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At the beginning of The Phantom Menace, what are Nute Gunray and his Trade Federation cohorts so afraid of when learning the ambassadors are Jedi knights? They clearly are already expecting ambassadors, and not too concerned by their arrival, since when the Jedi ask for clearance to land Gunray replies he'd be happy to receive them. Even if he's not totally happy about their presence, it's pretty clear at this point that he's not planning on murdering them, but rather plans to engage in negotiations over the taxation of trade routes, as one might expect to do with ambassadors.

CAPTAIN : With all due respect, the Ambassadors for the Supreme Chancellor wish to board immediately.

NUTE : Yes, yes, of course... ahhh... as you know, our blockade is perfectly legal, and we'd be happy to receive the Ambassador... Happy to.

But after the protocol droid, TC-14, informs them that the ambassadors are Jedi knights, he instantly changes his tune.

NUTE : (shaken) What?!? What did you say?

TC-14 : The Ambassadors are Jedi Knights, I believe.

DOFINE : I knew it! They're here to force a settlement.

And moments later,

DOFINE : Are you brain dead? I'm not going in there with two Jedi.

What is the Trade Federation so afraid of? Do they expect the Jedi to actually use force against them to resolve the dispute? Or are they just concerned about the possibility of being manipulated by Jedi mind tricks?

It seems like they should have at least expected the possibility of the negotiators being Jedi, since it was apparently quite common back in the days of the Galactic Republic. I can't imagine the Jedi are actually going to use force to resolve the dispute, but at the same time, I don't see any other interpretation of events.

There's some minor evidence that Qui-Gon intends to at least intimidate the Trade Federation since he says to Obi-Wan,

QUI-GON: These federation types are cowards. Negotiations will be short.

Even if the Jedi were intended as some sort of military resolution, wouldn't sending two Jedi to take on an entire military blockade be impractical?

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    "The Republic's "Ambassadors" are two fanatical heavily-armed religious zealots with elite commando training and the ability to invade your mind and manipulate your thoughts. They say they are here to negotiate." – FuzzyBoots Jul 13 at 16:03
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    @FuzzyBoots : also, other ambassadors or auditors can be bribed. Jedi are not really known from accepting bribes. – vsz Jul 17 at 0:26
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The Trade Federation expected to receive ambassadors from the Senate. It's mentioned several times that the tariff disputes, the negotiations concerning same, the appeal by Naboo, and so forth all run through the Senate, which is equal parts corrupt and incompetent and has therefore made no headway on the issue. The Trade Federation's plan relies on this controversy being mired in the Senate for as long as possible.

Jedi don't work for the Senate. As seen in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, and some Legends works like Shatterpoint, they're closely associated with the Supreme Chancellor, who is above and outside of the Senate's influence. Like most chief executives, the Chancellor's office exists in part because the Senate might be too slow to engage with a particular issue of the day.

So right away the Jedi represent an escalation to a higher level of government, one over which the Trade Federation has less influence. And whereas Senate ambassadors would be expected to take part in the ongoing negotiations with the Senate - and not have authority to do anything else - agents of the Chancellor would be empowered to pursue whatever ends the Chancellor saw fit, which might be anything.

If the Jedi turned up any evidence of duplicity - whether with normal investigative means or through their mental powers - that could have significant repercussions for the Trade Federation, who had previously maintained a facade of negotiation in good faith. I'd speculate that this is what Qui-Gon expects: they have or expect to find evidence of corruption or bad faith in the previous negotiations and they'll use that to pressure the Trade Federation into backing down before the facts are made public.

Another possibility, which is more remote but still plausible, is that Sidious has convinced the Trade Federation leaders that the Jedi are more of a threat than they really are. As one of the few enemies who might recognize the Sith for what they are, he'd want to keep Jedi investigators well away from him.

