Why do some people have trouble believing indications and warning prior to an event?
Indications and warnings of an event to come are pushed aside for a myriad of reasons. A reason an individual, or a collective group of individuals, might ignore an indicator(s) is simply because there is a pre-conceived notion in place regarding a particular situation and/or group. A good example might be the buildup to the bombing of the marine barracks, in Beirut, Lebanon, in late October of 1983. In a case study conducted on the Beirut barracks bombing, it was noted that of the key indicators, "Signs of growing hostility", was ignored leading to what the FBI termed as the “largest conventional blast” they had ever seen (Shreeve and Wysocki 2004, 14). Thankfully, France got the picture and was able to ward off the attack on their embassy.
Another example is the 9/11 hijackings that attacked our infrastructure. There was a particularly astute FBI agent in Arizona that had been following/tracking Muslim extremists taking flight lessons in the area, as well as their connections with Muslim groups (History Commons. "FBI Agent Sends Memo Warning that Unusual Number of Muslim Extremists Are Learning to Fly in Arizona"). This FBI agent put out a warning that no one chose to listen to. Imagine what type of damage and terror might have been diverted if the warning had been taken more seriously.
Why are countries caught unaware by surprise?
Surprise works because countries fail to properly understand or estimate an adversary’s methods, means, vulnerabilities and intentions. If a country was aware of every facet of their adversary’s organization, or these things were transparent (or at least easier to estimate), it would be more difficult for the opponent to conduct a surprise operation. MAJ Michael Kneis touches on the enemy's ability to exploit surprise and gain the effect they desire against their opponents. Kneis does this by pointing out a few of the ways attackers use...
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