From Forty Second Boyd & the Big Picture:
Whatever the action is, whether thrust or parry, Boyd realized that it is only here, in the fourth step – Observe-Orient-Decide-Act – that physical combat occurs. Being “a good stick” will help you here, yes. But Boyd’s breakthrough was to realize that there are three mental steps that precede the physical application of a warrior’s skill, and that these mental steps are not as important as the physical talent. They are far, far more important.
It’s a cycle. It’s a loop. It’s called by its inelegant acronym: The OODA loop.
Now here’s what blew my mind, as I am sure it blew John Boyd’s mind on a level I can not and will never fully comprehend:
The winner of these battles is not necessarily the fellow who makes the best decisions. More often than not, it’s the guy who makes the fastest decisions.
Agility. Speed. Precision. Lethality. Fingerspitzengefuhl: fingertip control.
It seems counter-intuitive.
I do not know for certain, but I’d be willing to bet that today’s Pentagon is considerably less rigid than the one Boyd faced in the sixties and seventies. But 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. Obviously the political leadership bears a great deal of this responsibility as well. We can do better. These are our men and women out there.***
Why is it that the fielded military can adopt Boyd’s concept of agility and maneuverability, but the political leadership remains absolutely blind to the fact that 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.***
General Petraeus – just perhaps – is in the process of winning such a victory in Iraq. By brilliant diplomacy, deep understanding of the culture and the judicious use of gunpowder and money, it appears he has severed most of the Sunni tribes from al Qaeda and used them as “Awakening” peacekeeping militias against their former allies. General Petraeus is not fighting the last war; he is fighting the next one. He did not arrive there and just hope for the best. He observed. He oriented. He decided. And he acted. And then he observed again to see what effect he had. And again. And again.
It might take a little while to read it all (to include a couple of video clips), but it is well worth your time to do so.