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  • Archive for February, 2008

    A Fascinating Travel/Urban Planning Website

    Posted by Jonathan on 19th February 2008 (All posts by )

    Via Maimon Schwarzschild comes this site that offers thoughtful perspectives on important cities, without the pro-central-planning and anti-automobile biases that are often present in both travelogues and discussions of urban design:

    Urban Tours by Rental Car offers perspectives on urban development obtained by automobile tours through urban areas. Rental cars are not the favored method for visiting cities, especially those outside one’s own country. Instead, tourists and urban planners favor packaged tours or local public transport systems. Both are splendid ways for seeing the city as it used to be — the very reason for most tourist visits. The historical core areas contain monuments, prime government and religious edifices and quaint neighborhoods that are often centuries old. This is particularly important to tourists from the newer urban areas of the American, Canadian or Australian West, where history extends not far before World War II. It is further understandable that few tourists travel thousands of miles to see the newer suburban areas that look very much like home. But most tourists do not profess to be students of the urban area.
    For the urban planner interested in understanding the whole urban area, it is not enough to study the core alone, regardless of its architectural attractiveness, romanticism, history or affirmation of an individually preferred life style. No one, regardless of the depth of their education can develop reliable conceptions from an unrepresentative sample, and urban cores are the very essence of unrepresentative samples. Both public transport and packaged tours miss the larger part — the expanse of sprawling residential and business development that rings virtually all major urban areas. They may be of little interest to many urban planners, but they should be.

    This is refreshing stuff for those of us who don’t think that automobiles are necessarily bad or that high-density living and socialized mass-transit are necessarily good. Check it out.

    Posted in Society, Transportation, Urban Issues | 18 Comments »

    Stiff Upper Lip This, Pal!

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 17th February 2008 (All posts by )

    This news item says that France might very well have bugged the UK Defence Minister’s office.

    Unfortunately, I am having trouble confirming it. Most of the stuff I’m finding online just refers back to that single article.

    Did France bug the office of a major UK minister? I would if I were them!

    (Hat tip to The Last of the Few.)

    Posted in Britain, Europe, France, International Affairs, Military Affairs | 6 Comments »

    Comment Moderation

    Posted by Jonathan on 17th February 2008 (All posts by )

    I’ve reconfigured the blog so that all comments have to be approved by me before they appear. The idea is to discourage trolling. I don’t know if this is the best way to do it, but I want to find out. Comments, complaints and suggestions are welcome.

    Posted in Announcements | 11 Comments »

    At the Stroke of Midnight

    Posted by David Foster on 17th February 2008 (All posts by )

    At midnight on Saturday, certain statutory authorizations for the interception of terrorist communications were allowed–by congressional inaction–to expire. See the National Review article with the headline: When the Clock Strikes Midnight, We Will Be Significantly Less Safe; also President Bush’s radio address here.

    A couple of months ago, Shannon Love addressed some of the issues involved in commuications intercepts. This seems like an appropriate time for some additional discussion on the topic.

    Some other useful resources:

    1)The White House fact sheet

    2)A fairly long article (PDF) which discusses some of the technical complexities which affect this debate.


    UPDATE: Robert Novak says: The true cause for blocking the bill was the Senate-passed retroactive immunity from lawsuits for private telecommunications firms asked to eavesdrop by the government. The nation’s torts bar, vigorously pursuing such suits, has spent months lobbying hard against immunity.

    The recess by House Democrats amounts to a judgment that losing the generous support of trial lawyers, the Democratic Party’s most important financial base, is more dangerous than losing the anti-terrorist issue to Republicans.

    I’m not much of a Robert Novak fan, but in this case, I’m afraid his statement contains a strong element of truth.

    UPDATE 2: William Kristol on Orwell, Kipling, and the responsibilities of governing, with particular reference to the communications-intercept issue.

    See also this post and discussion at Neptunus Lex.

    Posted in Military Affairs, Tech, Terrorism | 7 Comments »

    I like the moon!

    Posted by Jonathan on 16th February 2008 (All posts by )

    We like the moon!

    Posted in Humor, Photos | 3 Comments »

    More Trouble in Okinawa

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 15th February 2008 (All posts by )

    A crime occurred 12 years ago that seriously damages US-Japanese relations.

    Two US Marines and a Navy seaman stationed in Okinawa kidnapped and raped a 12 year old girl in 1995. They were convicted and sentenced to serve time in Japanese jails. I suppose the Marines and Navy had their own version of punishment waiting when the guilty were released from foreign prison.

    Rallies were organized to protest the continued US military presence on Japanese soil. Things became particularly tense on Okinawa, where the majority of the US military is based. The governor of the island at the time, Masahide Ota, stated that all US bases should be closed no later than 2015, saying the “Okinawa is ours!”

    That all became kind of moot a few years later when North Korea, one of the last of the truly despicable and dangerous Communist regimes on the planet, test fired a missile that soared all the way over Japan to splash down in the sea on the other side.

    You didn’t have to be a (heh) rocket scientist to figure this one out. NK wanted the Japanese to know that they could attack their cities at any time, and with impunity.

    Suddenly having some American military muscle on hand to counter Communist aggression didn’t seem to be all that bad! Nothing like a remnant of Cold War tensions to clarify who your real buddies were. The most that ever came from all the sturm and drang was an agreement to move the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station to a more remote location, and that hasn’t happened after more than a decade.

