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The John Boyd Roundtable: Debating Science, Strategy, and War [Kindle Edition]

Mark Safranski
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

A collection of thought-provoking essays about the work of the late Colonel John Boyd, a fighter pilot who was one of the most influential figures in American military strategy in the last third of the Twentieth Century. This book had its origins in an online roundtable hosted at Chicago Boyz, a popular libertarian and conservative group blog founded by Jonathan Glewirtz. The roundtable attracted the participation of an impressive group of reviewers from the blogosphere and from scientific, academic and military fields. Authors whose essays are included in this book include Daniel H. Abbott, Shane Deichman, Adam Elkus, "Lexington Green," Frank Hoffman, Dr. Frans Osinga, Dr. Chet Richards, Thomas Wade, and Dr. Frans Osinga, author of the leading scholarly work on Boyd.

This book is essential reading for anyone interested in John Boyd and will provide important insights for anyone who is interested in military strategy and current affairs.

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Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 248 KB
  • Print Length: 68 pages
  • Publisher: Nimble Books LLC (11 May 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003LY48NW
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #700,406 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
John Boyd was a brilliant strategist who never left a `magnus opus'. The book is set of essays by several authors that seek to look into the ways and life of this man to try and fully understand his numerous notes and presentations concerning strategy. John Boyd was real "doer" that adapted and even enjoyed change and could synthesize information rapidly to become a winner in any situation. His goal was instill an out-of-the-box style thinking without ignoring the lessons of history. Part of his make up was to delve into seemingly unrelated subjects such as non-linear science to archive those goals. This work gives several peoples insights into this remarkable character. Military (and even business) Students wondering why they should study John Boyd will find the answers in these pages. Afterwards the reader wishing to learn more can move to more profound works such as those by Dr Frans Osinga (one of the co-authors). Readers who are natural synthesizers will equal find some of the basic concepts contained there-in very useful and unique for use in many walks of life.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.6 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Dialectic Engine is Alive and Well 23 Sept. 2008
By Shlok Vaidya - Published on
I had the good fortune of receiving a review copy of this book, and after giving it a quick read, I come away impressed: This text demonstrates exactly the right way to approach John Boyd.

Some quick notes:

*Varied experts with extremely diverse backgrounds provide their takes on not so much the Boydian canon, so much as the roots thereof.

*You leave wanting to know more, about everything.

*It doesn't get hung up on military theory, but is Boydian in the full sense of the word.

*Should be included early in any type of program that wants to teach people how to think.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice Synthesis 2 Nov. 2008
By J. Scott Shipman - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you're a Boyd admirer, then this book should be in your library. Folks from varying backgrounds (including the great Chet Richards) assess the meaning and impact of the Great John Boyd. The layout is interesting and informative and the reader gains a glimpse of a Boyd not included in Hammonds nor Corams great works (both very good books, with a tip toward Coram). A lot of "greats", eh? BOYD was perhaps THE most influential thinker on military strategy and thinking in the last century. This book will reveal even more of this very consequential man. Highest recommendation!!!
19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars a disappointment 25 April 2009
By Lineman - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I've read a few things on Boyd, and was excited to see this book, thinking it would be an updated application and critique vis a vis Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, this is mostly a series of articles praising Boyd, his long presentations, and the fine book Osinga has written about him. This book is not worth it at half the price. There is more information available for free on the web and wikipedia. And do check Osinga's work, its the best one to date.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Round and Round, Genghis John Goes 11 July 2012
By L. C. Rees - Published on
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:

Wilf Owen
Dan tdaxp
Dr. Chet Richards
Shane Deichman
Lexington Green
Adam Elkus
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.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not a great book 23 Feb. 2013
By Choong Hoon Hyun - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
It's like a minute of meeting and its summary. The topic is John Boyd's OODA loop but making a compliment on Osinga's book on Boyd's loop. It gives me the impression that it lures me to read his book. I know that his book is the ultimate book to read on Boyd's but this is not the good method for me to read his book.
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