Theorizing on Political Relations in Fiction
Political Science 3: International Relations
The collaborator mentioned in this paper is David Hoberman, and his input has been so constant that an attempt to footnote it all would be impossible. Without his patient help and advice the story would not be nearly so much fun, and this paper would never have seen the light of day. Thanks, Dobie!
Also, John T. Rourke's International Politics on the World Stage (The Dushkin Publishing Group, Inc., 1993) is frequently referenced throughout.
The man in blue raised his eyes from the holo-scan. He idly ran a hand through his graying hair and sighed. "I didn't realize that they were headed Spinwards. Should we call them before they leave?"
This is an exploration of the political ramifications within a science fiction story currently being collaboratively written. Initially different models and theories will be applied to the story, which hopefully will demonstrate a grasp of these. Once they are delineated, some prognostication will be attempted, using the previously outlined information. Thus this paper will be "...describing what has happened and is happening, predicting what will happen, and prescribing policy (Rourke 26)." An attempt will also be made, when applicable, to show these models and theories in all three levels of analysis that Rourke mentions: system level, state-level, and individual-level (Rourke 30).
Because the story is still in the process of being written, there is a necessarily fluid feel to some of the information, which should make it not unlike the present day, as far as predictions and prescriptions. Also, the story is being written from the first person. Thus many of the observations will reveal a personal bias, and there are holes that occasionally appear at some levels of analysis, since, of course, some of these questions just never came up in the protagonist's life. Finally, for ease of writing, each planet will be considered a distinct nation/state, unless otherwise indicated.
Let us first take the six major themes of world politics, and apply them to the situation in the story. These themes are: Conflict or Cooperation, the Realigning Power Structure, the North-South Axis, the Changing Nature of Power, the Pace of Change, and Reality Modified by Perception (Rourke 19).
Conflict would appear to be the order of the day. Currently, the Alliance has openly broken away from the Hegemony, and is actively wooing both the Axis and other Hegemonic nations to join it. The Axis has not yet decided to move, but indications are that a 'wait and see' attitude is currently prevailing. The Hegemony is reacting with violence - no attempt to diplomatically solve the complaints of the Alliance is being made. Rather it is being treated as a provincial brush war, and Hegemony forces are trying to stamp it out.
Apollo Naval Station - Commander Leto Ajal confirmed reports that additional corvettes and two heavy cruisers, the Palomino and the Republic, were dispatched to troubled areas in the frontier worlds.
The Realigning Power Structure is quite evident. Initially a bi-polar division of power existed, between the Axis and the Hegemony. The Axis was too small for an attack on the Hegemony, but also too powerful for the Hegemony to simply roll over them. The Hegemony's response to the Axis was to blockade them, making a situation that can perhaps be better described as unipolar -- the embargo prevented the Axis from really participating as a pole in the political power system. This situation existed in relative stability for about 70 years, but recently a new pole, the Alliance, has manifested. This has caused the current, unstable, bipolar situation.
The North-South Axis does not, strictly speaking exist -- this is a series of star systems, after all. However, the core worlds of the Hegemony were the ones first settled by the Terran Directorate. [The Terran Directorate was the precursor to the Hegemony, and also lasted about a century. It was an autocratic governmental system, which has left the Hegemony with a bit of distaste for excessive government. This may have indirectly caused some of the current unhappiness within the Alliance for the Hegemony.] These worlds are the oldest, and in some respects the most advanced economically. They also consider themselves the cultural center of the Hegemony. The Hegemony core worlds are also, in general, physically closer together, allowing a high level of interdependence. The Alliance worlds, on the other hand, are seen as frontier worlds, and due to the vagaries of jump points, are "further apart", as far as travel time and available trading partners are concerned. Thus they are often less powerful than the core Hegemony worlds. They are consequently treated with slightly less respect than they feel they should be shown. Referring to this situation as a Core-Frontier Axis might be more accurate.
The Changing Nature of Power is demonstrated by the current political situation between the three poles. The Hegemony has a large and well equipped Navy -- it is currently depending on its military, or command power [the ability to make someone do something based on your more tangible 'hard power resources' such as military and economic might], to insure its continued rule. Its lack of concern for the economic and other problems of the now-Alliance worlds has caused that political entity to form. Indeed, it is the Alliance's co-optive power [the ability to influence others through the attractiveness of your ideas] which is causing the Alliance to grow at such a rapid rate. And it is the Alliance's active attempts to induce the Axis to aid them that has made the Axis once again important -- even if the power of the Axis remains only potential, it is still a threat to the Hegemony.