    Now a similar incident is causing the resurgence of the same old problems. This time around, a single Marine is accused of raping a 14 year old schoolgirl when he gave her a ride home.

    The current Prime Minister of Japan, Yasuo Fukuda, has publicly stated that “It has happened over and over again in the past and I take it as a grave case.” He has also said that such sexual crimes ” …can never be forgiven!”

    A crime most definitely occurred since the accused Marine admitted to forcing the girl to kiss him, and now it is merely a matter of determining the damage caused and the severity of the punishment. But I’m wondering about the “..happened over and over again in the past…” part of the Prime Minister’s statement. Near as I can tell, he is referring to the 1995 case. Seems a bit overwrought to me to refer to a case that was closed more than a decade ago as something that happened “…over and over again…”, but I suppose it all dovetails neatly into his claim that such crimes can never be forgiven.

    So the current Prime Minister is beating the anti-American drum while public sentiment once again turns against a continued American military presence on the islands. Does this mean that the US will be forced to seriously reduce the number of bases and troops on the islands?

    Almost certainly not. Now that North Korea has at least extremely crude fission bombs, the threat from the old missile test back in 1998 becomes much more serious. Added to that is the fact that China is upgrading and expanding their own military, which certainly ratchets up the tension even more. Japan doesn’t have the military muscle to protect itself against even one of these potential foes, let alone both. They need the US to act as both a deterrent, and for combat power if relations between Japan and the two Communist states deteriorate.

    Japan certainly has the ability to build up their own military to the point that they would not need to rely on the US for their security, and there have already been indications that the government there has been at least laying the groundwork in case such a move becomes necessary. But it usually takes decades of very serious effort to create the world class armed forces that Japan would need, and that doesn’t appear to be happening. Until it does, I just don’t see much changing.

    As far as the current crisis is concerned, it seems to be a tempest in a teapot. Japanese politicians will talk trash against the US to bolster their approval ratings, one or two minor concessions will be granted by the US so fas as base location or size is concerned, and a whole lot of not much will happen.

    Maybe they will finally get around to moving the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

    (Cross posted at Hell in a Handbasket.)

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Crime and Punishment, International Affairs, Military Affairs, National Security | 6 Comments »

    Return Assumptions and the Bear

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 14th February 2008 (All posts by )

    A lot of people throw around terms and assumptions without questioning them deeply. One of the most common assumptions is that stocks beat bonds (and beat the heck out of cash) “over the long haul”.

    The basis in fact for this assumption is the long term equity records in the USA, the UK and Canada. These markets, over the long haul, have provided returns beyond bonds and cash.

    Why only these markets? Because the rest of the markets (Germany, Japan, China, etc…) had some sort of cataclysmic event (World War, hyperinflation, or takeover by non-capitalist regimes) that make comparisons “over the long haul” useless. Even in these markets it is hard to see how wealth could have been preserved; cash (currency) was debased and debts were reneged upon, so all bets were off.

    One key element of the “returns beat bonds and cash” is the assumption that you stay the course through horrendous market periods, hold on to equities, and then ride the upward ticks. If you act as many people do and sell when the market gets difficult, you are apt to be out of the market when it shoots upwards. Some of these bear markets are very lengthy and you have to have nerves of steel to ride them out.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Investment Journal | 10 Comments »

    KHANNNNN! (A Valentine’s Day Post)

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 14th February 2008 (All posts by )

    We are drawn, ineluctably, to something that looks very, very much like required viewing for ChicagoBoyz … “greatness comes to those who take it.”
    Previous members of series:

    Posted in Film, Humor, Military Affairs | Comments Off on KHANNNNN! (A Valentine’s Day Post)

    Must Be A Different Darwin

    Posted by Shannon Love on 14th February 2008 (All posts by )

    Via Ed Driscoll comes a link to an op-ed about the relationship between Darwin and racism in the Philadelphia Inquirer by Dr. Tony Campolo, a minister and professor of sociology at Eastern University. I find the op-ed interesting because virtually every statement about Darwin in the piece is dead wrong.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Morality and Philosphy, Science | 11 Comments »


    Posted by Jonathan on 14th February 2008 (All posts by )

    (Click image for larger.)

    Posted in Photos | 3 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 13th February 2008 (All posts by )

    One can agree or disagree with his peripheral positions, but political orthodoxy is political death. If those who are in a hissy fit about Sen. McCain would rather have Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, they will get Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton — how delightful to go to jail for building your house on land once visited by an exotic moth — and they will wake up to a great regret, as if in their drunkenness they had taken Shrek to bed.
    But, guess what? Even if, as the country veers left, living conservatives gnash their teeth and dead ones spin in their graves, a small class of conservatives will benefit. And who might they be? They might be those whose influence and coffers swell on discontent, and who find attacking a president easier and more sensational than the dreary business of defending one. They rose during the Clinton years. Perhaps they are nostalgic. It isn’t worth it, however, for the rest of us.

    Mark Helprin

    (via Jim Miller)

    Posted in Conservatism, Politics, Quotations | 8 Comments »

    Osinga Roundtable on Science, Strategy and War – Applying Boyd: Adam Elkus

    Posted by Zenpundit on 12th February 2008 (All posts by )

    This post by Adam Elkus represents the final, formal, contribution to this Roundtable and fittingly, after much discussion about grand strategy and John Boyd’s discourse, Elkus applies Boyd to our thorniest foreign policy problem – Iraq.

