August 30, 2008
McCain and the OODA LoopBy Charlie Martin
Man, is this guy a fighter pilot, or what?
There are two military concepts here that explain the (absolutely spectacular) choice of Governor Sarah Palin. Both of them are important to the training of a fighter pilot, and while one of them wasn't formulated until after McCain's flying career was over, it was an observation based on what fighter pilots had to know.
One of them is the "envelope" -- which is to say the parameters within which a fighter airplane must operate. The envelope can be seen as a sort of egg-shape, based on how quickly a plane can turn and maneuver. If your plane as a "tighter envelope" than another plane, the pilot has the advantage in a dogfight: you can turn inside the other plane, which means you can get into the perfect firing position, behind the opponent.
More important is the "OODA loop" -- which is the envelope for the pilot's thought process. How quickly can the pilot observe the situation, orient within the situation, decide, and act. If the pilot's OODA loop time is shorter, the pilot can overcome the slower.
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 problably the McCain campaign has a tighter envelope than the Obama campaign, as well.
Look at the choice of Palin, and the remaining tactics of the last week. It was the week of the Democratic Convention, and while they had their show, he continued to campaign, with immensely effective responses every day (see my day one coverage of Silver Salazar and the Democrats for McCain.) Then, on Thursday, the campaign let it be known that there would be an announcement and ad running that night.
The talking heads chattered about it -- would it be a challenge? Would he announce his VP choice to step on the speech?
It got to the point that the Obama campaign said it would be "political malpractice" to announce his VP pick, and that it was more evidence the McCain campaign was a "war room masquerading as a political campaign" --- on the day that Obama was to say in his speech "But what I will not do is suggest that the senator takes his positions for political purposes." Then the ad comes out ...
... and it's congratulations on Obama's nomination on the anniversary of the "I have a dream" speech. In one day, they make Obama's campaign look cheap, they make McCain look gracious, and the get the Obama campaign to belie Obama's own speech.
Then the next day, they announce Sarah Palin -- after a dozen head fakes. It's Romney. No it's Pawlenty. It's Romney again. Oh my God, it's Lieberman. Instead of the days and days of anticipation, followed by anxiety, followed by boredom, followed by even more boredom when Obama picked Biden, we get a real surprise -- and the air is sucked out of Obama's big day.
Now look at what this means to the running criticisms of McCain.
Age? Palin is young, beautiful, charismatic and strong. What's more, Biden is going to have to be very careful about an attacks in the vice presidential debate; he'll look like a misogynistic jerk, and then Sarah Barracuda will gut him like a trout. Smiling.
Hit too hard, and Hillary PUMAs they managed to attract back with the campaign's show of unity will flee in droves. Besides, the McCain campaign is all over it already. According to Real Clear Politics' Tom Bevan, "McCain senior advisor Nancy Pfotenhauer just said on Fox -- and I'm paraphrasing: I think the Obama campaign would have learned not to belittle women."
Experience? The Obama campaign has already tried hitting at Palin as inexperienced --- but every time they do so, they open themselves to the obvious retort: she's got more executive experience than Obama, and she's only running for Vice President.
Foreign policy? Again, she's been to Iraq as often as Obama has -- and she's got a son going there. Hugh Hewitt rightly points out "by reason of just her work with Canada, she's light years ahead [sic] Obama." The Democratic nominee has had his own problems with Canada in fact.
Corruption and pork? She got into office attacking corruption among Republicans in Alaska and turned down the famous "bridge to nowhere".
There's one more military concept here, as well: operational security. Unlike the usual campaign leaks, this really was kept completely quiet -- in fact, they even managed to almost eliminate the usual hints, like aircraft movements. It was planned and executed like a SEAL op.
All in all, it was masterful. We just finished the Denver convention, and the self-congratulation last night was thick on the ground. But this week, it looks like the Obama campaign's "Chicago Rules" have turned out to be bringing a knife to a gunfight.
Charlie Martin is a Colorado computer scientist and writer who blogs here. He has been published in Pajamas Media, CIO Magazine and American Thinker.