Center for Strategic Communication

[dots connected by Lynn C. Rees]



? 1 ?

? Raises question ?

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What did Lucius Aemilius Paullus know and when did he know it?

? 3 ?

Ask Colonel John Boyd, USAF (1927-1997)

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Namedrop John Boyd

What do most respondants think?

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Naive OODA Loop

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Uncritical Insight

John Boyd is a cheerleader jumping up and down on the sidelines chanting “faster! Faster!! FASTER!!!”.

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Uncritical Insight (cont.)

This reduces Boyd to:

  1. Go fast.
  2. Go faster.
  3. Go ludicrous speed.
  4. Profit!!!

? 8 ?

? – Raises Question  – ?

Is this man a cheerleader?

? 9 ?

? and ?

? and ?

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? 12 ?

Key Asymmetry

When Boyd smiles, he’s 100 million light years away from being a cheerleader.

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Key Asymmetry (cont.)

If a Boyd particle barely brushed a cheerleader particle, it would annihilate it, leaving behind nothing but:

  1. a tremendous burst of energy
  2. plans for a better fighter plane than the F-35 at 1/1,000,000th the cost.

? 14 ?

Critical Insight

To understand Boyd, understand the battle of Leuctra (371 B.C.)

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Boyd argued victory came by creating of a fatal disconnect between enemy and reality through:

  • mental isolation
  • moral isolation
  • physical isolation

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Message (cont.) 

All three are critical to the originality of Boyd’s thought:

Boyd was thinking outside the box.

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Message (cont.) 

This box:


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Message (cont.) 

More particularly, this box:


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Message (cont.)

Battle of Cannae (216 BC)

Hannibal Barça put 50,000 or so Roman legionaries inside the box.

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Message (cont.)

Few Romans ever thought outside that box again.

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The physical kill box of Cannae became the mental kill box that military thinkers of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century kept their brains in.

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Problem (cont.)

This is your brain:

Baron Antoine Henri de Jomini

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Problem (cont.)

This is your brain on Cannae:


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Schlieffen, Chief of the Great General Staff of the Second Reich from 1893-1906, was obsessed with Cannae.

He even wrote a book on it.

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Worse (cont.)

Schlieffen used an exhaustive checklist when planning future military operations.

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Worse (cont.)

  1. Does my plan destroy the enemy army like Buonoparte?

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Worse (cont.)

Satisfying those stringent requirements led to the Schlieffen-Moltke Plan:

Schlieffen Plan

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Worse (cont.)

Its results were mixed.

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Schlieffen’s plan failed because it only aimed at physical annihilation of Franco-British forces.

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Critique (cont.)

It’s moral and mental isolation (or annihilation) components were few or vestigial.

This absence dominated the Western Front for the next three years.

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First Cut

Boyd suggested that the German development of infiltration techniques in the later half of the war countered this.

Instead of the long bombardments château generals thought would physically annihilate the enemy trench line, barbed wire, and fortifications…

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First Cut (cont.)

The artillery barrage that accompanied German infiltration attack was sudden and unexpected…

…providing suppression as much through sudden mental or moral disorientation as through physical destruction.

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First Cut (cont.)

Instead of the physical impact of large ranks of infantrymen trudging across No Man’s Land…

Small teams of infiltrators dribbled across the lines in small groups, causing moral and mental derangement by attacking the enemy from the flank or rear in unexpected places at surprising times.

? 35-36 ?

Traditional Greek Order of Battle vs Leuctra’s Order of Battle


? 37 ?

Battle of Leuctra

Boyd referred back to Leuctra rather than Cannae as a guide:

Epaminondas‘ seemingly simpler act of stacking his left 50 deep and weakening his right was just as effective as Hannibal’s more technically complex but brittle double envelopment at Cannae.

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Battle of Leuctra (cont.)

Epaminondas created a fatal disconnect between Spartiate and reality through a balanced attack:

  • physical isolation (more husky Boeotians to beat on the Spartan right)
  • moral isolation (that’s against the rules!)
  • mental isolation (the best Boeotian troops were on the left, not, as was tradition, on the right)

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Key Take Away

Epamimondas won a more efficient victory than Hannibal:

He mauled the Spartans just as effectively as Hannibal mauled the Romans …

Without the enormous luck and complexity involved in pulling off a double envelopment.

? 40 ?

And that’s why the NSA records (meta)data on all Americans.