    Analysis: Boyd, Iraq and Strategy

    by Adam Elkus

    How do the theories of John Boyd speak to America’s most important international security issue, the war in Iraq? This is no idle question—if Boyd is as revolutionary a strategist as claimed, what do his ideas say about the war? Or rather, what does the war say about his ideas? I will examine Boyd’s influence on network-centric warfare and the strategy of “shock and awe,” as well as the Boydian subtext inherent in larger geostrategic issues.

    “Shock and Awe”

    The operational phase of the campaign was heavily inspired by Boydian theory. US forces isolated, paralyzed, and destroyed Saddam Hussein’s government in record-breaking speed. Many observers–especially retired military analysts on the major cable news networks–had predicted a quagmire. Despite my own (continuing) opposition to the war, it was surprising—and exhilarating—to see a murderous tyrant’s apparatus of oppression rapidly smashed to bits with a minimum of American casualties.

    The intellectual architect of the victory was Harlan Ullman, author of Shock and Awe: Achieving Rapid Dominance. Ullman’s doctrine was heavily effects-based, using rapid and overwhelming force to attack the enemy’s cognition. Every bombing, tank thrust, or combined arms attack was designed to sever the psychological, organizational, and technological bond that maintained the power of the Hussein regime. Although “Shock and Awe” is seen in the public eye as emblematic of the Bush administration’s hubris, it was the perfect tool for destroying Baathist Iraq.

    Authoritarian regimes are not known for their adaptability, and Iraq was no exception. Hussein denied his subordinates the autonomy to act on their own or report accurate information, keeping them in constant fear of purge. Worse yet, any politician or soldier that had managed to rise to the top of the Baathist heap did so because of patronage, not ability. There was no way such a paranoid, authoritarian, and brittle system could survive the violent shock that “Shock and Awe” put it through. One can compare the effect to that of German blitzkrieg on Stalinist Russia in 1941.

    Although the greater strategic literature of effects-based operations (EBOs) makes little reference to Boyd, it is not hard to see where the ideas originated. Boyd’s Patterns of Conflict synthesized the airpower and maneuver warfare theorists and tied their strategies to ancient Eastern theorists such as Sun Tzu and Miyamoto Musashi. The end result was a strategy where force was designed to isolate, paralyze, and collapse the enemy instead of completely destroying his army. As Robert Corum and Grant Hammond recount in their biographies, Boyd’s tireless briefings created the intellectual environment for the military to create Boydian-derived (and frequently overlapping) strategic concepts such as EBO, “Shock and Awe,” and network-centric warfare (NCW).

    Destruction and Creation

    As Ralph Peters notes, the terrorists and guerrillas that oppose us in Iraq are even more “net-centric” than we are, with a fraction of our resources. Their networks have had tremendous success in targeting both Iraqi and American physical, mental, and moral centers of gravity with sophisticated military and psychological operations. Why is this?

    Noah Shachtman’s article in Wired recounts some of the more common failings of these theories in regards to counterinsurgency. They are exclusively state-centric, they apply little to fighting insurgents, criminals, and terrorists, and they provide excuses for the Pentagon to sate the gluttony of defense contractors. Yet the real problem is that strategies like NCW, EBO, and “Shock and Awe” fail the most crucial Boydian test–they are all about destruction. They do not provide a means for, as Boyd would say, “vitality and growth.”

    As Rupert Smith recounts in The Utility of Force, to win on today’s battlefield, the surest way to lose is to focus solely on destroying the enemy. Many (chief among them the tireless public diplomacy advocate Matt Armstrong) argue that the use of all segments of national power, military, economic, and political—is necessary for success. America has traditionally excelled at efficient, machine-tooled destruction, and failed at conducting the kind of holistic political-military struggle necessary for counterinsurgency.

    Although the Bush’s administration’s epic failure in post-conflict planning has justly been savaged, there are many aspects of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that would be familiar to a Kennedy/Eisenhower-era Cold War hand like Edward Lansdale. We blunder about with little knowledge of the long-term consequences of our actions, or even how those actions fit into vaguely-defined grand strategy. We back lawless “open-source militias” in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia, but to what end? What purpose?

    Defense thought is also increasingly compartmentalized. Peruse any of the major military journals and you’ll see a blizzard of differing strategies, strategic concepts, and position papers, all which seem to exist in isolation to each other. Perhaps Boyd’s greatest strength was not the originality of his ideas, but his skill as a synthesizer, weaving the disparate strands of defense knowledge into a coherent worldview consistent from the tactical to grand strategic levels. Anyone familiar with American strategic history knows just how rare such synthesizers are.

    The leading task for future generations of American strategists is to produce another grand vision for continued success and survival. Many have attempted this great challenge. Only time will tell which dreamer proves to be Boyd’s intellectual heir.

    Originally posted at Rethinking Security.

    Download Dr. Osinga’s Dissertation on Colonel John Boyd here (1.7 MB pdf).

    Buy Science Strategy and War from Routledge.

    From Amazon.

    Previous Roundtable Posts


    Wilf Owen

    Dan tdaxp

    Dr. Chet Richards

    Shane Deichman



    Lexington Green

    Author’s reply by Colonel Frans Osinga.

    Click here to view all posts in the discussion.


