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Getting it: Pundita on John Boyd

I’d like to thank Pundita  for her marvelous review. Not because it was laudatory, though that aspect is much appreciated but because she was not, prior to reading The John Boyd Roundtable , particularly familiar with the theories of Colonel John Boyd beyond a few passing references. She instantly “got it” and drew a wonderful analogy in her piece with one of Boyd’s contemporaries who also thought deeply about conflict. This is exactly what we had hoped the book would do – be a gateway to insight:

Colonel John Boyd and the revolution within

The book is the perfect gift for friends and relatives who complain that you spend too much time on the blogosphere. The Roundtable book arose from a cooperative effort by bloggers from a variety of disciplines and who analyze what is arguably the best book ever written on Boyd’s ideas — Colonel Frans Osinga’s Science, Strategy and War: The Strategic Theory of John Boyd.Because this era is one of unrestricted warfare you can’t really understand the times unless you understand something of Boyd’s thinking and contributions to military strategy. So the book reflects the blogosphere at its most useful because Boyd’s ideas can be difficult to approach, even for those versed in military history.

…Boyd’s Thunder and Lightning shop profoundly influenced the U.S. military’s approach to warfare. He died at the age of 70, a year before al Qaeda’s one-two punch in 1998 against U.S. embassies officially launched the era of unrestricted warfare.The U.S. government’s lumbering and wholly ineffective response to the attacks underscored that the “business as usual” mindset in Washington had confined Boyd’s ideas to narrow parameters. It took almost four years of the U.S. military stumbling around in Iraq before men steeped in Boyd’s ideas were finally let loose on the situation.

I venture that John Boyd was the closest the modern U.S. military ever came to Bruce Lee’s view. But as with Lee it was easier to understand Boyd in person — in Boyd’s case, in marathon lecture sessions and the give-and-take of dialogue and debate.

…The ideas couldn’t be approached from the comfortable armchair of the intellect; they had to be wrestled with in the alchemy of personal transformation, through pushing the boundaries of one’s experience, instincts, and knowledge.This process helped develop some great military thinkers but also limited the applicability of Boyd’s ideas. If there’s one thing that the top military command and its funders don’t like to hear it’s the words, “It depends.”

Read the review in full here.

5 Responses to “Getting it: Pundita on John Boyd”

  1. tdaxp Says:

    An excellent piece by Pundita!

  2. historyguy99 Says:


    Her comments would have made a great chapter!

  3. Lexington Green Says:

    This, perhaps beefed up, will be chapter one in the sequel. 

  4. Pundita Says:

    Glad you liked the review. I could have written twice as much as I did but I didn’t want to tax the general reader with a discussion of epistemology.  But of course the Roundtable discussions are exciting because the implications of Boyd’s approach are by no means limited to military matters. He was doing a lot of thinking about the process of thinking, and about heuristic approaches.  And this really comes through in the Roundtable essays.  It’s a gem of a book and a very worthy labor. I can only hope it generates enough interest in Osinga’s work that a publisher who can afford to charge less for his book picks it up, where it can get a wider readership.    

  5. zen Says:

    Agreed, gentlemen!
    Hi Miss P.
    Thank you again – you really zeroed in on the essence in an impressive way! You’re right, epistemology and metacognition was crucial to Colonel Boyd – here is the metapaper (one of the very few he ever wrote) that is at the root of his strategic paradigm. It was also what made Boyd "click" for me:

    Destruction and Creation by John Boyd

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