The Review of Boyd & Beyond 2013…..


Mark Safranski the purveyor of Zenpundit has graciously allowed me to post his great recap of the Boyd and Beyond symposium that took place this past weekend at Marine Corps Base Quantico. Thanks Mark! I was unable to attend this years symposium. In fact this is the second year in a row I have missed. These recaps and the discussions they generate help me to draw at least partially some of the great learning that took place there. My hope is you find it as useful as I do.

Stan Coerr, observes the Best quote of 2013 Boyd and Beyond conference:

"I was an up-and-comer in the Air Force. I was selected early for Major. I was selected early for Lieutenant Colonel. And then I met John Boyd...." ~Jim Burton

LTC Bob Weiman, who had a presentation on the question of the Laws of War vs. Rule of Law paradigms, that particularly resonated with me given my diplo history background, had a great review of his impressions that I did want to get lost in the comments section:

Boyd and Beyond 2013…ideas, discussions and breadcrumbs

Another Boyd conference has come and gone at Quantico and this is the fourth held aboard the Marine Base in that many years. The presentations are thought provoking, discussions enthusiastic and the Boydian commandeer excellent.

The conference opened with Michael Niehuser and his work on: “Colonel John R. Boyd Oral History Project: A Search for The Truth”. Yes! About time and long overdue. I believe I spent a little more time with Michael then most and he is definitely hooked on the Col Boyd story and those earlier followers we call acolytes. When he is done with this project it will prove to be exceptional. The Boyd, von Mellenthin and Balck re-invasion of Russia story was priceless.

In my mind, two basic issues are associated with Col Boyd and his compendium of briefs. The first is the existing institutional resistance and skepticism. The second is the incompleteness of Col Boyd’s work. I say incomplete because he did not write his book and that is a criticism I hear frequently from across the informal debating podium. These two issues provide opportunities or gaps that the Boyd Conference participants exploit. As Boydians, the more we discuss, debate, investigate and evolve the more likely we overcome the institution resistance.

Concerning the incompleteness; as Boydians, we find ourselves on the horns of a dilemma. We recognize the robustness and utility of his work and at the same time have an endless stream of questions on his meaning and intent, especially concerning the practical application within our particular professions.

The good news is Col Boyd’s work drops trails of breadcrumbs across everyone’s mental “tapestry” that shows the least interest. These breadcrumbs trails are the guide to completeness. On military side, when I listen to that first incoming salvo of “Patterns of Conflict”, Col Boyd talked about “Tiger Jack”. Major General John Shirley Woods 4th Armor Division led Patton’s Third Army across Europe. The second time I heard “Patterns of Conflict “ the Colonel spoke about Major General “Terrible” Terry Allen Division Commander of the 104th Infantry Division. When asked why the General Allen stressed night attack training when it confuses his own troops, his reply was; “because it confuses the Germans more”. Detailed battle studies of these men and their tactics are needed to determine why they got Colonel Boyd’s attention as good examples. Another example is Michael G. Moore’s (Integrity Psychologist) work and presentations. Michael has presented for the past three years and he has moved from tracking bread crumbs through the forest to a full exploitation of a gap. I believe Michael is executing (what we call in the military) a “rollup” using Boyd within his own professional field. During the conference, Scott Shipman mentioned that when he went into the Boyd papers at the Alfred Gray Library, he saw pages of yellow legal pad where Boyd had written a line or phrase over and over and then suddenly changed one word. Here the breadcrumb is the “word” and the trail is the why he choose that particular word.

I think Colonel Boyd would be excited observing us on this mental gymnastic dilemma of chasing breadcrumbs. He would be thrilled because we have all left the role of witness and ventured into the realm of thinkers, analyst and implementers. Well done Boydians, hope to see where you are on your breadcrumb trails next year and a special thanks to Stan and Scott for their time, efforts and hospitality.

Semper Fi, Bob Weimann