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Science, Strategy and War: The Strategic Theory of John Boyd (Strategy and History) Hardcover – December 6, 2006

22 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0415371032 ISBN-10: 0415371031 Edition: 1st

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Editorial Reviews


If you have any interest in war, this is a book your library cannot do without. Just as America cannot do without John Boyd's ideas, although our military has not yet figured that out.
William Lind, Military.com

Osinga provides lucid expositions of the various elements that Boyd synthesized into some truly original formulations and ways of thinking about strategy.

Lawrence Freedman, Foreign Affairs

Osinga’s book should be read by military professionals and academics alike, but also by anyone interested in the social and cultural impacts of science in general, and chaos and complexity theories in particular. Science, Strategy and War will and should remain required reading for years to come.

Sean Lawson, Emergence

About the Author

Joint Air Power Competence Centre, HQ SACT, Virginia, USA
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Product Details

  • Series: Strategy and History
  • Hardcover: 313 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (December 6, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415371031
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415371032
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #231,684 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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78 of 81 people found the following review helpful By C. W. Richards on January 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover
John Boyd's answer to the problem of winning in any form of conflict, the "Discourse on Winning and Losing," is a set of roughly 300 charts, and Dutch AF Col Frans Osinga has set himself the task of guiding his readers through them. It is a formidable assignment. Boyd, you see, did not intend the briefings of the Discourse to be read on their own. For years, he would not give out copies until after the presentation, and it had to be the "whole brief or no brief." It may seem obvious, but it was in briefing format not so much in tribute to Sun Tzu - although The Art of War is, like the Discourse, a set of bullet points - but simply because he didn't feel that there were enough readers inside the Beltway to make it worthwhile.

Osinga accomplishes his mission magnificently. If you are interested in Boyd's problem of how to win regardless, stop right now and order the book. If you have not heard the briefings, my recommendation is to begin with chapter one, then skip back to chapter seven for a summary of Boyd's influence on strategy. Then, download the charts, go back to chapter two, and work your way through the rest of the book. [The briefings are all available on Defense and the National Interest.]

Is it a tough read? Do you know of anything really worthwhile that is easy? Just as there is no royal road to mathematics, there is no royal road to Boyd. I was present at the creation of many of these charts, and I found a lot in this book that was new and helpful in broadening my understanding (for one thing, I have not, as Osinga did, read Boyd's original notes in the source books).

This book is a distilled version of Col Osinga's Ph.D.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By J. Scott Shipman on October 30, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Colonel Osinga has written an important book distilling the strategic thinking of one of the 20th century's most important contributors, Colonel John R. Boyd. I began my "Boyd odyssey" a couple of years ago when I read Robert Coram's excellent biography, BOYD, The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War (would recommend this title first to those unfamiliar with Col Boyd). Since reading Coram's book, I've read everything I could find on Boyd and his ideas. Col Osinga's book places Boyd's ideas in an accessible (albeit sometimes dense) format (agree with Col Richards (author of Certain to Win!---a translation of Boyd's strategy into business---and a very good read, as well) that sometimes the best things don't come easy). Col Osinga's book provides Boyd's ground-breaking methods of "how to win" and problem solving---a literal "out-of-the-box thinker"---with emphasis on THINKING.
Personally, after becoming acquainted with Boyd's work (I carry printed copies of his only published work, an essay called Destruction and Creation, in my computer bag read while traveling---giving copies to clients and friends) my business has changed and to a great extent, my life has changed. Boyd's method of synthesizing data from disparate sources has helped me to help clients solve problems and exposed me to areas I would have never investigated otherwise.
This book is important and highly recommended.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Retired Reader on October 24, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book has the rather ambitious goal of "better understanding the strategic thought developed" by Colonel John Boyd (USAF ret.). For the most part it succeeds in doing this. Since Boyd chose not consolidate his thoughts into one or more books, Osinga was forced to develop his information from Boyd's slides used to brief his ideas and from Boyd's notes. So what does this book tell the reader about the "strategic thought" of Colonel Boyd?

Although Osinga does not address it, John Boyd appears to have had what can only be called the mind of an engineer. The application of scientific principals to practical ends seemed to come naturally to him. He actually received a degree in industrial engineering from Georgia Tech in 1962, but this appeared to have primarily credentialed his existing engineering talent.

Boyd was an experienced and successful fighter pilot from the Korean War and his initial engineering efforts had to do with designing an air superiority fighter. To this end Boyd developed a simple, but revolutionary concept for fighter design namely the relationship of Energy to Maneuverability or EM concept. Once Boyd developed the EM Concept it was obvious, but he was surprised to discover that no one had thought of it before. Application of this concept led directly to the development of the F-15 fighter and to the most cost effective and versatile fighter produced in the last quarter of the 20th Century, the F-16.

Boyd is best known for his brilliant and original concept of command and control (C2) processes, the so-called Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action (OODA) loop. Like the EM concept once somebody thinks of it the OODA loop is obvious, but only after Boyd developed it. The OODA loop describes what are quite complex C2 processes.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Richard F Ganske on October 29, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Highly recommend! Frans Osinga's Science, Strategy, and War was a rich and esoteric examination of John Boyd's conceptualizations. Not for the faint of heart! Osinga's work remains far above the fray of hagiography, a common critique of Boyd biographies, which highlights a common strategy of ad hominem, too cowardly or simpleton to adequately counter Boyd's theories directly. Osinga does well to present the reader with the context and background that were the catalysts for Boyd's body of work.

The USAF, the service to which Boyd dedicated his career and life to, has hardly sought to purposefully encapsulated his concepts. For those areas where the USAF has attempted, it grossly missed the mark. The "big Air Force" fearfully revolted at Boyd's requirement for deep and challenging thinking (Sun Tzu, "know thyself" much?). Ergo, the raison d'être for Osinga's examination. Let me clear: this was fortuitous, for had the USAF not significantly dismissed Boyd's presentations and limited writings, Osinga wouldn't have needed to write his book (based upon his thesis for School of Advanced Airpower & Strategic Studies, the Air Force's preeminent center for strategic learning).

Osinga's work embarks upon the deep dive beyond the USAF's limited understanding of the Observe-Orient-Decide-Act (OODA) Loop. Osinga himself describes this succienctly:

"[The] common perception is incomplete, as the OODA loop contains more elements for success than only tempo and information. This integral rendition of his work thus indicates that the popular notion of the 'rapid OODA loop' idea does not adequately capture what Boyd meant by it, and that Boyd must be remembered for more than only the idea that one can gain military victory by more rapidly OODA looping than the opponent.
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