Surprise Hypothesis   [open pdf - 537KB]

The Unites States dominates the conventional battlefield, but this power might prove to be a nemesis. This power forces enemies to seek capabilities that level or change the playing fields. Weapons of mass destruction and mass effect are indeed one way for adversaries to level the playing field, but there is another, surprise. Surprise transcends technology and budgetary concerns. The horrific events of 11 September are a reminder. Yet how well does the U.S. Army understand surprise? Do planners know how to plan for surprise operations? Terrorists do. Do planners know how and why surprise works? Adversaries seem to. There is much more to this principle of war than what military doctrine portrays. Using the scientific method, this monograph combines the concepts of surprise and information superiority to create a hypothesis that explains the principle of war. The hypothesis rests on the belief that omniscience, a state of perfect information superiority, prevents surprise. Building on this theoretical extreme, the monograph presents a new definition of surprise, the components of surprise, a visual model of surprise and summarizes planning and execution procedures for deliberate surprise attacks. All of these hypothesis pieces are information superiority based. The monograph does not submit the hypothesis to sufficient testing to claim this to be a theory. This is a starting point. After rigorous testing and discussion, the hypothesis has the potential to drive changes in doctrine, the education system, training, and simulations. Furthermore, a mature version of this hypothesis may promote adjustments to current staff structures. At the very least, the monograph suggests that the current understanding of surprise can improve.

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