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Kinkajou interviews SigmaPsiCletus Graham
(Gordon Dickson: Tactics of Mistake)

Kinkajou Kinkajou: Thank you Cletus for agreeing to talk to me. I’m interested in some of your views on trade and social military engineering. I understand you have been writing a book. Could you tell my readers something about what you are undertaking?

Cletus Genius Military Commander SigmaPsiCletus Graham:  What I really want to do is finish my work on tactics. Only I found out first, I’m going to have to create the conditions they apply to.

Kinkajou Kinkajou: Theory?  I’ve seen too many men with nothing but theory get trampled when they venture out into the real world. Its practical people who make things happen. You have to be practical nowadays as opposed to just espousing theory, or you might as well be dead.

Cletus Genius Military Commander   SigmaPsiCletus Graham:  I disagree. The Effective theorists got an advantage over the practical worker. Men are real. So are weapons. But strategies? Political consequences? They are no more real than theories. And the sound theorist, used to dealing with unreal things, is a better manipulator of these than the man who is used to dealing only with the “real” tools that are actually only end products. Do you know anything about fencing?

Kinkajou Kinkajou: A little.

Cletus Genius Military Commander SigmaPsiCletus Graham:  Then perhaps you’ll recognise the tactic in fencing that I use as an example for something I call the “tactics of mistake”. The fencing tactic is to launch a series of attacks each inviting ripostes, so that there is a pattern of engages and disengages of your blade with your opponent’s blade.

Your purpose however, is not to strike him with any of these preliminary attacks, but to carry your opponents’ blade a little further out of line with each disengage, so gradually he doesn’t notice you’re doing it. Then, following the final engage when his blade has been drawn completely out of line, you thrust your own blade against an essentially unguarded man.

Kinkajou Kinkajou: Take a damn good fencer.

Cletus Genius Military Commander SigmaPsiCletus Graham:  There is that of course. So I believe that theory is as important a method of manipulating reality as any “real” tools. I had joked with an acquaintance that maybe I should borrow him instead of library materials for my next research. He told me not to bother.

He had looked up my first three volumes of written works. He said these tomes were full of wild theories backed over only by warmed over military history. He laughed at me and thought that they must have been about to throw me out of the academy where I was working, if I hadn’t requested a transfer out first.

I replied to him that knowledge and conclusions are two different things.

Kinkajou Kinkajou: I note that you had early made a prediction that the forces of the Earth (both alliance and coalition), would lose their influence amongst the colony worlds.

Cletus Genius Military Commander SigmaPsiCletus Graham:  Yes. I believe the laws of historical development were working to that end. And so it had come to pass.

Kinkajou Kinkajou: Was this understanding behind your reason to emigrate to the Dorsai.

Cletus Genius Military Commander SigmaPsiCletus Graham:  Indeed. It’s a new world – for soldiers that I understand. I left teaching at the Academy, because someone has to make the world safe for scholars like myself.

Kinkajou Kinkajou: So you used the “tactics of mistake” against your enemies?

Cletus Genius Military Commander SigmaPsiCletus Graham:  This was my purpose. The trail I laid out was baited for an obvious length for just the sort of subtle mind that could envision purposes at work, invisible to less perceptive men. This mind saw an earth united behind him dominating the colonies. He did not see the colonies independent of earth.

Kinkajou Kinkajou: So this is your gentle philosophy?

Cletus Genius Military Commander SigmaPsiCletus Graham:  The immediate teachings of philosophers may be gentle, but the theory behind their teaching is without compunction – and that’s why so much bloodshed and misery has always attended the paths of their followers who claim to live by their teachings.

Aristotle Greek PhilosopherAristotle: Ancient Greek Philosopher

To achieve the future, you dream of means to obliterate the present as we know it now. You may say your aim is a change from revolution to evolution, but your goal is still destruction of what we have now to make room for something different.

Kinkajou Kinkajou: A new perspective. Philosophy and theory as a method for the evolution of man. Surely, the peoples of your worlds must have faced many dilemmas in evolution, in adapting the planets of the galaxy for human habitation.

Cletus Genius Military Commander SigmaPsiCletus Graham:  Yes the process of genetic engineering has allowed our peoples to adapt many lifeforms to new environments. For example, around the city of “Two Rivers”, a sort of native wild cherry as well as mutated rubber plants were introduced by the exotics only four years ago. They are now stable wild farming crops.

Kinkajou Kinkajou: What is a wild farmer?

Cletus Genius Military Commander SigmaPsiCletus Graham:  A wild farmer owns no territory. He owns a number of trees or plants that he tends and from which he harvests his crops on a regular basis. In poorly populated areas such as newly colonised areas on the exotic planets of Mara and Kultus, these plants form the first step in the development of an agricultural economy.

We have also been trying to variform earth grains and earth grasses to drive out the natural forms and plants. Many earth plants have been adapted over the millennia to specific purposes. Consequently, they suit the needs of the technological civilisation far better than many of the native plants that exist here already.

We can take advantage of millennia of human adaptive ingenuity in plant husbandry, to quickly craft plants adapted to new environments with minimal reengineering. What a world is colonised, it is often as shorthanded in the laboratories as anywhere else.

Kinkajou Kinkajou: Yes I can see how using well-known plants and introducing small adaptations are far more advantageous than reengineering native plant forms from scratch. It makes the most of your limited genetic engineering resources (staff and equipment). In essence, the biggest bang for the buck.

Terraformed Alien Landscape Variforms
Terraformed Alien Landscape Variform Plants


Cletus Genius Military Commander SigmaPsiCletus Graham:  Nicely put.

