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Boyd & Beyond 2013 Retrospective Day II.

To continue the review of the  Boyd and Beyond 2013 Conference, Day II. ForDay I go here.

0800-0900 Major Jeremy Renken “A Theory of Strategy”

Photo: Whiteboard.....

Photo: Major Jeremy Renken. " war is a communicative act"

“War is a communicative act”

The theoretical heavy lifting of the conference was done by Major Renken, who filled an enormous whiteboard with diagrams and notes, an address about the nature of strategy that needs to become a journal article. Declaring that “theory must be more than categories” and “explain and predict”, Renken methodically laid out a paradigm he described as a “prism of efficacy” for constructing strategy and engaged in a lively Q&A for more than an hour.  One of the best presentations at Boyd & Beyond 2013 and I hope that Renken goes on to fully develop and publish his thesis or work it into a book. There needs to be more questioning of old assumptions

0915-1000 LTC Bob Weiman ” Strategic Legalism: Indicator of Bad Strategy According to Boyd

Photo: LTC Bob Weiman. "Strategic legalism is the use of laws or legal arguments to further larger policy objectives without regard to facts or laws"

” If I had a dollar for every time in this room when we talked of ‘commander’s intent’ I could have retired on the Commandant’s pay”

Another controversial brief. Bob Weiman, one of the original “Dirty Dozen” , blasted the politicization of the military justice system under the Bush and Obama administration and the effects of illegal command influence to try to  secure the “right” verdicts to satisfy domestic civilian political needs – a doctrine he called “Strategic Legalism”. This is a kind of lawfare waged by national leadership against their own troops, defined as “…the use of laws or legal arguments to further larger policy objectives regardless of the facts or laws”. Numerous case studies, but especially the Haditha trials were examined.

1015-1115 Carlos Balarezo & Robert Paterson ” Get inside your own OODA Loop: A Practical Tool”

Photo: Carlos Balarezo.  "Just like the evolution of energy, there has been an evolution of   our institutions...." Photo: Rob Paterson. "With the world wide web,what happened 100,000 years ago in a tribe of 35 ppl is now happening globally. ..."

 “With the world wide web,what happened 100,000 years ago in a tribe of 35 ppl is now happening globally.”

Balarezo and Paterson discussed the meta-history of human society in terms of revolutions in energy systems and their corresponding evolution in institutions and the death or downward spiral  that comes when a tipping point is reached of approximately 15% their prime flows ( revenue, talent etc.) are removed.  The Social network can be leveraged to empower individuals under the thumb of old, machine age, bureaucratic institutions and Balazero and Paterson are developing such a network for health, diet and preventive medicine.

1145 -1245 Dave Diehl “Boyd and the Cyber Domain”

Photo: Dave Diehl on Cyber Domain." The tools behind the tools move mountains.....what deep strategic errors have we made?"

” The tools behind the tools move mountains…..what deep strategic errors have we made?”

Diehl, the self-described “tool-using primate’ at his software enterprise ( a post above chief software architect) gave a strategic overview of the inherent tensions in designing cyber security between providing a high assurance system ( incredibly hard, very expensive, constraining) and a low assurance system that permits user creativity and evolving capabilities ( easier, flexible, cheaper but far less secure). Diehl also explained that this mismatch had to be addressed with active defense over three time frames, human, cyber and digital with a correct ( but counter-intuitive to industry) alignment of design capabilities with problems.

1300-1400 Dr. Jim Roche “Boyd, Neuroscience and the Decision Cycle”

Photo: Jim Roche. " implicit guidance and control.....is about true

” Implicit guidance and control…..is about trust” 

Roche put the history and structure of Boyd’s OODA Loop in the context of recent findings of neuroscience  and brain research, the automaticity of some decision making, chunking of information and other aspects of neural processing.

1415-1515 Pete Turner and Dr. Rich Ledet ” Mass Communications in Support of Political Development”

Photo: Pete Turner "You have to win politically, culturally and socially....we did not test our message with the locals" Photo: Dr. Rich is considering something...can you guess what it is?

“You have to win politically, culturally and socially….we did not test our message with the locals” 

Offering a serious dose of “ground truth” at the village, district and provincial level in Afghanistan, Turner and Ledet made a sharp critique of US programs in Afghanistan that was congruent with LTC Dziengeleski’s perspective from Kabul. The interaction between ISAF commanders and local political authorities, provincial notables and elders have been marked by conflicting messages, poorly designed incentives, social distance and insular orientation to satisfying faraway military bureaucracy.  Turner and Ledet call for genuine and independent empiricism in evaluating and modifying assistance programs based on F2F, often qualitative, assessment.

