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Sometimes in battles, Captain Picard or another senior staff member orders deception: vent plasma, for example, in order to make it appear as though significant damage has occurred to the ship. I believe such a ploy may have been ordered in "Gambit," but I'm not certain. Is such deception considered dishonorable amongst Klingons? Wouldn't they rather go out fighting?

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I never quite understood that concept. Deception in battle is a legitimate tactic of warfare. "Be where your enemy is not" is one of the primary tenets of effective strategy. Perhaps the Klingon mindset of deception does not included backstabbing an unaware opponent. You can deceive him to get close but you must fight him in "honorable" once you are able. –  Thaddeus Aug 4 at 23:01
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This is the race known for using cloaked ships in battle, no? –  joshbirk Aug 4 at 23:20
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Using deceit to win a battle is honourable. Retreating is dishonourable, but may be necessary in order to retain honour later. Surrender is never honourable, though it may be useful as a deception. This is the code the Klingons seem to live by on Star Trek (I won't answer, because there are already two good ones) and is hardly original to Klingons; that's straight out of Sun Tzu. Napoleon and Caesar both expressed similar ideas in writing. It's a common military concept. There's nothing honourable about defeat. Who to fight, why to fight, and the politics behind war are where honour matters. –  James Sheridan Aug 5 at 3:50
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@Thaddeus: From a cultural standpoint, it might be interesting to note that the Germanic tribes originally considered Tyr to be their main god of conflict -- representing for strength, honesty, and justice. Only later, when they came under pressure from the christianized Franks, did they adopt Odin as their main god -- representing cunning, guile, and (deceiving) witchcraft... –  DevSolar Aug 5 at 12:19
    
@JamesSheridan Interesting you mention surrender as a deception. All the answer here show legitimate ruse de guerre. Does anyone know whether Klingons would be prepared to extend past this into illegitimate ruses, treachery or perfidy? –  Nathan Cooper Aug 6 at 13:01

4 Answers 4

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Deception is an acceptable strategy in warfare for honorable Klingons.

The earliest example this on Star Trek: The Next Generation is in the first season episode "Heart of Glory" where we were presented with two Klingons rescued from a badly damaged freighter. During their debriefing:

KLINGON1: Our only chance was to trick them [the attacking Ferengi] into lowering their shields.

KLINGON2: We reduced power and lured them in.

KLINGON1: They suspected nothing.

KLINGON2: Then, when they lowered their shields to beam over a landing party, we opened fire.

In the second season episode "Peak Performance", Riker tried to recruit Worf to join his team in upcoming wargames.

RIKER: You're outmanned, you're outgunned, you're out-equipped. What else have you got?

WORF (considering for a long moment): Guile.

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A great quote that almost perfectly fits the question. You have my +1 –  Richard Aug 5 at 1:02
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It's interesting, though. When you actually pay attention to the characters, you'll notice that pretty much the only Klingon who consistently strives to actually be honorable, rather than to be seen as honorable... is Worf, who was raised by humans. –  Mason Wheeler Aug 5 at 23:55

Although it has to be said that Klingons tend to display an enormous amount of hypocrisy when it comes to 'honourable' combat (preferring to sneak up on their enemies under a cloak, attacking weaker opponents without provocation, etc), it's pretty clear that they view a frontal assault as more honourable than a sneak attack but that a clever deception against a superior foe is also acceptable since it results in an evening of the odds.

In DS9 : "Blood Oath" Jadzia suggest that when facing insurmountable odds that they should consider an alternative and more sneaky assault. Kang, the D'har master immediately recoils at the suggestion.

DAX : Doesn't it? If we accept that he has adequate defenses, with a minimum of fifty guards, then we ought to use a N'yengoren strategy.

KANG : No!

Kang rises, raging... pacing... inspiring.

KANG : I will not sneak into his bedroom and murder him like a kah'plakt. I want him to see us coming for him.

On the other hand, Worf (in TNG : "Way of the Warrior") makes a pretty good case that deception would be a viable tactic.

WORF : It is likely there are cloaked Klingon warships in the vicinity, lying in wait.

BASHIR : Doesn't sound very honorable to me.

WORF : In war, nothing is more honorable than victory.

Echoing @KyleJones' answer, the most telling exchange is probably in TNG: "Heart of Glory" in which we see two Klingon warriors recounting the tale of their recent success against a Ferenghi ship. Not only do both soldiers tell the story with glee but it's notable (in relation to your question) that Worf also makes approving noises about their strategy.

KORRIS : Yes -- all we had was an ancient battery of Merculite rockets. Our only chance was to trick them into lowering their shields.

KONMEL : We reduced power and lured them in.

KORRIS : They suspected nothing.

KONMEL : Then, when they lowered their shields to beam over a boarding party, we opened fire.

WORF : Your strategy was very sound.

Moving down the canon scale, whilst leafing through an old Paramount Licensed Star Trek RPG (Starfleet Intelligence Manual : The Klingons) I found this snippet of info about Klingon starship tactics.

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Klingons seem to prefer outright combat but aren't averse to using trickery and deception (in warfare) as long as it's in the name of luring the enemy in.

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@joshbirk - I'll accept that as a criticism. We don't really see a lot of Klingon tactics other than cloak, attack, repeat. When their ships are damaged they tend to just move onto their secondary strategy; attack, attack, repeat. –  Richard Aug 4 at 23:24
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In Blood Oath, the purpose for not sneaking in to murder the Albino was obviously a matter of pride. Kang wanted the Albino to know it was the three K's plus Dax who [were about to imminently kill him]. So important was this show of face, he was willing to risk an obviously suicidal frontal assault. –  Lighthart Aug 5 at 4:11
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I don't know if the situation with The Albino applies, that was deeply personal: "I want him to see us coming for him." –  mu is too short Aug 5 at 4:11
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@Lighthart - I've edited slightly. My thought is that a frontal assault carries more honour but that a clever deception against a superior foe is also acceptable, evening the odds. –  Richard Aug 5 at 6:20
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@Peteris - It's also notable that victory against certain enemies gains more honour than others. Tribbles are small and largely defenceless but destroying their homeworld was considered one of the greatest acts in Klingon history. By comparison, losing to Kirk was considered far more impressive than a victory against a nameless federation captain. –  Richard Aug 5 at 14:55

Understanding strategy and tactics, no. Looking weak where you are strong, looking strong where you are weak is as old as Sun Tzu (probably older in Klingon). It is the responsibility of the warrior to understand the true situation and not be deceived.

Taking this out of context / universe, in fantasy worlds where a race cannot lie (Fae in many worlds), the non-liars are the least trustworthy as they excel at telling the exact, literal truth while letting the other party reach the wrong conclusion. That is, there are FACTS (they vented plasma) and TRUTH (they are not damaged). Just because an opponent wrongly interpreted the facts does not bring dishonor on you.

In fact, we extol the virtues of the ones who can see the truth visible in facts that others miss (e.g., Sherlock Holmes).

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In supplement to Richard's answer, in the DS9 episode "Sons of Mogh", Worf tells his brother Kurn that he believes the Klingons have been placing cloaked mines. Worf wants Kurn to help find out where the mines are located.

KURN: You want me to turn against my own people? Will my dishonor never end?

WORF: It is their actions that are dishonorable. Secretly mining star systems is not the act of warriors. They behave like... like Romulan cowards!

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