Starting in February 2008, ChicagoBoyz hosted a roundtable on Col. Frans Osinga's Science, Strategy and War: The Strategic Theory of John Boyd. This roundtable featured blog posts from these contributors:
Dr. Chet Richards
Colonel Frans Osinga
Of these, Dr. Chet Richards, Dan tdaxp, Shane Deichman, Adam Elkus, Lexington Green, Mark "Zenpundit" Safranski, Thomas "historyguy99' Wade, and Dr. Frans Osinga contributed revised versions of their original posts to a new book (published by Nimble Books) based on the roundtable with an additional essay by Osinga and a contributed essay from Frank Hoffman (originally posted on Small Wars Journal). The end result is The John Boyd Roundtable: Debating Science, Strategy, and War, edited by Mark Safranski and with an introduction by Thomas P.M. Barnett.
A History of the OODA Loop by Daniel tdaxp
Dan tdaxp does a good job of dissecting the Xs and Os of Boyd's OODA loop and expanding on Osinga's discussion of the origins of the loop in the psychological Zeitgeist of the time. He then offers some preliminary connections of the OODA loop to contemporary state of the art psychology. I found the mapping of the Orientation and Decision stages of the OODA loop with the Automatic System (System 1) and the Reflective System (System 2) paticularly interesting.
The Origins of John Boyd's a Discourse on Winning and Losing by Chet Richards
Boyd was a master of synthesis and Dr. Richards, a close associate of Boyd, provides an interesting expansion on Osinga's examination of the many sources that Boyd synthesized his ideas from. I found this reference to Clausewitz interesting:
People are sometimes surprised that Clausewitz had a strong influence on Boyd, but he did, particularly in the concepts of friction and centers of gravity. He accepted Clausewitz's definitions of these terms and refers to him throughout Patterns more than he does any strategist other than Sun Tzu, some 18 times on eight charts. Boyd's use of these ideas, though, often differed from how they appear in On War.
My initial impression of Boyd's impression of Clausewitz was that he was aping Basil Liddell Hart's often erroneous characterization of Clausewitz as the "Mahdi of Mass".
The Intellectual Legacy of Colonel John Boyd by Shane Deichman
I don't like "chaoplexity" either. Sounds like something you take lithium for.
Osinga's John Boyd Through the Prism of Military History by Thomas Wade
The essence of:
Appear to be an unsolvable cryptogram while operating in a directed way to penetrate adversary vulnerabilities and weaknesses in order to isolate him from his allies, pull him apart, and collapse his will to resist; yet;
Shape or influence events so that we not only magnify our spirit and strength but also influence potential adversaries as well as the uncommitted so that they are drawn toward our philosophy and are empathetic toward our success.
The first sentence is an advice to remain, in the words of Sun Tzu, unfathomable to the enemy, yet operate coherently in several levels of war and across different dimensions.
What does war remain throughout as the centuries fly pas? One word: survival.
The Two Colonels: Osinga and Boyd by Mark Safranski
Safranski points out that Osinga was an archaeologist, digging through the thoughts of a man he never met, mapping the innumerable threads of Boyd's thought as they wound, unwound, and rewound over the decades. Osinga has done a lot but there's more to be done.
Why Didn't Boyd Write a Book? by Lexington Green
Lexington Green makes an excellent case that Boyd's dedication to building his listeners into vital components in an open, dynamic system kept him from writing a book. A book would have become the Koran of Boyd, a dead tree weighing down Boyd's legacy with Boyd orthodoxy for years to come. The absence of a Boyd bible means that everyone gets to discover Boyd afresh for themselves. Osinga is the closest you will get to the raw Boyd bible you'll get and its more of a fountain of living water than dead letters inscribed for all time in solid rock.
Applying Boyd: Iraq and Strategy by Adam Elkus
What happens if Boyd isn't a silver bullet? Adam Elkus argues that many of the ideas of Boyd were present in the initial assault on Iraq in Operation Iraqi Feedom/Telic. Saddam's OODA was out looped by "effects" based warfare and fell. Victory: Boyd. But "shock and awe" was all foreswing and no follow through. The Iraqi insurgency was (at least for a while) played the US Army to our Saddam. Their loop was faster for a few years. The solution, Elkus asserts is a greater harmony of strategy focused on "vitality and growth" instead of destruction and greater integration across strategic frameworks. Boyd was one of the few that straddled many schools of military thought.
My Struggle With Boyd by Frans Osinga
Excellent description of his book by the author:
I consider my book akin to the Sawyer or Cleary introductions to Sun Tzu; they serve as texts to tease out meaning of sometimes rather cryptic sentences and paragraphs
handed to us by greater minds.
Something I'd be interesting in seeing for curiosity's sake:
Somewhat to my surprise there was only one seriously critical review that questioned Boyd's work, which was immediately hit upon in about 10 comments. I hope, and I believe Boyd actually would enjoy and encourage, that at some point we'll see a substantial effort which in Popperian fashion aims to critique either Boyd's work or my explanation/interpretation of his ideas, all in the spirit of the `dialectic engine,' the term Boyd often used for describing his comprehensive OODA loop. The debate can use someone who can be to Boyd what Mearsheimer has been to Liddell Hart.
Unlocking the Keys to Victory by Frank G. Hoffman
Frank Hoffman had a chance to attend a legendary Boyd briefing twice, the second being necessitated by his falling asleep during the first. He offers an excellent summary of Boyd's contributions to military thought from the Marines to the Small Wars raging at this moment.
John Boyd and Strategic Theory in the Postmodern Era by Frans Osinga
Good overview of how Boyd's thought underlies both network-centric warfare and the Generations of War. This passage stuck with me:
Boyd aimed for creating adaptable and learning organizations consisting of informally networked teams that could comfortably operate in an insecure environment, due to their reduced information requirements. If everyone understands clearly, and is attuned to, the organization's purpose and/or the commander's intent, explicit communication beyond the objective is superfluous. Because of the shared outlook one knows what to do and what one can expect of others, be it supporting units, higher commands etc., implicit communication will suffice.
Strikes me as one component in the fight against wicked problems.
Overall, this book is an excellent companion to the original online roundtable.
Buy it. Buy it now. Buy the Osinga book too.