The Pace of Change is increasing, interestingly enough, precisely because of the strained relationships that exist between the Axis and the Hegemony. The best descriptive for their current situation is a cold war. The Hegemony wishes to emulate the sciences of the Ganthan Axis, in order to prepare for war with the Axis. Thus there has been a scientific thrust to decipher these secrets, causing some unusual creations as a side effect. Indeed, even though it is illegal in the Hegemony, genetic manipulation is seen as the new frontier in weaponry, along with the (legal) exploration of high-energy weapons.
Over the last century there have also been a fair number of advances in technology and communication. As an example, before the Hegemony was created communication was limited by the speed of the ships, which usually took a week or so to travel a few parsecs. Ship speeds have increased somewhat. However, this has been overshadowed by the discovery of the means of FTL communication. This breakthrough dramatically expanded the range at which maintaining a cohesive government was feasible. FTL messages travel about 1 parsec a day, whereas the average ship can travel only 3 to 4 parsecs in a week. This is obviously much faster than a ship. However, FTL communication and travel, while easy, is not cheap.
Reality Modified By Perception can be demonstrated via the "two quick points" Rourke mentions (Rourke 25). The first point is that perceptions often distort reality. Thus the Hegemony's desire to prepare for war is due to its view of the Axis. When they look at the Axis they see an unfamiliar and to them bizarre culture, descended from sleeper ships filled with criminals, political dissidents, and the insane, and bred to inherent ferocity by the rigors of the planets they live on. To them, the Axis peoples are barbaric -- the Ganthans haven't even outlawed nuclear fission weaponry yet! The Axis, on the other hand, sees the Hegemony as the 'Imperials at the door' forcing an embargo. To the Axis, the Hegemony, appears to be trying to use their military might to stifle the Axis into accepting a subordinate, colony position within the Hegemony. Indeed, it is the embargo itself which embodies Rourke's second point -- action is based on perception. That, and the constant, fevered preparations of both sides for incipient war -- a war which both sides both fear and do not really want.
Distribution Of Power
After the authoritarian Terran Directorate was overthrown, there was a long period of anarchy and collapse. The alliance which deposed the Directorate could not decide on a mutually agreeable new form of government. Humanity descended into technological decline, cultural stagnation, and barbarism. After about eighty years, trade networks arose which eventually coalesced into two main governmental bodies -- the Centauran Hegemony and the League of Worlds. The Centauran Hegemony was a more capitalistic entity, and averaged a higher income for its citizenry than did the League. The League of Worlds, effectively a socialist democracy, eventually bankrupted itself, and was forced to turn to the Centauran Hegemony for assistance. The League was eventually absorbed by the Centaurans, and the modern Hegemony is the result. The Hegemony's economic policies lie somewhere between those of its predecessors; it is more socialist than the Centauran Hegemony, but more capitalist than the League.
Initially, the Hegemony was exactly what its name implies -- a universal empire. It was, obviously, a unipolar system. This new unipolarity lasted unchallenged for about 30 years, and during this time the Hegemony was trying to find all the "lost worlds". These were worlds with which contact had been lost, due to the Directorate war, lack of technology, disaster, or some other problem. It was at this time the Axis world Gantha was rediscovered. Due to a lack of effective diplomatic communication and a brief bit of military skirmishing, the Hegemony rapidly realized it had a real problem on its hands. It chose to isolate this problem, something that was possible due to the odd nature of jump points. The Axis was successfully contained, via embargo. The perception, at least, of unipolarity for the Hegemony was preserved.
However, the Axis is still there, a looming menace on the metaphorical horizon. There has now been about a century of Hegemony power, and the Hegemony itself is starting to fragment. The days of stable unipolarity have come to an end. With the advent of the Alliance, distribution of power among the actors has become a new, fluid, uncertain situation. Indeed, relative power cannot even be judged accurately. Is there a situation of relative power equality or inequality? True, the Axis is currently under embargo. But is it simply waiting for the proper moment to strike? Also, the Alliance is still a relative unknown. How many worlds truly are within its regime? Will it suddenly gain more, or will they defect at the Hegemony's shows of force? And finally, it has been a long time since such a problem has arisen. Is the Hegemony still a dangerous military force to be reckoned with, or is it merely a paper tiger?