The conference then, after a wrap-up by Colonel Stan Coerr,  adjourned for a tradition known as “Boyd& Beer” graciously hosted by J. Scott Shipman and his lovely wife Kristen, where the convo continued long into the night over delicious food and drink.

One of the best Boyd conferences ever.

9 Responses to “Boyd & Beyond 2013 Retrospective Day II.”

  1. francis park Says:

    Stan is actually a Col – although IIRC, this was the largest concentration of uniforms at a Boyd conference I’ve seen.  Most times, the uniformed military have been hiding in plain sight, but in civilian clothes.

  2. zen Says:

    I cannot keep up with all of these brevet promotions 😉

    Thanks Francis, will fix ASAP!

  3. Dave Diehl Says:

    Although your description is flattering, the goal of my title is to try to sidestep hierarchy, not be above it. 

  4. zen Says:

    An ethically admirable ambition, Dave.

  5. Pete Says:

    Thanks for the note Zen.  We try to get stuff as right as we can…Sounds like you got our message.  Now can we amplify? 

  6. zen Says:

    Hey Pete,
    Definitely! Already emailed a suggestion to Dr. Ledet 

  7. K.L.Anderson Says:

    Do you think Boyd would like this prediction and adjust to it accordingly?
    Ethnopluralism: a prediction comparing the ends of 19th and 21st century empires


  8. zen Says:

    Hi K.L. Anderson
    I have studied Boyd’s ideas but I never met the man. Some of his associates and admirers who did know him read this blog from time to time and hopefully they will offer their opinion as well. Here’s mine:
    Boyd viewed cultural heritage as an important element in orientation – contextual sense making of new information – and represented it in his OODA Loop orientation box. William Lind, who derived many 4GW concepts from Boydian strategic precepts would see ethnocultural identity as a powerful center of primary loyalties that undercut and diminish loyalty to something more abstract like the nation-state and I think Boyd would agree with a couple of caveats:
    First – you can also have overarching “noble philosophies” and “themes of vitality and growth” that are so attractive that they supercede not only ethnopluralism but nationalism. Islamism is a perfect example. AQ type Islamists are really supranational revolutionaries and takfiris who have an enormous disdain for local, tribal, sectarian, jurisprudential, parochial cultural expressions of Islam that contradict or complicate their pure vision of what Islam and jihad are. We may disagree with and loathe these ppl but a certain segment of Muslims find this ideology highly intoxicating and motivates them to fight and die.
    Secondly, while I generally agree with your thrust, that we are entering a centrifugal era, we should not underrate the latent potency of nationalism, even 200 + years since the French Revolution. Nothing unites a fractious, disintegrating society like an unwelcome, alien, outsider intruding and the penchant of the West for intervention stokes these feelings. Boyd I think, given the period in which he lived, understood that.
    I would love to hear comments from Chet Richards, Lynn Wheeler and other original friends of John Boyd here. And anyone else wishing to chime in. 

  9. Lynn Wheeler Says:

    Boyd was heavily involved in military reform movement and lots of references to individuals operating in their own self-interest

    Boyd would include in briefings that corporate America was being contaminated by US military officers leaving military and moving up the corporate ladder. At entry to WW2, the military used a rigid top-down, command&control infrastructure to deploy enormous numbers with little or no training and leverage the few skilled resources available (morphs into only those at the very top know what they are doing). Former WW2 military officers moving to corporate America were emulating the philosophy and destroying US competitiveness. This wasn’t particularly national culture but the result of combination of circumstances. Note that he was also heavily criticizing military and MICC on a number of fronts.

    Boyd would contrast US rigid, top-down, WW2 command and control with Guderian’s “verbal orders only” for the blitzkrieg … supposedly the purpose was to encourage individual tank commanders to make decision on the spot w/o having to worry about after-action 2nd guessing.

    However, this was also in period where there was starting to be warnings about myopic focus on quarterly results and orientation of MBAs (contaminating corporate america)

    The “only those at the very top know what they are doing” supposedly accounts for the ratio of compensation of top executives to workers explodes to over 400:1 after have been 20:1. The rise of multinational corporations also has more and more decisions being made outside of national affiliation.

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