80 thoughts on “Virginia Tech and Doctrine, Again”

  1. I’m far from convinced that the police at VT did “aggressively attack” Cho. He shot 170 rounds over nine minutes. I’ll reserve judgment until the governor’s inquiry panel releases its work. But my prediction is that it will not conclude the police “aggressively attack”-ed.

  2. Comment: Your effort to connect this tragic event to 9/11 is ridiculous and wrong:

    Quote: “Sept. 11, 2001, was not a failure of our security systems, but rather a failure of doctrine. “Doctrine” is defined as a body of teachings or instructions, taught principles or positions. On Sept. 10, 2001, we had a standard doctrine about response to aircraft hijackings.”

    Oh really?

    The doctrine that failed on 9/11 was the one that says our leaders should try to protect us from terrorist attacks. If Gore was elected it would have still been in place, and 9/11 might never have happened. The doctrine problems began the moment Bush (“bin Laden Determined to Attack US”) took office. The new “doctrine” that took it’s place failed the people of New Orleans and before that, and most tragically, the people of Iraq and our brave fighting force. Just wait to see what will happen if Avian Flu hits these shores before the end of Bush’s term if you’d like to see more needless death resulting from callous negligence and purposeful incompetence. I am holding my breath that nothing else happens here until Jan 2008 so these uncaring fascists are relegated to the hades of history, where they belong.

    The doctrine that is the biggest problem for America has a name. It’s called the “Bush Doctrine”. Whatever it was supposed to mean after 9/11, history will no doubt regard it as one of the greatest modern threats to Democracy in America.

    Don’t raise the spectre of 9/11 to score some cheap and meaningless point about mass murders and gun violence in America, unless that is you feel the need to remind people of the monumental idiocy of the regime that you support who has made our situation much much worse since then.

  3. The thing that galls me is that the kids waited for someone to intervene – be it police or someone in ‘authority’.

    I’m sorry folks but the current atmosphere in the US public schools of not allowing the kids to learn to:

    -Defend themselves from attack
    -Fight back when attacked
    -Work out social boundaries through real conflict on the playground

    has served to disarm them from real world solutions to dangerous and possible deadly situations. For anyone who has lived any kind of life, the world is never safe nor neatly ordered.

    Lots of people can now begin to tear this down, but the results are in. It seems our society has disallowed self defense of any type through the multicultural doctrines of politcal correctness. We will not defend our society in the halls of govt (see the latest travesty of a ‘law’ from the US congress), we will not allow our own citizens to defend themselves in their homes (gun grabber efforts) and we are raising a generation of young people who cannot react to protect their own lives in extremis.

    It occurs to me the the ‘Progressives’ may intend that the US become dependent on the nanny state to resolve all issues for them. Down that road lies slavery of the human soul and absolutist darkness.

    JMHO

  4. The actions of Cho are the most damning stamp on the whole thing. He expected victims, not adversaries and that’s what he got.

    The only one (to my knowledge) who actually confronted Cho was the 76 year old man who had experienced an older doctrine.

    If I were pointing fingers it would be at the law enforcement authorities in our society. The ones who have complained that citizens should duck and cover while they, the authorities, handle things (in fact the impression many have is that they will be arrested for interfering if they take action in defense of themselves and others). This mindset has been encouraged for decades now and honestly I don’t see where it’s made any difference other than to increase the body count.

  5. Wei – And the doctrine of the Left?

    Talk and making nice with homicidal maniacs and psychopathic Fascists hiding behind religion will cure the worlds ills? Diplomacy?

    FAGH! Go ahead and lay down and die right now.

    bq. The doctrine that failed on 9/11 was the one that says our leaders should try to protect us from terrorist attacks.

    Exactly my point, to you it is someone elses responsibility. How about some personal resposibility? Personal action? Bush has done just that but you balme him for the failings of your own world view – “The big, bad Bushie made it all nasty and mean out there in the world!” Hate to tell you, the inaction of the Clinton crowd and others before him is to blame. GW Bush has done exactly as he said he would do time and time again. I cannot say the same for the Democratic ‘leadership’ in the present Congress.

    bq. If Gore was elected it would have still been in place, and 9/11 might never have happened.

    Bid Daddy Al would have saved us! Magical thinking dear.

    bq. The new “doctrine” that took it’s place failed the people of New Orleans and before that, and most tragically, the people of Iraq and our brave fighting force.

    Talk about cheap and meaningless points – equating a hurricane and a war – and act of G-d and an act of man? The people of Mississippi got off their collective butts and re-built. The people of NO were so used to being wards of the nanny state, they sat on their butts and waited (and are still waiting) for someone to come rescue them instead of rising up and helping themselves.

    bq. Just wait to see what will happen if Avian Flu hits these shores before the end of Bush’s term if you’d like to see more needless death resulting from callous negligence and purposeful incompetence.

    Once more your magical thinking comes to the forefront. If a natural disaster hits the US it will all be Bush’s fault? If a disaster like this hits the US in the near future it will be because bad things sometimes happen in the natural world. The response will be the responsibility of the people who are paid to plan for these kinds of issues. The plans have been in place for years, long before GW Bush ever decided to try for the WH or even Governor of Tx.

    I know we are supposed to be ultimately civil here, but Wei, you were being so patently illogical, I had to say something. It may get me banned or spanked by the WMs’here, but that is as it will be.

    Wei – Go read “Bill Whittle – SEEING THE UNSEEN, Part 2″:http://ejectejecteject.com/ He can introduce you to clear thinking of the systems type. He has a new post up. (Hurray – going to go read it as soon as I am done here.) So you have to scoll down a little to get there. If fact read all of Bill’s materials. He is one of the clearest thinkers since DenBeste.

    I’m done now.

  6. The desire to morph all worries about terrorism to rants about Bush (or Republicans or Conservatives in general) is simply displacement; its a lot anxiety-producing to fret about something that isn’t really going to hurt you than it is to think about something that wants to literally destroy you.

    The same displacement leads to believing that taking away Danziger’s right to bear arms will somehow make people safe from nuts like Cho. No wonder that when the time comes to act against a Cho most people have no clue what they might be able to do to save themselves and/or others.

    Too many people worried about Danziger. Not enough worried about Cho.

    And yes, Wei, too many people too worried about Bush, not enough worried about how and why 9/11 happened.

  7. _The students didn’t fail to act correctly by not attacking their attacker. The doctrine they were operating under — the one we have trained them in all their lives — failed them._

    IMO the societal conditions under which the doctrine emerged are flawed. However, it’s more practical to identify a specific issue which can be addressed than to exhort for across-the-board cultural change. You make a valid point.

    Should state legislatures promote self-defense training (individual and group) in institutions of higher education under their oversight?

  8. Right, Mark, nothing Bush has done over the last 6 years has really hurt me personally in any majory way, so why should I worry about little things like Democracy, fairness, the US constitution, the deficit, voting rights, the FDA, the CDC, a woman’s right to choose what to do with her own body, the people who died in NO and Iraq, etc. etc. etc.

    I should really be spending my time worrying about that “something” that wants to “destroy” me I guess, I guess. Oh where, oh where did I go wrong (perhaps I prize reality too highly)?

    Danziger made the connection to 9/11, not me. I should rather point out that it reveals a desire on the Right to morph all worries into a rant about the “post-9/11 world”, as if we all went through a wormhole that day. Well, I can seen that some of you did anyway.

  9. Rampant speculation from my own div. 1A college football experience, but I guarantee you that the outcome would not have been the same had Cho entered a classroom with Va Tech football players.

  10. Wei, you’re making my point for me. Tell me exactly how Bush has harmed Democracy, fairness, the U.S. Constitution, a woman’s right to choose, etc. etc. etc.

    On Iraq, you have an arguable point; all the other things are bullsh*t designed to support a world view that makes you and your cohorts some kind of brave speakers to truth without subjecting you to any real danger.

    Meanwhile, real dangers exist, but those are just too scary to face head-on. So, return to plan “A”. Rinse and repeat as necessary. (Warning: do not operate heavy equipment under the influence of this world view. Attempting to host network television programs is also not advised.)

  11. Great article. In the self defense martial art Krav Maga, one of the first things students are taught (at least here) is that as functioning successful members of civil society, they are conditioned to be ‘domesticated'; that is, they possess a whole compliment of behaviors that are extremely useful in our high trust, cooperative day to day existence, but which are counterproductive (to say the least) when a life threatening (sociopathic) situation arises. That seems to map pretty well to the ‘stay down and wait for help’ response. It’s also reminicent of Bill Whittle’s essay about people being sheep, sheepdogs or wolves. Partisan posturing aside, a doctrine of passive reliance on authority clearly has its downside.

  12. A.L., I will argue that what you call the “doctrine” that was in place on the morning of 9/11 was sound, reasonable & proper because prior to 9/11 most hijackings were designed either to get the hijackers to a particular place or to publicize a political grudge. Therefor, a doctrine that encouraged risking the lives of all passengers would not have been based upon experience but an imagined worse-case scenario-maybe and would be illogical. Had such a “doctrine” been in place between, say, 9/11/91 and 9/11/01, thousands of people would have died unnecessarily. Further, after the first time such a “doctrine” was carried out and a hijacked airliner was downed by passengers, the aftermath would no doubt include strictures against any further use of such a “doctrine” because it led to the unnecessary loss of life.

    As far as claiming that the VT students should have somehow been better prepared to confront a situation that they were as statistically likely to encounter as a bolt of lightening, i.e. shot by a stranger in a random act of violence, this, too, seems to me an illogical stance. I feel much the same way as I do toward the more general notion that “we” have somehow become “soft” and that this is a negative thing. It’s contradictory. The history of civilization is a history of mankind’s attempt to make life more livable and easier, i.e. softer. One thing we have done is greatly reduce the chance of harm due to violence. We have set up institutions to deal with this problem. Having done so, why should we want to spend any time or resources preparing for the remote instance when those instituions break down and we must suddenly fend for ourselves as individuals? If this were a frequent occurence, I’d be all for such a stance. But the chances are very very small that my failure to be armed or trained to defend against an armed attacker will ever be harmful to me . I count myself lucky to live in a time and place where I really don’t have to worry about defending myself. Yes, it might happen. But I don’t worry because the chances are so remote. (I’ve lived in NYC for nearly 30 years and know of exactly one person who during that time was confronted by an armed robber)

    The most stiking connection between 9/11 and VT, to me at least, is the extraordinary overreaction to both.

    One last comment here, while I cannot be certain that any one individual ever posted both of the following attitudes, the frequency of both on this site is striking to me. On the one hand, there is the belief that those of us against the Iraq war and the media exaggerate the chaos and death in Iraq. On the other hand, there is the belief that the shooting at VT require an elaborate and significant adjustment in our thinking and actions. I don’t see how the 2 positions can be reconciled. In Iraq, a country of one-twelth the population of ours, one day out of the last 1,000 on which 33 people were killed would be a good day. Anyone esle see a double standard at work here?

  13. AL

    “The students didn’t fail to act correctly **by not attacking their attacker**. The doctrine they were operating under — the one we have trained them in all their lives — failed them.”

    There is no doctrine in this society about how to react to a shooter at close range when you are unarmed and in a group or classroom setting. That is not a situation that occurs frequently enough so that we have formed settled understandings about what to do.

    Should we now create some new doctrine to govern this rare situation and should that doctrine say that one should expose oneself and *attack the shooter*. While there is no harm in writing about what you think one ought to do, we shouldn’t and won’t spend any social resources in trying to impose some new way of responding as a group. The likelihood of this happening is too remote, and each situation is too unique. It’s been 18 years since Columbine and we have not created some doctrine that those students should have attacked the shooters. Even if we had done so then, 18 years later we would have forgotten how to respond.

    Furthermore it’s not clear at all that attacking the shooter was the best response or “doctrine”. Flight and barricading the door seemed to work best to save lives. We can surmise that some were in shock and cowered, but we know that some who hid survived. We know that some who intended to confront the shooter were shot or killed, professor Granata and another professor who went with him, and Professor Livri who stood at the door. Indeed others who were shot may have tried to attack the shooter, we’ll never know. The absence of wounds may just indicate that they were shot before they could close with the shooter. Rising up and attacking the shooter might have been the surest way to get shot.

    You and others argued that if everybody had attacked together they would have surely gotten the shooter even if some had died in the process. Probably true (although he had 2 guns and at least 17 loaded clips), but how do you achieve such snap suicidal group commitment and coordination outside of an authoritarian military training or cult environment. Not going to happen.

  14. VT has not caused a left/right split, but rather a logical/illogical split. For example, it’s illogical to insist the students were “passive,” as if they all sat at their desks with their hands folded and waited for their turn to be shot. If you read the reports of how they responded, these people did what they could to save their lives. Avoiding a bullet or barricading a door or playing dead when you’ve been wounded and the killer comes back to finish the job, these things are not “passive.” And it has nothing to do with “doctrine,” it’s primal survival instinct.

    And did the cops really “go to the active shooter”? I was under the impression he was no longer active by the time they got to him, having shot himself when he heard their approach.

  15. Al,

    “You and others argued that if everybody had attacked together they would have surely gotten the shooter even if some had died in the process. Probably true”

    Let me withdraw the “probably true”. I’ve seen too many Chow Yun Fat movies.

  16. “In Iraq, a country of one-twelth the population of ours, one day out of the last 1,000 on which 33 people were killed would be a good day. Anyone esle see a double standard at work here?”

    Only if you willfully abandon any concept of the relevance of context.

    As to anyone who argues that we overreacted to 9/11, I would like to know exactly what the appropriate reaction should have been. I should hope that while we might argue fruitfully about how to go about it, we can all agree that “never again” is the only appropriate goal. (I mean just saying “sh*t happens” and accepting that we’re bound to get hit again, only with better and better techniques really is the societal equivalent of finding a desk under which we are prepared to die.)

  17. Mark Poling,

    I don’t see how the “concept of the relevance of context” can explain away the double standard that separates the allowed reactions between what happens in Iraq on a daily basis and what happens here once in a blue moon. I invite you to explain it to me.

    I would suggest to you that there are a nearly infinite variety of acceptable reactions to 9/11 that exclude any version of “sh*t happens.” Among the particular examples of OVER-reactions (& limiting those to acts of gov’t), I would include:

    a) invading Iraq
    b) Gitmo
    c) wiretaps WITHOUT court warrants
    d) rendition/torture programs

    The absence of the above 4 would not constitute a shrug of the shoulders, as you suggest.

  18. Some nice points all around, some bad points applying blame too.

    A few comments I’ve been thinking on lately, this has come up several times:

    _I’m sorry folks but the current atmosphere in the US public schools of not allowing the kids to learn to:

    -Defend themselves from attack
    -Fight back when attacked
    -Work out social boundaries through real conflict on the playground_

    This sounds great and all, but at some point people came to the realization that it’s not safe to have kids beating each other up. Additionaly, it’s not a good psychologically for one group of kids to spend their whole day worried about getting beat up, and another group to beleive they can get anything they want with a little physical force. I knew in elementary school are not productive members of society, and qui Schools are supposed to be a “safe” place where kids can learn, and hopefully learn to work and play with others.

    Of note, most of the ‘fighters’ (ie bullies) I knew in elementary school are not productive members in society, and a large number of them now have police records for bar room brawls or resisting arrest. Some how most of us limited fighters ended up ok. Coincidence?

    Now, having said that, it’s probably worth it to teach kids some basic self-defense (not offense). We are becoming more and more aware about kidnapings violence and abuse on kids, and they should learn what to do in a dangerous situation.

  19. it’s illogical to insist the students were “passive,” as if they all sat at their desks with their hands folded and waited for their turn to be shot…it has nothing to do with “doctrine,” it’s primal survival instinct.

    Jim, I respectfully disagree. My use of the term ‘passive’ is entirely concordant with eyewitness testimony.

    “The room was silent except for the haunting sound of moans, some quiet crying, and someone muttering: ‘It’s OK. It’s going to be OK. They will be here soon,’ ” . What part of the surviving witness’s description of the massacre suggests active defensive behavior to you? Did you read the article?

    This may collapse into a semantic dispute, but “avoiding a bullet” and “playing dead” is passive behavior, at least by my reckoning, and given the spectrum of stress responses (fight/flight/freeze/feint), the fact that (aside from the Holocaust survivor) the larger majority of students apparently ‘froze’ is both remarkable and tragic, and suggestive of conditioned passivity (cf. mood stabilizing medication, the de-masculinization of educational institutions, et. al).

  20. What part of the surviving witness’s description of the massacre suggests active defensive behavior to you?

    The part where they barricaded doors, for one. Look, not everybody responded the same way, because not everybody has the same instincts. Each of them did what they could in a very sudden, very shocking situation. Shock does strange things to people, even people who are trained to deal with it (which most of them weren’t). But “passive” makes it sound like they just looked up at him and said, “Okay, whatever. Our feminized society has trained me not to care if I live or die.” Not how it happened.

  21. Here’s another quote from the same WaPo story:

    After storming the building, breaking the locks, the police ran up to the second floor and carefully entered each classroom, one by one. At some point, Cho Seung Hui apparently placed one of his guns at his temple and pulled the trigger. The scene was something these experienced officers had never witnessed. As they entered each room, they asked the students to hold out their hands, show that they had no weapons, and then led those who could walk down the stairs and outside. But there were so many bodies. Blood everywhere, pieces of flesh. The shooter himself, with a gun lying nearby, was almost unrecognizable, a face destroyed. And the innocent victims did not just have bullet wounds, the police would recount later, but were riddled with bullets, gushing blood. The scene was so emotionally overwhelming that many officers could not hold back tears even as they went about their business.

