Batman Gambit: Real Life

  • Otto Von Bismarck, Chancellor of Prussia, successfully manipulated his enemies to unify Germany, using his ally Austria to defeat Denmark, then caused Austria to declare war on Prussia, and finally manipulated France into another war, thus creating the political climate to unite the many German states into a single one. He pulled some of this off by taking advantage of pre-existing circumstances and he lured enemies (and his boss!) into traps several times. Then again, a man wearing that formidable a hat is clearly working at a higher level than most.
    • Konrad Adenauer was also quite famous for his Batman Gambits. For example, Adenauer manipulated the Communist party of Germany (whom he actually despised) so they supported him on a specific project of building a bridge.
  • Near the beginning of Word War II, Hitler and Mussolini attempted to convince Spanish Dictator Francisco Franco to join their Axis. Franco agreed, on the condition that, after the war, Spain received basically all of North Africa that didn't already belong to Italy. This condition was too much for Mussolini, so Spain remained neutral (if Axis-leaning). On one hand, this can be seen as an example of Franco's ego. On the other hand, it is very possible that Franco deliberately overreached during negotiations in order to stay out of the war, while remaining on better terms with the Axis than he would have if he had outright declined an alliance.
  • Also during WWII, when the Allies were planning to invade southern Europe from Africa, the British launched a homeless man (who died of accidentally ingesting scraps of bread laced with rat poison) from a submarine, in an area where the Spanish would recover his body. Chained to his belt was a briefcase that explained that the invasion site would NOT be Sicily, and hinted instead it would be Greece. The Spanish under Franco, being on friendly terms with the Germans, found the body and gave the evidence to the German embassy, who bought the story, leaving the invasion site nearly undefended. It may also help that the Abwehr, which asserted the authenticity of the documents, was riddled with British agents, including its head, Admiral Canaris.
    • The success of this plan, Operation Mincemeat, was actually what led the Germans to disregard other information they'd actually gotten. Once the invasion was complete, they realised they'd been fooled and disregarded several other actual intelligence leaks as simple repeats of Mincemeat. Due to the effectiveness of the other major deceptive operation this failure included the actual landings at D-Day being ruled as a repeat of Mincemeat.
    • Allied intelligence also effectively played the highly paranoid attitude among German spies and their handlers. They used turned German agents to discredit reports filed by (still loyal) spies. As a result, German intelligence dismissed many of its actual spies in favor of one who were getting "better" information (who happen to be double agents). In one notable case, a double-agent managed to stall the advance of tanks to counter the D-Day landings by convincing his handlers that the other spies in France has been turned and that he alone knew that Normandy was a diversion attack meant to pull troops away from the real landing site. High command was so impressed with this breakthrough intel that the spy was awarded a distinguished medal. For successfully stalling the counterattack, he was awarded a British medal of similar distinction. As a result, he was the only person to be given high honors by both sides of the conflict, for doing the same thing.
    • The Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Pacific Theatre. The Japanese, having lost most of their carrier-trained pilots in the prior Battle of the Philippine Sea, decided to use their remaining mostly-empty aircraft carriers as bait. The hope was to lure the American carrier fleet to the north, while a group of battleships and cruisers came in from another direction to attack the amphibious landing site at Leyte Gulf. Although the battleship force was detected and attacked by the Americans and thought to have turned back, it later turned around to resume the attack. Meanwhile, Admiral Halsey in command of the American carriers received word of the Japanese carriers to the north and swallowed the bait hook, line and sinker. Halsey raced north to attack the Japanese carriers, leaving no other ships behind to defend Leyte Gulf. When the Japanese battleships showed up, they very nearly massacred the few small escort carriers and destroyers present. Only a lot of miscommunication and confusion on the part of the Japanese, and the brave efforts of American sailors and pilots eventually convinced the Japanese commander to turn back and abort his mission.
