Friday, June 13, 2008

Did they learn anything?

I noticed something funny in one of the latest issues (May 26, 2008) of Fortune magazine. It's an ad placed by the Air Force. I haven't seen it in other periodicals yet, but maybe I haven't been attentive enough. The ad begins on page 39. It shows a picture of some unseemly third world dictator waving his gun along with his entourage of other gun toters (by the way, I'm a gun toter, too, so my point is not to disparage the gun toting crowd). The caption on the picture says; "How do you discourage a rogue leader who wants to flex his muscles?" On the following page is a picture of a B-2 bomber with the caption: "Flex back."

The graphic answer provided by the Air Force to force initiated by rogue leaders is to respond with technological brute force. I wondered how John Boyd would respond to this. I can't speak for the Air Force as to what the organization's actual approach is to rogue leaders, but given Boyd's insistence on the priority of people over technology to solve the kind of complex problems posed by rogue leaders, I'd be inclined to think he would be disappointed with the ad. The reason rogue leaders are considered rogues is that they are, well, roguish, unpredictable, novelty generating agents. Those kinds of people eventually figure out how to subvert the best technology.

Don't misunderstand me...I'm not suggesting that Boyd was opposed to the use of technology nor am I suggesting that the Air Force should abandon its technology. But I think the ad might have reassured me more of the Air Force's capabilities if the ad featured people and intelligence over technology. But I guess the ad was designed to attract recruits, not reassure the citizenry.

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