    Anybody who tells me they know what they’d do, or that these people didn’t do enough… well, I hope you never have to find out.

  22. Armed Liberal, I think that was a very outstanding piece of writing.

    Except for two bad sentences.

    1. Liberal pundits were aghast, arguing that this wasn’t necessarily true, it was “blaming the victim,” and claiming an unwarranted level of personal courage on the part of the conservatives.

    I think the ambiguity there is undesirable. It would be better to say something like “and that conservatives were making unwarranted implications of their own courage”.

    2. Maybe not be soon enough.

    That’s not a proper English sentence. Just getting rid of the “be” would be enough to fix it.

    As it is, I think people are less likely to pass this on, as the awkward sentences create a bad impression.

    I hope if you repost this good article elsewhere, you will fix those two sentences, as I would like this bit of writing to be influential.

    The students didn’t fail to act correctly by not attacking their attacker. The doctrine they were operating under — the one we have trained them in all their lives — failed them.

    That is the key point. It’s hard to expand on it without hurting people’s sore feelings on this topic. (I failed to avoid affronting some people when I made my attempt to spell out what I think is the correct doctrine.) But it is very important to say this and to spell it out as you did.

  23. Wei says the things he says and believes them because IMHO he comes from a deeply feminized, feminine culture.

    One incapable of defending itself from attack. Incapable of independent action. One depending on “Big Mommy” to make it all better. One that fears and abhors any traditionally “male” norms of responding to attack with violence.

    He can’t argue the facts of VT: Cho was able to get to Norris unopposed because no one could recognize the threat in time, students reacted by passively waiting to die, the only two people to take action were a 76 year old Holocaust Survivor and a 45 year old Professor with a military background. Both died in the initial shootings by Cho and everyone else either ran or simply waited to be shot.

    Wei largely approves of passive, feminine, feminized responses like this, and offers no substantive response to the matter at hand. [He is more than willing to shred the Constitution’s 2nd, 4th, and 5th Amendments for people he doesn’t like, “masculine” attribute people who believe in independent action and self-defense, and quite willing to give enhanced protections to those like Mohammed Atta or KSM intent on killing us all.]

    This is much like a woman repeatedly raped by her attacker, who tries to “make friends” with the assailant (such advice given by the UK’s Home Secretary who maintained that any resistance was both illegal and subject to punishment). This is the Left today. Those who offer self-defense and direct action against the attack are anathema. The Left cannot even mentally model self-defense, so feminized and effeminate it has become. Such action would only make the attacker “angry.”

    [This happens on the right too. Bush went to a Mosque after 9/11 and repeated “we are not at war with Islam.” The rot goes deep.]

    Mark makes my point. He’s like the Monks who responded to the Vikings by praying. The result was the end of the monastic system, more Dark Ages misery, and the rise of the Knights to defeat the Viking Raiders. Effeminate weakness only invites attack, but once you go down that road you can’t come back.

    Many of the students just sat back passively, while the killer RELOADED. Others allowed women to be shot while they hid under desks. If that’s not the definition of passive, effeminate culture I don’t know what is. Even worse: VT students are putting up “memorials” to Psych-Cho and “forgiving him.” Passive. Effeminate.

  24. From: Friends and Alumni of Virginia Tech
    Release Date: April 26, 2007
    Event Date: 10:00 AM, Saturday, May 5
    Where: Blacksburg Recreation Center, 725 Patrick Henry Dr., Blacksburg, VA.

    Subject: Safety Options for Education

    “Duck and cover” is done. The safety advice from the Civil Defense drills of the 60s is inadequate to meet the threats of the 21st Century.

    A group of friends and alumni of Virginia Tech have raised the money to host a Safety Options Presentation at 10:00AM, May 5, at the Blacksburg Recreation Center, in Blacksburg, home of Virginia Tech.

    The purpose of the seminar is to make the public, the media, and the legislature aware of the range of education safety options available.

    Response Options will demonstrate some of the safety training they teach for middle school and high school students and discuss how similar training might be used for colleges.

    The theme of the seminar is “Hokies Will Prevail.”

    FFI: Russell Fish (972) 702-0817 http://www.openrecords.org
    Pam Faber (757) 469-6990
    Greg Crane (Response Options) (877) 652-9461
    http://www.responseoptions.com

  25. Genethug,

    “My use of the term ‘passive’ is entirely concordant with eyewitness testimony.

    “The room was silent except for the haunting sound of moans, some quiet crying, and someone muttering: ‘It’s OK. It’s going to be OK. They will be here soon,’ ”

    This was *after* Cho shot up the room and had left. I suspect that those who were speaking were attempting to comfort those who were wounded or dying or dead.

    Once the shooter entered firing, the first reaction of most normal people would be to take cover. After that only a few would think about charging the shooter. Absent martial arts skills, my reaction would be to make a break for the door if it was feasible. A few chose to stay hunkered down. Some died some survived.

    Where there was time to react and think, the students did attempt to barricade the doors. This occurred in 4 out of 5 classrooms. Two successfully, two not.

    My guess is if you had been “active” and attacked you would be dead. If I remember correctly, out of some 100 in the classrooms, 30 were killed, the rest survived.

  26. Here’s yet another part of that WaPo article that apparently has been overlooked, about the doctors who treated the victims:

    As accustomed as he was to dealing with morbidity, Stoeckle felt himself thinking the scene was unreal. He had never encountered such a volume of patients, more gunshot victims in a few hours than the hospital had treated in nearly five years. As they worked, Stoeckle and Wheeling heard stories of bravery from the wounded: students pushing others into closets to protect them from the barrage of bullets and helping one another with makeshift tourniquets and bandages. In one case, Stoeckle concluded that a student’s quick medical action might have saved his own life. Bleeding significantly from his right leg, this student found an electrical cord in a classroom and wrapped it tightly around his wound, which kept him from bleeding to death until the rescue squad arrived and placed a tourniquet above the bleeding artery.

    But he didn’t then jump up and disarm Cho with Krav Maga, or whatever he’s supposed to have done, so he failed somehow. I just do not understand it.

  27. Treacher, you effete, pacifist slut. How do you know those people who were pushing others into closets weren’t just shoving them out of the way because they were blocking exits?

    And, seriously, _tourniquets_? First aid is not part of the new doctrine. First aid is for nurses.

    And why are you quoting some doctor who treated the victims? Didn’t you read what the assistant state medical examiner said? He didn’t _recall_ any injuries [on the victims] _suggesting_ a struggle. That certainly settles it for me.

  28. Does everyone agree that Armed Liberal did say this and mean it?

    bq. The students didn’t fail to act correctly by not attacking their attacker. The doctrine they were operating under — the one we have trained them in all their lives — failed them.

    My opinion is the same.

    If we continue to say “our doctrine, the one we all have by default, failed the students and staff” while criticism assumes that what we are really saying is “those cowardly students failed us brave folk” It’s hard to have a useful discussion.

  29. But it presupposes there was something else they could have done. I don’t know of any doctrine that stops bullets.

    The 9/11 comparison is inapt, as I tried to explain here. The two situations were totally different.

  30. Chew2,

    My guess is if you had been “active” and attacked you would be dead.

    That’s possible, but since apparently no one did attack Cho, your guess is based on speculation and fear. On the other hand, there is actual real world evidence of would be campus massacres being averted through action

    “Four years ago at Appalachian Law School in Grundy, Virginia, a man who had killed the dean, a professor, and a student was subdued by two students who ran to their cars and grabbed their guns. In 1997 an assistant principal at a public high school in Pearl, Mississippi, likewise retrieved a handgun from his car and used it to apprehend a student who had killed three people.” (from “here)”:http://www.reason.com/news/show/119694.html

    So there is some evidence to the contrary, and if memory serves me, probably better examples could be dug up re: post-9/11 would-be hijacked passenger responses as well, unarmed individuals who realized that inaction=death. Do you really think inaction would have served these individuals better than action might have served the victims of this more recent tragedy? How many lives might have been saved by slowing down the attacker even a little?

    Jim Treacher,

    “I just do not understand it.”

    on this point we agree completely. I’m not advocating these students be krav ninjas, or whatever straw man disinfotainment you may have skimmed from my posts. I merely pointed out a socialized passivity that some self-defense schools have noticed is conditioned into people, that may be a hindrance to their taking effective action during a crisis situation. You seem like an intelligent person, but your blind spot to the relevance of this to an article on failed crisis doctrines is puzzling. ::shrug::

  31. I’m not advocating these students be krav ninjas, or whatever straw man disinfotainment you may have skimmed from my posts.

    I wasn’t talking to you specifically, but okay.