No-one is sure what exactly will result. Will there be a tri-polar system, with its concurrently more stable structure? Or will the Axis remain unable or unwilling to become involved, resulting in a tenuous, bi-polar system for however long it takes for the Hegemony to declare war on the Alliance? If this happens, will anything remain?
The Ganthan straightens up, and looks at Thora closely. "If there are clear heads in the Ga'sheknam [the Axis ruling body], then they would stand aside and watch the two of them [the Hegemony and the Alliance] blast each other into dust."
All this is occurring against a backdrop of constant change. There have been many swift changes in the past century; changes in technology, in economics, in social relations, and in power. The universe has, once again, the possibility of nuclear war looming over it. Indeed, the devastation possible by nuclear attack boggles the mind -- ships exist with the capability to destroy entire planets. Travel times have not decreased tremendously, but travel itself, while expensive, is easy, and progress is being made to speed up international travel. Communications between nations and individuals, while expensive, are relatively immediate. Economic interdependence is a strong factor in the reluctance of many nations to involve themselves in the Alliance -- most worlds survive solely because of their trade partners, and self-sufficiency is a thing of the past -- the new claim to "self-sufficiency" of the Alliance is due only to their being part of a small trading group of worlds that do not need to traffic outside their little regional organization. Indeed, the main problem within the Hegemony seems initially to be the lack of increased international cooperation -- the Hegemony may be a UN equivalent, but it has become almost colonial, with Proxima Centauri receiving a lion's share of respect, tribute, and power, and not apparently returning the favor.
And now a bit of system-level analysis: who are the actors? There are three categories, those being national actors, supranational actors, and transnational actors (Rourke 58). In the category of national actors would fall all the individual worlds. These are individual nations, but they do not fulfill Rourke's definition of states. To whit, they are territorially based political organizations, but they are not sovereign. True, they have theoretical equality with all other states, but they are not independent. It is not yet known if the Alliance and Axis worlds follow this pattern. Current indications would say they are true states -- they maintain sovereignty.
There are several obvious supranational actors, notably the Hegemony, the Alliance, and the Axis. These three fulfill Rourke's definitions for supranational actors. [1) it has individual countries as members, and 2) some aspects of the organization's authority at least theoretically supersede the sovereignty of its individual members] The Hegemony, as stated above, is similar to the UN -- an example of a general-purpose, universal organization. It represents a "...whole [which is] greater than the sum of its parts, an organization to which countries surrender all or part of their sovereignty, and an organization to which member states are at least somewhat subordinate (Rourke 58)."
A good example of a regional organization is the Ganthan Axis. Due to its placement and the bottle-neck only one jump point gives it, it has evolved into a mutually supportive cluster of apparently independent states. The most obvious example of this is the holonet linking these worlds. It is a multi-purpose communication net, and the very closeness of the region is what makes it work -- were the Axis more physically scattered, the holonet would not be powerful enough to link all the worlds. The merchant marine is another example -- thousands of small ships traveling from world to world, serving as transporters of goods, people, and information, and as first warning against the "Imperial Menace".
Unsurprisingly, the Alliance is an example of an alliance based supranational organization. It has become a sort of economic and ideologically defensive association that stresses co-operation against the Hegemony. It is very loosely held together, and so far the only true assistance manifested has been economic . However, the thoughtless ferocity shown by the Hegemony so far may well cause it not only to firm up its mutual pacts, but also to start other means of cooperation besides economic, such as military means. Indeed it is the Alliance's current wooing of the Axis for military aid that is currently most worrying to the Hegemony.
Geneva - A police crackdown on a student demonstration left thirty students in serious condition, in what student Senate leader Aimee Garnson referred to as "the worst abuse of power by the state over its subjects in the last forty years." Over a hundred students were detained, three buildings were heavily damaged and classes were suspended until further notice. Student computer annexes at the University were shut down despite protest by the Provost. Political Science Professor Lars Vassau stated, "The imperative for self rule cannot be quenched. Either there will be a dialogue, or things will only get worse."
There are many regimes [a 'network of rules, norms and procedures that regularize behavior and control its effects' in an area of international concern] in the universe. Most noteworthy currently is the slowly shattering Hegemonic regime. The Hegemony's beliefs concerning economic and military power, and its use thereof, has alienated two strong factions. One is the Axis, and the Hegemony protected itself by isolating the Axis. However, it is the newly forming regime of the Alliance' desire for more economic freedom that is helping to dismantle the old regime. What will become of these different belief systems in the current times of turmoil is anyone's guess.