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    Is the Chancellor really 'above and outside of the Senate's influence.' at this point, prior to the Senate giving Palpatine emergency powers? He seems more comparable to parliamentary Prime Minister, he has some capability to act on his own, but not really above/separate from the Senate. – suchiuomizu Jul 13 at 16:29
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    @suchiuomizu The whole "no confidence in Chancellor Valorum" subplot is predicated on the idea that a) Valorum could and should be taking action to stop the Trade Federation, which he isn't, and b) Palpatine promises to do just that if he's appointed. The chancellor might not be strictly speaking "above", but is clearly considered (capable of being) a greater threat. – Cadence Jul 13 at 16:33
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    I don't understand how you can say the chancellor is outside of the senate's influence when he is The Senate – DJ Spicy Deluxe Jul 14 at 5:05
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    @DJSpicyDeluxe-Levi He's not the Senate yet. – Cadence Jul 14 at 5:32
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    @Cadence It's treason then – DJ Spicy Deluxe Jul 14 at 13:13
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While the other answers are plausible within the framework of the storyline, the impression I formed when I first heard the line was that it was largely intended for comic effect while founded on the general aura of Jedi invincibility.

The line was (non verbatim) "Why did they have to send TWO of them?" ie "Even one Jedi would constitute a powerful and nearly overwhelming force - what must they be planning to do to us that they send TWO?."

A modern-day parallel of sorts can be seen in sending Aegis frigates to Taiwan.

  • In recent decades, if the US wished to express extreme displeasure with China over China-Taiwanese relationships (or other activities in the area) it would send an Aegis frigate on a "friendship visit" to Taiwan. In the past a Frigate was the most lowly of ships of war - below consideration as a ship of the line. No longer.

  • If the US wished to show VERY extreme displeasure and rattle it's sabres loudly, it would send TWO Aegis frigates on a friendship or training visit to Taiwan.

  • To date, the US has never sent three Aegis frigates on a visit to Taiwan :-).

Sending 3 Jedi would have been equally unknown.

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    @CortAmmon, whatever they did on Geonosis – user28434 Jul 15 at 13:12
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    While this is a fun idea, it's pretty clear from the dialogue that they didn't expect any Jedi Knights. NUTE : (shaken) What?!? What did you say? TC-14 : The Ambassadors are Jedi Knights, I believe. – airshanemode Jul 16 at 8:25
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    @airshanemode I don't think this answer is saying that they expected the Jedi, but that sending a Jedi unexpectedly is an implicit signal that the Republic is displeased with you and is demonstrating that by a show of force (or indeed Force). If sending one Jedi means "watch your step", then sending two means "you've already stepped wrong, the next one might be your last". 1/3 – Richard Ward Jul 16 at 12:34
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    @airshanemode Imagine your manager schedules a meeting with you. Ordinarily, you might expect expect to make your own notes, or maybe someone from your office would be there to do so. If you get there and the person taking notes is from HR, you might expect that this meeting is not going to be particularly pleasant for you. If there's someone from HR and someone from security, you're probably fired. 1/3 – Richard Ward Jul 16 at 12:35
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    @airshanemode In a similar way, the Federation was expecting some milquetoast paper-pusher. Suddenly discovering one Jedi would have been a signal that the Federation had displeased the Republic and now the republic was playing hardball. Discovering two is a signal that the Republic is playing hardball and if the Federation isn't not careful it's going to be the ball they play with. 3/3 – Richard Ward Jul 16 at 12:35
8

It is to my understanding that the Jedi creed is about doing away with feelings and expediency over ethics. Jedi seem fine with morally questionable acts, as long as it was done for a logical reason and not an emotional one, and that logical reason leads to the greater good. For example, the use of the Jedi mind trick is in itself pretty unethical in that it's taking away free will using a technique that many people have no defense against. However, we generally see it used in situations where the ultimate end is to the greater good.

In this particular situation, the implication is that what the Trade Federation is doing its ethically wrong. For one thing, the quote by Nute, "as you know, our blockade is perfectly legal," implies that what they're doing is legal, but an act that's frowned on for harming others. For another, the Jedi would not represent the other side of the dispute if they didn't believe it was the right side. Therefore, it COULD possibly be a situation where the Jedi might use the Force to achieve the greater good.