    I merely pointed out a socialized passivity that some self-defense schools have noticed is conditioned into people, that may be a hindrance to their taking effective action during a crisis situation. You seem like an intelligent person, but your blind spot to the relevance of this to an article on failed crisis doctrines is puzzling.

    Sorry to disappoint you. So blocking the door wasn’t effective action? That might be news to the people who did so and lived.

  32. David Blue,

    “our doctrine, the one we all have by default, failed the students and staff”

    I agree with you that the students are not at fault. Insufficient bravery is not the issue – I think it’s worth making that point explicitly as well.

  33. Jim, from the accounts, some students did barricade the doors to their classrooms – i.e. acted – and some didn’t. The ones who didn’t appear to have been in the rooms where nearly everyone was killed.

    Once the shooter was in the room, all evidence points to the students attempting to evade – without getting out of the room – or hide ineffectively.

    I’ve done drills where I’m in a room with four people and a fake handgun. I’m really good with a handgun, and it’s impossible for me to shoot all four before one of them gets to me and grabs my arm unless they line up neatly in front of me…and even then it’s not easy. It takes about three-quarters a second per aimed shot for someone unless you’re a champion shooter. That’s three seconds to shoot four times. It takes about a second and a half for a person to cover 21 feet (the ‘Tueller’ distance). You can try it yourself.

    So your facts are just flat wrong. The lesson I learned in my drill above was not to assume that because I have a gun and am facing multiple unarmed opponents I have a certainty of winning.

    It doesn’t take Jack Bauer. It just takes people who have been trained to believe that responding is the right thing to do.

    And yes, scenes where multiple people have been shot are horrible. Just as auto accidents are horrible, and floods are horrible, and tornadoes are horrible, and scenes where people are mugged and shot or knifed on the street are horrible. And we can – as a culture – agree to pay others to deal with the horror so we can maintain our sanitary fantasy about then nature of the world, or we can recognize that horror can come visit any of us at any time and that we’d better have a basic willingness not to surrender to it.

    That’s the doctrine change we need to make, and that’s the lesson these poor students should be teaching us. When my ten-year-old read about this in the paper, we discussed it, and I asked him what he would do if someone with a gun came into his classroom. He said he’d hide under his desk.

    I explained that that’s what the dead students in Virginia had done, and that that was a bad plan. So I explained the drill I’d done before, and we talked about throwing things and yelling and the basic fact that he’s not helpless until he decides he is.

    He’s switched from jujitsu to tae kwon do this year, and his master studied in the same school as mine – Hee Il Cho. Master Cho explained that the core or martial arts is not based on technique or practice, but on the cultivation of ‘indomitable spirit’.

    If you have the spirit, you’ll find a way. Now the question is how we cultivate the spirit.

    A.L.

  34. Wei, the conflation with 9/11 is a simple one. We had two cases on 9/11 – the case of the three flights where no one meaningfully resisted – where twenty or thirty people acquiesced to five violent men with 2″ box cutters – and one case where they did. The outcomes were obviously different. Why? Were the people on the first three planes bad, weak people? No – they were following the standard doctrine, doing what every airline passenger and crew member was trained to do. They had no reason not to. The passengers on Flight 93 had a reason not to – they know what was going to happen. And so a bunch of average people acted in concert, and with some success.

    That ability is in all of us, not just sworn law enforcement officers, spies, or members of the military.

    But we’re trained not to – trained that we wait for the police, or that we ‘shouldn’t get involved’ or don’t believe that bad things – evil people with guns, random muggers, floods, earthquakes, bad car accidents – can happen to us. So we don’t prepare at all (we drive through snowy areas with no outdoor equipment or clothes, we don’t evacuate when floods or fires are coming, we don’t even mentally rehearse what we’d do if confronted with someone with a gun), and when the bad things happen, we can’t act, first because we don’t know that we should – like the first three flights on 9/11 – or we don’t know how – like the kids at VPI.

    What do you think the reaction to five men armed with boxcutters on a plane would be today? How well would that plan work? And would it be because security officials would somehow act?

    That’s the link with 9/11. It’s real, and wish all you want, and it won’t go away.

    A.L.

  35. “I would suggest to you that there are a nearly infinite variety of acceptable reactions to 9/11 that exclude any version of “sh*t happens.””

    Great. Suggest a few from the infinite variety.

    I’ve already conceded that whether invading Iraq was the appropriate next step in dealing with global terrorism is a debatable point. The rest of your list is pure histrionics.

    Gitmo/Rendition – According to the terms of the Geneva Convention, pretty much everyone held at Gitmo could have been summarily shot on the battlefield. I’m not crying much over Gitmo.

    Torture – Apparently overblown. There have been cases, and the perpetrators punished. The aversion of Congressional Democrats to actually engage in defining what constitutes torture indicates to me that this is more of a convenient stick with which to beat the Administration.

    Wiretapping – I assume you mean the program which monitored call patterns on international cell phone calls. Analyzing who is calling whom is qualitatively different than having some guy sitting under a headset listening to me calling my wife from Amsterdam. Again, a difference I think reasonable people can live with.

    Of course, this does get back to A.L.’s point; the pre-9/11 paradigm had it that the biggest danger to Americans in America was from the Government. Believe it or not, I have a lot of sympathy for the root of that idea. But a government does have a primary responsibility to protect its citizens, and to do so it has to be able to act.

  36. Genethug,

    “Four years ago at Appalachian Law School in Grundy, Virginia, a man who had killed the dean, a professor, and a student was subdued by two students who ran to their cars and grabbed their guns.”

    You point to this as an example of unarmed persons attacking a shooter. But there the shooter *had already dropped his weapon before he was subdued* by two unarmed students, and it was confirmed that there were no bullets left in the magazine. He was jumped from behind by one of the students while he was walking toward the other.

    There is a dispute whether the other armed students arrived in time to influence the outcome. One of the armed students claims he pointed his gun at the shooter and that is why he put his gun down. The unarmed students dispute this claim. BTW one of the unarmed students and one or both of the armed ones were police officers. One even put on his police vest. They had time to think and make plans. Tim Lambert has all the details.

    “unarmed individuals who realized that inaction=death. Do you really think inaction would have served these individuals better than action might have served the victims of this more recent tragedy? How many lives might have been saved by slowing down the attacker even a little?”

    I will take you to equate “action” to mean “attack the shooter”, and inaction anything else. You are faced with a shooter, he can shoot you if you run, hide, or attack him. You could be dead whatever you do. Without knowing the exact situation, there is no way to say which is the best. There is no way to say which may “slow down” the shooter or not.

    This may be a question of how you want to die and what you want to accomplish. You may want to die on your feet. Fine, but don’t claim that it’s necessarily going to help anyone else.

  37. Jim Treacher,

    But it presupposes there was something else they could have done. I don’t know of any doctrine that stops bullets.

    The fastest way to stop bullets is to put the shooter out of action. About half of US handgun-shooting victims survive, which interestingly enough is about the ratio in the VT shootings.

    So in deciding to rush a shooter, it’s not a tradeoff between “might get shot, perhaps fatally” and “certain death”, it’s a tradeoff between “might get shot, perhaps fatally” and “might get shot, perhaps fatally”. If that’s the only bet on the table, wouldn’t you take it? I certainly would.

  38. #35…

    Are you arguing that the “doctrine” you think we all should adopt is to presume that death is certain under circumstances that are unpredictable? Do you have some special insight into human psychology that leads you to believe such a thing is possible at the population level?

  39. #40,

    The doctrine to be suggested, in the most direct form, is this:

    A free man must defend himself; a free people must defend each other.

  40. Defending yourself sometimes means hiding under a desk, Grim. It also requires that one assess the situation before deciding on an action. Thus, in unpredicable and fast moving situations, it might not be possible to do so. The people on the WTC flights didn’t have the luxury of being called up on their cell phones and told they were part of a suicide plot. Why do these simple observations seem to escape those who want to blame the WTC and VT victims for not “fighting back”? I am beginning to think you have little or no appreciation for basic human psychology.

  41. Ain’t this just the cutest little microcosm of the Rightwing mindset?

    The Right thinks that the principle of “fighting back” must be trumpeted over and above any effort to understand whether circumstances actually warrant an aggressive response. A “doctrine” should be invented to institutionalize this idea so that the average weak and indecisive American (their view) will know how to behave. The details are not important to understand, because the Principle is paramount.

    This attitude is equally applicable to campus gunmen and middle east policy. How valuable this will be!

    Just one catch: Said Righwinger, even with all the bluster, target practice, and careful cultivation of aggression and prejudice, is surely as likely as any other person to do exactly whatever it is that they think will guarantee their survival at any moment in life, whether it be driving down the highway in their SUVs or hiding under a desk when a shooter starts his rampage at their office while their little popgun is stowed away in their bedside table awaiting that gunbattle with the midnight home invader.

