Destruction and Creation

The previous post featured Boyd’s last work on strategy; this one provides his first.  The entire Boyd opus can be found at http://dnipogo.org/john-r-boyd/

I had met Boyd while he was still in the Air Force and I was a civilian in the Program Analysis and Evaluation division of the Office of the Secretary of Defense.  We’re talking 1972 or so.  But I didn’t start working with him until he retired and started this paper.  He needed someone to review the mathematics and who would work for free.  I fit the bill.

Destruction and Creation lays out the primary arguments that will guide Boyd’s strategic thought at least through Strategic Game in 1986.  It makes the statement that one cannot tell the character or nature of a system from within that system.  Fair enough — nothing radical there.  But then he makes a claim that as far as I know establishes his unique place in strategic thought:  Attempts to do so will “expose uncertainty and generate disorder.”

In other words, a good strategic principle is to force  opponents to turn inward and keep them focused internally until they destroy themselves or so weaken their abilities to resist that you can do it for them.

All the rest of Boyd’s primary strategic work illustrates this concept and suggests many mechanisms at the physical, mental, and moral levels for applying it.

2 thoughts on “Destruction and Creation

  1. “In other words, a good strategic principle is to force opponents to turn inward and keep them focused internally until they destroy themselves or so weaken their abilities to resist that you can do it for them.”

    What, then, does this say about an organization’s internal culture? Is it fair to say that a culture that cannot be forced to turn inward is more difficult to defeat? Does it suggest that the soft stuff is really the hard stuff, and that more would do well to work on ensuring that they prevent the tendency to turn inward?

    • Dear iannarino,

      Well put! And Boyd suggested at least a couple of ways to do it – Operate inside your adversary’s OODA loops — see, for example. Strategic Game, 44 — and pump up your moral strength, for which, see Patterns, 120-125. The two are not unrelated, by the way.

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