I think though the Jedi's intent was simply to represent one side as an intimidation tactic. The Jedi know that by taking sides it shows they might use the Force to end the situation, even though as you say, their most likely intent was to resolve the conflict without using the Force.

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    When the question says (twice) "use force to resolve the dispute", that's meaning violence, not The Force. – Ben Voigt Jul 14 at 5:11
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    @BenVoigt correct. Perhaps I should have chosen a word less likely to cause confusion, but yes, I meant violence. – airshanemode Jul 14 at 17:03
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    @BenVoigt I think this answer is a legitimate frame challenge. The Trade Federation is afraid that the Jedi are going to use mind tricks, not that they're going to pull out their light sabers. – Kevin Krumwiede Jul 14 at 23:42
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    @KevinKrumwiede: It's not a frame challenge, it's analysis of a misstatement of the question. If it were intended as a frame challenge, it should be highlighting, not glossing over, the difference between the two uses of force. – Ben Voigt Jul 15 at 5:38
6

Their response, it didn't thrill us.

They locked the doors and tried to kill us.

Pretty much as soon the the Nute realized things weren't going to go as planned, he tried to murder Obi-wan and Qui-gon. It is no large stretch to think that such was the plan from the beginning. A couple of Senate Ambassadors would probably be easy to intimidate. Or failing that kill (and blame on Naboo or an accident). Jedi aren't so easily bullied. And as shown, the attempts to eliminate them failed.

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    You might want to indicate where your quote comes from in your answer; youtube.com/watch?v=77Y4OPmBRAE – Valorum Jul 14 at 18:44
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    It seems like it wasn't their plan from the beginning, since once they realize they're Jedi they call up Sidious to ask for advice and he tells them to kill the Jedi. – airshanemode Jul 15 at 5:51
  • @airshanemode Couldn't he have previously ordered them to kill the ambassadors? And they had to check before going ahead and doing it to a couple of unexpected Jedi? – Beanluc Jul 15 at 20:30
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    @Beanluc That doesn't seem to be the case, as when they call Sidious the first thing they say is "DOFINE: This scheme of yours has failed... The blockade is finished, we dare not go against the Jedi." And then shortly after, "SIDIOUS: We must accelerate our plans, begin landing troops." Regarding the Jedi, "SIDIOUS: The chancellor should never have brought them into this, kill them immediately." While I suppose it's possible to read that scene as them just proceeding with their plans to kill whatever ambassadors were sent, I think it's a real stretch. – airshanemode Jul 16 at 7:41
1

A sub-plot in TPM is that the Senate has become a massive, lumbering bureaucratic machine. The original plan was

  1. Blockade Naboo
  2. Use bureaucracy, as well as various Senate allies, to drag the process out (as they note, the blockade was completely legal)
  3. Force a compliant (and resource-starved) Naboo into submission via treaty

Valorum clearly knows this too, so he sends the non-bureaucratic Jedi in to force a resolution. The Jedi aren't there to play diplomatic games, nor are they on the Federation's dole. The Jedi will get results, and quickly. As such, Sidious tells the Trade Federation to skip to Step 3 via invasion. Oh, and kill the Jedi.

We see this come back into play later in the movie, when Amidala is told by Palpatine(Sidious) that the bureaucracy is what's holding things up in her quest to save Naboo (from the final cut screenplay)

PALPATINE: ...the Republic is not what it once was. The Senate is full of greedy, squabbling delegates. There is no interest in the common good. I must be frank, Your Majesty, there is little chance the Senate will act on the invasion.

AMIDALA: Chancellor Valorum seems to think there is hope.

PALPATINE: If I may say so, Your Majesty, the Chancellor has little real power... he is mired by baseless accusations of corruption. The bureaucrats are in charge now.

AMIDALA: What options have we?

PALPATINE: Our best choice would be to push for the election of a stronger Supreme Chancellor. One who will take control of the bureaucrats, and give us justice. You could call for a vote of no confidence in Chancellor Valorum.