    So really this is nothing more than an excercise in trying to get other people to act as they themselves imagine they would like to under difficult circumstances: “Let’s get them people shootin’ at each other and things will sort themselves out in the end…me, I’m going to sit here safe in my home sweet home and keep my head down when I walk past the windows.”

    AL wants the entire population to learn Tae Kwan Do and he’s counselling his kid to yell and throw things at people who are suicidal killers wielding 2 guns, but not to take cover. Yikes. Lucky for him he’ll never likely have to face this situation.

    What none of you realize is that you are perpetuating a culture of fear, nothing more.

  42. Here’s our default doctrine, built into the socialization that we already have, explained by Armed Liberal in this very thread: (link)

    When my ten-year-old read about this in the paper, we discussed it, and I asked him what he would do if someone with a gun came into his classroom. He said he’d hide under his desk.

    Here it is spelled out again: (link)

    Here’s where I posted the doctrine I advocate, at Winds of Change: (link), (link), in a nutshell (link), and trying to make it yet clearer what I am not saying (link).

    This is not about claims of personal courage for me or anyone else. I make none. This is not about individuals at all. It’s not even about humanity. It’s more primal than that. A dog can do this, magnificently. (link)

    Here’s where Achillea, who has applied the doctrine independently, said it works: (link)

    If anyone says, your doctrine seems vague to me, give me a concrete image of its perfect application, I would say: In Achillea’s response to unexpected danger, I see no flaw. (Also, her comment is concise and easy to read.)

  43. Jim, I’m struggling to find a way to get through to you on this. You’re making assertions that aren’t supported by the facts as they are coming out from VPI. They aren’t supported by a large body of doctrine among people who shoot for a living – the people who train the people who train the police officers who have to deal with the reality of these events every day. They aren’t supported by my direct experience.

    I don’t know what they’re supported by except your passionate belief. Which is nice to have, but may or may not have any connection to reality.

    In addition, it speaks to a larger question about how we solve problems – if we entirely professionalize them and hold our hands up until the pros show up – and I’ll suggest you read an interesting article about graffiti in this week’s “LA Weekly”:http://www.laweekly.com/news/news/where-are-the-adults/16213/?page=1 go to Page 2.

    A.L.

  44. tcg –

    “Ain’t this just the cutest little microcosm of the Rightwing mindset?”

    Actually, I’ll suggest that you’re the cutest little example of the leftwing mindset that I wholly reject – which why I’m a liberal but don’t support much of what the ‘progressive’ dogma that you carry around so proudly.

    Your substantive points are equally silly. I’ve never advocated fighting as a first reaction or solely a moral imperative. But there are times when it is an imperative – when society as a whole would be better if average citizens resisted bad ones and didn’t presume that avoiding conflict was the highest social value.

    A.L.

  45. Re: #46 from Armed Liberal.

    I read the article. I did not see the point.

    I would like to make a simple point about relying on the police. On a television cop show episode, the problem may be wrapped up in half an hour. In real life, the drive to the scene of the complaint is likely to take longer than that. (I imagine it’s less if you live in a small, densely populated country, but America is big too.) When the credits roll and music plays in TV-land, in real life the police haven’t gotten to where the problem may have blown over. Or not. Or the victims may have assumed room temperature.

    My personal experience is that from the time police are alerted to a situation that is getting ugly and they say they will come “immediately” to when they do come is half an hour to an hour to hours / never, with slow or no follow-through being the norm. (shrug) That’s not a matter of blame. Things can get off track in any job. It’s just my experience.

    True, my experience may be atypical (and it has decisively shaped my attitudes). Sometimes the police arrive quickly, as in the Strathfield massacre (at Strathfield shopping center, Sydney Australia, 1991): ten minutes.*

    Woo hoo. Curl your index finger as many times as you can for ten minutes, keeping a calm, steady rhythm for accurate shooting, and move your hands around as you would with a bolt-action .303, or whatever it is you are used to, and keep count, because that’s how many people, including you, can be killed while you “leave these things to the professionals.”

    If you are alive and moving, dealing with the crisis is your job, and yours alone. No help is coming, in any time frame that matters. Act now. Act again. Keep acting.

    * (The killer then shot himself rather than fight – a typical behavior that I think supports the idea that these people are often cowards. They are up for a fight … if it’s like shooting cane toads blinded by lights.)

  46. “What none of you realize is that you are perpetuating a culture of fear, nothing more.”

    It’s not a culture of fear that I want, it’s a culture of preparedness. Knowing what you’d do in an unlikely but possible situation seems to me to be a good thing. Hence, CPR and Heimlich training. And hence, what to do if a psycho starts picking off people in your vicinity.

    The flip side of the coin is of course being proactive in preventative measures, but those are always trickier. But why try to come to a consensus solution when you can always tar other opinions with bad-faith accusations?

  47. _You’re making assertions that aren’t supported by the facts as they are coming out from VPI. They aren’t supported by a large body of doctrine among people who shoot for a living – the people who train the people who train the police officers who have to deal with the reality of these events every day. They aren’t supported by my direct experience. I don’t know what they’re supported by except your passionate belief. Which is nice to have, but may or may not have any connection to reality._

    It was precisely this tendency of argument, coming from a dear but intensely liberal friend of mine, that led to the wargame. As soon as I have a few hours to print out the results, sort them into a good form and publish them, I will do so. That will be an empirical way of putting a new doctrine, based on expert opinion, on the table.

    Before the wargame, though, the discussion was going more or less like this. My aforementioned dear friend was asserting a gun, some training and the willingness to use it to defend one’s fellows would have been useless. It was necessary, at last, to point out that she herself has never even fired a pistol, let alone trained in how to use one, let alone been in any sort of fight (to say nothing of combat); and she was talking to Marines, soldiers, deputies, an Air Marshal, and so forth.

    In order to make up for having put my COIN piece up at BlackFive, I’ll publish the wargaming results here, if you like.

  48. TCG:
    “Defending yourself sometimes means hiding under a desk, Grim. It also requires that one assess the situation before deciding on an action. Thus, in unpredicable and fast moving situations, it might not be possible to do so.”

    Yes. AL implies that a student should always attack the gunman. What if the gunman just wants to take hostages as in this Colorado incident. http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/09/27/school.shooting/index.html Then you are dead and you may have escalated the situation and caused more to die.

    “The Right thinks that the principle of “fighting back” must be trumpeted over and above any effort to understand whether circumstances actually warrant an aggressive response. A “doctrine” should be invented to institutionalize this idea so that the average weak and indecisive American (their view) will know how to behave. The details are not important to understand, because the Principle is paramount.”

    Yes I do think that is what is going on here. Many of the students acted to save themselves or others. Yet because some others hid and cowered, the ALs and DBs falsely trumpet some overall ethos of passivity and victimhood. They call for a suicide charge from those who hid. (I think they must concede that it was OK to run for it if you had the chance. So it is only those who were trapped and hid who they condemn.) How they can convince non brainwashed or militarized men and woman to do this they don’t say. So really this call for a new “doctrine” is merely a rhetorical device to support some call for more manly virtues, but not a realistic program for implementation.

    I’m not sure it’s purely a “right wing” rallying point though. It’s a male type of frustration and heroic fantasy of saving the day. A warrior ethos which trumpets a call to manhood and battle. “Die on your feet, not hiding under a desk.” If that’s the way you want to die, fine. But don’t pretend that you will necessarily save anybody by doing so, Walter Mitty war gaming of some collective suicidal charge against the shooter not withstanding.

    On Inteldump, where many of the posters are longtime military and ex-military, there was a thread Blaming the Walter Reed command problems on the lack of a warrior ethos. Significantly, the faux warrior ethos that is pervading the military was roundly criticized and condemned by most of the posters. http://inteldump.powerblogs.com/posts/1172092000.shtml

    AL responded thus:

    “Your substantive points are equally silly. I’ve never advocated fighting as a first reaction or solely a moral imperative. But there are times when it is an imperative – when society as a whole would be better if average citizens resisted bad ones and didn’t presume that avoiding conflict was the highest social value.”

    Is AL being disingenuous here. I interpret your posts on VT to say that those who hid should have attacked the shooter, that they should be trained to attack the shooter. Perhaps if you had devoted more praise to those who fled, I might believe you.

  49. chew, it’s interesting that you’re making the same argument at Jim Rockford from the other side. Where Rockford claims your arguments are the product of an overfeminized society, you claim that Rockford’s (and by extension, mine) are products of some vestigal effort to cling to outdated notions of masculinity.

    Personally, I think we’d all be better off if the amateur psychoanalysis was put aside and we discussed the social impacts of these different behaviors.

