Monday, June 01, 2009

How would John Boyd have done counterinsurgency?

John Boyd was arguably the most important American military thinker since Alfred Thayer Mahan. Best known for his formulation of the ‘OODA Loop’ as a model for a competitor’s decision-making process, he left his mark also on air combat tactics, maneuver warfare, and what became known as fourth-generation warfare. On no branch of the service was his influence greater than the US Marine Corps. ‘From John Boyd’, wrote the then-commander of the USMC, ‘we learned about competitive decision making on the battlefield—compressing time, using time as an ally.’ An aggressive man, he naturally favoured the offence, as exemplified by the blitzkrieg or lightning war, whether defined by the Chinese master Sun-tzu, the German panzer commander Heinz Guderian, or the partisan leader T. E. Lawrence. He was less interested in defence, though in his culminating, eight-hour brief, ‘A Discourse on Winning and Losing’, he did briefly consider the problem of what he called ‘counter-guerrilla’ operations. Read on. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

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