Some examples of transnational actors are intergovernmental organizations, or IGOs, and non-governmental organizations, or NGOs. An example of an IGO would currently be the Alliance. It is an economic group of nations, working towards more sovereignty. It is also, if you ask the Hegemony's opinion, illegal. There is also a general agreement on tariffs and protectionism in place, which might be considered an IGO, but it is constantly being debated, moreso now due to the Alliance's apparent birth.
There are also many NGOs in the universe. For example, there are several Hegemonic merchant associations, such as the Independent Merchant Collective, or IMC. There are some system-spanning religions, one of which is the V'shanti, or Odysseans, as they prefer to be called. Both of these are public NGOs that anyone can join. An example of a more private transnational organization is the Kastellan Corporation. They are the ship builders for the universe, and keep a tight hold on that position.
Now a closer look at some of the international actors. Firstly, most worlds are a single nation-state, although there are some multi-state worlds. Also, there are a limited number of usable worlds. Usually there is only one world per star system, although there are commonly satellites and stations scattered throughout. Currently the Hegemony has control over 26 systems, the Axis has 12, and the Alliance 14, although information about the Alliance is always uncertain.
Simple statistics give a view of powerful, wide-spreading Hegemonic control, and that view probably contributes to the Hegemony's formidable reputation -- an example of perception influencing reality. In actuality the number of livable worlds is not so impressive. At least three or four of the Hegemony systems are trinary sun systems with no habitable planets, and are used for Naval simulations and the like. A few others are remote research/mining outposts, and at least a third of the Hegemony worlds are on the frontier, lack resources, or are still developing and growing. Also the Hegemony has devoted itself towards maintaining internal stability and promoting economic growth, rather than physically expanding its power. Expansion is very slow -- there simply aren't that many human-suitable worlds. Many colonies and worlds are on planets whose atmospheres can best be described as inimicable to human life. The further from human-suitable the world is, the longer it takes to establish a viable colony.
Governments, unsurprisingly, vary widely from world to world. The Hegemony itself is a republic, though there are a number of its worlds, especially ones that want to break away from it, that are more authoritarian. The level of democracy on any given world in the Hegemony varies widely, ranging from Athenian level participant democracy to representative democracy. How representative the elected are is another matter. On some worlds they are generally seen as honest and hard working, on others they seem to be continuously re-elected, and reforms are slow in coming.
The Axis is less well known, but they also seem to have a representative form of government. The governing group is referred to as the Ga'sheknam. As one of the characters in the story puts it:
"The heads of families vote for the families, and often pick related heads of larger families to vote for them, and so on. It is a duty to participate in the shaping of laws and customs. The electronic web that girds each world is our forum; the wisest or eldest, or sometimes loudest, taking power. It is custom, tradition, and debate." He rolls his eyes. "A lot."
The Alliance is the least known of the three emerging international actors. It also seems to have the least cohesiveness -- indeed there is constant debate as to who is actually part of the Alliance, although its sphere of influence appears to be growing. It is mainly the economic/technological giants of the outer fringe that are pushing for independence. It has been noticed that a fair number of the fringe worlds are simply quietly going their own way. These tend to be the smaller, less vital worlds that have either been recently settled, or are not important enough for the Hegemony to run Naval checks on every now and then. But worlds like Parkatha, which have become as powerful as a core-world, or the advanced corpocracy of Carthage, or Geneva, with its renown institute, are all worlds that the Hegemony has a great deal invested in, and does not wish to have defect.
Let us move to subnational actors. Rourke mentions several types of subnational actors, including political leadership, bureaucracies, legislatures, political opposition, interest groups, and the people (Rourke 101). These can be most easily examined within the Hegemony, since it is the most well known regime currently. However, both the Alliance and the Hegemony have several subnational actors in common. On the whole, the political leadership of both regimes is indeed the strongest subnational actor in the field of policy making. A bureaucracy and a legislature of some sort exists on most worlds, with varying degrees of power and influence. Political opposition is usually within the regime, and usually merely wishes to change policy. However, when one comes to the governmental influence wielded by interest groups and by the people, the Alliance and the Hegemony start to differ more strongly.
She glances at the vid automatically -- what's so interesting? It appears to be an offworld newscast documenting the latest results of the Council of Worlds elections. Oh. Them. Yawn. Didn't he know the elections were mostly decided beforehand? She smiles wryly to herself... probably not.
