Science, Strategy, and War:
The Strategic Theory of John Boyd
Frans P. B. Osinga, Col
Royal Netherlands Air Force
Read Bill Lind's review
Publication date - October 2006
256pp; List prices £90 / $140 [Barnes & Noble has for $112 for their members - prices as of 4 Oct 2007]
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November 21, 2006
Following in the tradition of other senior officers who have turned their dissertations into popular books, most notably Samuel Griffith, Col Osinga has adapted his Ph.D. dissertation at Clingendael into the first commercially-published exegesis of the works of the late Col John R. Boyd. It is a long-needed effort since, as most DNI readers know, Boyd never published anything and wrote only one prose piece after his retirement. Col Osinga does an entirely creditable job. In addition to his background as an F-16 pilot – an aircraft that owes its existence to Boyd (although like all successful projects, it has many fathers) – Col Osinga had the benefit of considerable advice from Grant Hammond, who knew Boyd well and wrote his own professional biography, The Mind of War. I would be remiss in not confessing that I read and commented on his dissertation while it was in draft and have browsed the new book.
Watch for the full review in a few weeks. It would be appropriate, however, to warn that the book will not appeal to the casual reader. We are talking about a revised dissertation, here. Anyone, however, who has read any of the earlier works on Boyd – particularly those of Hammond, Coram, or my own Certain to Win – or who has heard the briefings from either Boyd or me, should have no problem. And if they start now, and put away their Christmas bonuses, they will be able to afford it (and a wise investment it would be).
Grant T. Hammond, Ph. D.
Professor of Strategy & International Security,
& Deputy Director, Center for Strategy & Technology
Frans Osinga has written an exceptional book on John Boyd and the origins and the implications of the scientific basis for his strategic thought. Col Osinga brings a unique blend of knowledge and insights from the natural sciences and the social sciences to illuminate the complexities of Boyd's thought and the amazing synthesis that it contains. It is more than a book on Boyd. It is a case study in strategic thought and the making of a strategist. This is a book which is at once highly intellectual and full of operational insights. It is a must read for any serious student of strategy.
Osinga has managed to do what neither the great Boyd in his marathon briefings, nor Boyd's apologists in their lighter tomes have been able to do: thoroughly and thoughtfully unravel the context, connections, and comprehensiveness of Boyd's views on human competition. Science, Strategy and War is a masterpiece. It is a must-read for serious students of strategy; be they military, business folk, athletes, or humans engaged in any other endeavor where rivals exist and winning counts.
Lt Col. USMC, Ret.
While others have detailed the life of Colonel John Boyd – the maverick defense thinker – no one has yet properly framed his intellectual contribution to defense theory, reconstructed his research foundation, or explored the breadth of strategic insights. Osinga's treatise is a long overdue corrective to those who dismissed Boyd's claim to notoriety or the sheer simplicity of his concepts. Science, Strategy,and War is a monumental contribution to military thought and completely worthy of the genius it covers.