9-11: Incestuous Amplification Highjacks the American OODA Loop
Mark Danner has written a brilliant exegesis (also attached below) of how the collective leadership of the United States dragged an entire nation off its moral rails in its reaction to 9-11. It is long but well worth the reading investment.
While Danner does not use the term, he has provided a detailed case study of how the phenomenon of a dysfunctional Orientation folds back on itself to disconnect a decision maker (or any collective of decision makers up to and including a nation) from reality, thereby increasing confusion and disorder, and in so doing, destroying what passes for a moral compass. A key to understanding how this evolves ineluctably (and correcting it) from an epistemological perspective is to understand the Colonel Boyd’s theory of the Observation – Orientation – Decision – Action or OODA loop  and how the phenomenon of Incestuous Amplification (IA) corrupts the Orientation, which then folds back on itself to disconnect the entire loop from reality. Once IA is set into motion and is left uncorrected, it always tears any decision cycle to pieces form within. Boyd showed why there are very fundamental epistemological reasons for this unfolding evolution. New readers will find an introduction to incestuous amplification in my essay: Incestuous Amplification and the Madness of King George (Counterpunch, 10 Sep 2008). In fact, when reading this essay, all one needs to do is substitute Danner’s analysis for Andrew Bacevich’s analysis, take the two-question quiz at the end of the 2008 essay and marvel at the contemporary relevance of the answers.
Caveat: Trying to understand Boyd’s ideas might help guard against IA, but it is by no means a guarantee. What I find truly horrifying is that the only national leader who made an effort to understand Boyd’s ideas — Richard Cheney when he was a congressman and Secretary of Defense — has just written a self-righteous memoir that proves his decision cycle is still corrupted by an extreme case of incestuous amplification.
From the Sea
One of the most damaging failures of the early War on Terror was the willingness of the Bush administration to act in a way that seemed to embody the caricature that bin Laden and al-Qaeda had made of the United States: a muscle-bound, arrogant, crusading, hegemonic superpower intent on repressing and abusing and humiliating Muslims. The naked obscenities from Abu Ghraib, the images of shackled, hooded Muslims in their orange jumpsuits at Guantánamo, were immense victories for al-Qaeda in a war whose foremost strategic goal was the recruitment of young Muslims to the cause of extremist, anti-American Islamic fundamentalism. It is this “battle of the story” that Dick Cheney, for example, still fails utterly to grasp. “I don’t have much sympathy for the view that we should find an alternative to Guantánamo…,” he tells us in his memoir, “simply because we are worried about how we are perceived abroad.”
New York Review of Books, 13 October 2011
We are in a fight for our principles, and our first responsibility is to live by them.
—George W. Bush, September 20, 2001
Phi Beta Iota: When idiocy and ideology become the coin of the realm, everyone who remains silent is a collaborator in the high crimes and misdemeanors that occur. This is why the Oath to the Constitution explicitly calls for loyalty to the Constitution, not the chain of command, and for attention to domestic enemies, not just foreign enemies. We have met the enemy, and he is us. Everything else is a traffic accident.
See Also (tip of the hat to DefDog):