PART II: THE IDEAS AT BOYD 2007
The ideas and arguments presented at Boyd 2007
were stimulating and, at times, controversial. I'm still pondering the implications of many of them and regret that I could not attend the next day's follow-up discussion organized by Don Vandergriff
of Simulated Laughter
was present. Hopefully, he will review it). I took many notes and here are my impressions of the sessions:Colonel Frans Osinga and Dr. Chet Richards
These back to back presentations were the ones that dealt in depth with the strategic theories of John Boyd, particularly the meaning and use of the famous OODA Loop. Osinga's major point was that the OODA Loop really reflected the deeper epistemological themes in Boyd's research of military history, theoretical science and strategy; that Boyd's strategic worldview was "neo-Darwinian" and geared to the adaptive competitive fitness of systems in conflict.
Richards focused on the overriding importance of the implicit in the OODA Loop, serving as guidance and control for Orientation and empowering the ability of individuals and harmoniously aligned groups (" novelty-generating systems" ) to sieze and retain the initiative over their opponents. The purpose of the OODA Loop is to " reduce your opponents to a quivering mass of jelly" ( and here Richards means the complex version of OODA, not the simple circular version) by creating disharmony in the other side even as you improve your own.William Lind, Colonel TX Hammes, Frank Hoffman, Bruce Gudmundsson on 4GW
I am conflating several sessions here and probably will not or cannot to justice to the views of all of the participants. Anyone who was also there, please feel free to offer corrections or extensions in the comment section.
William Lind was the most colorful and entertaining speaker at Boyd 2007 and, unsurprisingly if you have followed Lind's writings at all, the most radical in his arguments for 4GW. To an extent, many of the participants were responding to Lind's thesis as much as they were putting forth their own arguments. Frank Hoffman is somewhat excepted, as his role was a designated devil's advocate critiquing the weaknesses of the 4GW theory from the viewpoint of mainstream military historians and defense policy academics.
Lind opened by postulating "Three great Civil Wars" - namely WWI, WWII and the Cold War - that irreparably weakened Western civilization physically and, most importantly, morally and led to the rise of 4GW. This view is akin to Philip Bobbitt's
concept of the 20th century " Long War" and Niall Ferguson's
gloomy interpretaion of the First World War. In Lind's view, this civilizational loss of confidence set in motion by the horrors of the Western Front has led to the nation-state undergoing a " crisis of legitimacy" and the universal decline of the state argued by Martin van Creveld.
As the conflicts today are, in Lind's view, organic cultural conflicts of clashing ( and fractionating) primary loyalties, a new grand strategy must be offered; a defensive posture that seeks to conserve " centers of order" ( like China, America, Europe) and isolate ourselves from those centers of " disorder", including immigration by culturally indigestible groups like " Islamics". Lind also pointed to the need for an intellectual and moral regeneration at home and replacement of a self-serving, corrupt and politically inept bipartisan elite influenced by the tenets of cultural Marxism and political correctness
( interestingly, no one cared to argue the point about the incompetence of the elite though the cultural aspect was disputed).
Lind further dismissed any idea of the emergence of a 5th generation of war from consideration
and, in response to a question, offered a ferociously bitter, ad hominem, attack on the ideas of Thomas P.M. Barnett
as "a fairy tale", fit for publication in " a comic book". Lind offered no specifics and my impression was that Lind has a visceral dislike of Dr. Barnett's theories because their optimism and economic determinism sharply contradicts Lind's deeply pessimistic, culturally-based, analysis.
TX Hammes, while admiring of Lind's work, did not accept Lind's "kultur uber alles" premise and pointed to traditional political-economic-military indicators as being sufficient analytical categories for 4GW and emerging 5GW. Frank Hoffman hammered hard at the theoretical weaknesses in 4GW theory, accusing the school of making use of " selective history" and being elusive in its definitions - though Hoffman too blasted the ineptitude and blindness of the political and military establishment with much the same vehemence of Lind. In the seniors session, General Anthony Zinni
, flatly repudiated Lind's characterization of Muslim societies as myopic, being based upon the mythic rantings of Islamist radicals who were wholly unrepresentative of Muslims or mainstream Islam.The Generals And the Major:
The senior session with General Paul Van Riper
, the aforementioned General Zinni and General Alfred Gray
are worth noting as was the seminar conducted by Major Don Vandergriff
Van Riper called for a return to a "wide open intellectual climate" in the Marines and the military as a whole that ignored rank and focused upon the quality of ideas. An education of "how the world works" in terms of complex adaptive systems and the differences between those that were structurally complex and rigid and those that were interactively complex and fluid must be given and understood in order to confront " wicked problems
" effectively. The "Reductionist-Analytical" intellectual model can no longer be relied upon to provide answers, in Van Riper's view.
Much of the rest of the time was taken by the generals answering Shane Deichman's
question of operational jointness and Goldwater-Nichols. Shane's question was so good it basically hijacked the rest of the session as the generals offered their experiences and criticism of how "jointness" came to evolve in the 1980's and 1990's. Attaboy, Shane! ;o)
Vandergriff offered an outline in implementing the intellectual change Van Riper hopes to see come about with a forced practice method starting with " Three Levels Above" that requires students to adapt and think in "free play" scenarios. Vandergriff boiled his educational theory down to the principles of:1. Evolve the Course2. Every moment offers an opportunity to develop adaptability3. Student Ownership4.Develop at three levels.5. Outstanding teachers
Vandergriff's ideas are centered in military education but their applicability is entirely societal and systemic.
Comments are welcomed, especially if you can fill in anything that I have missed or gotten wrong.
Labels: boyd 2007, chet richards, hammes, john boyd, vandergriff, william lind