Kinkajou Kinkajou: I can imagine that trade is very difficult in a galaxy of isolated planets, such as exists in your era.

Cletus Genius Military Commander SigmaPsiCletus Graham:  Trade is the basis of many of our triumphs as well is many of our problems. A trade exists in materials such as food, minerals and manufactures. Even introducing earth animals such as horses or donkeys to our colonies requires trade for genetic material.

However, it is the trade for human resources that are the most critical to our development as a society. Humans carry knowledge and skills that take years to cultivate. They are in fact amongst the most valuable imports and exports in our civilisation. Trade in human specialists carries its own problems however. For example we have considerable training problems in the Dorsai. We get men with all sorts of backgrounds.

You don’t want to turn out a soldier with too many proprietary skills. We need to turn out “generalist” soldiers from our academies on Dorsai trained for use as many different military situations as possible.

Even the military technologies in use can be excessively proprietary in their construction. Nagle sticks, dally guns, ultrasonics to set off or jam or destroy the components in his weapons have all been proposed and used. It’s all getting too complicated and the more complicated, the more difficult the supply situation, the tougher to keep your striking forces really mobile.

So on the Dorsai academies, we concentrate on the basics. It’s our program to develop small mobile quick striking units and then get the employers to use them as they are trained. Most employers want to fit our professionals into their classical tables of organisation. It works but is not efficient use of men or units.

World trade and human skill specialisation changes the nature of conflict between our worlds. The object of armed struggle between opposing groups such as exists within the colonies, is not so much to destroy the enemy’s productive capacity –as it is to take it away from him.

One doesn’t obliterate by bombing that which one had started a war to obtain.

And if the factories and other hardware of civilisation are valuable, the men who have the skills to operate them are just as valuable.


Kinkajou Kinkajou: So the purpose of conflict is no longer to kill the enemy but to acquire his resources and to dominate him. It is also not worthwhile to cause misery and suffering amongst the captive peoples. One derives the most value from one’s conquests if they voluntarily continue to work and strive.

A much more humane type of war that has existed than throughout much of human history.

I believe you have actually used your knowledge of the “tactics of mistake” and the need for trade to support a type of economic rather than military conquest.

Cletus Genius Military Commander SigmaPsiCletus Graham:  It is important to always understand one’s partners and one’s enemies. I went to see the leader of the Newton faction about employing my mercenaries. When one understands the forces shaping people around you, you tend to have little trouble persuading them to your point of view.

In fact, in this example there was no persuading involved.

I studied the situation on Newton for a point of grievance before I wrote to the director. The stibnite mines, which are essentially Newton’s only native source of antimony, seemed ideal. So my correspondence, I dwelt upon all the aspects and advantages of our troops under our new training which would apply to just such a situation – but without even mentioning the Brozan stibnite mines by name.

Of course he could hardly help but apply the information I gave him to this situation. And this was all the excuse he needed to undertake our employment. I think he was determined to hire us to recover the mines even before he had met us. My correspondence merely made him aware of valuable resources which he could use to achieve his purpose.

The situation amongst the colonies breeds human specialisation. For example, the Exotics are dedicated to searching for those seeds of further evolution and protecting them once found, so that they can flower and grow until evolved. Man is part of our community. I remember the “Outbound” telling me that “no man commands this body but myself”.

My interpretation – a reference to the development and evolution of Psi abilities in these human colonists and their ability to control physical body functions at a higher level through the power of Psi.

We, the Dorsai concentrate on the production of mercenaries. Planets such as Newton concentrate on the production of technical and engineering specialists.

Even planets such as the Friendlies cultivate specialist human crops – in their case humans specialising in “single-minded” purpose. (Religion seems to be an excellent and fertile ground for their cultivation).


Kinkajou Kinkajou: So galactic trade dictates social engineering forces. It is the needs of a society that make it vulnerable to persuasion, adaptation and redirection of its aims. But surely each situation is different.

Cletus Genius Military Commander SigmaPsiCletus Graham:  Yes. I’ve seen many good tricks. But not one that work a second time. No. It always has to be different for a second time.

Kinkajou Kinkajou: Just return to an old topic. Your development of the “tactics of mistake” in your books speaks to the development of a new interface for military action.

Military Strategy Concept Military Strategy Concept

Cletus Genius Military Commander SigmaPsiCletus Graham:  You are aware I am sure of the graphical user interface “GUI” used in many modern health applications. My work essentially introduces the same type of symbolism into military action.

A soldier, whose commander is killed on the battlefield, can step into his commander’s role with 90% of the functional situational information that his commander had, because they are all using the same symbolic representation of language. An abbreviated GUI type symbolic logic that I have created.

I remember an early acquaintance whom I had met, who subsequently read my books.

He came back to me years later and said that he experienced the books “as if he were there, three-dimensional and laid out in front of him.” I remember him then saying “sir, nobody knows what you’ve done in these volumes, you’ve written down”.

This is my contribution and my technology. The application of symbolism to military action in the field.


Kinkajou Kinkajou: Awesome! Thank you for sharing your experiences, Cletus.



Dickson, Gordon R.

Cletus Graham

Tactics Of Mistake : Dorsai Series


Dickson, Gordon R.

Cletus Graham

Tactics Of Mistake : Dorsai Series


Dickson, Gordon R.

Cletus Graham

Tactics Of Mistake : Dorsai Series


Dickson, Gordon R.

Cletus Graham

Tactics Of Mistake : Dorsai Series

Warrior Kinkajou.....Galactic Travelogue