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Debating John Boyd

At the Small Wars Council. A thread of great intellectual vigor sparked by CavGuy reacting to the review by Sam Liles of The John Boyd Roundtable:

Here’s a snippet of my post there:

There’s been a discussion if Boyd merits being called “the greatest” or a “great” strategist or theorist. I think it’s fair to say that Boyd himself would never have put forth such a claim of that kind or wasted time worrying about what people thought of him or whether he made a more significant contribution to the study of war than Colin Gray or Carl boyd31.jpgvon Clausewitz. Boyd was more interested in learning, teaching and discussing conflict (moreso than just “war”) and were he alive, I’m certain Boyd would be delighted with the Small Wars Council and the endless opportunities here for discussion and reflection.

Was he “great”, much less “greatest” ? In his briefs, Boyd was trying to shift the paradigm of American military culture away from linear, analytical-reductionist, mechanistic, deterministic, Newtonian-Taylorist, conceptions that resulted in rote application of attrition-based tactics toward more fluid, alinear, creative -synthesist thinking and holistic consideration of strategy. Give the man his due, in his time these were radical arguments for a Pentagon where the senior brass of the U.S. Army had reacted to the defeat in Vietnam by purging the lessons learned of COIN from the institutional memory of the Defense Department.

3 Responses to “Debating John Boyd”

  1. historyguy99 Says:

    Splendid response!

    Your post would have made a fitting epilogue to our little book.

    Great work as usual Mark.

  2. Lexington Green Says:

    Seems like a lot of people on there are mistaking Boyd the teacher, and Boyd the exemplar for the behavior of his current adherents, and a one-killer-slide version of his thinking. 

    From the video, Boyd says, doctrine is only doctrine on day one, then it becomes dogma.   If anyone tries to take a dumbed-down version of the OODA loop and say that = Boyd, he is doing a disservice to Boyd and to anyone who might rely on that construction.

    Boyd was the enemy of stasis, in thinking or in action.

  3. tdaxp » Blog Archive » The Strategic Worth of John Boyd Says:

    […] has more. « A Stabilization Plan I Can […]

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