    First, let me clear that – within the community of people who shoot and fight for a living – there is a clear belief that it is possible for an individual to fight an armed assailant and win. IMPACT – the excellent anti-rape self-defense training aimed at women – teaches a class about dealing with armed assailants. Disarms and other techniques are practiced and successfully used, day to day, by law enforcement officers. These aren’t things I’d choose to do given any alternative, but it’s clear that blanket statements like “there is no stopping an armed assailant until they a) run out of bullets or b) decide to stop” are fallacies unsupported by facts.

    Second, to the specific question of when and how to act – it’s a judgment call, and one that will inevitably be made badly at times. We can all construct scenarios where any decision we could make would be a bad one – where the gun is a prop in a prank, etc. But it seems pretty unarguably clear to me that is someone walks into a room and starts shooting people, the time for inaction is long past.

    Finally, to the broader social impact. I think there’s an interesting discussion to be had about emergent security models as opposed to ‘top-down’ ones. The article I linked to in the LA Weekly about graffiti touched on the issue:

    In addition to organizations like the Rotary Club, individual small-business owners are stepping up, and not waiting around for the city to do something.

    “It’s up to the owners of the buildings not being afraid and changing the energy of the building,” said Barbara Sklar, who owns an apartment building in La Cienega Heights. “When I bought the building it was bad, full of gang members and graffiti and drugs. I got rid of some tenants, painted the buildings a lighter color, put up some lights.”

    Sklar urges, “Be proactive… The landlords can’t be afraid to spend a little money. We don’t have to wait for the city. We can change Los Angeles step by step.”

    The article points out that the only effective tools against rising graffiti in LA seem to be identifying and hammering the worst taggers and individual action by property and business owners.

    Waiting for the City to ‘solve’ the problem isn’t proving to be effective.

    Waiting for someone else to solve the VPI problem wasn’t either. Would efforts by the students to do more have worked? I can’t say. But it’s certainly hard to imagine how the outcome could have been any worse.

    A.L.

  50. Chew,

    I guess you’ve not been reading Grim’s Hall long enough to have read through the wargame posts. I’d link to them, but they’re at bl*spot, and WoC doesn’t allow links there. You can read them in the archives from 17 APR – 20 APR.

    In any event, the game parameters weren’t about suggesting ‘suicidal charges,’ but testing whether a change that would permit legal firearms carry on campus (as in Utah) could assist. Though it wasn’t part of the parameters, almost everyone involved (again, military, police, and intelligence personnel for the most part) was that there would be relatively few people who would actually engage in such carrying; but if anyone did, there were several predictable things they could do that would be of benefit. The final results will advocate a defensive posture on the part of armed citizens, coupled with an aggressive posture from law enforcement, and for law enforcement agencies to work in ways to tie in cellphone calls from armed citizens with the responding officers’ communications.

    In other words, the citizens can reliably act as part of the response. An armed citizen in a classroom can serve as a bulkhead that will close off access to that classroom, limiting his access to victims, and increasing the potential likelihood of his getting killed before carrying out his scheme (whether psychotic or terrorist).

    What’s advocated here is not that everyone should act in the same way, but that those who do have the mindset and are willing to undertake the training also be allowed to carry the tools. The exercise tapped a lot of expert opinion, and while there were a few points of disagreement, two things that people did agree on were this:

    1) Training works; if you have a doctrine and train in it, you’ll behave that way under fire. (Therefore, it’s important to get the doctrine right.)

    2) Even only one or just a few armed citizens in a building would be of real benefit, so long as the doctrine and training were constructed to avoid blue-on-blue incidents between armed citizens and police.

    The challenges posed by random school shooters or workplace shooters is, by the way, also the challenge posed by terrorism — in each case, the attacker bypasses the hard targets in society and attacks the soft targets. We’re left wondering how the hard targets — the police and soldiers — can better protect the soft targets — that is, noncombatants.

    This is something I’ve been thinking of in the GWOT context for a while, and there’s only one answer that I think works. I mentioned it in “A Strategy for the Long War”:http://www.blackfive.net/main/2007/01/a_strategy_for_.html and it is this: you harden the whole society. Soldiers and police can’t always be where the attack will take place — in fact, the site for the attack will be chosen based on their absence. But civilians will always be there, so they have to be able to respond.

    If enough people undertake to train for, and prepare for, this duty to defend the common peace, we’ll be a lot better prepared for terrorist warfare against America in addition to random shooters. That means, among other things, that we’ll need fewer of the troubling-for-civil-liberties protections from security services. We can enjoy a greater degree of privacy and continued liberty, while still protecting ourselves and our society from terrorism.

    As an added benefit, we increase the probability of school/workplace shooters being stopped before they cause great harm.

  51. AL

    “Waiting for the City to ‘solve’ the problem isn’t proving to be effective.

    Waiting for someone else to solve the VPI problem wasn’t either.”

    This is where I claim that you are being vague and disingenuous. Who exactly was “waiting” for someone else to solve the problem. The students were on their own and trying to stay alive within their own capabilities.

    You really are advocating that unarmed students be trained to attack the shooter. All other actions seem to be “waiting for someone else” to solve the problem. This is accompanied by the unsupported claim that your chosen course of action would have saved lives, rather than resulted in just another dead body. Let me suggest that for the students and professors involved making a break for the door stood a better chance of success, than attacking the shooter.

    As to the psychoanalyzing, the difference between me and you, Blue, and Rockford (the Rush Limbaugh champion of downtrodden white men everwhere), is that I am *not* talking about society generally, but you folks specifically, the champions, if I recall correctly, of a movie that celebrated the Spartan manly virtues.

    I think the debate here is not about the actual *efficacy* of any particular action by an unarmed student, run, hide, or charge, but about the societal values embodied by that course of action. You folks attack all but the warrior heroic action. You condemn all else implicitly or explicitly as soft and passive, and posit without evidence some wider societal passivity.

    (I say this despite your unrealistic attempts at war gaming the situation, almost all of which assumed some trained or prepared actor, and ignored the problem of coordinating action between untrained actors.)

    Btw, I’ve never claim that there is “no way” for a trained unarmed person to stop a shooter. I am saying its not worth it or desirable to attempt to train all students to have this capability.

  52. Jim (#42),

    Because you did a drill with a fake gun. How scientific.

    Alas, pretty much all police training is done that way these days. With the greatly reduced number of prisoners on death row, it just isn’t feasible to do this a a live-fire exercise any more. It turns out they lose fewer police officers in training accidents with this new method, so city officials and the public like it too…

    chew2 (#51),

    I hardly think the Colorado incident you cite, where there was an innocent fatality, is much of an argument in favor of “don’t escalate”.

  53. Kirk,

    “I hardly think the Colorado incident you cite, where there was an innocent fatality, is much of an argument in favor of “don’t escalate”.”

    In the Colorado case, the gunman fired one or two shots then took at least 6 girls hostage. He then released 4 of them during negotiations with the police. The police then decided to rush the shooter and used an explosive device. The shooter shot one of the hostages while he was returning fire at the police.

    AL is advocating that students throw their books and attack a gunman immediately. If the students had all done that they would likely have been shot right off the bat. Many more than the one hostage killed.

    The point is you don’t know what the gunmen intends. There have been many hostage situations that have been resolved without loss of life. If you create a blanket doctrine for the students to attack on sight, you necessarily increase their chances of the gunman shooting the students.

  54. Kirk

    “Alas, pretty much all police training is done that way these days. With the greatly reduced number of prisoners on death row, it just isn’t feasible to do this a a live-fire exercise any more.”

    Why not use paint ball guns or something similar. See how many of the attackers are hit. Make sure the shooter has two guns also. Then we can decide if a suicide attack is worthwhile. -)

  55. Grim

    “In any event, the game parameters weren’t about suggesting ‘suicidal charges,’ ”

    I’m glad to hear that. I don’t quarrel with thinking about what a single or a few unarmed actors might do in response to a shooter lose in a classroom or large group, including closing on him and breaking his neck.

    I do object to claiming the VT shooter exposes some fatal societal passivity that we need to remedy, and more specifically that we should encourage unarmed students to charge the shooter.

  56. chew – how in the world to you square that circle?

    One one hand – it’s good to think about what a few unarmed people could do to stop the shooter –

    On the other it’s bad to encourage unarmed students from charging the shooter?

    Help me out here…

    A.L.

  57. If I can be bold enough to speak for Chew, I’d like to address the question.

    It’s one thing to say, “America could benefit from letting fighting men fight, whether or not they’re civilians — we need to harden the society, and that means giving people who are fighters the right to carry the tools they’ll need to defend the common peace.”

    It’s another to say, “We need to make everyone into fighters.”

    One of the things I think we’re weak on as a society — I’d refer people to my November 12-13th posts from 2004 and 2006, which again I can’t link b/c of the bl*spot thing — is real, honest tolerance for differing worldviews. Not everyone is a fighter. My beloved friend, the liberal who inspired this wargame — she isn’t and never will be. That’s OK. She’s who she ought to be, and I love her just the way she is.

