Let’s Not Do That Again

“…to refer to the Consolidation as the Consolidation Wars, as is the practice of certain critical historians, is to do the period an injustice. While the foreign policies of the time were largely if irregularly driven by the Senate axis revolving around the Immanent Destinarians, the Sons of Liberty, and the Bellipotency – the forerunners of the modern Imperium Bellipotent – only one of these was a true “war party”, and the Consolidation also laid the groundwork for the modern Empire’s pattern of peaceful growth, ‘Consolidation Without Conquest’.

“We should never forget the examples, in our urge to draw judgments from history, of the free and earnest admission, by their own desire, of Cimoníë and the Travinth; of the wagers over daehain that brought Istalyn and Merianvard into the fold; of the peaceful revolutions of Crescenthold and Isahan; of the troubled, but successful mutual cultural assimiliation that created the Iniositac-Variasotec Commonwealth for autochthon and antichthon alike; of the simple bribery of the Veilyns oligarchs. Victory without blood, without tears, ultimately without loss.

“And if we are instead to draw our examples from the purely warlike aspects of the Consolidation – a minority of a period scattered over sufficient history that the so-called Consolidation Wars began with spear, shield, and phalanx, and ended with fusion bombs, autonomous orbital k-kill platforms, and scuttling tank-drones – let us not permit ourselves the luxury of selectivity. The Imperium Bellipotent reveres the conquests of Ochale and Breysvard, the annexation of Twingirt Deme, honorable warfare between daryteir, won and lost with grace and acceptance. Do they also remember with reverence the butchery on the fields of Indimór, the disaster at Lorai Vallis, the fall of the Talentar elevator, the naked annihilation of the Amynmahar and the Aictektep?

“The scars of these wars may have healed during the Aeon-Long Peace, but are the memories so lost to time that we would again inflict such bloody wounds upon ourselves, or those we would add to ourselves? The voice of history that comes down to us from the Consolidation is clear, and speaks – as does it ever – in favor of choice over coercion, however tempting a short-cut might appear to those who refuse to listen.”

– Modern Bellatrists: Why They All Have Their Heads Stuck Up Their Emergency Discharge Ports,
Academician Indis Ellestrion-ith-Ellerovyn


Trope-a-Day: Hopeless War

Hopeless War: Averted, for the most part.  With regard to one kind of hopeless war, well, the Navy and Legions are just that good at the general category of activities listed under “killing people and breaking things”, and so have usually been able to bring things to a successful conclusion (and the kind of ruthlessness that tells them when to back off and bring out the really big guns, as in, say, the Burning of Litash, also helps).  And even the ongoing stalemate that is the containment of the Leviathan Consciousness has settled into a status quo that isn’t chalking up casualties in huge numbers any more.  It’s still theoretically possible, it just hasn’t happened yet, and there are lots of smart people trying to make sure it doesn’t.

Averted in another way (although subverted, I suppose, in an early sense with the Consolidation Wars) because despite the Empire’s earnest desire for ideological propagation (see: Hegemonic Empire), both the Ministry of State and Outlands and the Admiralty are appropriately cynical about the possibility of  wishing civilization into existence when people aren’t willing to cooperate, of persuading the former oppressed that oppression isn’t great fun when they get on top, or for savages to spontaneously start behaving nicely, and other such things, and thus are far too situationally aware to get bogged down in something like an Afghanistan, or an Iraq, or a Somalia, or other types of “nation-building” war where the hopelessness comes from setting yourself a comically improbable termination condition.

(And where one of these more… regressive members of the Interstellar League of Tribal Chiefdoms starts to play host to terrorists, or some other thing that actually makes them a threat, however trivial, to one or more of the real players… well, then, it’s time to bring out the time-honored “Shell Them Back Into The Stone Age With Ortillery” strategy, which can be repeated half-a-dozen times a century for a much smaller budget than a single occupation would require.  In the limiting case, see also Genocide Dilemma.)

Of course, some would argue that the overarching strategy of “Leave Them Mostly Alone, to Grow Up or Die Out” is itself pretty damn hopeless.  Which it is, its proponents agree, but at least it’s the kind of hopeless which doesn’t get a whole pile of people killed, even temporarily, in the course of proving it.

Trope-a-Day: Hegemonic Empire

Hegemonic Empire: The Empire, absolutely. Since the old days of the Consolidation Wars back on the homeworld, the consensus culture of the Empire (individual exceptions like the Imperium Bellipotent and a few grumpy occasional reanimators of the Doctrine of the Ecumenical Throne notwithstanding) is pretty sure that military imperialism has some awkward conflicts with their core values, and in any case is pretty much a pessimal way to grow.

The new plan is to seduce the universe – or “corrupt” the universe, if you are prefer to phrase it the way the Voniensa Republic, the Socionovist Association, and the Interstellar League of Tribal Chiefdoms do – and make everyone want to be part of it via Rule of Cool, manifested in such newfangled soft-power traditions as building and operating major infrastructure, being economically ubiquitous (thank you, All Good Things, ICC), potent cultural perfusion selling the Imperial Dream and other such notions (thank you, media studios of Delphys!), peddling immortality and personal enhancement to anyone who’ll buy them, etc., etc. And the good thing about this, say the people running the place, is that the only actual policies they need to have are (a) open immigration, and (b) mostly-open admission to any polity that asks for it – which by that time have almost certainly been quite “Imperialized” anyway. The rest is more or less self-driving, and would indeed be hard to stop even if they suddenly became of a mind to.

The success of this strategy is such that, discounting colonization of entirely unoccupied worlds and regions, virtually the entire growth of the Empire in its interstellar period has been via voluntary admissions – and it maintains quite the sprawling sphere of influence outside that.