pay for all these hungry thinkers, and there was plague in the area. So they decamped to the even more pleasant city of Florence in January, and seven months later came to an agreement on a formula of union between Rome and Constantinople. But when the Easterners got home, they were reminded that no one voice, indeed not even so many learned theologians and bishops, spoke for the Orthodox, so after all that, there was no union. Still that was fine, as the Westerners deposed their Pope anyway.

Fourteen years later the Ottomans massacred thousands of inhabitants of Constantinople and sold thousands more into slavery. A century later Western Christendom began to splinter into many fragments.

It’s the American (although not the Washington) Way

Lead, Follow, or get the Hell out of the Way

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Peace Means Not Wimping Out

From the Colonel, Kurt Schlichter:

Maybe Kim Il Whatever won’t denuclearize, but then again the roly-poly dictator has seemed to come around to our way of thinking. Maybe it’s the lingering awesomeness of Barack Obama that led him to acts of unprecedented good behavior. Maybe it’s just that he’s decided to be a nice guy. Or maybe it’s because, under Donald Trump, the United States stopped acting like a simpering wuss.

Wusses and wimps…why, those are playground words, unfit for a discussion of foreign relations and international diplomacy! Except that’s entirely wrong. Human nature plays out in the playgrounds – the lessons taught by run-ins with bullies and fisticuffs under the jungle gym are, in many ways, far more important than the hoary discourses about “realism” and “soft power” taught in the very best schools and think tanks.

If someone gets in your face, and you break their nose, they don’t get in your face anymore. You don’t need to go to Georgetown to learn that. In fact, going to Georgetown is more likely to make you unlearn what is the most important lesson of all.

He’s right of course, the world is more like an unsupervised playground than it is anything else. It’s a lesson most of us learned in elementary school, which is appropriate because it is elementary: If you let them, everybody will bully you. It’s a lesson I learned when my sixth-grade teacher got out the gloves, never again was I bullied – because I did not allow it. But:

Our bestest and brightest are often taught the DIME paradigm – that the components of national power are Diplomatic (talking and cajoling), Information (messaging and propaganda), Military (boom!) and Economic (writing a check). DIE is okay, but DIE is what you will do if you don’t have a powerful M.

But they didn’t put M third merely because putting it first would screw up the acronym. Our transnational elite does not want to acknowledge the indisputable fact that, at the end of the day, the guy who can kill you and is willing to do so is going to win. Power is an infantryman standing on a piece of ground owning it – and the ability to keep him there. Sure, terrorists can pull off a one-time strike, but they can’t hold ground. Just ask ISIS. You’ll need a medium though, because they tried to hold ground and they all died.

Oh, the elitists who used to control our foreign policy are not anti-war. They are just anti- any war that serves American interests. We can get into a fight in Libya, with all the attendant appalling consequences from Benghazi to the flood of refugees, but only because they know that doing so will do nothing to help our own country. That way, their collective conscience is clear. In their minds, the only good war is one where Americans die for nothing.

Donald Trump has his priorities straight. He has resurrected and embodied the Jacksonian model that fell out of fashion with the foreign policy establishment but not with the folks expected to pick up rifles and deploy. Andrew Jackson, who Democrats used to appreciate back when they represented the Normals who go fight our wars – their new preferred constituencies of fussy SJWs and virtue-signaling hipsters would never be caught dead in uniform – was not afraid of righteous conflict. Nor are most Americans. Remember the Alamo! Remember Pearl Harbor! Never forget 9/11! You SOBs might get one punch in, but then Americans are going to get up, brush off, and kill you all.

You see, Americans are happy to fight if they get a good answer to the perfectly reasonable question that the foreign policy elite hates: “Why is this particular war worth me or my kid’s life and a whole bunch of our money?”

That’s ground truth, as far as I can see. Normals have no problem at all putting our asses or even our kids on the line – for America, we.ve been doing it since 1776 at least. But not to march around between two factions taking hits from both and looking stupid. There’s nothing complicated about it. Give us a cause, and rules loose enough to let us find a way to win. There’s that dirty word – Win – again, and we will.

It won’t be pretty, wars are not fought by rules the Marquis of Queensberry would recognize. Things will be broken and people will die – experience says mostly the other guy’s people and things. Why? We are still who we always were, 400 years ago there were a couple of settlements clinging on the Atlantic coast, we’ve never looked back.

