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When Sun-tzu Met Clausewitz: the OODA Loop and the Invasion of Iraq

When Sun-tzu Met Clausewitz: the OODA Loop and the Invasion of Iraq

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When Sun-tzu Met Clausewitz: the OODA Loop and the Invasion of Iraq

40 pages
48 minutes
Dec 1, 2014


John Boyd was a fighter pilot in the Korean War, an instructor at the US Air Force Fighter Weapons School, and arguably America's greatest military thinker of the 20th Century. His concept of the OODA Loop helped guide the US military during two wars against Saddam Hussein's Iraq. This 4000-word 'long essay' was originally prepared for the War in the Modern World program at King's College London by Daniel Ford, an American journalist and historian. Revised 2014. With illustrations, source notes, bibliography, and a chapter from the author's book, A Vision So Noble.

Dec 1, 2014

About the author

Daniel Ford has spent a lifetime reading and writing about the wars of the past hundred years, from the Irish rebellion of 1916 to the counter-guerrilla operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is best known for his history of the American Volunteer Group--the 'Flying Tigers' of the Second World War--and his Vietnam novel that was filmed as Go Tell the Spartans, starring Burt Lancaster. Most recently, he has turned to the invasion of Poland in 1939 by Germany and Soviet Russia. Most of his books and many shorter pieces are available in digital editions He lives and works in New Hampshire.

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When Sun-tzu Met Clausewitz - Daniel Ford



1 – Opening up the Triad

2 – The OODA Loop

3 – Toward a More Expansive Loop

4 – A Debt to Master Sun

5 – Cautionary Conclusion: ‘A Vision So Noble’

Notes and Sources

Copyright - Author

The Mad Major

About this Monograph

I wrote this essay as a late-blooming graduate student in War Studies at King's College London. No sooner was it finished than I began to wonder how John Boyd's theories could be applied to the war in which the United States and its NATO allies then found themselves, against Osama bin Laden and like-minded Islamicists. I spent a year at this task, including a fruitful week working with the Boyd Papers at the U.S. Marine Corps University at Quantico, Virginia.

I've now incorporated that thesis, along with this essay and another one, into a small book, A Vision So Noble: John Boyd, the OODA Loop, and America's War on Terror, available both in paperback (74 pages) and as an e-book. I really think you should turn to that publication instead of this one. Blue skies! – Dan Ford

When Sun-tzu Met Clausewitz


Daniel Ford

Warbird Books

Warbird Books 2014

Colonel John Boyd


FOR THREE YEARS, I had the privilege of studying at King's College London via the internet. Half my classmates were field-grade officers in the British Army, with the rest about equally divided between officers in other militaries (including the US Navy) and civilians around the world from Singapore to New Hampshire. Our subject was War in the Modern World, with my final year and a half given over to the problems of insurgency and how to defeat it, if indeed that be possible.

I wrote this ‘long essay’ – what Americans would call a research paper – in the spring of 2009 in an effort to reconcile two military theorists: Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) and John Boyd (1927-1997). Of all the books and papers assigned to us – more reading than I could possibly have imagined – their words were the ones that spoke most clearly to me. (The amount of rubbish that has been written and spoken on the subject of military strategy has to be read to be believed.) Even before I finished

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