Monday, 18 June 2012

Politics as warfare

One of Boyd's core beliefs is that his theories could be applied to any field of conflict, and as OODA is increasingly recognised in the business community it's clear that he was not wrong in this. However, there has been little organised effort to bring Boydian thought into the political sphere, at least within the "Westminster Bubble".

Political campaigning (particularly in the UK) sits, somewhat uncomfortably, between what would be second and third generation warfare. The emphasis is very much on the second generation too. That is to say, somewhere between the marching slowly at the enemy with musket in hand and blitzkrieg. I don't mean this in the solely in the sense of pure political campaigns, i.e. elections and referendums, but more widely in the sphere of lobbying to achieve a set political end.

That's not to say that things are static, indeed there has been a movement towards a more developed political campaign structure for some time. In 1992 James Carville was often heard to say "Speed Kills (Bush)". He was absolutely right of course, and the Clinton campaign's ability to respond to their opponent's actions mean that despite damaging accusations of affairs and other issues they were able to handily defeat Bush and secure the presidency.

This is not to say that speed was the only contributing factor to Clinton's victory. He was up against an unpopular president who had made some fairly damning (No new taxes) mistakes himself. That said, his victory was never assured.

In recent times one of the most successful political campaigns was that against SOPA and PIPA, two bills in the US which would have,if passed, fundamentally altered the way the internet worked. the reaction was swift and way beyond what was expected, with tens of thousands of primarily young people voicing their discontent. In the end, the bills failed, and although they will return there is a greater recognition that altering the internet is a vote losing proposition.

Politics is, to many, a dance, an organised and stylized activity. Which means that disruptive thought is devastating in its effectiveness.

I will be writing more in the coming weeks on this topic, this post is a brief summary of my thinking in this area.


  1. Would this make Fourth Generation Warfare (when applied to political campaigning) the direct engagement with voters via social networks as a primary campaign method?

    (Warning: 8am pre-caffeine idea)

  2. 4th Generation Warfare encompasses politics as well as other civil and military activities, and it's therefore tough to use it (even at a metaphorical level) in this short bit of analysis.