Friday, 26 April 2013

Beyond Sedition and Sleeper Cells: The Use of Unsatisfied Subjects in Enemy Lands (II)

First of all, apologies for not posting for a whole year on this blog. I haven't given up on the project. I have been working on a new novel since 2009 and finally last year it acquired the necessary momentum to reach the end. The manuscript has now gone to my agent and I hope to post news about its publication soon. You will be happy to know that my readings of Chanakya inform the new novel too.  But now, onwards....

Book 1, Chapter 13: 

The final third of this very long chapter outlines the ways of using subjects of enemy lands for one's own strategic and tactical gains.  In light of this month's Boston bombings, Chanakya's first suggestion is shockingly modern.  He suggests using spies and operatives who are either religious leaders or disguised as such or part of such institutions that most closely match the beliefs and habits of these discontent citizens.  The major difference for Chanakya, in this chapter, is that he is interested more in subverting prominent citizens who can cause significant strategic damage rather than tactical foot-soldiers who are discussed elsewhere.

He refers back to the three categories of those who can be lured into treason and sedition as those who are angry with the state, those who are terrified due to their own misdemeanours against the state and those who are greedy. Again, this is a reminder from the last blogpost on this chapter of the fear/greed structure Chanakya sets up early in his text.

He explains that those who are angry at their own government and king must be convinced that their state is not only brutal but also ready to trample their rights. To do this, secret operatives must convince them that the king is like a maddened elephant, ready to trample all those who come in his path. Moreover, the angry subjects should be convinced the king is surrounded by dishonest and immoral advisers (there are shades of US far right hysteria about President Obama here, first with health care reform, now with gun control attempts).  Spies should convince these angry subjects that given the state's propensity to act immorally, the citizenry must organise and prepare for their own protection and strike against the state first.

Officials and prominent citizens who are afraid of the king and state because of some misdemeanour or crime of their own, and terrified of the state's punishment must be approached by spies and convinced in a different manner. They must be convinced that an angry ruler is like an angry snake who will bite any who come in its path. (Aside: this chapter is far more replete with these animal analogies than any before).  Instead they must be convinced to withdraw their support from the state and king and instead establish links with another ruler and state who may be of assistance.

In case of greedy citizens (more on fear and greed as motivators in this chapter is mentioned in this blogpost), spies must lure them with flattery and promises of gain. And here comes another animal analogy: the spies must explain that just as Shukari, the mythic cow of the Chandalas (those who dispose of corpses, seen as unclean and of lower status) only provides milk for them and not for the Brahmins, the king only values and rewards those with lower status and ability. (NB: useful reminder of the complex matrix of 'status' in ancient India rather than the simplistic term 'caste' as I have discussed before).  Instead the greedy must be lured by promises of rewards from other kings and states who are promised to be more discerning of these citizens' qualities.

Once the spies have lured these three categories of discontented citizens of an enemy state, using the above motivations, the king should honour them and treat them with affection. The king may even lure them to his own kingdom and appoint them to high posts similar to the ones they held before. However, the king must not let down his guard with these citizens and instead assign watchers and spies to monitor them constantly.

Chanakya ends the chapter with a rather neatly rounded concluding verse. He points out that the citizens of an enemy state who can be 'broken' by greed, fear or anger should be brought over with inducements of reward or fear of punishment to one's own side. He also reminds that those citizens of the enemy state who are upstanding and loyal to their own king and state and cannot be broken,  must be destroyed by false smears and charges although ensuring that these can not be traced back to the king or his spies. He cautions again that the second category require a great deal of patience, again proving himself the proponent of the long game over immediate victories.  His final injunction in this chapter is again extremely modern as he recommends that regardless of all the activities of the espionage services, a dedicated propaganda effort must be maintained to constantly critique, malign and smear the enemy state and its policies.

This chapter like the rest of the section on espionage and propaganda is not only deeply pragmatic - as is characteristic of Chanakya's writings; he appears to be the world's first realist in many ways but is also ruthlessly focused on realpolitik. There is little space for ethical and moral considerations in Chanakya's view of statecraft, an aspect that has often discomfited his readers and contributed to his reputation for ruthlessness. In some ways, Chanakya's views on foreign policy seem more appropriate for a rising or strong empire, perhaps reflecting his own location as part of the Mauryan empire-builders. I am looking forward to seeing his discussions regarding states and kings who may be on the other side of the coin, as in weaker or poorer.

The next chapter focuses on specifics of managing the king's ministerial cabinet. It is equal parts policy, realpolitik and some brilliant suggestions that would surely come in handy for modern rulers. I hope to upload my reading of it soon. Until then, thank you for reading.