6 x 9 paperback
360 pages
PDF download

A New Conception of War

John Boyd, The U.S. Marines, and Maneuver Warfare

Ian T. Brown

DOI: 10.56686/9780997317497


In 1989, the Marine Corps formally adopted a theory of conflict called maneuver warfare and described its tenets in a short but revolutionary doctrinal manual simply titled Warfighting. This conflict theory evolved along two paths that wound their way through the landscape of the late Cold War period before coming together in 1989. A New Conception of War traces this story from the post–Vietnam War years to the present. The first path was forged by U.S. Air Force colonel John R. Boyd, whose ideas on warfare were shaped by a military career during the height of the Cold War and his own passion for challenging conventional wisdom in the search for new and useful ideas. The second path was navigated by many thinkers within the Marine Corps during a period of institutional soul-searching after Vietnam. Drawing on new and previously unpublished material from the major players of this period, including a full transcript of Boyd’s “Patterns of Conflict” lecture, A New Conception of War captures a period of remarkable intellectual ferment within the Marine Corps and the development of a unique conceptual framework for warfighting that continues to inspire Marines today.

Ian T. Brown was commissioned in the U.S. Marine Corps in 2003 as a designated CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter pilot and has also served as a forward air controller and requirements officer. He has deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Pacific area of operations. He holds a bachelor’s in history from Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, and a master’s in military history from Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont. A New Conception of War is his first scholarly book, though he has previously published articles in the Marine Corps Gazette, War on the Rocks, and Strategy Bridge. He and his wife, Brianne, and children—Aaron, Molly, and Joshua—are currently stationed in San Diego, California.


Praise for the Book
A New Conception of War skillfully brings an extraordinary, historic episode to a new generation of Marine Corps leaders and, in a larger context, to any leader who is contemplating leading change.”

~ Dale C. Rielage, U.S. Pacific Fleet director for Intelligence and Information Operations


Chapter One: Tending to Produce: John Boyd from the Pool to the Pentagon
Chapter Two: Done with the Jungle: The Marine Corps’ Near Future after Vietnam
Chapter Three: Where Does the Marine Corps Go from Here?: Paving the Way for Maneuver Warfare
Chapter Four: Unveiling the Character of Conflict: Boyd Builds a Theory
Chapter Five: A Killing Game: Critics Enter the Maneuver Warfare Debate
Chapter Six: “What Do You Think We’re For?”: From Argument to Warfighting


Appendix A: “Patterns of Conflict” Transcript Excerpts
Appendix B: Seminal Articles on Maneuver Warfare in the Marine Corps Gazette
Appendix C: Critiquing Boyd