Interest groups come in many types. In a sense, the Alliance itself could be said to be an economic interest group that got tired of the marked lack of interest shown by the Hegemony capital, and decided it needed to control its own economy. To do so, it simply disassociated from the current international government. On the other end of the spectrum is the Kastellan Corporation, a good example of a powerful business related interest group. Kastellan is a fairly major player on the market, and they most certainly influence local policy strongly -- Kastellan ships form the majority of the Hegemony Navy. These two examples illustrate the difference between the Alliance and Hegemony interest groups. The Hegemony group chose to work within the current system -- the Alliance interest group became the government.
The influence and regard for the people differs within the Hegemony and the Alliance also. Because of its basically democratic nature, the Hegemony must listen to the people. This is not to say that there are no elites carefully differentiating themselves from the masses -- the Hegemony capital of Proxima Centauri considers itself a cultural and political elite within the Hegemony, and the planet itself has its own carefully preserved core of power mongers. Also the Hegemonic worlds all vary in how much attention is paid to the people's desires, as can be seen by the differing forms of mostly democratic governments on the various worlds. But elections are held -- the people do have some say in their own government. In the Alliance, however, the degree of attention paid to the desires of the people differs widely depending on which planet you are on. Worlds such as Parkatha and Carthage are almost feudal in their lack of regard for public opinion.
In order to take a more individual level analysis, the universe will be seen from the perspective of the story's protagonist. Thora is the daughter of the owner of, and one of the controlling stock-holders of, Kastellan Corporation, one of the mega-system corporations. Its sphere of influence is simply staggering. Her parent's company, which she helps to run, has more income than some systems -- it is an NGO, and she is one of the elite. Her background will obviously cause some slanting in perspective -- and this should be kept in mind during examination of individuals.
There are three approaches to individual-level analysis (Rourke 114). These are Nature-of-Humankind, Humans-in-Organizations, and Humans-as-Individuals. We can find examples of each in the story. For example, examination of Nature-of-Humankind will show that one of the general characteristics of decision making is relying on historical analogies. The Hegemony is doing this -- it has always quashed rebellion successfully. At the worst, it has isolated what it considered dangerous cultures, preventing them from becoming a partner in the Hegemony -- it was avoiding uncomfortable information. Thus its history has always been one of successful defense of itself. It currently seems to consider the Alliance a group of upstart malcontents that will dissipate once a show of force has been made. It may well find that the historical analogy is inexact, at best.
Humans-in-Organizations can be shown by the Hegemony's attempts to keep the Alliance from truly splitting away. The Hegemony is, in a sense, trying to force consensus on the Alliance. It is limiting the policy choices available to the Alliance by using military responses in order to suppress dissidents. The Alliance, however, is resisting group-think, and the Hegemony may find that its poor decisions in handling this situation will cause policy failure.
An example of how Humans-as-Individuals can shape policy is provided by the protagonist of the story. In a move to promote closer ties between the Hegemony core worlds and Parkatha, a political marriage was arranged between her and Joran, the inheriting son of one of the most powerful families on Parkatha. This would have been fine, were it not for the spoiled and childish nature of the son. Her refusal to marry him, while not yet made public, has caused embarrassment and political difficulty. Parkatha is now strongly considering joining the Alliance.
Thora's smile widens, "Who would I like instead of Joran?" She laughs. "How about someone I can respect? Someone who wants to work with me, instead of wear me like a bauble?"
Realism vs. Idealism
Realists believe "... struggles between states to secure their frequently conflicting national interests are the main action on the world stage (Rourke 140)." The Hegemony and the Alliance both can be described as students of realistic foreign policy. The Hegemony actively quashes military struggle, but seems to take a laissez faire attitude towards economic struggle. The Alliance could be argued to have a similar philosophy, both because it is descended from the Hegemony, and due to the reasons people believe are motivating it to split from the Hegemony. For example, it is a desire to gain power in its anti-Hegemonic struggle which is causing it to make diplomatic advances to the Axis -- previously contact with the Axis was unthinkable. Politics does indeed make strange bedfellows.
The Axis appears to be a good example of an idealistic society. Its current policies seem to be "...formulated according to cooperative and ethical standards (Rourke 58)." However, it is the lack of a common standard of morality with the Hegemony that seems to be causing much of the current tension. After 70 years of stalemate, cooperation does not seem incipient either.