    I’d like to take a moment and thank Dr. Osinga and our reviewers – Wilf Owen, Dan of tdaxp, Dr. Chet Richards, Shane Deichman, Historyguy99, Lexington Green and Adam Elkus along with Jonathan, the site administrator of Chicago Boyz who was always at the ready with technical assistance. The roundtable was a great success because of your efforts and participation and I’ll count the experience as one of the high points of my time blogging. I would like to close this with words of wisdom from Colonel John Boyd, as recounted by Martin Edwin Anderson:

    “One day you will come to a fork in the road. And you’re going to have to make a decision about what direction you want to go.” [Boyd] raised his hand and pointed. “If you go that way you can be somebody. You will have to make compromises and you will have to turn your back on your friends. But you will be a member of the club and you will get promoted and you will get good assignments.” Then Boyd raised the other hand and pointed another direction. “Or you can go that way and you can do something – something for your country and for your Air Force and for yourself. If you decide to do something, you may not get promoted and you may not get the good assignments and you certainly will not be a favorite of your superiors. But you won’t have to compromise yourself. You will be true to your friends and to yourself. And your work might make a difference.” He paused and stared. “To be somebody or to do something. In life there is often a roll call. That’s when you will have to make a decision. To be or to do? Which way will you go?”

    Posted in Book Notes, Boyd/Osinga Roundtable, Military Affairs | 1 Comment »

    Crossover Votes Not Talked About?

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 12th February 2008 (All posts by )

    Lex mentioned a week or so ago that he was holding  his nose and voting for Obama to do his part to keep Hillary out of the White House.  I did the same thing here in Wisconsin and so did my wife via absentee ballot.  I don’t see anyone speaking in the major media about the fact that Obama must be getting thousands and thousands of votes from those crossing over to vote for him in the primary contests.  Am I the only one that has not seen anyone talking about this?

    Posted in Politics | Comments Off on Crossover Votes Not Talked About?

    “Our Baghdad Bob”

    Posted by Jonathan on 12th February 2008 (All posts by )

    Peter Wehner:

    Nancy Pelosi, leader of the Democrats in the House of Representatives, has become our Baghdad Bob. And what a spectacle it is. Jihadists in Iraq are testifying to their own failures. At the same time, the Speaker of the House seems to have a deep ideological investment in ours.

    Posted in Iraq, Politics | 1 Comment »

    Vacation Time

    Posted by Jonathan on 12th February 2008 (All posts by )

    Chicagoboyz like to hang out at the beach.


    Posted in Humor, Photos | Comments Off on Vacation Time

    A Marketing Challenge

    Posted by David Foster on 11th February 2008 (All posts by )

    If the marketing class will come to order, we have an interesting case study today. We’re going to focus on a product, the market penetration of which is being limited by an attribute that–on first glance–would seem to be a good thing.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Advertising, Business, Energy & Power Generation, Environment | 17 Comments »

    Osinga Roundtable on Science, Strategy and War: Author’s Reply by Frans Osinga

    Posted by Zenpundit on 11th February 2008 (All posts by )

    My struggle with Boyd

    by Colonel Frans Osinga, PhD

    Boyd’s work is titled A Discourse on Winning and Losing and the series of reviews and comments form exactly the sort of intellectual interaction Boyd sought to inspire. Judging by the quality of the reviews and comments it’s been a very fruitful week that has propelled the Boyd debate into a wider arena and has, I hope, given it a renewed impetus. It has highlighted how we should approach Boyd’s work as well as areas for further research.

    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.

    In fact, my own research on Boyd started out in that vein, but never got there. In stead of penning a ‘rebuttal’ to specific roundtable posts, perhaps I may absolve my obligation to conclude the roundtable discussion by adding some words concerning my own struggle with Boyd.

    I first came across Boyd’s name during the 1980s when, as a young cadet at the military academy, I (had to) read about this ‘new’ maneuver warfare school of thought. In the post Desert Storm doctrinal debates in NATO working groups I met Buster McCrabb, then at the faculty of the USAF School of Advanced Airpower Studies, who handed me a set of Boyd’s slides (Patterns of Conflict). It did not make much sense to me and I could not quite see what the fuss was about. In 1998-1999 I was fortunate to study at the SAAS and attend an elective on Boyd by Grant Hammond who was then working on his Boyd biography. Armed with these lectures Boyd’s slides began to gain meaning and depth, resulting in a chapter on Boyd as part of a larger paper in which I lined up a variety of strategists in the context of complexity theory.

    Back in the Netherlands, as the Director of Strategy and Air Power Studies of the Netherlands Defence College, I started to expand this chapter with the aim to develop a critique, as I had the impression that the ‘rapid OODA loop’ idea was somewhat limited and that Grant’s book was somewhat devoid of critical notes (which he admits by the way). It had already struck me that Boyd’s personal papers hardly contained political science literature, nor did I see much in terms of air power and nuclear strategy. Moreover, I did not see all that much on decision making theory which I considered odd in light of my understanding of the OODA loop as a model of the decision making process. I therefore drafted a 60 pp. paper in which I lined up most major concepts concerning decision making such as Allison’s models I-II-III, group think, Klein’s RPD model, etc., and examined what others had to say concerning the influence of stress, experience and culture on decision making. In addition I looked for other cybernetic models en vogue in the past 3 decades in decision making theory, all this in order to assess the validity of the OODA loop model. Meanwhile, Grant Hammond came over to deliver several lectures on Boyd to my students. My research (and Grant commented gracefully on a whole series of immature drafts) and Hammond’s lectures brought home to me three issues. First, after 150 pp of writing, I could not find that much fault with the comprehensive OODA loop and saw many similarities with other cybernetic models. Second, there was much more in Boyd’s work than ‘only’ the rapid OODA loop idea. Thirdly, if I still intended to develop a well-founded critique, I first needed to explain Boyd because at that point there was no solid accepted academic interpretation of his work. This was during the summer of 2001.

