Planning bias is a major issue, so it is helpful to show the results of such planning systems. In short, top-down planning disconnects the planners from reality. Friction accumulates and goes unnoticed. Planners are disconnected from the system feedback loops – so information is progressively lost.
Much has been written about the absurdity of the Soviet command and control economy and its inability to even deliver basic food services much less advanced health care or information technology. Many of the same problems are found in the Soviet military.
The Soviet military command systems mastered the desired art of operational planning. Its top generals and staff meticulously and scientifically developed holistic plans to handle operations across a variety of possibilities. The Soviets planned extremely detailed operations and required lower ranking officers execute the orders to the letter. To make the plan work, the command system was authoritarian. It did not tolerate dissent or unplanned initiative by lower ranking officers and NCOs.
Orders and information passed down the chain of command but not up. Once conditions on the ground changed, the planners lost information, leaving the generals disconnected from the situation on the ground. Worse, since there was no feedback, the generals could not react to changes and would stubbornly reinforce failure.
Soviet and Soviet-trained militaries typically performed very well in the opening stages of war, but lacked the flexibility to adapt in a long-term evolutionary game. Soviets and Russian-trained militaries faired very poorly in actual wars. This is not only measured in fighting capability, but in their inability to manage necessary logistics for operations. The Soviet Logistical system in the Afghan War was atrocious and very similar to the state of economic affairs found in the collapse of the USSR.
Why Arabs Lose Wars describes these major problems in Arab regular armies. The Soviet Union trained the Arabs who picked up many of the same institutional beliefs in planning. This bad idea was combined with the insular culture of Arab governments and militaries. The Arabs created parade-ground armies for show.
So the Arab Armies lost every war they fought. Despite greater numbers, economic and material power as well as superior equipment, the Arab militaries could not defeat Israel. Israel won because of its ability to adapt and radically alter strategies on the fly. Israel had better Sergeants, not generals. The second the Israelis did something unexpected, the Arabs would not know what to do – it wasn’t in the plan.
There is a common link between socialist and military planners. Perhaps it is a control freak instinct. Whether the issue is Price-Controls or Battle-Control, it doesn’t work. The flaws are the same – it disconnects the planner from reality. The planner does not adapt so his artificial and unstable system fails. The only reason to create such a military hierarchy is for political purposes to ensure the loyalty of the general staff to the political rulers. It is a great way to lose wars.
Colonel John Boyd argues that the main objective of a strategy is to disconnect of the enemy’s decision process from their environment. The enemy no longer recognizes reality so friction goes unnoticed and they reinforce failure. Or bluntly, they become delusional. The American Armed Forces are more adept at using the OODA loop to gather new data, analyze it, and make well-informed decisions.