Is McCain Inside Obama’s OODA loop?

Charlie Martin makes the claim in The American Thinker that McCain’s choice of Palin as his running mate shows that McCain is inside Obama’s OODA loop:

At this point, we’re seeing that McCain is completely within the Obama campaign’s OODA loop — they are out-thinking them and out-acting them — and very probably the McCain campaign has a tighter envelope than the Obama campaign, as well.

Is this true?  What does it mean to be “inside someone’s OODA loop”?

The closest Boyd came to defining “inside the OODA loop” is probably on chart 132 of Patterns of Conflict:

Observe, orient, decide and act more inconspicuously, more quickly, and with more irregularity …

or put another way

Operate inside adversary’s observation-orientation-decision action loops or get inside his mind-time-space.

As John used to explain it in his briefings, it basically means to change the situation faster than the other side can cope.  So Martin’s concept is pretty close to what Boyd had in mind.  By the way, the rest of chart 132 lays out the effects on opponents of operating inside their OODA loops.

Is McCain inside Obama’s OODA loop? The correct answer is that there’s no way to tell.  It’s probably true that the Obama campaign was as surprised as anybody else at the specific choice of Sarah Palin.  They would have been equally surprised if he had chosen me (and I have gobs more defense and foreign affairs cred than she does).

However, to operate inside an opponent’s OODA loop, you have to do more than just surprise people, you have to be able to exploit that surprise to stay inside their loop.  Otherwise they may recover, learn from the situation, and come back stronger.  So since we (meaning I) don’t have a good picture of what’s going on inside the Obama campaign, we can’t make an accurate judgment at this stage of whether McCain is inside anybody’s OODA loops.  Back in January, Chuck Spinney posted a sophisticated and prophetical look at political campaigns operating inside their opponent’s OODA loops that describes what we’d expect to see.

My guess, and this is purely a guess, is that the only surprise was the individual picked.  The Republicans had to pick a person who is very conservative both religiously and politically or risk their base staying home on election day.  These folks are already suspicious of McCain and if they sit the thing out, McCain loses by 20 points.

It might also help if the pick has little foreign policy experience because any otherwise suitable Republican with a significant  track record in international issues would be too closely tied to the policies of the Bush administration and, of course, to the results of those policies.

So I think the category of the pick was entirely predictable.  If the Obama campaign is and remains flummoxed, then maybe McCain is inside their OODA loops — we should know more over the next few weeks.

I’ve also had some posts on the concept, albeit in a different context, on chetrichards.com: Select “Boyd’s Theories” and scroll down.

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