    By that time I was seconded to the Clingendael Institute of International Relations as the MoD Research Fellow. 9/11, OEF and OIF for some reason required my attention and only during the summer of 2003 could I seriously pick up the Boyd research (which had been accepted as subject of my dissertation). By then I had discovered that any proper attempt to explain his work would require explaining his ‘formative factors’. As any dissertation has distinct limits as far as length is concerned, it quickly transpired that explanation and not critique would be the main aim of my research (and the first 150 pp were therefore binned).

    That brings me to the book. My discussion of his formative factors is somewhat imbalanced in the sense that it does perhaps not convey the depth of this study of military history, in comparison to his study of various scientific literatures (the Routledge edition is shorter on the science bit than the thesis by the way). I chose to highlight the latter because military history is actually the most common – and more straightforward – source that strategic theorists derive their arguments from. Moreover, the discussion of Patterns of Conflict would reveal Boyd’s deep study of history and strategy anyway. Finally, I had the impression that Boyd gleaned quite a bit of original insights from in particular the scientific zeitgeist, but also that those insights came from studies not all that familiar to most people, and therefore in need of some elaborate explanation.

    Initially I limited myself to those studies that were explicitly annotated and those that Boyd explicitly referred to (buying most of the books second hand at Powell’s). It struck me how significant and deep the scientific developments have been during the years that Boyd developed his ideas and how many cross references one can find among the books Boyd read. I had problems with understanding information theory but secondary sources helped out with that. A fruitful visit to the archives at the USMC University at Quantico underpinned my suspicion that Boyd was ‘deep’ into science from the first moment on, and that in his subsequent explorations he continuously found confirmation of his initial impressions that he laid out in the essay Destruction and Creation and A New Conception of Air to Air Combat. It also highlighted that the influence of science grew over the years in comparison to military history.

    In the end I had to hurry finalizing the thesis as I learned in September 2004 I was to be posted to HQ SACT, the NATO HQ in Norfolk Virginia in January 2005. The thesis is therefore marred by a variety of editorial glitches. The subsequent Routledge edition has benefited from a major editorial (and painfully frustrating) process lasting about a year. It is shorter, more concise and it allowed me to add some relevant comments concerning Boyd’s scientific sources. For both the thesis and the shorter book I want to acknowledge my considerable debts to Grant Hammond, Chet Richards, Barry Watts, Dick Safranski and Bill Lind.

    My own view of Boyd – briefly – is that (albeit biased) he developed a very impressive, rich and coherent set of ideas, often with elements of profound novelty, with a wide range of applicability (see for instance the presentation of Chet Richard’s et al on Boyd/4GW and the Iraqi insurgency, but also the various presentations/papers on the DNI site where Boyd’s ideas are applied in an increasing number of environments). It is many things and refuses to be captured by one-liners or simple icons. In my presentation at the Boyd Conference last July I tried to convey a sense of ‘what’ Boyd’s work is in the following slide.

    A Discourse is:

    An epistemological investigation
    A military history & search for patterns of winning and losing
    An argument against:
    – Attritionist mindset
    – Deterministic thinking & predictability
    – Techno-fetishism
    A rediscovery of the mental/moral dimensions of war
    A philosophy for command and control
    A redefinition of strategy
    A search for the essence of strategic interaction
    A plea for organizational learning and adaptability
    An argument on strategic thinking

    It must rank among the few general theories of war. He is certainly one of the prime contemporary strategists. Sure, his is not the final word on strategy. Indeed, he left an unfinished legacy, in line with his view that understanding war – a social behaviour with evolving features – requires a constant multidisciplinary search for improved and updated insights. Moreover, one will struggle if one wants to distil from Boyd’s work distinct ‘how-to’ guidelines for campaign planning. As with all major theorists and intellectual innovators there are also distinct ‘hooks’ in his work for developing critique. But as a guide on what sort of intellectual attitude and activity is required for understanding war and strategy I’ve found him invaluable. Trying to understand him was (and remains) a challenging but equally rewarding education. It has significantly broadened my intellectual horizon. Boyd made me think. And that was his whole point because A Discourse on Winning and Losing at heart is about ‘intellectual evolution and growth’, as he wrote in the margins of a number of books.

    As with Liddell Hart or Clausewitz, a period will come when his ideas will be dismissed, completed or improved upon. Areas for further research might be gleaned from my various shortfalls. I did not explore to the full the literature on business and management, as I could not find that many direct references to that literature in Boyd’s work, nor have I properly assessed whether Boyd interpreted the various scientific literatures correctly. Although I believe Boyd was certainly not alone in applying concepts gleaned from the sciences to human behaviour, perhaps he sometimes overstepped the bounds, but I have not explored that either. Neither have I examined fully to what extend Boyd was unduly selective or biased in his study of military history (although at times I’ve hinted at it).