Nationalism has helped to create some of the problems facing the Hegemony and the Alliance today. It is insularity, however slight, which causes the Hegemony core worlds to be so indifferent to the concerns of the frontier worlds. There is also an element of believed Hegemonic cultural superiority involved. Due to their distance, none of the frontier worlds were considered that important. Since the core worlds are safe within their shell of superiority, a certain amount of xenophobia has developed -- a sort of resentful attitude towards those strange people from the frontier. It is their own inherent belief in their own superiority that motivates much of their foreign policy. They are, to some degree, messianic.
However, it must be admitted that the Hegemony worlds encourage democracy and self-determination. It is through their active encouragement of economic interdependence that the ideals of the Hegemony have been spread. Also, the large number of worlds in the Hegemony has allowed for quite a bit of cultural diversity and experimentation. So nationalism, while the cause of some of the Hegemony's current problems, has also been a helpful tool in increasing the Hegemony's reach and power.
Parkatha is a world teetering between open rebellion against, and support of the Hegemony, however grudging. It will serve as an example of nationalism, and perhaps incipient statehood. Firstly, the Parkathans are a nation -- they share cultural, historical, and ancestral similarities. Also, there is a perceived feeling of community on Parkatha. They are acutely aware of how much more they have in common with each other, rather than with the distant and culturally different Hegemony. There is also a desire to be separate -- they wish sovereignty over their economic destiny. Should Parkatha formally join the Alliance, it will have become a nation-state. How long it will be able to maintain that status is a different question entirely.
It is hard to determine the relative power of the three major regimes. However, they can be used to illustrate types of power. The Hegemony is a good example of real power. It has many elements of tangible power, such as a strong military, the barrier of a single jump point between it and the Axis (its main enemy), technological sophistication, strong information and communication capabilities amongst all its worlds, an apparently impregnable financial position, prodigious natural resources, and impressive industrial and agricultural output. Intangible power is demonstrated by the high morale of its people and military, and its reputation.
The Axis is an example of perceived power. Due to the ferocity of their response to being invaded, their use of nuclear weaponry, and their unconventional guerrilla tactics, they were blockaded. The fear of the Axis "barbarians" has lasted 70 years, and is still strong enough that most Hegemony worlds consider them more of a threat than the current Alliance rebellion. The Axis has a formidable reputation, not without cause, as being a place that breeds fierce fighters -- and its military has incredible morale, due somewhat to the Hegemony providing the Axis with an enemy to band together against. Technologically it is somewhat more advanced than the Hegemony worlds, having made extensive advances in the fields of cybertechnology and nanotechnology. Its information and communication capabilities tie its worlds together as effectively as the Hegemony's, and its interplanetary transportation system is based on captured Hegemony technology. Its natural resources lean heavily to metals, and the Hegemony is uncomfortably aware how useful that would be in a war.
"Weaponry? It's too bad that is all most of your people know of us." The Ganthan sighs and shakes his head slowly.
Potential power is demonstrated by the Alliance. In spite of its current apparent disorganization, it has the ability to become a force to be reckoned with. It is growing, both in tangible and intangible power. As worlds join, its population, resources, and economic power increases. Its communications, informational, and technological capabilities are currently at least as strong as those of the Hegemony. If it plays its cards right, the various interstellar transportation networks will continue to serve it as well as the Hegemony. The major problem facing the Alliance in the immediate future seems to be if it can maintain or even increase its current levels of power and growth without the assistance and cooperation of the Hegemony.
The Hegemony Charter of Stars is an example of international treaty. It binds all the worlds under a common constitution, and is pacta sunt servanda [it is binding on the signatories alone]. Beyond that each world has its own set of laws, although war between member worlds is forbidden. The Charter is enforced via economic sanction, which has until now been a perfectly adequate means of constraint. The new Alliance, however, not only does not adhere to the precepts of the Charter, but is in the process of forming its own economically self-sufficient network.
International custom can be demonstrated by two examples. One is the current rules against research into chemical and biological weaponry. This is not to say that no-one does it, but public opinion and economic sanctions would be brought to bear against any world so foolish as to be caught in such acts. The other is the standard of free trade between worlds -- not only does the Hegemony encourage this, but too much protectionism could cause a nation an uncomfortable economic backlash from other, affected nations. There is also a general principle of law -- physical might, at least, does not make right... unless you are the Hegemony!