AMIDALA: He has been our strongest supporter?

PALPATINE: Our only other choice would to be to submit a plea to the courts...

AMIDALA: The courts take even longer to decide things than the Senate. Our people are dying, Senator... We must do something quickly to stop the Federation.

PALPATINE: To be realistic, Your Majesty, I think we're going to have to accept Federation control for the time being.

AMIDALA: That is something I cannot do.

Later in the Senate (emphasis mine)

PALPATINE: Supreme Chancellor, delegates of the Senate. A tragedy has occurred which started with the taxation of trade routes, and has now engulfed our entire planet in the oppression of the Trade Federation.

A second box rushes into the center of the Senate. It is filled with Federation trade barons led by LOTT DOD, the Senator for the Federation.

LOTT DOD: This is outrageous! I object to the Senator's statements!

VALORUM: The Chair does not recognize the Senator from the Trade Federation at this time. Please return to your station.

LOTT DOD reluctantly moves back to his place.

PALPATINE: To state our allegations, I present Queen Amidala, recently elected ruler of Naboo, who speaks on our behalf.

QUEEN AMIDALA stands and addresses the assembly. There is some applause.

AMIDALA: Honorable representatives of the Republic, I come to you under the gravest of circumstances. Naboo system has been invaded by the droid armies of the Trade...

LOTT DOD: I object! There is no proof. This is incredible. We recommend a commission be sent to Naboo to ascertain the truth.

A third box representing Malastare moves into the center of the room. AKS MOE, the Ambassador, addresses the convention.

AKS MOE: The Congress of Malastare concurs with the honorable delegate from the Trade Federation. A commission must be appointed.

VALORUM: The point...

VALORUM confers with several of his AIDES and VICE CHAIRMAN MAS AMEDDA. PALPATINE whispers something to the QUEEN.

PALPATINE: Enter the bureaucrats, the true rulers of the Republic, and on the payroll of the Trade Federation, I might add. This is where Chancellor Valorum's strength will dissapear.

VALORUM: The point is conceded ... will you defer your motion to allow a commission to explore the validity of your accusations?

QUEEN AMIDALA is angry but remains composed.

AMIDALA: (angrily) I will not defer... I have come before you to resolve this attack on our sovereignty now. I was not elected to watch my people suffer and die while you discuss this invasion in a committee. If this body is not capable of action, I suggest new leadership is needed... I move for a "vote of no confidence"... in Chancellor Valorum's leadership.

Here we see an attempt to go back to the original Step 2.

  1. Appoint a committee, where the Federation ensures their allies are in the majority
  2. "Investigate" Naboo. Hide the droid army, ensure that only capitulators and terrified citizenry are shown to the committee, make everything look like the situation is normal
  3. The committee reports back that it's all OK. The Senators know it's not as a whole, but they can't ignore the committee either

In the meantime, massive numbers of Naboo citizens are suffering and perishing. Through back channels, pressure will be brought to bear on Amidala to sign a treaty.

  • Well, the original steps 1, 2, and 3 in "the plan" is from the Trade Federation's view only. This whole situation was engineered completely by Sidious to be able (as Palpatine) to have the executive power to the Republic's resources as Chancellor with Emergency Powers. The Jedi are an unexpected move, in Palpatine's view, based on Valorum's modus operandi. Their involvement must be eliminated or reduced to be able to keep Valorum looking incompetent and/or ineffectual. – Jesse C. Slicer Jul 16 at 16:21
0

This is strongly related to another question in this topic discussing the legality of the blockade.

The blockade was illegal or of questionable legality. Check out how many scams seem to overly stress how "perfectly legal" that new investment opportunity is. And notice how unsure Nute feels when making that statement.

However, knowing how corrupt and inept the Republic is, the Trade Federation seemingly expected the Senate to send some low-ranking paper-pusher for a token investigation. Someone they could easily bribe or fool, to report back that the blockade was legal.

However, Jedi are not known from accepting bribes or to be easily fooled. So they felt their game was up.

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