Sunday, 5 October 2008

Brute force versus agility

A name new to me, though perhaps not to you: John Boyd of the US Air Force.

My interest was sparked by a post at Information Dissemination, suggesting that Boyd’s ideas were very influential in current strategic thinking. A short biography at Eject! Eject! Eject! filled in some details about those ideas which originated in his experience as a fighter pilot instructor, were then developed in his contribution to designing lighter more responsive fighter jets with the F-15 and F-16, and were more broadly applied in ground warfare during both the first Gulf War and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. More details of a new book on J. Boyd at tdaxp, with lots of links.

From this brief introduction it seems that some of what John Boyd was proposing was a re-learning of old lessons, but no less valuable for that. It looks as though I may have to read more.

Also on re-learning old lessons, I very much enjoyed this on But I am a Liberal, a 2006 interview with Victor Davis Hanson on the Peloponnesian War and on what lessons Thucydides might have for the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, on how democracies win or lose wars, on the need to define the war in existential terms, on the experiment that is contemporary Western warfare in trying to win and reconstruct nations without subjecting those nations to total defeat, on the abiding necessity to inflict an unambiguous defeat on the specific fascist enemy within those nations in order to discredit the enemy in the eyes of the larger population.

In the comments below that post, The New Centrist gives a link to a conversation around some of those themes from a few months ago, in part here and here.

A quote from the Victor Hanson  interview, relevant to this earlier post on utterances by UK diplomatic and military figures on Afghanistan:
Missing in this war is some commander who would say this war is for liberal values and I’ve got a bunch of soldiers over here, I’ve got a bunch of women over here, I’ve got a bunch of people from different races and minorities and they represent the future of a liberal West that’s being attacked by these people and they’re not going to lose.

On the subject of democracy and war, here’s a good post on the democratic shortfall in Georgia, on Michael J Totten's blog, but written by Michael Cecire. I’ve argued earlier that authoritarianism in the Georgian government shouldn’t be used to equate them with the current Russian Potempkin democracy, and that Georgian democracy will be better served through being supported by the West than by being left to the mercies of the Russian invaders, but the other part of that argument is that in supporting Georgia the West needs urgently to ensure Georgian democracy is strengthened alongside Georgian security and international connectivity.

The fight that needs to be won is not between leaders or nations, but between political, legal and economic systems. Authoritarianism vs totalitarianism isn’t good enough.

Drawing from In Dublin magazine, 1987.


TNC said...

thanks for the link!

Roland Dodds said...

Thanks for the plug, and those TNC pieces are defiantly worth people’s time.