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 intelligence than on the weapons to exploit it. How does that play out for the individual operator?
Quite simply, if one is denied the suitable intelligence 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 to be provided.
One example is the shooting at the nightclub in Orlando by Mateen. Put aside the 4S issues of a midnight drink in a questionable hood for a moment and follow the discussion. Think of the circumstances there. Sitting in the dark, music, and nightclub chaos all around.
Then you hear shooting.
Information! What was that? Is it real?
People now screaming...what scared them...what do they know that you do not?
Smell of gun smoke...a body on the floor bleeding. What is this?
Gun shots again...people running. 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 useful information as possible, of an actionable sort, given the circumstances. And quickly!! You won't get much more information coming in...and what does come will likely be useless. But the art of determining what is happening from bits and pieces of information is an essential one.
The same event as Orlando, but in a well lit theater where someone is giving a speech makes for a different packet of information and certainty of decision does it not? Darkness and the intentional self-removal from reality called for in such places contributes 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 nightclub in Orlando 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, and in Dallas, Texas. And they were soldiers and police officers.
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...as primary combatants 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. Fighters are often never allowed to join...or are retired early when they are found. Better a smilie faced glad hander that will play basketball with the thug kids than a scary guys that sees himself a gunfighter.
As well, since all three groups today get beaten over brow and genitals with the irrational 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.
After Moral Certainty comes Actual Capability – What do we need? To be able to run up to another man, the bad guy shooter, 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 in an active shooter event.
It is not about self defense, it is about killing. Killing unannounced, in the back of the head from the shadows. That is how to solve one of these terrorist/active shooter events. This is not the same as a thug mugger, or a common armed robber. This is different and the American gun and police community must arrive at that conclusion as well...and they will. The only question remaining will be the final body count of those who died because of their fear-based tactical mistakes.
From Sun Tsu - “If warriors 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.”
We live in a time of war and your mind set, tactics, weaponry, and default responses must adapt.