Thursday, December 30, 2010

Nothing new under the sun

Faithful readers know that I'm a student of John Boyd. (See A Vision So Noble: John Boyd, the OODA Loop, and America's War on Terror.) More recently I got interested in an older war, the one that began on September 1, 1939, and as is my habit I fetched the bound volumes of Life magazine home to look at contemporary photos and articles. I was flabbergasted to read this analysis of the invasion of Poland, in the October 2 issue:

The German Army Invents a New Kind of War
.... The Germans therefore decided to carry the war of fast mechanized columns to its farthest extreme. Normally the end of war is to destroy the enemy's armed forces. To do so it is essential to maintain one's own strength by keeping lines of communication to the rear open. The Germans tried something radically new.... It was a logical extreme development of the infiltration tactics used by the German army in 1918.
This new tactic was simply to strike for the enemy's bases and communications, hell-bent for leather, and largely ignore his armed forces.... Deprived of [its supplies] by loss of its bases, [a modern army] will sooner or later be rendered powerless. A mechanized army can move as fast as 15 m.p.h., as against infantry's 2 m.p.h. It can flicker around infantry and hit it in the back while infantry is slowly turning around....
The Poles heard that the Germans were at Lodz, at Warsaw, at Random, at Sandomierz, at Brest-Litovsk, at Lwow, and they were filled with bewilderment. Their commanders could not force the Germans to stop and fight long-drawn-out frontal battles. The mechanized columns slid around them and vanished on into Poland.
This is pure John Boyd, even unto the bewilderment, which he regarded as essential to an opponent's defeat, whether in an aerial dogfight, a ground campaign, or basketball or chess. It is also a very good description of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

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