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Chet Richards: Review of The Scientific Way of Warfare

Dr. Chet Richards has a methodical review up at DNI on Antoine Bousquet’s new book The Scientific Way of Warfare: Order and Chaos on the Battlefields of Modernity:

The Scientific Way of Warfare

….Bousquet opens with and ultimately answers the question of “does network-centric warfare (NCW) work?” To reach his conclusion, he proposes four “regimes” in the application of science to modern warfare:

  1. Mechanism, whose “key technology” was the clock, whose scientific framework was Newtonian, and whose military format was what we’d call first generation warfare — line, column, conformance, regularity
  2. Thermodynamics, characterized by engines, whose framework included entropy, energy, and probability, and whose military paradigm was 2GW (Bousquet does not use the generations of war model)
  3. Cybernetics — computers — whose scientific concepts included “negentropy,” negative feedback, homeostasis and whose military model would be modern 2GW, with heavy top-down, real time command and control
  4. Chaoplexity, where networks reign, whose framework is built upon the new sciences of non-linearity, complexity, chaos, and self-organization, and where warfare is conducted by decentralized cells, teams, or swarms — what we would call both 3GW and 4GW (p. 30)

Subsequent chapters take the reader on a tour of these ideas in turn, exploring their evolution as scientific patterns and their influence on the warfare of their, and subsequent, eras. So the chapter on mechanistic warfare introduces Vauban, close-order drill, and culminates in Frederick the Great’s Clockwork Army. The next chapter, Thermodynamic Warfare, concludes with Clausewitz, which is a stretch, of course, since the great Prussian died in 1831, some 20 years before the first publications in that discipline. But with liberal interpretation of the massive text of On War, passages can be found that seem like precursors of the Second Law. Bousquet does point out that these interpretations were not made in Clausewitz’s day but were retrofitted by later analysts and generals, including as he also notes, John Boyd.

Read the rest here. Good stuff!

One Response to “Chet Richards: Review of The Scientific Way of Warfare”

  1. Larry Dunbar Says:

    "Boyd translated as an “overall mind-time-space scheme,” common outlook, or common implicit orientation."
    Sounds like an "Image" to me.
    "The clear implication is that such misunderstandings are possible again in the future."
    It is probably possible again in the future because of the misunderstandings of "GW". It has nothing to do with an "updated" version of the one before it.

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