Science, Strategy and War

The Strategic Theory of John Boyd

By Frans P.B. Osinga

© 2006 – Routledge

336 pages | 18 B/W Illus.

Purchasing Options:
Paperback: 9780415459525
pub: 2007-09-20
US Dollars$54.95
Hardback: 9780415371032
pub: 2006-10-25
US Dollars$168.00

About the Book

John Boyd is often known exclusively for the so-called ‘OODA’ loop model he developed. This model refers to a decision-making process and to the idea that military victory goes to the side that can complete the cycle from observation to action the fastest.

This book aims to redress this state of affairs and re-examines John Boyd’s original contribution to strategic theory. By highlighting diverse sources that shaped Boyd’s thinking, and by offering a comprehensive overview of Boyd’s work, this volume demonstrates that the common interpretation of the meaning of Boyd’s OODA loop concept is incomplete. It also shows that Boyd’s work is much more comprehensive, richer and deeper than is generally thought. With his ideas featuring in the literature on Network Centric Warfare, a key element of the US and NATO’s so-called ‘military transformation’ programmes, as well as in the debate on Fourth Generation Warfare, Boyd continues to exert a strong influence on Western military thinking. Dr Osinga demonstrates how Boyd’s work can helps us to understand the new strategic threats in the post- 9/11 world, and establishes why John Boyd should be regarded as one of the most important (post)modern strategic theorists.


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,

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

Table of Contents

1. Introduction Introducing 'A Discourse'. ‘A Towering Figure’. 'Deeply Flawed'. Aim and Argument. A Note on Strategy. A Note on Strategic Theory. The Formative Factors of Strategic Theory. Organization of this Study. 2. The Seeds of a Theory and the Fertile Soil The Seed of a Theory. Boyd’s Military Life. Reading History. Fertile Soil: The US Military After Vietnam Experience, Curiosity and Challenges 3. Science: Boyd’s Fountain Boyd and Science. Shifting Foundations. Paradigm Shift. The Emerging Systems View of the World Systems Everywhere. Boyd and the First Stage of the Paradigm Shift. Conclusion 4. Completing the Shift Riding the Wave. Beyond Open and Chaotic Systems: Complexity Theory. The Postmodern Turn. Chaos Everywhere. A Discourse and the Scientific Zeitgeist. Concluding Words 5. Core Arguments A Discourse in Prose. Boyd’s ‘Abstract’ of A Discourse. Destruction and Creation. Patterns of Conflict. Concluding Words. 6. Exploration and Refinement Introduction. Organic Design for Command and Control. The Strategic Game of ? and ? Revelation. The Conceptual Spiral. The Essence of Winning and Losing 7. Completing the Loop Beyond the Rapid OODA Idea. The Continuing Relevance of a Discourse. Analysis/Synthesis

About the Series

Strategy and History

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Military / General
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / International Security
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / General