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Thread: The John Boyd collection (merged thread)

  1. #21
    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default 4GW as a Model of Future Conflict

    4GW as a Model of Future Conflict
    Boyd 2007 Conference, 13 July 2007
    Warfare Since Boyd Panel Presentation

    F. G. Hoffman

    I have been asked to be the token diversity candidate from outside the 4GW “church” today, and am honored just by the chance to appear at an event that preserves John Boyd’s deep intellectual contributions, and to be on stage with my fellow panelists and Col Eric Walters. My assigned task is to explain why academics and historians have problems with the 4GW construct. My remarks will draw up upon my work on an alternative concept called Hybrid Warfare which I have presented at Oxford University this past winter. My comments will also draw upon unpublished work about to be released in a book titled Global Insurgency and the Future of Armed Conflict, edited by Dr. Terry Terriff, of University of Birmingham (UK) and Aaron Karp and Dr. Regina Karp of Old Dominion University, in which several of our distinguished speakers have prominent contributions including Mr. Lind and Col Hammes.

    Let me begin by summarizing the arguments up front. The 4GW construct is often criticized for three major faults.

    The theory is described as “weak” and the concept is too diffused, having become over time the equivalent of everything that is asymmetric.

    Second the history that is drawn upon is uneven and often “too selective,” that is it is packaged to support a major component of the theory without full examination of trends or detailed counter-findings.

    Finally, the generational framework is labeled “indefensible” and unnecessary. In my own assessment, I find that it hides more than it reveals...
    More at the link...

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    Frank's brief was good - he basically stated that 4GW may be flawed, but it's "right enough" to have a lot of merit.
    "Speak English! said the Eaglet. "I don't know the meaning of half those long words, and what's more, I don't believe you do either!"

    The Eaglet from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Default Boyd and Lind Rebuttal

    Forgive me, but I fancy dropping a bit of a rock in the water.

    I believe that Lind has contributed very little that is useful, and is mostly proved wrong when subjected to rigor. He is not military theorist, but rather a self-publicist. Maneuver Warfare, OODA loops and 4GW have wasted time set people on the wrong path.

    I also believe that John Boyd, is vastly overrate when it comes to his work on MW, even if you believe there is such a thing, is that belief useful?

    “Watch and shoot, watch and shoot”
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    Forgive me, but I fancy dropping a bit of a rock in the water.

    I believe that Lind has contributed very little that is useful, and is mostly proved wrong when subjected to rigor. He is not military theorist, but rather a self-publicist. Maneuver Warfare, OODA loops and 4GW have wasted time set people on the wrong path.

    I also believe that John Boyd, is vastly overrate when it comes to his work on MW, even if you believe there is such a thing, is that belief useful?

    “Watch and shoot, watch and shoot”
    I don't know who you are, but I like you already....

    Be prepared to get introduced to someone relatively soon named Fabius. You just called his Michael Jordan a horrible basketball player.
    Example is better than precept.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Heh. Does that come under the heading of:

    "The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable."
    ~Attributed to James A. Garfield

    I shall prepare my popcorn...

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    This is kind of funny; on my own site this morning, I put down the first paragraph of a piece where I'm going after three "Peacetime Doctrine" Strategic Theories ("Soft Power", 4GW/5GW, and RMA) that seem to think that Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, and Forrest are either fundamentally wrong or obsolete. I think that they are useful to the extent that they demonstrate areas of negligence or point to areas that require further development in Strategic Thought, but no more. What makes the aforementioned Three Great Military Theorists so great is the simple and basic applicability and usefulness of what they're trying to teach. The newer stuff just doesn't quite cut it there.

    And I was horrified by Lind's advocacy of heavy and light teams in the Rifle Squad. There wasn't enough practical difference between the two as he had them to really bother with making the distinction in the first place.

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    There was a Handbook that was written on 4GW called FMFM-1A, by Lind and others. It was painful to read, and hard to understand how some many bright and clever men could buy into such a poor idea.
    Last edited by Jedburgh; 12-16-2007 at 03:07 PM. Reason: Added link.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Quote Originally Posted by RTK View Post
    ...Be prepared to get introduced to someone relatively soon named Fabius. You just called his Michael Jordan a horrible basketball player.
    RTK, too funny with the analogy to Jordan.

    I never bought any of the 4thGW warfare stuff and i dont believe any thinker of quality did either: Too simplistic; too sequential; too much of a rehash of Marx's epochs but with a liberal democratic switch to it. But it sounded good though and it soothed and it fit neatly in with the airpower/techno fetish of the 90s that all wars could be reduced to targets for destruction and that friction in war was gone; and more painfully for the American Army it produced the nonsensical notion of "maneuver out of contact, "certain knowledge of the enemy," and "quality of firsts."

    Hey Tom Odom, I thought in that famous photo of John Warden in flight rompers in Checkmate with SecDef Cheney, John Boyd was in his rompers too albeit mystically in the background nodding approval

    gian

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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    There was a Handbook that was written on 4GW called FMFM-1A, by Lind and others. It was painful to read, and hard to understand how some many bright and clever men could buy into such a poor idea.
    Wilf, I understand you've been working on a Doctrine of Infantry for a little while now; when it's finished, I hope it get lots of exposure, especially to the 4GW crowd. A lot of those folks need some exposure to real Infantry Doctrine.

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    4GW, in my view, is nothing more than a marketing tool/book selling device for people who aren't quite sure what to do with themselves on the weekend.

    In all seriousness, 4GW ignores history (by claiming that the majority of its practices began with Mao), relies excessively on sound byte quotes from Sun Tzu and others, and can quite often be boiled down to a smoke and mirrors act. Boyd had some interesting ideas, but to me the greatest accomplishment of those ideas was prodding folks in the Marine Corps to look at how they thought about war and develop the MCDP 1 series.

    4GW is really nothing more than non-kinetic maneuver operations accelerated by modern communication methods (specifically the internet) and boosted with a fluid organization taken from the anti-globalization folks and various terrorist networks. A method of organization and operations, but not necessarily a "new" way of war and certainly one that has been around since before the 20th century (look at the operations of the Cuban rebels before the Spanish-American war for just one example).
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

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    Quote Originally Posted by Norfolk View Post
    I put down the first paragraph of a piece where I'm going after three "Peacetime Doctrine" Strategic Theories ("Soft Power", 4GW/5GW, and RMA) that seem to think that Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, and Forrest are either fundamentally wrong or obsolete. I think that they are useful to the extent that they demonstrate areas of negligence or point to areas that require further development in Strategic Thought, but no more. What makes the aforementioned Three Great Military Theorists so great is the simple and basic applicability and usefulness of what they're trying to teach. The newer stuff just doesn't quite cut it there.
    You should read Colin Gray's new book Fighting Talk: Forty Maxims on War, Peace, and Strategy. In particular, Maxim 14 "If Thucydides, Sun Tzu, and Clausewitz did not say it, it probably is not worth saying", would be useful for your paper.

    Dave
    David S. Maxwell
    "Irregular warfare is far more intellectual than a bayonet charge." T.E. Lawrence

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    Quote Originally Posted by max161 View Post
    You should read Colin Gray's new book Fighting Talk: Forty Maxims on War, Peace, and Strategy. In particular, Maxim 14 "If Thucydides, Sun Tzu, and Clausewitz did not say it, it probably is not worth saying", would be useful for your paper.

    Dave
    Thanks Dave! Much obliged.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post

    I never bought any of the 4thGW warfare stuff and i dont believe any thinker of quality did either: Too simplistic; too sequential; too much of a rehash of Marx's epochs but with a liberal democratic switch to it. But it sounded good though and it soothed and it fit neatly in with the airpower/techno fetish of the 90s that all wars could be reduced to targets for destruction and that friction in war was gone; and more painfully for the American Army it produced the nonsensical notion of "maneuver out of contact, "certain knowledge of the enemy," and "quality of firsts."

    Hey Tom Odom, I thought in that famous photo of John Warden in flight rompers in Checkmate with SecDef Cheney, John Boyd was in his rompers too albeit mystically in the background nodding approval

    gian
    I'm not a big fan of 4GW, but I'm sure they do not associate themselves with air-centric, "sterile" solutions or dominant knowledge, etc. Quite the opposite. Warden and Boyd wore the same uniform, but that's about the limit of their similarity.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PhilR View Post
    I'm not a big fan of 4GW, but I'm sure they do not associate themselves with air-centric, "sterile" solutions or dominant knowledge, etc. Quite the opposite. Warden and Boyd wore the same uniform, but that's about the limit of their similarity.

