458 - The unexpected is not unpredictable

N. Lygeros

From a strategic point of view, a war always teaches a lot, not on consequences but on tactical choices resulting from great strategy. However, it is not its only contribution. It also refers to the quality of analysis coming after any attack and generally being conducted by military and strategic warriors. On this basis, the one entitled the Great surprise of general Frank is quite revealing about the mediological research and not the strategic one. For highlighting the element of surprise brought about by attack, it bases its demonstration on 3 points: (1) “Bombings should knock the adversary. Nothing happened. They have been very limited.” (2) “The action was brought at dawn though Americans prefer to start their operations in the middle of the night for some time.” (3) “But the third surprise is even more amazing. Perhaps unprecedented. […] Officers would have admitted themselves stunned by these first strikes they have apparently not been warned about.” In reality, none of these points represent a surprise.
The power of the element of surprise mainly comes from its unpredictable nature. Yet, the points mentioned in this study are all predictable as we’ll present later. The element of surprise is really a formidable weapon in strategy but some operations are only surprises for some analysts or their readership.
The first case is relatively basic to deal with, when one has a minimum knowledge about military and psychological arsenal. It is first interesting to use the weapons of psychological warfare to prepare the ground for real war. Thus, the type of provided information is predictable and almost natural. Then, this army having specific weapons such as exotic weapons or more generally high precision missiles and stealth bombers, it is better to use them before massive attack that doesn’t need of course, neither secrecy nor precision.
The second case is simply made clear by meteorology and more precisely, by the state of moon. When one has equipments enabling night vision and being an advantage over enemy, no night attack has to be led during full moon. For the advantage can’t be used. Thus, analysts expected an attack after this period. So, the most judicious is to attack at dawn. The point is not a surprise but a consequence of military logic. Moreover, the land attack was mainly a mere advance towards adverse territory and not enemy for it was not very populated and not protected. Central attacks being made by Tomahawk and BLU-169/13 missiles are independent of these conditions.
At last, the last case is by far the most contestable as an evidence of the element of surprise and this, for several reasons. First, officers have no point in giving sensitive information. On the contrary, they have to help to disinform. Moreover, it is not surprising that the command makes the most of the information given by the information networks as discreetly as possible. As regards time-limits, they are logic too. For the time of a sensitive information is extremely short in the spying field.

Thus, we have proved that any military operation can’t be considered as an element of surprise that is the contrary that would have been surprising. In reality, in strategy, the most surprising is the number of predictable ideas. For the unpredictable is rare by nature.