The Remakable Science Fiction of Cordwainer Smith

Psychological Warfare, by Paul M. A. Linebarger

Cover of the reprint of Psychological WarfareI am happy to report that Psychological Warfare is back in print. Clicking on either the title or the image will take you to its page on

It is a facsimile of the second revised edition, from the 1950s, brought back into print by Gateways Books and Tapes. Many other publishers have thought of reprinting it, have even emailed me that they were definitely going to do it, but fell through. Kudos to these folks for actually doing it!

Long out of print, this book retains a timeliness.

Here are three bits from the book. First, two serious ones, and then my favorite, an amusing one. Where my father says "the Communists" I think you can substitute any fanatic extremists. Here he goes:


Whatever PsyWar does, it certainly does not and should not increase the bitterness of war. Fighting itself is the supreme bitterness. Radio broadcasts and leaflets even in wartime only rarely should promote hatred. The situation which the world faces is dangerous because of technological development, not because of psychological knowledge. PsyWar ranks as a weapon, but it is almost certainly the most humane of all weapons.

Apart from PsyWar, what military weapon destroys the enemy soldier's capacity to fight by saving his life? PsyWar tries to bring him over alive and tries to send him home as our friend. No rival weapon can do this...

Since 1945, we Americans have written more, studied more, and talked more about Psywar than have any of the other free peoples. This is a hopeful sign. It can be read as an indication that the American love of the gadget, the American quest for a novelty, can be turned to the arena of the soul. The Communists are better liars, better schemers, better murderers than we shall ever be; they start off by being better fanatics. Is it not in the American spirit that we should out-trick them, out-talk them, and out-maneuver them?

From practically the first minute that I heard the news on September 11, 2001, I wondered what perspective my father would have had on it. I pulled out my copy of Psychological Warfare and was drawn towards a chapter that included mention of the future. He speaks [1955 edition, page 285] of "the relief [of tension] offered within each civilization by the opportunity to discharge hatred against members of other civilization[s] instead of recognizing self-hatred for the very real problem that it is."

He continues:

In other terms, it is tough to be modern; the difficulty of being modern makes it easy for individuals to be restless and anxious; restlessness and anxiety lead to fear; fear converts freely into hate; hate very easily takes on political form; political hate assists in the creation of real threats such as the atomic bomb and guided missiles, which are not imaginary threats at all; the reality of the threats seems to confirm the reality of the hate which led to it, thus perpetuating a cycle of insecurity, fear, hate, armament, insecurity, fear, and on around the circle again and again.

It is possible, but by no means probable, that the rapid development of psychological and related sciences in the Western world may provide whole new answers to the threats which surround modern Americans, including the supreme answer of peace as an alternative to war or the secondary answer of victory in the event of war....

Too specific a concentration on the problem of winning a war may cause a leader or his expert consultants to concentrate on solutions derived from past experience, therewith leading him to miss new and different solutions which might be offered by his own time.

My Favorite Bit from Psychological Warfare

One day I talked with someone who called to order a couple of the CS books. (I used to sell them directly myself.)  He mentioned that he had worked in Korea and that his favorite story about Paul Linebarger was the one told by J.J. Pierce in his introduction to The Best of Cordwainer Smith.

I looked it up, and it reminds me so much of my father's way of thinking that I'm quoting Pierce here: "While in Korea, Linebarger masterminded the surrender of thousands of Chinese troops who considered it shameful to give up their arms. He drafted leaflets explaining how the soldiers could surrender by shouting the Chinese words for 'love,' 'duty,' 'humanity,' and 'virtue'--words that happened, when pronounced in that order, to sound like 'I surrender' in English. He considered this act to be the single most worthwhile thing he had done in his life."

Well, that got me curious, and I pulled out my 1954 copy of Psychological Warfare. I didn't find that story in there but here's one that he used to tell, and it always made me laugh:

The temper of the U.S. forces in Korea was demonstrated by a Reserve sergeant who scarcely knew he was in the Reserves until he was on a boat bound for Pusan. He was a practical man, anxious to get home, but willing to do his share in this war as long as he had to. He was given the assignment of testing the voice plane of U.S. headquarters at Taegu. The loudspeaker was not working quite right, and he was instructed to test the plane at 500, 1,000, and 1,500 feet.

The plane flew low over U.S. Headquarters The roar of the engines almost deafened everyone within the building, yet even above the roar of the engines there could be heard the bone-chilling hum of the silent loudspeaker--an immense magnification of the noise one hears from a radio set which is turned on without being tuned to a station. Everyone expected the sergeant to say, 'This is the EUSAK voice plane testing; one-ah, two-ah, three-ah!' "Instead the immense voice came through clearly, through brick, and plaster, and wood, through air and trees. It must have reached four miles. The gigantic voice of the sergeant seemed to roar over half of South Korea as he said, 'Why--don't--you--imperialist--sons o' bitches--go--back--to--Wall--Street--where--you--belong?'

It was said that fifty colonels grabbed for their phones simultaneously, but the purely American gimmick to the whole story lay in the fact that the sergeant was not punished. No damage was done. The Americans thought their enemies were funny or silly. We had shown that we were not afraid of Communist ideas. Several South Koreans told the author that they regarded the Americans as inscrutable people indeed.

Psychological Warfare may be found at Alibris... the link is set up to show this search.

And here is the link again for Psychological Warfare by Paul Linebarger.


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