Unfortunately, the role international law plays in the Axis is still under discussion. However, it might be logical to assume, in such a representative form of government, with a society which encourages cooperation, that some form of international custom has arisen, based perhaps on adjudication.
There are several practices in the Hegemony which indicate that it participates in "new diplomacy" [characterized by an expansion of geographic scope, multilateral diplomacy, parliamentarianism, democratization, open diplomacy, leader-to-leader diplomacy, and public diplomacy]. Obviously, in the Hegemony multilateral diplomacy is the norm -- international cooperation has become a necessity. A certain amount of democratization has caused diplomats to be more representative of their planets of origin. Diplomatic growth due to increased numbers of worlds has been slow, but increases in power of the various colonies has caused an expansion of scope. Also, most Hegemonic economic agreements are arrived at via open diplomacy. Public diplomacy occurs because of the advances in communications -- leaders and other diplomats are in the public view more than ever before.
The Hegemony's attempts at diplomacy with the Axis failed because they didn't follow the rules of effective diplomacy. Initially they were dogmatic. The Axis was presented with, basically, an ultimatum -- become a client state, and we will sell you ships with FTL capabilities. When the Axis decided not to become a client state, but rather to seek their own path, the Hegemony responded unrealistically. The Axis was composed of worlds the Hegemony considered hellish -- heavy gravity, radioactive, and poisonous. Yet the Hegemony tried to invade. Unfortunately their goals outstripped their ability to achieve them. They did not understand the Axis culture, nor did they search for common interests. Once war had broken out, there was no compromise possible, and no avenue of retreat open to the Hegemony. About the only thing that can be said for the Hegemony's attempts at diplomacy is that they have been implacably patient in maintaining the blockade.
In a system-level analysis, the current rebellion could be said to be caused by a power vacuum. The Hegemony, by not paying enough attention to the frontier worlds, has caused some of them to unite in an attempt to fill the niche left by the Hegemony's absence. There is also the fact that the current time is a period of power transition. The Hegemony, a declining state, is striking at the Alliance in order to preserve its previous power.
From a state-level viewpoint, economic factors can be blamed for the current unrest. The Alliance does not believe it needs the Hegemony, and does not appreciate the somewhat imperialistic attitude the Hegemony often manifests. Nationalism too is causing strain between the Hegemony and the Alliance -- the nations of the Alliance want sovereignty.
When looking at the Axis, at least at first viewing, the theory of a nation's political structure or resources causing it to become more aggressive is not born out. The Axis has the raw resources and technological know-how to create a formidable war machine. There is also an apparent cultural trait of aggression which would seem to predispose the Axis to war-like behavior. Yet it has not initiated armed conflict. Indeed it is the Hegemony which is apparently trying to provoke open warfare -- in this case, with the Alliance, and previously with the Axis.
If human aggression stemming from stress, anxiety, or frustration is a cause of war, as individual-level analysis would indicate, then the current Hegemony-Alliance situation is easily explained. It will be interesting to see if 70 years of being barricaded will cause the Axis to explode out into open warfare at the apparent distraction of the Hegemony.
The Ganthan's voice is distant and sad. "Distrust, in the Axis, runs deep. Never forget, never forgive. The imperial power at our gates."
It will also be interesting to see how the Axis responds to the Alliance advances. The Axis has several levels of response open to it. It is already being perceived by the Hegemony as a diplomatic backdrop for the Alliance. Should it decide to become more involved, it could serve as a source of supply of both weaponry and perhaps military forces to the Alliance -- the Axis is behind in biosciences, in comparison to the Hegemony. It would probably be glad to participate in such an exchange. If the Axis decided it wished to participate more obviously in the war against the Hegemony, it would definitely send forces. This would be an overt threat to the Hegemony. However, the Axis would probably skip a limited demonstration of its capabilities -- the Hegemony is already fearful of the Axis. Instead, the Axis would probably move directly to action.
The Hegemony and the Alliance will move to open war. With a little covert assistance from the Axis, the Alliance will be persuaded to keep up the military attacks long after common sense would indicated to both sides that stopping would be in their best interests. The Axis aid will remain covert because openly allying with the Alliance would cause the Hegemony to also attack the Axis. A two front war would be hard on the Hegemony, but why should the Axis risk possible injury when it can get the Alliance to do all the attacking?