  • In 1967, during the Vietnam War, the U.S. Air Force faced a problem. The North Vietnamese had received several MiG-21 "Fishbed" supersonic interceptor jets. These planes were causing problems to heavy, bomb-laden flights of F-105 Thunderchief fighter-bombers ("Thuds") that were being used to attack targets in North Vietnam. Thuds were less maneuverable than Fishbeds, but the USAF's F-4 Phantom jets were better (though not by all that much) at maneuvering. Plus, leaders in Washington, D.C., forbade the bombing of North Vietnamese airbases (out of fear that if one of the many Soviet advisors in North Vietnam was killed, the Soviets would use it to start World War III). With this in mind, Colonel Robin Olds came up with what would become a classic Batman Gambit. Codenamed Operation Bolo, the plan consisted of using F-4 Phantoms, convincing the enemy that they were inbound Thuds (by using Thud callsigns, air routes, radar jammers, etc.), lure the Fishbeds into the air, then hit them with AIM-7 Sparrow radar-guided missiles and AIM-9 Sidewinder heat-seeking missiles. On January 2, 1967, the plan went into action. 12 Fishbeds intercepted the "Thuds", only to be embroiled in a dogfight with what were actually Phantoms. 7 Fishbeds were confirmed shotdown ( nearly half of the Fishbed force) once the fight was over.
    • That said, before he was stationed in Southeast Asia, Colonel Olds was stationed in England as a wing commander at RAF Bentwaters, where he received terrible news: He had made the list for promotion to Brigadier General. Which meant he wouldn't be given a combat assignment. So he got his three best pilots together to put on a very unauthorized air show for an open house over the base. He got exactly what he had hoped for: He got in just enough trouble to get taken off the promotion list and sent to command a combat unit in Thailand as punishment.
    • At this time, Col. Olds' deputy was an African-American colonel named Daniel James (who would later become first African American four star general in the US Air Force). Together, they were called "Blackman and Robin" as a team, adding yet another Batman linkage to this episode.
  • The Athenian politician Themistocles, seeing the Persian threat, convinced the Athenians to spend the proceeds from a lode of silver to build a large navy, naming a threat from Greek rivals (Persia seemed too distant to the people). He then formed a battle plan to defend the pass at Thermopylae while the Allied (largely Athenian) navy held the Strait of Artemisium so the Persians couldn't sail around. When the Spartans were reluctant to deploy their armies far away from their home, Themistocles goaded them into it by successfully pledging the entire able-bodied population of Athens to man the allied Greek fleet. When the Spartan naval commander wanted to run from the approaching Persians, who outnumbered the Greeks six to one, Themistocles secured a large bribe to have the fleet stay there and defend the people. He subsequently took the initiative in the sea battle by attacking the Persians in the late afternoon when they off guard, so that that it would be dark by the time the Persians got their act together (the Greeks could withdraw more easily.) After holding the strait until the Spartans were defeated, Themistocles sailed back to Athens to evacuate everyone, leaving messages at all the towns along the way for the Ionians, Greek allies of Persia, in the Persian fleet to make Xerxes distrust them. Then, playing on Xerxes' desire to conquer the Greeks totally, he tricked the Persian fleet into an ambush in the Strait of Salamis, destroying most of their troop ships and crippling Persia's invasion force.
    • Simultaneously, King Leonidas of the rival Spartans was killed at Thermopylae, thus weakening one of Athens' domestic enemies. This may have been entirely intentional.
  • This is how the 17th president of the U.S., Andrew Johnson, was impeached. Congress passed the (unconstitutional) Tenure of Office Act, which basically said that the president couldn't fire any of his appointees without Congressional consent. The Radical Republicans knew that Johnson would fire his Secretary of War and thus violate this act, so they just sat back and sold tickets to the trial.
  • Pablo Escobar was once arrested with 39 kilos of cocaine; when he found out the name of the judge that would be trying his case, he attempted to bribe him but the judge refused. Escobar found out that the judge had a brother who was a defense attorney, and that the brothers did not get along, so he hired the brother as his lawyer, assuming a judge with enough integrity to refuse a bribe would recuse himself rather than try a case with his brother representing the defendant; he was right, and the judge who replaced him accepted Escobar's bribe.
  • There is a card trick that can be done where you ask the volunteer to pick this or that, guiding them towards the preferred answer no matter what they say. If you want them to pick pile A and they pick pile A, good, picking it means keeping it. They pick pile B? You say nothing and pretend as if picking it meant discarding it. Rinse and repeat until you get the final card. Most people won't notice it's being done to them unless they've had it played on them before and/or they're looking for it.
