The Fog Of War - A Lack Of Certainty
By Gabe Suarez
Clausewitz wrote about it as "The Fog Of War". SunTzu wrote about it as "not knowing yourself or the enemy". It is a lack of certainty. It comes from a lack of information about what is actually at hand. Without information, accurate decisions are very difficult to make. What happens is you get a bunch of educated guesses and then a tentative decision based on those guesses.
That is why military planners spend more on gathering intell than on the weapons to exploit that intell. How does that play out for the individual operator?
I wrote an email to a friend recently about this topic and how it plays out in events like what happened in Aurora. Quite simply, if one is denied the suitable intell to make a decision, no decision will tend to be made. And at such a time, unless there is an ingrained, and trained default response, the subject will likely freeze in place...as if he is on pause waiting for more information.
Put aside the 4S issues of a midnight movie is a questionable hood and follow. Think of the circumstances there. Sitting in the dark, focused on the screen. Loud movie sounds all around.
Then you hear shooting. Information! Is it the movie? You think it is. People now screaming...what scared them from the movie...you weren't scared by the scene. Smoke in the theatre. What is this? Gun shots but not from the movie. Where are they coming from? People screaming and running.
Can you tell what is going on? Can you see the gunman through the smoke? How close is he? Too far to reach? Or is he close enough to touch? Unlikely as the gunshots were not close to you otherwise you would have noticed them sooner. The exit is clogged with people, the smoke makes visibility impossible, and you cannot tell where the shots are coming from yet.
Do you understand the lack of certainty affecting actions? So your work now involves two things.
One is making sure that you have as much intell as possible, of an actionable sort, given the circumstances. You won't get alot, but the art of determining what is happening from bits and pieces of information is an essential one. The same event as Aurora, but in a well lit theater where someone is giving a speech makes for a different set of information and certainty of decision does it not? Darkness and the intentional self-removal from reality called for in a movie contributed to the situation.
Two is to have a default response in the event that you have no actionable intell. What that default response should be I cannot say...but to have neither actionable intell nor default response will lead to confusion and probably inaction, which could be a fatal thing.
One of our members at Warrior Talk called it "Efficiency in Ambiguity". Excellent phrase! So how do we obtain efficiency in ambiguity? I think a number of things need to be in place for that.
Moral Certainty - "What I am about to do is the right thing and I need to do it right now". That comes from clarity of mission and pure focus brought on by a clear decision based on what has been observed. And that impending action is executed without getting clearance or permission from anyone.
That is a rare thing indeed today in police, military, and civilian worlds. I suspect that had the theatre been filled with "average gun guys", or "average (Unarmed) off duty police", the outcome would not have been much different. And lets not forget the events of Fort Hood. Thirteen died there, and they were soldiers.
The factor of "being taken by surprise" is of course an important consideration, but I think there is more going on. Very few people, in any walk of life, see themselves as fighters any more...and I suspect that includes cops and soldiers. You guys in the service correct me if I am wrong,
but not everyone has the mindset of a Ranger or a Force Recon dude do they? And I can tell you from quite personal, and distasteful, experience that fighters are quite rare in police work.
As well, since all three groups today get beaten over brow and genitals with the fear of liability, the desire to close with and destroy anything, especially if there is any ambiguity over the events, or one has not received official sanction to go and do that directly by a superior, is rare as well.
Actual Capability - What do we need? To be able to run up to another man, like Holmes, and shoot him in the face without any deleterious emotions interrupting us. Unless we have personal experience, or train in killing regularly, we will not succeed in these events. And by that I mean meaningful training as is seen in strenuous force on force, hunting large game, or prior personal experience in combat of some sort where one has killed an enemy close enough to know that it was his bullet or his blade that did it. Even the ambiguous gun-pop phrases of "self defense", "shooting to stop", etc., while fine for court, will lead to an incorrect mindset.
From Sun Tzu - "If officers are unaccustomed to rigorous [training] they will be worried and hesitant in battle; if generals are not thoroughly trained they will be inwardly quail when they face the enemy."