The Hegemony is a little too big to be utterly destroyed by the Alliance, but it will certainly be significantly decimated after an extended war. The Alliance will be in worse condition -- it started out the conflict smaller than the Hegemony. Without the aid of the Axis, the Alliance worlds will fall to squabbling amongst themselves, and eventually will cease to be a power. It is at this point that the Axis has to make a decision. It can either smash the Hegemony, thus insuring there will never be another blockade. Or it can ally with the remains of the Alliance, accomplishing the same goal, but more slowly and less painfully.
Of course, this does not factor in the effects of individuals. Should Thora pull her family into current politics, a very different picture can emerge. The political problem facing Thora currently consists of her indecision as to which way to throw her considerable clout. She knows that her family can and has affected, and indeed on occasion helped formulate, Hegemony policy. Therefore, she has the potential to do both a lot of good, and a lot of harm. Which it will end up being is something that concerns her greatly.
She could simply marry the eldest son of the major Parkathan family. This would create, possibly, the following scenario: A strong tie is forged between the Hegemony and Parkatha, and the Alliance loses a powerful potential ally. There is a safe jump point into nearby Alliance space, and a sudden increase in Hegemony interest, both economic and military, in the area. Thora uses her family's economic clout as an interest group to push for a less coercive diplomacy, and persuades the Hegemony to at least let the Alliance try out the sovereignty it is demanding. She also points out the technological and economic losses the Alliance will suffer from loss of Hegemony trade. The Axis does not see the Alliance as being powerful enough to challenge the Hegemony, and is reluctant to lend too much aid.
For a short period the Alliance grows. However, it is cut off from the Hegemony worlds, and rapidly starts to fall behind technologically and economically. At some point the Alliance's growth spurt fizzles out. It has been prevented from increasing its sphere of influence by both the Hegemony military, and the fact that nations can easily see the Alliance nations are falling behind. As it becomes less of a threat to the Hegemony, the Axis becomes increasingly reluctant to be involved -- there are only so many technological secrets it wishes to "leak", after all. After a little more time, internal squabbles start to disrupt the Alliance. Some of its nations sue to return to the Hegemony, and are extremely grateful -- especially when the Hegemony military prevents retribution from former Alliance allies. The Alliance eventually collapses, and at least for a while, the status quo is maintained.
However, to Thora this merely postpones the problem. She would much rather try to solve it. Her situation is also complicated by friendship with a Ganthan -- increasingly she is having problems seeing the Axis people as barbaric marauders. She knows that the Hegemony is loosely based on democratic principles, and that democracies are usually less war-like cultures. She also knows that several of the Alliance main forces have somewhat autocratic governments that have reached economic stature, and do not wish to have that power infringed upon in any way. She sees the current situation as a bi-polar system which is currently unstable, and drifting towards war. She doesn't believe she can suddenly re-create a uni-polar system, and she doesn't think trying for a multi-polar system would be either prudent or feasible. However, a tri-polar system is a definite possibility.
There are several reasons why she believes this would be a wise choice. One, tri-polar systems are theoretically more stable than bi-polar. Two, an exchange of information between the Hegemony and the Axis would benefit both, in scientific terms. Three, the Axis is possibly more democratically organized than the Hegemony itself -- a good ally against some of the autocratic tendencies of the Alliance. And finally, four, the embargo offends her sensibilities as a business woman -- there are customers out there, just waiting for her to arrive!
She has several diplomatic options open to her if she does decide to try to woo the Axis. As an apparent private citizen, she gives the Hegemony both deniability, and a chance for private communication between the Hegemony and the Axis. This would be a form of indirect negotiations, but would be necessary, due to the fact that high levels of diplomacy would be unacceptable to the Hegemony public, and might provoke a panicked reaction from the Alliance.
Should she get the Axis to agree to send an emissary to speak with her, it would practically be a given that she would be offering rewards. It would be sheerest folly to try coercive diplomacy -- it worked so well last time it was tried! She would be communicating probably initially via oral communication, but if possible she would soon move to written agreements. Signing a written document would be, as far as she can tell, the first step in the Hegemony demonstrating by its actions that it did indeed wish peace with the Axis. Interestingly, she might find herself being quite precise with the Axis representatives, while maintaining a somewhat vague strategy in talking with the Hegemony. This would be due to cultural differences, rather than an attempt to inhibit the diplomatic process.
Thus there emerges a new possibility which might solve the problems currently facing the Hegemony, by creating an ally where before there was only an enemy.
Last Updated: Tue Apr 25 2000