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Harry Potter: Magic and Spy Craft

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"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"  Reveals Snape as the True Double Master SpyMaster Triumphant  Spoiler alert: Consider seeing the movie and reading the entire Harry Potter series before reading this Op Ed

Magic and Spycraft: both are Faustian bargains, and present ethical dilemmas and dangers in the final conclusion of Harry Potter's story. 

Just as he prepares to lead his forces into a final battle that appears hopeless, Harry discovers there is a double Spymaster behind the curtain. Finally, the secret double agent stage-manager of the entire seven-part emerges.

Severus Snape has been the puppet master, deep under cover for decades, exercising incredible self-control, pretending to torment Harry, when in fact he was all along the guardian angel. In a flash, we now understand how Harry and friends escaped so many impossible situations- Snape was protecting them.

And now we know: the entire seven part series belonged as much to Snape as it did to Harry. No other literary character in history, as far as I can tell, ever maintained a secret double-agent cover for seven books (thick books, too) spanning more than 19 years under the most intense scrutiny, fooling the most powerful wizards of all, even those able to read his mind. Truly, Snape became an extraordinary mixture of good and evil.

Confused? Naturally. None of this could work without the maximal confusion. That makes Snape by far the most interesting character of the Hogwarts world. He uses the fog of war more effectively than the Greeks used the Trojan horse.

Sun Tzu and Niccolo Machiavelli, John le Carr- and Shakespeare all would applaud. Who is the double Snape really working for? Can he tell a hawk from a handsaw? Really good double agents don't even know. Snape is an anti-hero that must integrate every level of his story double story, and present himself as monster even to their closest friend to avoid detection. The divided double-agent consciousness often drives them to believe themselves mad.

Snape (and by extension the puppet's puppet master Dumbledore) was directing both sides of the wizarding civil war! Snape becomes Voldemort's consigliere, and effectively decapitates the leadership of the renegades.

Snape's secret is as shocking as Darth Vader revealing he is Luke's father! Snape effectively became a stand in for Harry's father, to protect Harry for the sake of Harry's mother Lilly, the love of Snape's life.

A love triangle leading to a torn conscience and a double spy? That worked in Hamlet, in Casablanca, and the Odyssey.   It seems many of the best deep-cover double agents have Oedipal conflicts very directly linked to disintegrating psyches.

To maintain his cover, Snape must not hesitate to do horrible deeds. Just one example: Dumbledore actually orders Snape to kill Dumbledore to absolutely remove any doubt of Snape's apparent evilness.

Incredibly effective, but at a huge cost! Dumbledore rationalizes that he is dying anyway. But Harry doesn't know, and blind rage almost cripples Harry and his friends. Did they deserve to be in the dark? What did effect did all of this manipulation have on the souls of the allies? What mark did decades of a double life leave on Snape? His soul surly in the end was a fragmented as Voldemort's after decades of a double life.

How is it that the so-called good magicians such as Merlin, Gandalf, Prospero and Dumbledore are called wise, when they routinely use such Machiavellian?

Raising the question: were the tactics of the good side of the force and the evil side any different here? How can we fight evil without becoming evil?  Do the ends justify the means? Magic or spy craft? Both are Faustian bargains. Clearly, the ethical loose ends left by Snape will be debated for many years.

Snape resigns himself to a life of duplicity in order to further "the greater good." But Harry grasps the danger of the ultimate powers, and after winning the battle, abjures further duplicity, scatters his powerful weapons, the Hallows, and bury the ultimate weapon- the elder wand. Just as Prospero, after accomplishing his mission, broke his magic staff, drowned his magic books are ten thousand fathoms deep.

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James J. Murtagh, Jr. is a doctor of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine, and the Medical Director of several sleep laboratories in Southern Ohio. Dr. Murtagh extensively writes on medical ethics. Dr. Murtagh is the founder of a new (more...)
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