Theory of Surprise – Part 1

Lecture/presentation.
James Wirtz.

Module 1. This module focuses on the theory of surprise – how states, non-state actors, or individuals attempt to surprise their opponents and why they often succeed, how surprise affects strategic interactions, and why some initiatives succeed spectacularly, only to end in disaster for the side that initially benefited from surprise. The theory of surprise is derived largely from military expert Michael Handel’s writings, which also call on the Prussian philosopher Clausewitz’s concepts of strategy and war. Their combined theories explain why those who rely on surprise might win a battle, but rarely achieve overall victory in war. This module goes on to depict surprise as an enabler of temporary superiority, but also elucidates its shortcomings and the risks included therein.

Lecture 

Lecture (YouTube)

Supporting file formats:  Audio    Transcript

Continue to Module 2.

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