    Last week’s roundtable itself however is indicative of the rising stature of Boyd, a decade after his death. This roundtable also confirms once more my view that, among the Western nations, the US harbours the liveliest intellectual environment for debating security and strategy related issues. From my perspective it was very gratifying – indeed flattering – to read all the positive comments. But I am also sincerely modest. The roundtable was first and foremost about Boyd’s intellectual legacy, and 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. As I’ve told Chet Richards, Dick Safranski, Grant Hammond, Bill Lind and Frank Hoffman, what pleased me most about their positive reviews of my book in the past two of years were their remarks that I’ve done justice to Boyd’s intellectual efforts. That was my main aim but also my prime concern throughout the process.

    Boyd generously shared his ideas, liberally handing out his presentations, all with the intent to educate. He would probably have loved the blogs. Hence, although I am probably shooting myself in the foot with this, but in the spirit of Boyd, I have attached a pdf copy of my dissertation from which the book has been derived. Let’s spread the meme of Boyd’s ideas.

    Any questions/comments? You can contact me at:

    Download Dr. Osinga’s Dissertation on Colonel John Boyd here (1.7 MB pdf).

    Buy Science Strategy and War from Routledge.

    From Amazon.

    Previous Roundtable Posts


    Wilf Owen

    Dan tdaxp

    Dr. Chet Richards

    Shane Deichman



    Lexington Green

    Click here to view all posts in the discussion.

    Posted in Book Notes, Boyd/Osinga Roundtable, Military Affairs | Comments Off on Osinga Roundtable on Science, Strategy and War: Author’s Reply by Frans Osinga

    Photoshop on Sale

    Posted by Jonathan on 11th February 2008 (All posts by )

    Adobe is running a promotion during February. If you own any version of Photoshop Elements (the cheap version of Photoshop) you can upgrade to the latest full version of Photoshop, CS3, for $300 + tax. This represents about a 50% discount from the regular price, and is only $100 more than the price to upgrade from a previous full version of Photoshop. (To take advantage of this deal, call 800-585-0774, mention offer 27105 and be ready to provide your Photoshop Elements serial number.)

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Customer Service, Photos | Comments Off on Photoshop on Sale

    Who will rid us?

    Posted by Helen on 10th February 2008 (All posts by )

    It was inevitable that the stories both in the media and on the blogosphere would use variants of Henry II’s alleged comment, which sent the four knights on their deadly mission to Canterbury. The Sun was the only newspaper to avoid it successfully with the headline “What a Burqua”. As good a reaction as any other.

    When the first news of the latest faux pas by His Bloviation, the Archbishop of Canterbury, hit the internet, I thought I would stay away from the mess, on the grounds that I have covered the man’s pronouncements in the past and need not do so for a little while.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Britain, Christianity, Islam, Law | 4 Comments »

    Osinga Roundtable on Science, Strategy and War: Zenpundit

    Posted by Zenpundit on 10th February 2008 (All posts by )

    Much of this roundtable discussion and the the larger conversation on other sites, has centered on the merit of John Boyd’s ideas and how well-deserved is his rising reputation as a strategic thinker. This is understandable, given the focus of Science, Strategy and War, it is natural to hone in on the subject of Dr. Osinga’s study, the colorful and enigmatic Colonel John Boyd. I would like to take a moment and first consider the nature of Science, Strategy and War itself because this book represents a remarkably well-crafted example of scholarly writing.

    With Science, Strategy and War: The Strategic Theory of John Boyd, which began as a doctoral dissertation, Colonel Frans Osinga engaged less in typical research and analysis than an expedition into intellectual archaeology. Boyd left a legacy that was at once impressive in terms of its depth and cognitive range, yet frustratingly elusive in the paucity and obscurity of the primary sources and the complexity and difficulty of the secondary ones. As many commentators have pointed out, John Boyd left behind no magnum opus; just a few formal papers, aging briefing slides, notes and copious marginalia furiously scrawled in books in fields as diverse as higher mathematics, classics, military history, theoretical physics, psychology, economics, philosophy, evolutionary biology and cybernetics.

    The great historian Leopold von Ranke told his students that it was a historian’s job to “…show how it really was”. For Dr. Osinga, that meant getting into the head of John Boyd as his thinking evolved over several decades. For example, reading what Boyd read in order to ascertain how well Boyd understood, say, Complexity theory or Clausewitz, Postmodernism or Polanyi, Godel or Guderian. Most scholars would find that kind of secondary reading, absolutely required before subjecting Boyd’s briefs to a rigorous critical analysis, daunting. Thumb through the notes and bibliography of Science, Strategy and War and read the periodic commentary by Osinga on Boyd’s use or exclusion of particular sources – for example, Schumpeter, Douhet, Liddell Hart and van Creveld. This is not an analysis that could have be done with drive-by citations and Osinga’s effort shows in the resultant quality of Science, Strategy and War. Dr. Osinga, in my view, has “shown how it really was”.

    Osinga’s John Boyd is a master synthesizer, itself a relatively rare intellectual quality, but also the author of highly original insights regarding the principles of moral conflict who wanted to teach his audience to be creative, adaptive, strategic thinkers who were hungry to survive and thrive in the competitive environment of life. Boyd was among the first to grasp that human organizations were really complex, adaptive, systems (what complexity theorist Yaneer Bar-Yam would call “superorganisms”) that thrived or declined in accordance with Darwinian conceptions. Boyd was, as I infer from Science, Strategy and War, an apostle of dynamism and the ecology paradigm just now coming into vogue. It was a pity that Boyd died when he did as the subsequent advent of network theory and research into scale-free networks and modularity have done much to lend validity to his strategic speculations and reinforce his rejection of static, mechanistic, linear thinking in military affairs.

    What remains to be done with Boyd or exists outside the scope of Science, Strategy and War ? There is the matter of Boyd’s influence on the 1991 Gulf War, acknowledged by senior officials but unknown in specific detail. Boyd’s contribution to Marine Corps doctrine and other schools of thought ( NCW, 4GW, EBO) have been dealt with piecemeal by other authors, notably Robert Coram, and Boyd’s principal collaborators but not in a systematic fashion. Boyd’s efforts in the military reform movement also cry out for closer examination as well the continuation of the Boydian debate by Boyd’s disciples and critics. These matters have yet to be brought under one roof in the manner that Frans Osinga has done with Boyd’s strategic theory and remain as projects for investigation by future scholars.

    Colonel Osinga has written a pivotal book in Science, Strategy and War that will be the touchstone text on John Boyd, an emergent classic at the intersection between 20th century intellectual history and strategic theory.

    Buy Science Strategy and War from Routledge.

    From Amazon.

    Previous Roundtable Posts


    Wilf Owen

    Dan tdaxp

    Dr. Chet Richards

    Shane Deichman


    Click here to view all posts in the discussion.

    Posted in Book Notes, Boyd/Osinga Roundtable, Military Affairs | 2 Comments »

    “The People vs. John White at Criminal Court, Riverhead 11/27/07 – 12/22/07”

    Posted by Jonathan on 9th February 2008 (All posts by )

    On my jury site, a juror in the John White trial posts a long and impassioned account of his experience. (John White is a black New Yorker who was recently convicted of shooting a white teenager after the teenager and his friends confronted White outside of his house one night. The trial was long and became a media spectacle and source of much controversy.)

    Posted in Law, Society | 5 Comments »

    Illinois Energy… Still Going Nowhere

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 8th February 2008 (All posts by )

    Since the energy industry has been deregulated the investment level in new electricity generation has dwindled to almost nothing. Firms do spend money retrofitting existing generating plants and keeping nuclear plants online a greater percentage of the time, but these measures generally only keep our existing capacity running and don’t put new plants on line to meet ever expanding demand.

    The barriers against new generation are immense. They include:

    1) fanatical resistance from environmentalists
    2) a regulatory structure that not only doesn’t encourage new generation to be built but allows current owners to profit immensely from the current shortage
    3) half baked government intervention that only further confuses the situation by seeming to help the problem while delivering nothing

    I don’t think that there is any way to “bet” on the likelihood that new generating plants will be built but if there was such an opportunity it would be easy money to bet that any given proposal will ultimately be abandoned for one reason or another. I am not saying that nothing will be built anywhere, ever, but the odds of a given project surviving to fruition are close to slim and none.

    Some recent ways a project can die…

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Energy & Power Generation | 6 Comments »

    SWJ Blog: Hoffman on Osinga and Boyd

    Posted by Zenpundit on 7th February 2008 (All posts by )

    I’d like to highlight a post that, while not part of the roundtable unfolding here, certainly represents an informed and welcome addition to the discussion of John Boyd’s strategic vision as analyzed by Dr. Frans Osinga:

    Frank Hoffman, the respected military theorist and contributor to the excellent SWJ Blog has weighed in with a timely review:

    Unlocking the Keys to Victory

    The intellectual contributions of the late Colonel John Boyd, USAF, have already been the subject of two fine biographies. Robert Coram’s Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War provided a window into Boyd’s life as a fighter pilot, technical innovator and maverick defense reformer. Grant Hammond’s Mind at War John Boyd and American Security summarized Boyd’s main arguments. Both of these efforts are well regarded and helped rectify the limited record Boyd left behind. Regrettably, Boyd’s career is too often truncated into well known “OODA Loop.”

    But Boyd had a lot more to offer. His contributions to flying tactics, fighter development, and operational theory are profound. The historical analyses and scientific theories he employed are not well documented nor well understood. This is principally due to Boyd’s reliance on briefing slides. Colonel Frans Osinga fills out our collective understanding with The Science, Strategy and War. In this very deliberate review, the author works his way through the arguments and source material of Boyd’s famous briefs including “Patterns of Conflict” and “A Discourse on Winning and Losing.” He highlights the diverse sources that shaped Boyd’s thinking and offers a comprehensive overview and remarkable synthesis of his work, and demonstrates that Boyd’s is much more comprehensive, strategically richer and deeper than is generally thought.

    Read the rest here.

    Posted in Book Notes, Boyd/Osinga Roundtable, Military Affairs | Comments Off on SWJ Blog: Hoffman on Osinga and Boyd


    Posted by David Foster on 7th February 2008 (All posts by )

    I was down at CPAC today, where I had the pleasure of meeting Pamela and Eric and of renewing an old acquaintance with Little Miss Attila. The highlight of the formal program so far was the talk by Mark Steyn–there are a lot of people who write very well but are mediocre or worse at public speaking, and I was pleasantly surprised by his excellent presentation.

