Review (Guest): The Scientific Way of Warfare–: Order and Chaos on the Battlefields of Modernity

5 Star, Complexity & Resilience, Decision-Making & Decision-Support, Information Society, Strategy, War & Face of Battle
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Antoine J. Bousquet (Author)

5.0 out of 5 stars Real Military Science, November 12, 2010

This book is an excellent description of the application of scientific theories primarily from the fields of mathematics and physics to military theory and practice. Bousquet’s approach is original, if somewhat eccentric, and he succeeds in clearly explaining both complex scientific theories and their influence on military strategies and tactics.

He divides what he terms “techno-scientific regimes” into four categories that more or less follow the historical development of technology. Thus he argues that the development of a reliable mechanical clock was reflected in military thinking by the introduction of synchronized battle drill and orderly, if often complex, planning and execution of strategy and tactics. Bousquet considers that the identification of the rules of thermodynamics directly influenced the military doctrines of rapid, dispersed, and unpredictable movement that culminated in WWII with such tactical and operational formulations as the German Blitzkrieg. His treats the third regime the computer and its military counter-part “cybernetic warfare” as the introduction of large quantities of information and rapid telecommunications as well as command and control systems as establishing the means of reducing the normal uncertainty and chaos of battle. This was the age of operations research and systems analysis which, as Bousquet notes, came to grief in the Vietnam War. His fourth regime is derived from “chaos theory” and the concept of networked type of organizations in which decision making is dispersed down to the smallest possible unit. This regime’s application to military theory essentially embraces chaos rather than minimizing it and uses it to confuse and confound the enemy.

It is in this fourth regime that Bousquet has a number of really interesting ideas. He gives credit to the increasingly recognized ideas of Colonel John Boyd (USAF ret. 1927-1997) who deliberately used such scientific theories as the Second Law of Thermodynamics and Chaos Theory in his military thinking. Using these theories, Boyd for example developed his famous Observe, Orient, Decide, Act (OODA) “loop” which is a very accurate conceptual model for all command and control (C2) systems. By using these theories, Bousquet was able to clearly describe the concept of Network Centric Warfare (NCW) as originally conceived and advocated. He notes that NCW was information driven and designed to thrive on the chaos of war. There was a rather vague strategy derived from NCW, but it was never really developed. The original NCW concept incorporated the concept of non-hierarchical network type of organizations in which information sharing allowed situational awareness information was pushed to the highest levels of command while decision making was pushed to the lowest level possible. NCW was founded on an advance command and telecommunication system called, “Command. Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance” (C4ISR). All forms of C4ISR systems are designed as information management systems specifically for the high flows of information produced by 21st Century information acquisition and forwarding systems.

This book would be a good companion to “Science, Strategy, and War” by Frans P.B. Osinga which is a careful examination of the scientific origins of Boyd’s theories.


The question that I have is has anyone in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) read this book or Osinga’s and noted the appropriateness of using scientific theories to develop a real theory of intelligence? The uncertainty principle, entropy, and chaos theory all seem to be applicable to the issues confronting U.S. intelligence. A theory of intelligence based on scientific theory as opposed to the fuzzy academic exercises that now pass for intelligence theories would be the first step in developing a real strategy for intelligence in the 21st Century. At present within the Intelligence Community (IC) strategic planning is hopelessly conflated with so-called “vision statements” and neither serve any rational purpose. And there is no theory of intelligence worthy of the name.

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