“Ask The Strategic Genius” – 2

More strategy for the tactical team:

When your foe is cornered in a ferroconcrete building and doesn’t seem to be negotiating..

a) Call in a robot with a hand grenade and send it in to negotiate for you.

b) Wait for the situation to develop. Even Sun Tzu had to sleep and eat. The word you are looking for is “seige” or – if you’ve got kids – “time out.”

c) You must go on the offensive immediately, since they might tunnel out and escape.


  1. lorn says

    I posted these thoughts over on Greg Laden’s blog:

    They are a rough sketch of my thoughts based upon a profound lack of detailed information but I felt I need to get it out there before people get too far down the hole of assuming there were only nefarious motives for what was done.

    Copied from post on GL blog:

    July 9, 2016

    I suspect that the deciding factor in using a explosive device was the perceived need to end the standoff quickly.

    The logic goes something like this:
    – A shooter, or shooters targeted police specifically. The intention was to harm as many police as possible.

    – The numbers of attackers is unknown. It could be one man working alone, or it could be that the one known shooter is part of a team.

    – The one observed attacker clearly has military training and is using advanced tactical techniques.

    – The attacker was well equipped.

    – The attack was premeditated and planned.

    – One shooter backs himself into a blind corner which gives him a significant tactical advantage while forcing the police to congregate in a location surrounded by high buildings perfect for a staging a follow-on attack by other attackers.

    – It is unknown what the intention is. Military training and prior planning suggest that this may be part of a larger plan.

    (A well established trend in terrorist attacks is to cause an incident to bait emergency workers into an ambush to multiply the social damage and casualties. It also serves a propaganda purpose. If the police can’t protect themselves they can’t protect the citizenry. )

    Was the location selected ahead of time?
    Why there?
    Was it selected because there is a second sniper, or a team of snipers, or explosive device, waiting to slaughter the massed officers?

    Ending the situation quickly lowers the risk to both civilians and police.

    It also needs to be note that police tactical units commonly use explosives. They blow doors, windows, wall (as in Orlando) and extensively use explosive devices, such as flash-bangs, to debilitate barricaded suspects.

    In this case, the fact that the backing into a corner might be a tactic intended to get as many police as close as possible to a previously planted bomb which would be triggered by the gunman suggests that simply disorienting the suspect could get police maimed. They needed a swift, profound, and complete incapacitation. If a police sniper could get a shot a bullet to the brain stem would produce complete incapacity instantaneously. As it was the location was so tight that normal sniping tactic couldn’t work. A concussion bomb, likely cobbled together on the spot fro materials on hand, was the field-expedient solution. And yes, this has been a tool in their tool box for some time.

    In this case, a well localized suspect that was clearly observed and recorded shooting police, no hostages or vulnerable civilians present, little chance of excessive damage (like burning down an entire block), it may have been their best option.

    As it turned out it looks like backing into a corner was not part of a wider plan to maximize casualties. Or if it was the second part failed to materialize.

    Did a second shooter get cold feet? Did a planted bomb fail to go off? Did the gunman have an explosive device, an explosive belt, that he was planning to detonate if the police tried to swarm him?

    The reports are typically lousy and inaccurate immediately after these sorts of incidents. A clearer understanding of what happened and why (what was the gunman’s intention, what where the police thinking) is going to take a week or more to emerge.

  2. says

    In this case, the fact that the backing into a corner might be a tactic intended to get as many police as close as possible to a previously planted bomb which would be triggered by the gunman suggests that simply disorienting the suspect could get police maimed. They needed a swift, profound, and complete incapacitation.

    Or they needed horizontal distance and time.

    The main weakness in your argument (which is well-presented, thank you) is that it amounts to saying “the cops were in a hurry because they didn’t know everything” which is exactly why I’d expect any moderately skilled strategist to wait, observe, and learn so they wouldn’t have to be in a hurry because they didn’t know everything.

    Furthermore, as soon as the cops started taking fire they dropped into defensive positions pretty quickly. They had fairly quickly, successfully oriented toward the attack. The non-crossfire nature of the attack would become apparent fairly quickly, too, as soon as everyone settled down and selected fields of fire. Once the cops had all gone to ground, they could have isolated the suspect (or suspects) at a building level, a floor-within-building level, or in the corner over there where they finally trapped the shooter.

    Your argument is that the cops were reducing risk by risking a closer firefight with the shooter. Strategic genius, indeed.

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    Sending the first robot in with a cellphone hardwired to a negotiator, and maybe a stealth sleepydart-thrower or gas canister, would’ve probably taken Micah Johnson alive. That in turn would have greatly facilitated tracking his network, if any, a major consideration in any event plausibly attributable to terrorists.

    But they do policing differently in Dallas. I blame the eerie acoustics there, which initially led DPD they were taking fire from three angles at once, and earlier caused earwitnesses to imagine that shots fired from several floors up in a book depository actually came from a grassy knoll.

  4. lorn says

    An interesting examination of the site:

    Distance and time is a fine solution, as long as they, as we now presume to know, that there were not other attackers, a wider plan, or any large explosive devices involved. That assumes the distance recommended is less than, assuming a suicide vest or a twenty pound bomb, 1360 feet. A bit more than a quarter mile. You could use the much more manageable 110 feet as interior but you would be discounting the chances of a bomb planted outside. A reasonable assumed fact now, it was unknown at the time.

    Initial reports were of multiple attackers. Sounds echo between buildings. Is that the explanation, or was there second and possible third gunman? If the facts are still up in the air now, imagine how it was with people under fire.


    Keep in mind that anyone can look this information up and plan the location of shooters or bombs to match where police lines are predictably going to be placed. People are going to congregate at the perimeter, no matter how far it is away, and the congregation of emergency responders, police, press, and onlookers, at the boundary represents a tempting target for any accomplices.

    The security transitions, considering things outside this particular event, are increasingly seen at targets. It turns into an N+1 situation where we may need a second security layer to protect the main security, and another layer to protect the second layer and …

    In this situation in Dallas neutralizing the initial shooter allows you to lower the numbers at the site and concentrate on highly mobile sweeps which are less likely to create masses of bystanders and press.

  5. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Seriously – this is so fucked up. It should be premeditated murder for the lot of them, anyone with a strong hand in planning and approval, from the guys who approved the plan, to the guy who attached the grenade to the robot, to the guy who piloted the robot in. Get them all on premeditated murder charges.