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  An American Manifesto
Friday August 29, 2014 
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How Much Ruthlessness is Enough? Euro-Paradise Lost

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A Very American Hero

by Christopher Chantrill
May 30, 2005 at 9:45 am

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EIGHT YEARS ago, on March 20,1997, American hero John R. Boyd was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery. He was 70.

John Boyd was an Air Force fighter jock who learned physics and thermodynamics so he could translate his hunch about fighter combat into a theory. Then he fought the Pentagon to translate his theory into reality. Reality was called F-15 and also F-16.

Boyd was a foul-mouthed man who argued in the face of generals and who called people up in the middle of the night to talk for hours about his latest idea. He neglected his wife and his children, but accumulated a devoted group of loyal Acolytes.

After retiring from the U.S. Air Force as a full colonel Boyd took up the field of military strategy from where the Germans had left it in 1945. The U.S. Marines were really impressed. That is why they came to his funeral and honored the grave of an Air Force officer by placing the Marine Corps insignia on it.

You can hear Boyd talking whenever you listen to an officer in Iraq or read a mil-blog.

John R. Boyd was born in 1927 in Erie, Pennsylvania. His father died just before his third birthday and he was raised by his mother, Elsie, in fierce genteel poverty. He saw the end of World War II as an enlisted man and the end of the Korean War as an F-86 pilot. Then he went to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada and became the ace dog-fighter “Forty Second” Boyd flying the F-100. Here’s what Forty Second meant. Boyd would place his adversary in an F-100 on his tail, his “Six,” and guarantee to get his own ship maneuvered onto the adversary’s “Six” within 40 seconds. He wrote down his ideas on aerial combat in a paper, “Aerial Attack Study,” that became the Air Force’s fighter tactics manual.

To find out how to design a good jet fighter Boyd went to Georgia Tech and got an engineering degree. It was while studying thermodynamics there that he realized that the key to fighter operations was energy, trading off potential and kinetic energy. Assisted by Tom Christie and $1 million of purloined computer time, he developed Energy-Maneuverability (E-M) Theory. It allowed him to draw performance curves for every airplane that flew and predict which fighter plane would win in a matchup. In the late 1960s he headed up an ad hoc guerrilla group in the Pentagon, the “Fighter Mafia,” that designed the best fighter aircraft in the world, the F-16.

Just as the F-16 entered service in 1975, Boyd retired from the Air Force and his real life’s work began. John Boyd, the cocky fighter jock, began reading.

Boyd mastered the German canon from Kant to Heisenberg and produced a paper in 1976 entitled “Destruction and Creation,” available here, that reformulated Hegel’s dialectics in terms of Gödel and Heisenberg. The way of evolution was through successive cycles of destruction and creation, in “a changing and expanding universe of mental concepts matched to a changing and expanding universe of observed reality.” Then Boyd started on his monumental “Patterns of Conflict.” It was not a book. It was a presentation, a stack of slides, available here in pdf.

Knowledge starts with a problem, and Boyd’s problem was the Vietnam War, the humiliation of the United States by a third-world adversary, North Vietnam. Boyd went back to the beginning, tracing the evolution of military strategy from Sun Tzu, who wrote The Art of War in 400 BC. He studied all the great generals in history. He studied the Germans from Clausewitz’s On War to Guderian’s Achtung-Panzer!

In his “Patterns of Conflict” Boyd symbolized his findings in the OODA Loop. The core of the loop is the formula: Observe, Orient, Decide, Act (see here). But the secret to success in conflict is not a formula. It is to get within the mind and the decision cycle of the adversary and drive him to moral collapse in a whirl of confusion and uncertainty.

John Boyd was everything that our sensitive postmodernists abhor, an ugly American warrior who adored conflict and competition. Yet he was a better postmodernist than any of them. Just like them, he used the German tradition to tear down the status quo in a spiraling dialectic of deconstruction. But Boyd was a man of action. He wanted to restructure the world after tearing it apart; he wanted to rebuild the armed forces of the United States of America. That is why his remains lie in Arlington National Cemetery and his spirit inspires the young men and women who defend our nation in Iraq and around the world.

You can read about John Boyd’s life and ideas in two biographies: Robert Coram’s Boyd and Grant T. Hammond’s The Mind of War.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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 TAGS


What Liberals Think About Conservatives

[W]hen I asked a liberal longtime editor I know with a mainstream [publishing] house for a candid, shorthand version of the assumptions she and her colleagues make about conservatives, she didn't hesitate. “Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-choice fascists,” she offered, smiling but meaning it.
Harry Stein, I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican


US Life in 1842

Families helped each other putting up homes and barns. Together, they built churches, schools, and common civic buildings. They collaborated to build roads and bridges. They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


Taking Responsibility

[To make] of each individual member of the army a soldier who, in character, capability, and knowledge, is self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility [verantwortungsfreudig] as a man and a soldier. — Gen. Hans von Seeckt
MacGregor Knox, Williamson Murray, ed., The dynamics of military revolution, 1300-2050


Society and State

For [the left] there is only the state and the individual, nothing in between. No family to rely on, no friend to depend on, no community to call on. No neighbourhood to grow in, no faith to share in, no charities to work in. No-one but the Minister, nowhere but Whitehall, no such thing as society - just them, and their laws, and their rules, and their arrogance.
David Cameron, Conference Speech 2008


Socialism equals Animism

Imagining that all order is the result of design, socialists conclude that order must be improvable by better design of some superior mind.
F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit


Sacrifice

[Every] sacrifice is an act of impurity that pays for a prior act of greater impurity... without its participants having to suffer the full consequences incurred by its predecessor. The punishment is commuted in a process that strangely combines and finesses the deep contradiction between justice and mercy.
Frederick Turner, Beauty: The Value of Values


Responsible Self

[The Axial Age] highlights the conception of a responsible self... [that] promise[s] man for the first time that he can understand the fundamental structure of reality and through salvation participate actively in it.
Robert N Bellah, "Religious Evolution", American Sociological Review, Vol. 29, No. 3.


Religion, Property, and Family

But the only religions that have survived are those which support property and the family. Thus the outlook for communism, which is both anti-property and anti-family, (and also anti-religion), is not promising.
F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit


Racial Discrimination

[T]he way “to achieve a system of determining admission to the public schools on a nonracial basis,” Brown II, 349 U. S., at 300–301, is to stop assigning students on a racial basis. The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.
Roberts, C.J., Parents Involved in Community Schools vs. Seattle School District


Postmodernism

A writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is ’merely relative’, is asking you not to believe him. So don’t.
Roger Scruton, Modern Philosophy


Physics, Religion, and Psychology

Paul Dirac: “When I was talking with Lemaître about [the expanding universe] and feeling stimulated by the grandeur of the picture that he has given us, I told him that I thought cosmology was the branch of science that lies closest to religion. However [Georges] Lemaître [Catholic priest, physicist, and inventor of the Big Bang Theory] did not agree with me. After thinking it over he suggested psychology as lying closest to religion.”
John Farrell, “The Creation Myth”


Pentecostalism

Within Pentecostalism the injurious hierarchies of the wider world are abrogated and replaced by a single hierarchy of faith, grace, and the empowerments of the spirit... where groups gather on rafts to take them through the turbulence of the great journey from extensive rural networks to the mega-city and the nuclear family...
David Martin, On Secularization


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