  • A more concrete example is the story of Hotel 52. You select a card with a notable feature (say, the Queen of Hearts), loaded it where appropriate, and begin the story of Hotel 52, where you had a dream Hotel 52 is holding a ball and all the cards are attending. You ask for help finishing the dream and say, "Suddenly, the hotel caught fire! Embellish to taste. The fire is burning to the cards. Quick, is it burning to the Black Cards or the Red Cards?" If they say Black, you say, "Oh no, all the Black cards burned up. The Red ones see the danger, and now they're running!" If they say Red, you say, "The Black cards escaped and are safe. Now the Red ones are in danger, and they're running!" Continue until only the Queen of Hearts is left to escape.
  • Napoleon Bonaparte laid a masterful Batman Gambit in 1805 at the Battle of Austerlitz against both the Russians and Austrians. Having already destroyed an Austrian force months earlier, Napoleon knew he needed a decisive victory over the Third Coalition (as the Allied cause was known) to not just win the war, but keep his army together, as he was far from home and had campaigned long and hard. Knowing it would take the Russians a long time to arrive in Austria, Napoleon was able to pick the site of his decisive battle, and making sure the allies saw his deployment, intentionally withdrew his center from the Pratzen Heights, which dominated the area and allowed the Russians to occupy them, while also intentionally making his right flank seem like the weakest part of his army. The Allies couldn't resist an opportunity to outflank him, so sent waves after waves of men against Napoleon's right, drawing off reserves from their center in this attempt. Napoleon immediately had his center storm the Pratzen Heights, taking the Russians by surprise, driving the center off and swinging right, trapping the bulk of the allied army and routing them. Bear in mind that Napoleon was outnumbered by nearly 15,000 men, he inflicted nearly twice that many casualties on the allies while only suffering about 7,000 of his 65,000 man army. It's widely considered Napoleon's greatest tactical victory.
    • Particularly notable because the Russian general Kutuzov, who had actually occupied the Heights, had saw through the ruse and ignored orders from his immediate superior Von Weyrother (Austrian general and commander of the combined Austrian-Russian army) of leaving to attack Napoleon. The battle ended in a Napoleonic victory because the czar Alexander I considered Kutuzov an old fool and forced him to obey Von Weyrother. Alexander would learn his lesson, and when Napoleon later invaded Russia he ordered Kutuzov to stop Napoleon. Kutuzov would later pull a Batman Gambit on Napoleon, letting him waste the Grande Armée in a vain offensive against Moscow under the impression that Russia would surrender and then keeping him there until winter, and blocking Napoleon's only way to retreat where there was any food.
  • In 1573, after getting his butt kicked at Mikatagahara, future ruler of Japan Tokugawa Ieyasu tried Zhuge Liang's "Empty Fortress" strategy. Rather than close the gates to the castle and allow the enemy to overrun his army, he left the gates wide open, lit the way with huge braziers, and even had a vassal beat drums. The enemy saw this whole arrangement, and decided that Ieyasu was up to something shady, and camped for the night.
  • Brazilian president Jânio Quadros tried this in 1961. He ousted himself from office, accusing "hidden forces" of plotting his downfall. He expected to be supported by the people and make a triumphant return. It failed.
  • Ask a volunteer to picture a simple geometric shape, "like a circle or a square." Now that you have eliminated two of the three most likely possibilities, they are almost certainly thinking of a triangle. Congratulations! You're a mind reader!
  • During World War One, one of the ways some of the Allied soldiers got themselves out of the frontline is by shooting themselves in the foot or the hand. The higher-up is then forced to take the wounded soldier out of the frontline, thus saving his life from (probably) certain death. May also count as Deliberate Injury Gambit.
    • The failure condition came from the Commander-in-Chief of the Army in question possibly anticipating this and ordering the doctors to report what weapon had caused the wound, the bullet angle and if the shoe or the skin had burns around the wound, thus determining if the wound was self-inflicted. In the Royal Italian Army, that meant immediate execution.
    • In World War 2, soldiers on the Eastern Front got to shooting themselves in the chest or stomach through a piece of bread (to avoid powder burns, and quickly discarded). No doctor would dare to accuse a soldier of a Deliberate Injury Gambit when the wound was to a vital area!
      • There was also a practice called "voting" - raising a hand out of the trench hoping that the enemy would notice and wound you in the arm.
  • Most forms of Blackmail and Kidnapping are this. While they appear to be other forms of Gambits because the victim has NO CHOICE, they really do. The other option is to not allow the blackmailer/kidnapper to win at all. The victim goes to the police and reports the crime. For blackmail, the secret is exposed. This can be turned in favor of the victim if they confess to the public before the blackmailer does. (One notable example is of American Talk show host David Letterman. A blackmailer threatened to expose the fact that he had sexual relations with many of his staff members. Instead of complying he went public and even joked about the whole affair thus exposing the blackmailers plan.)
    • For the kidnapping, the police DO know what they are doing in those cases. There is always a chance of the kidnapped being killed already or killed to cover the crime. For the best, the victim should contact the police. A simple answer that may trip up the gambit and derail the entire problem safely.
  • Director Christopher Nolan wanted to bring Inception to the screen. To do so, he had to show the Powers That Be that he could direct, as well as gain experience for his magnum opus. Thus, Nolan actually uses Batman (through directing Batman Begins and The Dark Knight) as a Batman Gambit to bring Inception to the screen.
  • According to The Illusion of Life, Walt Disney himself did this. Everytime his staff came to talk about subjects he did not want to discuss, he would do anything in his power to make them go into an unimportant conversation (be it by flattering their style of drawing, their animation, their ties...) Then, when everybody had their guard down, he would come out with an excuse and leave before anyone noticed he didn't answer the questions.
    "Hey, wait a minute! Do you realize we didn't get a word in?"
  • According to some initially vague statements made by former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski that he later expounded upon, which are also supported by other sources, the United States anticipated the likelihood of a Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan before it occurred and, in Brzezinski's words, "knowingly increased the probability that [the Soviets] would [intervene]" by covertly aiding mujahideen groups six months in advance of the invasion proper.
  • The 1956 Suez Crisis gives us possibly the most poorly-executed Batman Gambit ever to have been tried. After Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal, the British and French realized that this was very, very bad for them. They enlisted the help of the Israelis, who, according to the plan, attack Egypt, taking over the whole Sinai Peninsula; when the Israelis got close to the Canal, the British and French would parachute in to separate the Egyptian and Israeli forces "in the interests of international peace and security". The hope was that the international community, and particularly the US and USSR, would be fooled into thinking that the British and French were genuinely responding to an emergency of which they had no foreknowledge. If it worked, it would all be seen as legitimate and have the blessing of the superpowers and the United Nations, while securing British and French interests in the Canal and giving Israel a gigantic buffer zone against its most powerful neighbor. This backfired spectacularly: everyone saw through The Plan, leading both the US and Soviet Union to condemn the three of them, while the UN made them hand back the land they took and otherwise be humiliated.
  • Hannibal's victory over the outnumbering Romans in the Battle of Cannae was pretty much a result of this. Hannibal curved his battle line forward in hopes of goading the Romans into focusing their attack on their center, in which they did. Hannibal would then use the rest of his infantry to flank the Romans. Meanwhile, his cavalry would need to defeat the Roman cavalry and surrounded the Romans on all sides. Above all, the plan would rely on the Romans going into disarray once they got encircled instead of trying to make a concerted effort to break out. Needless to say, it was successful.
  • Penn & Teller pranked Nobel Prize winner Arno Penzias in the late 80s. The setup involves one of Penzias' colleagues showing off a supposedly voice-driven video museum installation, that would allow you to ask questions and get responses. The prank started by having Arno pick an interview. Now who do you think he picked: Janet Kirker (an obscure daytime soap opera star), Mike Wills (author on a book on modern dance), or famous stage magicians Penn & Teller? Commence trolling!
