Don't Underestimate the Fog of War

A destructive symptom that occurs as the result of SNS activation is “critical incident amnesia.” This is defined as “a form of temporary amnesia subsequent to a SNS mass discharge, which includes the release of the stress hormone cortisol.”

This temporary amnesia will affect both the operator’s memory and his ability to compose an accurate after-action report in debriefing if it takes place immediately after combat. Because this form of amnesia is temporary, considerations should be made as to the timetable necessary to recover the memory, including the effects that sleep has on this process.

Before the first sleep period, a person will only be able to recall general characteristics of the incident. After the first sleep period, a person’s ability to remember will increase by 50% to 90%. A person’s ability to remember completely will not occur until after the second sleep period. The most complete recovery of memory will occur after the second sleep period.

This timetable should be taken into consideration when considering the accuracy of after-action reports, and accounts for new and changing details, especially since these reports have to be discerned between 79 individual debriefings.

Law enforcement administrators and military debriefing officers are trained to to take these physiological realities into account, but these factors don’t often matter to a media business where the focus is on speed of information delivery, and not precision accuracy.

There are many things that the Obama administration and the president as an individual can be faulted for in relation to the events and decisions surrounding Osama bin Laden’s death, but the fog of war surrounding our warriors’ perceptions of events cannot be one of them.