    I wish she didn’t view firearms and weapons as a net negative — I’d like it if she could see them as I do, as a thing that can be a negative or a positive depending on who wields it. Since there are more good people than bad, that means that weapons among civilians are a net positive. She can’t see that. For her, the best case is that they’re net neutral — the absolute best case she can be convinced of is that the good may balance the bad. That there may be a real, net good is beyond her.

    That said, she’s a good person, and intends only good things. I’m OK with not telling her that she’s a failure because she’s not a fighter. She isn’t, and she won’t be, and I don’t mind that others of us have to bear extra weight defending her and protecting her. As far as I can see, that’s what we’re for. In fact, I’m proud to be “for” that.

    Killing a man, even a psychopath or a terrorist, is a hard thing. Not everyone is equipped for it. Not everyone “should” be. I think that’s what Chew is trying to say.

    I agree with that. Some of us are, and some others aren’t. The right solution is to give those who are the tools they need to pursue this duty. Protecting the weak and upholding the innocent is a fine thing, the very best thing, for those who are fighting men. There are, though, innocent; there are, remember, weak.

    That isn’t wrong. It’s what they were meant to be.

    Nor is it a grand thing to be the kind of man who can kill another. Some of us were made that way. But we who were should remember the best of our traditions and be, as Sir Walter Scott put it, “a friend to the weaker party… the duty of a true knight, at least.”

  58. Grim – that’s a sensible distinction and squares neatly with my belief that not everyone should choose to own a gun.

    I do think that the social pressures around conflict avoidance and the pure denial that “it can ever happen to me” are a big part of the problem, and I do think that we need to do what we can to get everyone out of that condition – a condition somewhere past white – condition ‘clear’ (oh, am I going to get in trouble for that one…)

    A.L.

  59. #50 from Grim: “In order to make up for having put my COIN piece up at BlackFive, I’ll publish the wargaming results here, if you like.”

    Yes please.

    Re: #52 from Armed Liberal: Now I get your point about the article you linked to in the LA Weekly about graffiti. I agree with it.

    Re: #51 from chew2 and #54 from chew2: chew2, I think you are falsely characterizing Armed Liberal’s position, and I know you are falsely characterizing my doctrine, and piling on with lots of unfounded implications.

    #51 from chew2: “Is AL being disingenuous here. I interpret your posts on VT to say that those who hid should have attacked the shooter, that they should be trained to attack the shooter. Perhaps if you had devoted more praise to those who fled, I might believe you.”

    Perhaps, and perhaps not. It’s unclear that Armed Liberal could have done enough to get you to judge his statements as they are, rather that according to your negative beliefs. What is clear is that if he could have passed your private test, he did not, and you are judging him not on what he said but on stuff you are making up about his psychology.

    #54 from chew2: “As to the psychoanalyzing, the difference between me and you, Blue, and Rockford (the Rush Limbaugh champion of downtrodden white men everwhere), is that I am not talking about society generally, but you folks specifically, the champions, if I recall correctly, of a movie that celebrated the Spartan manly virtues.”

    No, you do not recall correctly. 300 (2006) did not come out in Australia till the discussion had moved on, and so I had little to say on it, and that late. My main point was that the Iranians have little reason to take offense at any characterization of their polytheistic, pre-Islamic predecessors. Another point was that Armed Liberal was correct to characterize the Spartans as in part our ancestors, and so say therefore that we owe them something. Neither point is “championing” the movie. Nor can you assume from the fact that I did not champion the movie here, when the time to get into an extended discussion of its aesthetic good and bad points had passed, that I would or would not champion elsewhere. You don’t know, because I didn’t say.

    #54 from chew2: “You folks attack all but the warrior heroic action. You condemn all else implicitly or explicitly as soft and passive, and posit without evidence some wider societal passivity.”

    No. You say I do, but I don’t. This is as clear as it could possibly be in the example I gave. But not clear enough for you, apparently.

    You are attacking me, Armed Liberal and Jim Rockford as individuals, that is, you are trying to make an ad hominem argument, which would be a fallacy, but you are doing so on the basis of false assumptions of and false characterizations of what I said, and denial or “disbelief” of what Armed Liberal said. So you’re not even making a fallacious argument, you’re just talking nonsense.

  60. Re: #60 from Grim: good comment. Now I understand your position better than I did when I replied partly in opposition to it at your blog.

  61. > Why not use paint ball guns or something similar. See how many of the attackers are hit. Make sure the shooter has two guns also. Then we can decide if a suicide attack is worthwhile. -)

    Why is Chew (and Treacher) so certain that no-one has done that, with exactly the results that Kirk and AL reports?

    It’s not a hard experiment to duplicate. Heck, there are lots of ways to measure reaction time and the time for various actions and to compare them.

    I haven’t done exactly the one that Chew wants, but I’ve done something close enough to convince me that Kirk is correct and Chew is dreaming. Before that experience, I would have agreed with Chew.

    Note that if Chew really believes that he’s correct, he’s got a serious obligation to change how police et al are trained. As Kirk pointed out, they’re training to act in situations where Chew is certain that action is futile. If Chew is correct, that training is wasting lives and money.

    Or, is it that police have special fu, so action vs reaction plays out differently for them?

  62. AL@59
    “Help me out here…”

    Grim was proposing thought experiments, the lessons of which people can adopt or not as they think appropriate to their capabilities and circumstances. You seem to be proposing a societal “doctrine”.

  63. Therefor, a doctrine that encouraged risking the lives of all passengers would not have been based upon experience but an imagined worse-case scenario-maybe and would be illogical. Had such a “doctrine” been in place between, say, 9/11/91 and 9/11/01, thousands of people would have died unnecessarily.

    Alternatively, and far more likely, such a doctrine would have resulted in comparatively few people dying in a handful of incidents, followed by the goblins (of whatever ideological stripe) abandoning plane hijackings as an unworkable tactic. Logically, then, had such a “doctrine” been in place between, say, 9/11/91 and 9/11/01, thousands of people would not have died unnecessarily on that September morning alone. And that’s not even taking into account the savings in people wounded, people terrorized, and concessions granted to thugs and terrorists from the 34 plane hijackings that wouldn’t have taken place during that decade.

    A case can be made against the Universal Banzai strawman you’ve built (that’s the beauty of strawmen — they’re much easier to demolish than your opponent’s actual argument) but that aint it.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying always attack is the right solution to every encounter with an armed individual, and still less turning the population (or even just the male portion thereof) into mines triggered by the sight of a weapon. I don’t think anyone here (with the possible exception of Jim Rockford) is making that argument. AL seems to me to be saying that the problem isn’t the absence of an always attack doctrine, it’s the presence of a never attack doctrine. And David Blue is advocating a first, keep your head doctrine. (If I’m misreading, AL & DB, my apologies and feel free to correct me).

  64. David Blue @ 62,

    I said this:

    “I think the debate here is not about the actual efficacy of any particular action by an unarmed student, run, hide, or charge, but about the societal values embodied by that course of action. You folks attack all but the warrior heroic action. You condemn all else implicitly or explicitly as soft and passive, and posit without evidence some wider societal passivity.”

    “A warrior ethos which trumpets a call to manhood and battle. “Die on your feet, not hiding under a desk.”

    If this doesn’t characterize your views then I apologize. But comments you have made celebrating the “heroic” and condemning the “passive”, caused me to believe that was your position. As I said, had there been more praise of those who fled quickly, I might have revised my opinion.

    I’m glad to see you deleted the statement below, but hadn’t noted that deletion when I made the above claims:

    “Many of the victims at Virginia Tech had spent their lives in a social regime that dictated that fight was unacceptable, flight ridiculous, and passivity was OK. It’s not surprising they fought as they trained, often hiding under a desk.”

  65. chew2,

    Make sure the shooter has two guns also.

    Nonsense. This just perpetuates the Gun As Magic Talisman motif. Have you ever tried to fire two handguns at once? (I suppose it’s also worth asking if you’ve ever tried to fire one at once!) For an overwhelming majority of the population–that portion that’s not profoundly ambidextrous–it’s enough of a challenge performing even adequately on weak-hand-only shooting drills.

  66. #66 from Achillea: “And David Blue is advocating a first, keep your head doctrine. (If I’m misreading, AL & DB, my apologies and feel free to correct me).”

    You understand me perfectly, and I agree with what you said in this post.

  67. Re: #67 from chew2…

    Aww, fudge, I went to Achillea’s post to rebuild the link to it, and forgetting where it was I posted my replies there.

    OK, here’s what I have to say in reply:
    (link)
    (link)
    (link)
    (link)

    By the way the reason I keep putting perfect next to Achillea’s understanding and application of what I’m saying is that I abhor the practice of writing confusing doctrine, and then keeping it forever unstained by failure by always keeping an out. No matter what the general did, if it didn’t work, it wasn’t really what Clausewitz said, according to priests of the genius of Clausewitz.

