I’ve wanted a book that dove deep into the excesses of supporters of so-called “maneuver warfare”. In Stephen Robinson’s Blind Strategist, I finally have it. How is it? Mixed. Thankfully, it’s the kind of mixed that makes for a good review.
The book is nominally aimed at John “OODA Loop” Boyd. However Boyd, due to his aversion to writing anything down, his own constantly shifting imagination, and his uh, “difficult personality”, is hard to pin anything on. I do not think it’s a coincidence that Boyd’s teachings are excellent in general terms but almost never work for anything specific.
Blind Strategist spends most of its pages slamming Basil Liddell-Hart and William Lind, who did not have an aversion to writing anything down. It also talks of the Wehrmacht Legend that drove maneuver warfare activism, and defends the oft-criticized William DePuy and his “Active Defense”. (I agree with almost all of the substantial criticisms of Active Defense, but think that in the mid-1970s, the post-Vietnam US Army needed to walk before it could run). Finally, it tries to hold maneuver warfare responsible for the Iraq War’s struggles. Even I think this is going too far, and it doesn’t exactly sound convincing.
Even in its main thesis, this comes across as being overly nitpicky and a little straw-mannish. I do not believe that even almost all of the most devoted maneuver practitioners would deny that there comes a point where you have to close and destroy. Note that I said “almost all”…
…Because Lind is one of those obsessives. And here, weirdly, Robinson arguably doesn’t go far enough. Blind Strategist neglects Victoria, a fantasy where indeed, just doing the right principles and following the right footwork causes the Mary Sue’s enemy to collapse totally without the need for a slugfest. It rightly talks about him trying to shove “third-gen” maneuver war into “fourth-gen” unconventional war, but doesn’t elaborate (and should) on just how he jumps right back to his third-gen map exercises at the slightest opportunity.
I feared this book would go a little too far in the opposite direction, and it does. But I can understand, given the maneuverist min-maxing, why it would do so. I don’t blame Robinson, and if there is room for extreme pro-“maneuver” arguments, there’s also room for extreme reactions.