Blueprints for War

Sun-tzu said of spies:

there are five classes: (1) Local spies; (2) inward spies; (3) converted spies; (4) doomed spies; (5) surviving spies. 

Spies are an important part of warfare. Without them, you have no information about your enemy – and understanding your enemy is the most important tactical advantage. (Ender’s Game, anyone?) So if I intend to get any repairs done, I have to understand my landlord’s thought process and strategies. Which means I need to do some recruiting if I want to find out my landlord’s weak points.

Having LOCAL SPIES means employing the services of the inhabitants of a district.

Our house has 3 apartments in it. One with us, one with another married couple, and one with 5 single guys. Most, if not all, are students. But we are fortunate enough to live on the other side of the block from our landlord. Read: if we go 2 houses down, we can spy on them from the backyard. This could work quite nicely.

Having INWARD SPIES, making use of officials of the enemy.

Does my landlord have officials? I guess the homeowner. But the homeowner is the real problem here. We’re not even sure who the homeowner is. Clearly, we’re missing some information. The closest thing we have to spies in the “officials” category would probably be contacting the city. To the Better Business Bureau, away!

Having CONVERTED SPIES, getting hold of the enemy’s spies and using them for our own purposes.

I think this would require the enemy to have spies.

Gee, I hope they don’t have spies.

Having DOOMED SPIES, doing certain things openly for purposes of deception, and allowing our spies to know of them and report them to the enemy. 

First deceptive operation: make a written request for repairs, making sure to mention that we have several friends who are lawyers and would just love to sue the pants off of somebody right now. (Not true – but might get them moving on that oven…)

SURVIVING SPIES, finally, are those who bring back news from the enemy’s camp.

I really hope Sun-tzu was including the first four categories in this distinction.


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