In the end, Kim Il Whatever is so tractable today for only one reason, around his starving kingdom (about half again larger than England (not Britain) is deployed enough naval power to control most of the oceans, backed by almost 30,000 troops, across the border. Think England, with their warrior tradition, would be nervous with that condition? Yeah, me too. It’s far more dire than they faced in 1940.

You and I know what the Chinese told him in Beijing the other week, don’t we? “You made this mess, now fix it.” The last time the Norks tried this on, in 1950, they ended up on the Yalu, and the Chinese that rescued them took 1 million (more or less) casualties including Mao’s son. Really think they Chinese are going to try it again when the US is ready to rock? They can’t, they have too much to lose now.

It’s all about not wimping out, those missiles that exploded in Syria just might give us peace in Korea – at least for a while. It won’t solve our China problems, but it’s a start.

Netanyahu and Kennedy

I’m guessing that you have heard about this. You may have seen it, but it bears watching again, so let’s.

So, I can hear your questions. Would Netanyahu lie for Israel? Undoubtedly, but like this and in this detail, after sharing the data with the United States? I doubt it strongly. Why? It’s too big a lie, and too easily disproved. The US is considering continuing the nuclear deal and giving Europe a bit more time to get it improved. Is that possible, after this? If US analysis corroborates the Prime Minister, the answer almost has to be “No”. Come what may, a nuclear Iran, is simply unacceptable, perhaps more so than a nuclear North Korea.

The ballistic missiles, I’ve seen other data that confirms what he said, 1950 km, depending on where in Iran, and these are likely to be mobile launchers, that takes in from Poland to central India, all of Egypt, and everything in that circle. And don’t forget, Poland and several other countries in range are members of NATO, whom we are pledged to support. Those of you old enough to remember will recall it being said that the eastern border of the United States, for military purposes was the Elbe River. That border has moved east since 1990

Long ago, I learned a bit about building atomic weapons, for a school project, it’s all open source material, on the general principles. This design is a rough copy of Fat Man, the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, and the timing of the explosive charges imploding the core is very critical, which is why Bibi talked about that. This is where the informal unit of time, a ‘shake’ as in a shake of a lamb’s tail originated.

In other words, this is very serious stuff, for Israel, for KSA, for Egypt, for India, and yes, for the United States as well.

How serious? I think just as serious as this, from back when the world was young

I was nine years old, and I remember this like it was yesterday. That was reinforced when I went to college and started meeting military people (mostly Air Force) who were all in the southeast United States, expecting a war that would most likely kill just about everyone. It was that close.

Here’s a video from the 1980s, made for school use by the BBC, that explains it quite well.

A crisis as bad as any that ever faced the United States, and the world. It was very, very close. And that is why we cannot allow it to get that close again. The Soviets were rational opponents, who wanted to live, I’m not very sure we can say the same for the rulers of Iran. Better not to find out.

The upside is that this was the fortnight that foretold victory in the cold war, never again would the Soviet Union directly challenge the United States, because it was fairly obvious that we would in the last analysis fight any war we had to. I suspect this too will be in the president’s mind as he considers this, for he too lived through this nightmare.

600 Ships – The Path to Victory started on the 711

I started this clean back in 2012, when my friend Mac wrote it. For some reason I never published it. But, you know, it is just as timely now as it was then, and just as important. To us and to the UK as well, as we both struggle to find the money needed to defend our interests. Here’s Mac:

After the upheavals in the Navy caused by the end of the Vietnam conflict, you can imagine how discouraged many people who wore the uniform were by the time the Carter years were at the three and a half year point. Blend in the miserable economy, high unemployment, interest rates never before seen and you can understand that the country in general was ready for a long stretch of misery.

The fleet was limping along with limited growth and some of the key programs that were in progress (Trident and the Los Angeles Class submarines) were behind schedule, over budget and on the congressional radar for supposed savings. The entire military was in a sorry state and maintenance and upkeep programs on all types of equipment were falling away.

Any hopes that the Navy would gain support by having the first Naval Academy graduate as President were swiftly dashed as the nation realized that Carter did not agree that communism was our greatest chief enemy. His policies were really directed to the arms race and support of NATO policies. The real vision for the Navy was to become nothing more than a bus service to troops that would be sent to Europe in case of an event in the central European countries.  According to Nathan Miller, noted historian and writer “ Naval strategists charged with this plan meant the surrender of the Pacific to the Soviets without a fight. “The Naval equivalent of the Maginot Line has been constructed,” declared Navy Secretary Graham Claytor, Jr.” From Nathan Miller’s The US Navy, A History.

