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Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War (mini-review)

Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War

I just finished the excellent biography of John Boyd. Don’t let the title fool you, because Boyd was more than a fighter pilot. He was a great thinker who developed the Energy-maneuverability theory, that would change aeronautics; and the OODA Loop, that would change the way we’d look at conflict. (For example: see this post about surviving an active shooter situation by breaking the shooter’s OODA Loop.) Anyway, the book was excellent and I highly recommend the read.

In regard to John Boyd’s life, I’m conflicted of his story as a role model. Despite the excellence of his work, the bureaucratic military machine never made Boyd a General. Despite the work of his peers, the military industrial complex keeps churning out more expensive weapons of questionable value.¬† And despite negligence and ‘hillbilly armor‘ and four useless wars, people still join the Army, while the press and the American public don’t really care about waste in the armed services.

Against this backdrop of apathy; I can’t help wonder why? Why did Boyd sacrifice his relationship with his family in exchange for indifference? Why be a part of power structure, if you’re only going to curse off your superiors and antagonize them at every opportunity?

And most importantly, why did he not follow the very core of his own message about being an “elusive sword” when promoting his ideas and theories? “The nail that sticks out, gets hammered down.” Boyd had to come across this dictum during his years of study. So I don’t understand what he was hoping to accomplish with his life and living it the way that he did, at such a high personal cost.