    You said a mouthful there!

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    Quote Originally Posted by PhilR View Post
    Warden and Boyd wore the same uniform, but that's about the limit of their similarity.
    But he did model human behaivor in combat through his ooda loop. His upbringing as a fighter pilot (albeit with very limited actual combat experience) informed his thinking to derive his model where human actions could be modeled and if they could be modeled then they could be controlled; the opposite of friction. Boyd was Jomini and not Clausewitz hence my point on friction.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Norfolk View Post
    Wilf, I understand you've been working on a Doctrine of Infantry for a little while now; when it's finished, I hope it get lots of exposure, especially to the 4GW crowd. A lot of those folks need some exposure to real Infantry Doctrine.
    How the ***k did you know that! Wow. Small world. All true. A work of some 4 years, 3 drafts, a lot of sweat, and perhaps doubtful merit. Publisher extremely frustrated.

    The infantry annex of FMFM-1A really worries me, as a friend of mine, very conversant with the ideas I promote, helped write it. He is an extremely gifted Royal Marine officer who risked his career by getting his rifle company to use some of my wild and whacky ideas in the field, which was vastly useful.

    He then went to the US and became embroiled with Hammes, Lind and the whole 4GW thing. - so the infantry annex of FMFM-1A cause me some pain and confusion which I am still working through, as the bones of what is contained there is actually nothing to do with 4GW
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    How [] did you know that! Wow. Small world. All true. A work of some 4 years, 3 drafts, a lot of sweat, and perhaps doubtful merit. Publisher extremely frustrated.

    The infantry annex of FMFM-1A really worries me, as a friend of mine, very conversant with the ideas I promote, helped write it. He is an extremely gifted Royal Marine officer who risked his career by getting his rifle company to use some of my wild and whacky ideas in the field, which was vastly useful.

    He then went to the US and became embroiled with Hammes, Lind and the whole 4GW thing. - so the infantry annex of FMFM-1A cause me some pain and confusion which I am still working through, as the bones of what is contained there is actually nothing to do with 4GW
    Wilf, this is the SWC, and we're made up of Infantrymen and IO's (amongst others), so word gets around:

    http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...6&postcount=2:

    Besides, Rifleman has been posting your articles for months here, and you appear to have developed quite a following.

    If you've had the "assistance" of real live Royal Marines to test your Doctrine out in the Field (the Marines being the way they are with their own "Right Way" of doing things) - a remarkable feat in itself -, then I'm certain whatever emerges will be eagerly read and discussed in all manner of places. The fact that your Doctrine will have received at least some degree of Field Testing (by Marines no less) will go some way to giving your Doctrine credibility with its audience.

    Maybe we should get William Lind on here - not that he'd enjoy the reception that his ideas receive here; and I'm almost surprised that FM hasn't shown up yet. Yep, there could be some real fireworks on some threads here at the SWC then.

    Forget the popcorn I say (sorry Ken, but I'll defer to your preferences in your case): if either FM returns or Lind were to show up, we'll need nothing less than whisky, beer chasers, and Cajun chicken wings - to start.

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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    I don't know who you are, but I like you already....
    As do I.

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    I don't intend to take a position on the value of the content of what the 4GWers were (and still are) arguing. However, I do think they did an invaluable service in taking on the conventional wisdom regarding the future of warfare, primarily the dead hand of recent operational and strategic history, where past success and dominance were used to define the future, even if that future seemed headed elsewhere.

    I do agree with the comments put forth by various folks that the notion of "generations" of warfare is too linear and imputes a sort of movement or evolution that does not occur. I don't know whether he still uses it now that he's at Carlisle, but Craig Nation, back when he was at SAIS, offered what I think was a far more compelling vision of the history of warfare, where different forms of warfare dominated in cycles, in an almost predictable fashion. Furthermore, the strength and dominance of a form at any given time was the key to the shift to a new cycle -- those who could not compete according to the current form were inspired to find a "new" way. Likely I'm butchering his argument a bit -- it's been a long time -- but this is the gist of it.

    Cheers,
    Jill

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    This is a nice troll. Lots of bait in the water, the chum line is ready.

    By the way, Jill, I agree with your take.
    "Speak English! said the Eaglet. "I don't know the meaning of half those long words, and what's more, I don't believe you do either!"

    The Eaglet from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland

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