History is not kind to the remaining part of the Carter administration as the Middle east proved to be too surprising and too confusing for the hapless administration to deal with. The fall of the Shah in Iran, the rise of fundamentalist Muslim groups in his place, the invasion of Afghanistan and perceived weakness of the US in almost ever corner of the world destroyed most of the remaining credibility the United States had on the world stage. Much too late in the game, the affects of cutting the fleets growth was being felt all around the world.

600 Ships – The Path to Victory started on the 711.

And once again we are in that spot, with a fleet smaller than it ever was in the twentieth century, and potential conflicts (all legacies of the inept (at best) Obama administration) ranging from Syria and Iran, through Russia, to North Korea and China itself.

Our forces are trying very hard, and they are stretched very thin because the problem areas are all across the world. As I write this it looks like we are gaining control, but there is a long way to go. always we seem to forget:

Si vis pacem, para bellum

Advancing Civilization

And so Friday night, the US, UK, and France struck Syria’s chemical war infrastructure. They degraded it, they did not destroy it. Nor did they intend to, they specifically left some targets because taking them out would have caused civilian casualties, admirable restraint in my view. It is a remarkably civilized thing to do, and a beacon to people brutalized by all sides in Syria’s civil war.

There is a lot of bleating from all over the place in the US and the UK about not consulting the legislatures. The Spectator is a fair example.

President Donald Trump has received applause from all the wrong places for his latest attack on Syria. The Bashar al-Assad regime is brutal, but the U.S. government should not police arbitrary rules of war or, even worse, get involved in someone else’s civil war. The president is being pushed into adopting Hillary Clinton’s policy.

The president began his television address on Syria with sharp criticism of “the evil and despicable attack” allegedly made by the Assad government, and evil and despicable it was. Yet there is less to the use of chemical weapons than the fevered international reaction suggests.

What is truly “evil and despicable” is war.

Is it? Or rather, is it always? Say the war for American Independence, Evil and Despicable? A war to end chattel slavery, Evil and Despicable? Or to end the Holocaust, Evil and Despicable?

Yeah, no. Not so much. Some wars are just, some are not. All generalities are false.

And in fact, if the PM and President had gone to the legislatures, there would have been endless speechifying and sometime in 2525, maybe, the strike would have been approved. If Congress and Parliament want to be partners in government, they’d best get their act together. Congress ranks about last in public trust, the media not much better.

It is a great and terrible responsibility to lead the west into war, no doubt about it. But this strike arguably makes that less likely. It shows a firm hand on the tiller, and lets everyone know that there are limits to what the west will tolerate, and what the result can be,

There is never an excuse for intentionally killing civilians. That is what just war theory tells us, it violates all parts of the theory. I grant that Syria’s dictator may not subscribe to this theory.

Well, so what? Things like just war theory are a major reason why western civilization has built the world, it is what we call ‘best practice’ and any attempt to subvert it should be resisted, and strongly.

This Trump, May, and Macron have done. Good on them.

So many, including the author of that Speccie piece, seem to have trouble contrsting the national equivalent of a shot across the bow, a warning that bad things will happen to you, if you persist in bad behavior, with committing to a ground war. Nobody in the west, I think, has any desire to do that, not Trump, not May, and not Macron. But the civilized world has rules that apply at all times, even in war. Gassing your own citizens, even if they are revolting, breaks them. Breaking rules has consequences. Those consequences include the loss of the assets you used. They can also include the destruction of your government, especially if you are a repeat offender.

It is an exact analogy of street crime, if you ignore it and do not punish it, you will have more of it, as Chicago and Baltimore, and yes, London can attest. If there is a price exacted you will have less. Friday night was part of the price. And yes, civilization also imposes costs on the civilized, often paid by our militaries. Well, life is hard.

That is what happened in Syria Friday night. It was an assertion of western civilization, over utter barbarity. As such we should applaud it.

The Use of Power

You remember last month we talked here about how a couple hundred Russian mercenaries got handled very roughly when they attacked a camp that contained American advisors. It seems we put on quite the air show for them beyond the artillery response. Everything from Apaches all the way to B-52s. Seems people noticed

From Business Insider via Warsclerotic comes the story.

Since the US-led effort against the Islamic State has reclaimed almost all of the terrorist group’s territory in Syria, 2,000 or so US forces remain in control of the country’s rich oil fields.

And though Russia, Syria’s government forces, and Iran’s militias all oppose that remaining US presence, there’s little they can do about it.

A small US presence in an eastern town called Deir Ezzor has maintained an iron grip on the oil fields and even repelled an advance of hundreds of pro-Syrian government forces— including some Russian nationals believed to be mercenaries — in a massive battle that became a lopsided win for the US.

Russia has advanced weapons systems in Syria, pro-Syrian government militias have capable Russian equipment, and Iran has about 70,000 troops in the country. On paper, these forces could defeat or oust the US and the Syrian rebels it backs, but in reality it would likely be a losing battle, according to an expert.

“They have the ability to hurt US soldiers — it’s possible,” Tony Badran, a Syria expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider. But “if they do that,” he said, “they’ll absolutely be destroyed.”

In Badran’s view, even if Russia wanted a direct fight against the US military in Syria, something he and other experts seriously doubt, the forces aligned with Syria’s government don’t stand much of a chance.

The real saving grace is that nobody, not Russia, not Syria, not even Iran really wants to fight the US. That expert is correct, they could kill some American soldiers, and from what I’ve seen of Trump as Commander in Chief, they won’t like what happens next.

We talked about how America makes war, long ago, here. It’s a devastating combination when given enough latitude to fight the war, not make reporters and other such riff-raff happy. It looks like the President understands that.


Some of the British have their priorities straight. Also from Warsclerotic comes a report that a British woman was killed recently in Syria. She was Anna Campbell and she was a volunteer with the Kurds.

Anna Campbell, from Lewes, East Sussex, was volunteering with the US-backed Kurdish Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) – the all-female affiliate army of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) – in the besieged city of Afrin when the convoy she was travelling in was struck by a Turkish missile on 16 March.

A very brave woman. I think Teresa May should be contemplating why that woman wasn’t in the British army, and maybe asking Turkey just what the hell they think they are doing rather than worrying full time about some Russian spy that got almost killed.


Stacy McCain makes the point very clearly, why the hell do we care what Europe does?

If you’re old enough to remember the debates that preceded the Iraq War, a key point was the posture of our so-called “allies” in Europe. Many liberals argued that if European countries didn’t support the U.S., we couldn’t go to war against Saddam Hussein. In effect, liberals wanted to give Europe a veto over U.S. foreign policy. Americans had to endure the humiliating spectacle of our leaders basically begging France to join the anti-Saddam coalition, only to be rebuffed in the end.

Without regard to the specific issue of Iraq, however, that debate called attention to the general uselessness of our so-called “allies.” How many armored divisions can France put in the field? How many brigades of combat infantry can Belgium or Portugal deploy? How many attack helicopters and fighter aircraft do Spain and Italy have? If you scrutinize Europe’s military preparedness, you realize that even if they had wanted to join the U.S.-led coalition in smashing Saddam, they didn’t have very much operational equipment and manpower to contribute to the effort.

Consider the current condition of the German military:

Germany has come up short once more in meeting its military obligations to NATO. Leaked readiness data indicates that a key component of the NATO rapid reaction force, which Germany is to supply in 2019, is nowhere near ready to perform duties German said it could handle. The German armored brigade that was promised for 2019 is not able to fulfill its duties. Only about 20 percent of the armored vehicles (Leopard 2 tanks and Marder infantry vehicles) are fit for service. German military aircraft continue to have the lowest readiness rates in NATO and Germany continues, as it has for over twenty year, to promise the situation would be fixed but it never is. When the Americans press Germany to meet its NATO obligations (which includes spending at least two percent of GDP on defense) there are promises but no performance.

(Hat-tip: Austin Bay at Instapundit.)

Can’t even keep an armored brigade working, so much for the vaunted German army, once rated the best army in the Warsaw Pact and in NATO. They have become the joke that Italy was in the twentieth century, simply a drain on their allies. Willing to fight to the last Briton (and American). There’s an army ISIS could probably take on, even in their current depleted state, particularly since undoubtedly their 5th (and probably 6th, 7th, and 8th) column is already in place.

I don’t think post-Brexit Britain has too much to worry about from the continent. You’ll notice that Stacy doesn’t mention Britain in that story, I’d bet his reason is the same as mine. Whatever the faults of the British government, and it has many, it is one of the two most reliable allies we have and has been for many years. Yes, the other is Israel. It is also the only other power that can reliably project power around the world, in much the same manner as we do.

I also think it is time to case the NATO standard, and ally ourselves who believe the same things we do and let the rest fend for themselves, we’ve rescued Europe three times in a hundred years and that is enough.

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