    If anyone is going to be there tomorrow and would like to get together for a drink or something, leave a note in comments.

    UPDATE: Congratulations to Ace on winning the CPAC Blogger of the Year Award.

    I enjoyed meeting Karol and Skye, both of whom have CPAC pictures up–also the famous N Z Bear, who doesn’t look much like the picture on his blog.

    (cross-posted at Photon Courier)

    Posted in Blogging, Politics | 6 Comments »

    Osinga Roundtable on Science, Strategy and War: Historyguy99

    Posted by Zenpundit on 6th February 2008 (All posts by )

    By Historyguy99

    Col/Dr Frans P.B. Osinga of the Neatherlands Air Force wrote this work as his doctoral thesis. It is a superb, clearly written journey into the mind of a great thinker. For myself, someone who is seeped in the essence of history that for the most part took place before John Boyd’s time, I found the book a stimulating read.

    John Boyd, known as 40-second Boyd, for always being able to defeat an opponent in air combat within that time constraint, was a maverick, who left no great written treatise to explain his theories. What was left behind after his death were lecture notes and vu-graphs. Dr. Osinga carefully ginned those notes into a readable text and gave even the most un-military minded, a window on how not only John Boyd thought, but how humans and on a broader scale, all organisms adapt and survive.

    John Boyd’s legacy has been his OODA Loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Action), some would conclude that his contribution is revolutionary, or that it was based on selective cherry picking to support his thesis. The contributions of John Boyd are important because they draw from a vast store house of specialties, such as history, science, and behavior for support. He mulled these concepts over in his great mind and shared them in marathon lectures lasting up to 18 hrs.

    The benefit of this work is to draw attention to Boyd’s theory and stimulate thinking, something that in a modern technology centered universe, is often left to pre-conceived notions.

    Boyd defined the Art of Success as:

    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;
    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.

    Boyd concludes with:

    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.

    Multi-syllable words for a simple concept, survival.

    Today, strategist debate what generation warfare we have now evolved too. I am no expert in those fields and would be treading on frozen cellophane to try and cross that river. This book helps us understand the changing environment of both war and peace. In a historical prospective, we can reach back into earliest time or to the remote jungles of New Guinea fifty years ago, when two men would meet in the forest, they would first, observe, then, orient to get best posture for survival, make a decision, kin or enemy, take action, fight or break bread. In the simplest terms, these decisions have played out in ever complicated scenarios ever since.

    Dr. Osinga’s book may turn out to be more read than any biography on John Boyd because he addresses the meat of what Boyd was trying to say in hundreds of lectures. He does this by providing the reader with Boyd’s ideas to ponder:

    Categories of conflict:

    Three kinds of conflict

    Based on his ‘panorama’ of military history, Boyd argues that one can imaginethree kinds of human conflict:98
    Attrition Warfare – as practiced by the Emperor Napoleon, by all sides during the 19th Century and during World War I, by the Allies during World War II, and by present-day nuclear planners.
    Maneuver Conflict – as practiced by the Mongols, General Bonaparte, Confederate General Stonewall Jackson, Union General Ulysses S. Grant,Hitler’s Generals (in particular Manstein, Guderian, Balck, Rommel) and the Americans under Generals Patton and MacArthur.
    Moral Conflict – as practiced by the Mongols, most Guerrilla Leaders, avery few Counter-Guerrillas (such as Magsaysay) and certain others from Sun Tzu to the present.

    In a historical sense looking back to draw from the examples of strategies that worked or failed are most helpful when one realizes that an old saying frequently used by an old soldier I once knew, that the Army suffers from CRS, IE, can’t remember scat, (my word to keep it cleaner) is still the norm.

    Using the above examples of Attrition Warfare and compare it with Maneuver Warfare.

    Spartans vs Thebans led by Epaminondas,who adopted the strategy at Leuctra. The strong left wing advanced while the weak right wing retreated.
    Or: Patton’s end run around the Germans accross France vs Hodge’s attrition warfare in the Battle of Hurtgen Forest.

    And Moral Conflict vs Attrition and Maneuver Warfare

    Going to Vietnam ready to fight WW III, and finding ourselves fighting a stealthy foe, reminiscent of our own colonial Indian wars.

    Dr. Osinga concludes that John Boyd’s work serves a greater purpose that his OODA loop idea.

    Boyd’s ideas involve much more than exclusively the idea of ‘rapid OODA looping’ or a theory for maneuver warfare. Contradicting those who categorically dismiss the validity of the OODA concept, the idea was found to be deep and rich in ideas,explanations, hypotheses, propositions, concepts and suggestions concerning conflict in general. These concepts are firmly based on a thorough study of military history and informed by insights on learning and the behavior of social systems derived from various disciplines.

    What this book serves to tell us is that in order to survive, one has to be ready to adapt. This is illustrated in our current strategy in the so called long war. The understanding of Boyd’s strategy also relate in every aspect of life from the mundane to profound.

    I would highly recommend this book to everyone. “Science, Strategy, and War: The Strategic Theory of John Boyd

    Cross-posted at HG’s World

    Previous Roundtable Posts


    Wilf Owen

    Dan tdaxp

    Dr. Chet Richards

    Shane Deichman

    Click here to view all posts in the discussion

    Posted in Book Notes, Boyd/Osinga Roundtable, Military Affairs | Comments Off on Osinga Roundtable on Science, Strategy and War: Historyguy99