How Cognitive Dissonance Led to Strategic Surprise in the Persian Gulf War
Master's thesis, 1 Aug 1992-4 Jun 1993
ARMY COMMAND AND GENERAL STAFF COLL FORT LEAVENWORTH KS
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This study maintains strategic surprise occurred in two instances during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. First Saddams invasion of Kuwait took the United States, and most of the world, by surprise. Next, the U.S. led coalition attacks strategically surprised Saddam and his forces. By claiming that strategic surprise took place during the Gulf War, this study contradicts Clausewitz and modern U.S. military doctrine. These sources both state strategic surprise rarely occurs because of the large size of armies. Yet, dispite the large forces in the Gulf War, strategic surprise did occur. As this study shows, strategic surprise occurred in the Gulf crisis due to cognitive dissonance. This condition causes an individuals mind to become out of tune with reality. During the Gulf War, cognitive dissonance tended to cause decision makers on both sides of the conflict to discount warning signs which indicated their respective plans were not working. By discounting these warning signs, Gulf War leaders failed to reassess their plans and make required adjustments. This failure created an environment in which strategic surprised occurred. Strategic surprise, Operational level planning.
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics