Rounded Rectangle: FACT BEHIND FICTION
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A section from

‘A Jedi shall not know hatred, nor fear… nor love.’ from Star Wars Episode II






‘Foreknowledge cannot be gotten from ghosts and spirits, cannot be had be analogy, cannot be found out by calculation. It must be obtained from the people, people who know the conditions of the enemy.


Sun-Tzu’s ancient Chinese classic - The Art of War dedicates the entire final chapter to espionage. As a complete book the treatise addresses the general at battle, and in the chapter on spying Sun-Tzu addresses the general’s role as a spymaster. In it he details strategies for spymasters and illustrates the basic types of spies and their uses. Intelligence gathering and its use in conflict are vital character traits of a leader according to Sun-Tzu.





Local Spies: Recruited from the general population of the enemy state.


Inside Spies: Disaffected officials from the government of the enemy state, even include relatives of persecuted officials. The treatise elaborates on ways to identify ‘Inside Spies’ from a host of situations, and whom to approach - the ambitious, the dejected, the suppressed, the punished and the duplicitous.


Reverse Spies: They are enemy agents who have been turned (with bribes, promises, ideals and so one), and they now spy against their old master or send back false information.


Dead Spies: They are dispensable agents who are fed false information by the general. This false information is eventually found out and the spy is executed by the enemy.


Living Spies: They are the alpha spies - iron-willed but simple in appearance, they never let their guard down and operate effectively in enemy territory. They are immune to betrayal and seduction but practice it on others with ease.





The ability to gather and effectively use information on the enemy is a vital characteristic for any general. To be able to handle the information, the spymaster must be able to control the spy, and Sun-Tzu outlines the basic tactics. It is imperative that the general understand that from the entire military establishment the greatest rewards are reserved for spies, because of the vitality of correct intelligence to the state and its resources.


But materials rewards aren’t enough to keep a man’s loyalty, the general must therefore be subtle when handling spies with humanity and justice. And most importantly the general himself must have the sagacity to extract the correct information that the military requires. Finally, the general must use all types of spies but never reveal their existence to each other - primarily to maintain the organisational integrity of espionage.



-The Art of War - Sun Tzu, translated by Thomas Cleary, Shambala Dragon Edition


Further Reading

If you appreciate the Art of War you would like the following leads on

Hannibal Barca: The foremost practitioners of military strategy.

Isser Harel: One of Mossad’s earliest Spymasters

Archery: Sublime & Deadly: Bow-men through history & culture




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A statue of Sun Tzu in Yurihama, Japan

Bamboo script of the Art of War