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Admiral Ackbar and OODA

September 23, 2015

I’m a member of a Christian discussion group on a social media platform that shall remain nameless (there are rumors the platform has billions of members but started in some guys college dorm room…). A few weeks ago, the discussion group, like the news outlets and other social media platforms and groups, blew up with people discussing everything they knew, and the greater amount they did not know, about Kim Davis and her actions. If you don’t know who Kim Davis is, God bless you. She is a county clerk in Kentucky who went to jail for her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples in the wake of the SCOTUS decision declaring unconstitutional laws restricting marriage to opposite sex couples.

Donald Trump has been declared a racist, in part, for his comments regarding radical muslims subsequent to his refusal to correct a man at a campaign rally who said “We have a problem in this country — it’s called Muslims.” You can read a bit about it here (be aware, if you are allergic to CNN, this could produce symptoms).

Elsewhere, David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, has been accused of having engaged in a sex act with a dead pig during his college days.

Finally, for those whose nerd titer is somewhat low, Admiral Ackbar is a character from the Star Wars universe. In Return of the Jedi, the rebel fleet is led into what turns out to be an ambush. His response to that unfortunate event was to utter what has become a classic example of an obviousity, “It’s a trap!”

What do all these have to do with each other?

It has been said that the same sex couple who went to Kim Davis’ office to obtain a marriage license, were from Ohio, went to the one county in that region of Kentucky that wasn’t issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples and also had a video team in tow. I don’t know. It has been suggested that the man who yelled out, at the Trump rally, his view that the problems with our country are the fault of muslims may have been a plant. I don’t know. It has also been suggested that the accusations about David Cameron and his rather unique fondness for pork, are the slanderous attacks of a former friend turned political rival. Again, I don’t know, but I do know some other things.

I know that even things that aren’t a deliberate trap can quickly turn into one and I know that things that look like a trap often are.

When Joe the Plumber made his comments a few years back, we knew all about him in a short amount of time. As far as I can tell, we know very little about the man who made the comments at Trump’s event. Is that significant? Who knows? In retrospect, however, it was unwise of Donald Trump to not immediately address the man’s comments. Deliberate trap or not, it has turned into one for a candidate who hasn’t exactly cornered the market on speaking his understanding of the truth with tact. There was no reason for this to turn into something he needed to address, again. He could have done so when the man spoke up. Instead, he chose to ignore the comment.

As a Christian, I can sympathize with Kim Davis, especially since she hasn’t been a believer for long. She hasn’t had time to develop the wisdom of serpents and the harmlessness of doves. Thus, when the ruling from SCOTUS came down, she lacked, I believe, a tenable plan of action. She could have sought legal counsel immediately, and found a way to fulfill the obligations of her office without violating her conscience. If that wasn’t possible, she could have resigned in protest. She could have even gone so far as to hold a news conference in which she cited the conflict between the SCOTUS ruling and her faith andFirst Amendment rights as the reason she was resigning. Instead, when presented with a situation that, to many, screams “setup,” she walked right into the trap. Needlessly. All of which brings us to David Cameron.

Some things, you simply can’t anticipate. When they happen, the way you respond is vital. To date, it appears that spokespeople for 10 Downing have consistently done more than issue the bland, refuse-to-take-a-position response of “no comment.” Instead, they have declared the accusation as being unworthy of a response. Sometimes, that’s the best you can do. When I lived in Arkansas, former president, Jimmy Carter, was scheduled to visit the state and make an appearance, including a press conference. There was, at the time, a politician in the state named Tommy Robinson. A former Democrat, he had moved to the GOP. When news of Carter’s planned appearance hit the papers (back when we still got most of our real news from newspapers), Robinson began his attack on Carter. He spoke out about everything he found wrong with the man and his time in office (Bear in mind, it is my opinion that no former president plans a news conference without knowing the political “lay of the land.”). The Big Day arrived. Carter held his news conference. Predictably, a reporter asked him what he thought of Tommy Robinson and his comments. Carter paused, looked at the reporter and asked “Who is Tommy Robinson?” and moved on. Like him or not, his technique, at least in that situation, was flawless. While Robinson tried to spin it as an example of the man not knowing what was going on, the conclusion of most people was that Robinson had been trying to fight way too far out of his weight class.

Kim Davis could have, and should have, been prepared. The SCOTUS ruling was hardly a surprise. She could have received both legal and spiritual counsel that would have prevented the media circus by giving anyone seeking it no reason to do so. Instead, her response has led to some making a mockery of everything related to SCOTUS and others doing the same to Christianity.

Donald Trump could have and should have been prepared. He may think it serves him well to be such a polarizing figure. Maybe it does. It does not serve the country well. I don’t think we can stand 4-8 more years of a left wing president. If he continues, he will split the Republican vote and that is what we will get.

I don’t follow British politics enough to guess what David Cameron will do next. To me, he seems to have been well prepared. My suggestion, for the very little it’s worth, is that he stick to refusing to dignify the accusations with a response and hope the opposing voices become so shrill people grow weary of hearing them. Unless he has overwhelming evidence to refute the accusations of Lord Ashcroft, and even if he does in the eyes of some, responding to the accusations only lends them credence. Stepping into the ring is a trap.

In the gun culture, we talk a lot about making decisions in self-defense situations. One of the more popular decision cycles is called the OODA Loop. Typically, it gets a pretty superficial treatment. A more in depth overview (which falls into the same category as “jumbo shrimp”) can be found here. OODA is applicable to almost any event or area of life, including all the situations we’ve looked at so far. Out of the people named in this post, which one(s) arguably more effectively utilized OODA? Kim Davis? Donald Trump? David Cameron? Jimmy Carter? I submit, that of the 4, the current evidence suggests Cameron and Carter were most effective in utilizing OODA or something like it (to whatever extent something can “be like” OODA). As a result, they were most effective in dealing with the situations described. It can, of course, be effectively argued that in other situations both Cameron and Carter failed spectacularly to make effective decisions – this only emphasizes the importance of a concept often applied to the OODA. This concept is called ABO or “always be orienting,” something that arguably Carter failed to do at other times.

The above examples, with the arguable exception of Jimmy Carter, point to something of significance to Western culture and American society. If we are of conservative, libertarian or classical liberal bent, we must accept the fact that many are now intolerant of our views of life and of the world. Our ability to not simply survive (though that is of paramount importance) but to thrive and ultimately prevent the destruction of our freedom and our nation, requires us to be better students of OODA than we have in the past.

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