  • Arguably done by 44th President Barack Obama during the first reelection campaign debate against Republican candidate Mitt Romney - according to various political experts. President Obama is known to be a great public speaker and very good at debating because of his Harvard background. However, during the first debate, he appeared weak and subdued while Romney attacked him during the whole debate. Afterwards, the Democratic base demanded that The President stop being a nice guy and show some fight. He would do this in the following debates, especially in the second one, where The President would use a clear Batman Gambit on Romney. Obama brought up his response to Benghazi knowing Romney would jump at the chance to discredit him. Romney accused The President of not calling the Benghazi terrorist attack an "act of terror" immediately after it happened. The President allowed Romney to conclude his accusation, only to get the debate moderator to fact check him during the live debate and prove him wrong live on air.
    • Also, the first debate happened on the day of the anniversary of his marriage. While not everyone cares about this, some people do, and with those people, every criticism of Obama's debating skills just made them feel more strongly in their position that he shouldn't be expected to be on his A-game during his anniversary. So he makes points with the "family values" set and still has two debates to recover.
    • Speaking of the 2012 elections, Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill managed to pull off an even more impressive gambit than the president himself. Being a relatively liberal politician in a conservative-leaning state and having been involved in a series of controversies throughout her tenure, McCaskill was facing rather dismal prospects for reelection. She was trailing all of her potential opponents in the polls and many commentators pegged her as being one of the most vulnerable incumbents of the year. Her campaign’s strategy in response to this? Run ads that implicitly supported the candidacy of Todd Akin, one of the Republicans running against her in the GOP primary. Akin was known to be the most conservative of McCaskill’s Republican challengers so she would likely have the best chance to win a general election against him by portraying him as too extreme. And sure enough, Akin did win the primary and, just mere days after doing so, made his now infamous “legitimate rape” remarks. The result? Akin’s support plummeted over the controversy and McCaskill ultimately won reelection by a comfortable 55-39% margin.
  • Before the World War II Battle of Midway, the US military cryptography section suspected that the Japanese code word AF meant "Midway". Therefore the Midway island base was instructed to radio in the clear that it is short of fresh water in the hope that the Japanese intercept it and radio it back. The Japanese fell for the trick and the US Navy had the confirmation that Japanese were going to attack there.
  • A man in Manitoba was suspected of having killed his girlfriend, but the police couldn't find enough evidence (including the body) to charge him. In an inspired undercover operation, they conned him into believing that he was being recruited into a criminal organization, spending months faking "drug buys", moving "stolen goods" and even witnessing his friend and sponsor into the gang (an undercover cop) apparently brutally beating a woman (also an undercover cop) who owed the gang money. Once it was clear he was keen on getting in on the "illegal" operation, they dropped hints that the only way to be a member was confessing any criminal acts you had done in the past to show you could be trusted by trusting "The Big Boss" with your secret, implying that he'd know if you were lying. The man gave the details of the crime, including the location of the body, to impress the Boss. It also impressed the jury when they saw the recording of it from the hidden camera.
  • According to The Histories of Herodotus the Persian King Cyrus performed one on the Massagetae at the advice of Croesus. He left his camp well-stocked with food and wine and with only a small number of men, a third of the Massagetae troops attacked and killed the men. They were unused to wine and got drunk. The Persians then attacked and captured them, including the General Spargapises, who committed suicide. Despite this Cyrus was then killed in battle with Queen Tomyris, mother of Spargapises.
  • There's a parlor trick involving a person to pick a country that begins with the letter "D", then an animal after the last letter of that country, then a color after the last letter of that animal. The number of choices is virtually down to one for each category that you can correctly "guess" each time.
    • For the record, the list is Denmark-kangaroo-orange.
  • A Tunisian get-out-the-vote group had one. On October 18, 2011, five days before elections on October 23 (the first since the Tunisian Revolution on January 14 of that year), they set up a giant poster of former president/dictator Ben Ali on a building near a major intersection. The result? People got so riled up they tore down the poster entirely, revealing another poster behind it that said "Beware, dictatorship can return. On October 23, VOTE".
  • An old Chinese story tells about a general who had to defend a city against enemy soldiers. He knew he'd lose in battle against them, being heavily outnumbered. So instead, when the enemy horde arrived this general was sitting outside the palace gates drinking tea. A couple of emissaries asked him what he was doing, and he invited them and the rest of the horde to come drink tea inside the city with him. The enemy troops figured that the offer had to be a trap, and retreated.