    So, no, there is no wriggle room. Achillea understands me perfectly well, and that’s what you do, according to me. If that fails on some future occasion, I was wrong.

  68. Three thoughts on why I’m skeptical that a new doctrine is the answer:

    1) The consequences if you live: As I’ve mentioned before, and others have touched on here, that requires overcoming a host of factors that contribute to a latent fear of fighting back, aside from the immediate fear of confronting the attacker. Even if I survive this, will my school/my employer/the law support my actions, or turn against me? Will I and/or my family have to worry about a ravenous MSM, or even reprisals from this guy’s associates? To name a few.

    2) The consequences if you die: Another inhibiting factor that a new doctrine can’t account for is the personal/religious beliefs of the victims. Those who are religious but non-pacifist might be more willing to confront attackers, since even if they don’t survive they at least have heaven to look forward to. On the other hand, those with pacifist beliefs can’t be expected to give up their immortal souls (as they believe it) to protect mere mortal lives, even their own. Then there are atheists, for whom dying means literally losing Everything, with a capital E. They might defend themselves, but would they jeopardize themselves to protect others? Maybe, or maybe not.

    3) The fire next time: Last but not least, any new doctrine is only effective until the bad guys come up with a new “doctrine” of their own to defeat or circumvent it. United 93 assured that hijacked jetliners could never again be used as giant missiles. Unfortunately, terrorists have long since proven themselves more than capable of striking in any number of other ways.

  69. If that fails on some future occasion, I was wrong.

    I think the doctrines which are most prone to failure are those which run to the form of ‘taking action X will achieve end result Y.’ For example, ‘attacking a gunman will prevent him from going on to hurt people,’ or ‘not confronting a gunman will keep him calm until the authorities can come neutralize him, preventing him from going on to hurt people.’ These can come a cropper in the actual circumstance on a whole host of variables that may well need extensive training to recognize and adjust for. And, as Joshua mentions (#71), a counter-doctrine may also then develop, rendering a doctrine obsolete.

    Yours is really more of a meta-doctrine. It runs along the lines of ‘not retreating into panic/denial maximizes your ability to cope effectively with a crisis.’ From there, you can choose between whatever skill sets/doctrines you have available, depending on the details of your particular situation. It doesn’t guarantee you’ll choose ‘correctly,’ or that you’ll deal with the crisis successfully. But it is considerably more adaptable than an X/Y doctrine, and as close to universally applicable as it’s feasible to get.

  70. Re: #72 from Achillea

    Two obvious criticism of my doctrine, one cheap and one valid.

    The cheap attack: “but ‘don’t panic, keep your head’ is just to restate the obvious, as though you were saying something when you really aren’t.”

    Answer to the cheap attack: the technique of squatting under heavy weights is simple too, but is it easy? Is success automatic?

    This stuff is worth talking about because it’s hard if you are totally, violently, unexpectedly pushed outside of anything you are prepared for. And I don’t have much respect for any criticism that doesn’t respect that aching-hard reality.

    The valid criticism: Ignoring the infinite variety of violent crises that may come up, there’s a big payoff to drilling everybody to react in the same way to certain familiar crises. That’s why we do lifeboat drills. That’s why we do fire drills. There are set actions, and there is no “my values, your values, our different religions” or “whatever seems wisest to you under the circumstances” about it. It’s “here’s the drill, do it”.

    If it turns out that four unarmed (innocent) attackers will take down a mad shooter, and the way to get that critical mass of attackers is to drill everybody in a “Gun! –> Banzai!!” routine, and if it turns out that getting everybody to react in the best, smartest and most forceful way they each can consistently produces less than the critical mass, and outcomes that are unsatisfactory for the collective (and for the one-off and two-off attackers that just get killed for want of backup), then I’m wrong.

    And even when the bad guys changed their attack pattern to beat the “Gun! –> Banzai!!” routine, those who had advocated it would not have to apologize, they could reasonably say, we did the best we could, and you can’t have a ready answer for everything unless you are willing to settle for a meta-answer that implies individual answers tied to the individual in his or her specific time and place, as opposed to the more efficient, mass-produced one answer for everyone.

    There may even be social benefits to training everyone to treat the person on either side of them as their shield-brother or shield-sister if things suddenly go sideways. Or not – we won’t know unless somebody does it.

    That, the instant hoplite charge drill, is not my doctrine, but if people prove it works, great.

    Whether a Jedi mindfulness approach gets the job done better or whether a Spartan 300 drill gets the job done better is open to demonstration.

    I can be proved wrong.

  71. While I can be proved wrong, I don’t think I will be.

    Even if the range of problems to be considered is one (1) violent or immediately potentially violent nut case, the appropriate moves can be different depending on whether this is a predator or someone desperate.

    Here is an excellent post by Dr. Helen on that: Sunday, April 08, 2007: Violence Prevention Toolbox: (link)

  72. Anybody, but especially Armed Liberal, I warmly recommend checking out this link:

    Dr. Helen: Saturday, January 13, 2007: Is Psychological Impotence in the Face of Violent Crime Really the Answer? (link)

    Dr. Helen is really good on this topic. If you don’t read this and her other posts, which I’m still looking for, you’re not as well prepared as you could be, effectively to make the sort of case Armed Liberal is making.

  73. Aha! There are others, but this is the one I was looking for!

    First: Thursday, November 02, 2006, No Gun, No Chance (link)

    “Why should a school be allowed to have a security guard with no weapon patrol at night alone? Shouldn’t a school be held liable for placing a person in such danger? I don’t know why anyone would take a job as a security guard without a weapon. What are they supposed to do if they see a crime taking place, hide under a desk?

    Friday, October 13, 2006, Let’s Roll (link)

    bq. Youngsters in a suburban Fort Worth school district are being taught not to sit there like good boys and girls with their hands folded if a gunman invades the classroom, but to rush him and hit him with everything they got – books, pencils, legs and arms.

    bq. “Getting under desks and praying for rescue from professionals is not a recipe for success,” said Robin Browne, a major in the British Army reserve and an instructor for Response Options, the company providing the training to the Burleson schools.

    Dr. Helen: Of course, there is no sure strategy to use when confronted with a mass murderer but denial and regressive behavior such as hiding under a desk do not appear to be the best option either. I am not the only psychologist to think this.

    bq. Hilda Quiroz of the National School Safety Center, a nonprofit advocacy group in California, said she knows of no other school system in the country that is offering fight-back training, and found the strategy at Burleson troubling.

    bq. “If kids are saved, then this is the most wonderful thing in the world. If kids are killed, people are going to wonder who’s to blame,” she said.

    Dr. Helen: So, it is better to let children die while hiding under a table just so no one will later be blamed. Isn’t that a little heartless?

    Dr. Helen: Update: Well, the Burleson program has been halted, of course, too dangerous. So kids, just go back to hiding under those desks, that will really stop the violence.

    I recommend clicking on the link and reading this important post in full, as Dr. Helen wrote it.

    And could we now leave the “psychoanalysis” to the pros, such as Dr. Helen? Unless you want to argue that the Instawife was all about beating on her definitely-not-manly chest and trying to make herself seem tough compared to a bunch of young children.

  74. This stuff is worth talking about because it’s hard if you are totally, violently, unexpectedly pushed outside of anything you are prepared for.

    Oh, I know. Believe me, I know. Right down to the molecular level. I don’t in any way mean to suggest that it’s easy, though I do think it can be made easier — and that effort should be made to do so. If my talking about what happened to me helps to do that, if my words come back to even one person in danger and teetering on the edge of denial, then I’ve done a good thing. I’ll gladly talk myself blue to do that.

    I also don’t in any way mean to suggest that development of active doctrines and drills in their application are useless. In effect, they reduce the size of the here-be-dragons areas on your psychological map. If you’ve practiced fire drills, an actual fire, while still shocking and scary, isn’t something totally outside your comprehension. And if you keep your head, you can use components of preparation for one crisis to help deal with another — evacuation routes, for example. I think, too, that the more emergency-competent you feel in general, the more likely you are to keep your head even in emergencies you haven’t prepared specifically for.

  75. David Blue @70, 72et seq.

    Maybe I was right after all:

    You seem to be sliding back to advocating the suicide charge as a cure for our societal passivity and victimhood.

    The Dr Helen’s of the world can trumpet a new psychological empowerment strategy for when you encounter an armed assailant: teach those 7 year olds to perform the suicide charge and be an example for us all. I know, I know you’re not actually advocating the suicide charge, but then why quote her.

    Could it be because she’s a right wing republican? -) Just kidding

  76. Re: #78 from Achillea: We are on the same page with all of this.

    Re: #79 from Chew2: You can continue “just kidding” if you like, but this thread is by and for people who are not kidding, who are genuine about this.

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