Copier Humor

The Rogue State’s Guide To Imperial Diplomacy

diplomatic cruiser: an embassy with guns on it

diplonought: an embassy with continent-cracking guns on it

neutral: a place where you don’t shoot at the embassy, and it doesn’t shoot back

ally: a place where the upgunned embassy is probably on your side

client-state: a place where the upgunned embassy is definitely on your side

satrapy: a place where they don’t bother putting guns on the embassy

diplomatic immunity: a courtesy awarded by host nations to diplomats in return for the reciprocal courtesy

diplomatic impunity: “I have a dreadnought. Your argument is invalid.”

peace delegation: see diplonought

– printout found in a duplicator, Conclave Drift

More of a Primand, Really

(Yes, this is so very real-life-writes-the-plot, but as with that age-old piece about transportation security, what can you do…)

From: Ektalis Munisinios (Second Undersecretary, Ministry of State and Outlands)
To: Cerea Oliviscios (Their Divine Majesties’ Ambassador to the Viridian States)
Subject: Formal reprimand

We have this day received a missive from the State Department of your country of residence calling for your formal reprimand over certain impolitic remarks, to wit, “We are sure the people of the Viridian States must be inspired to great confidence by their governance’s ability to find people who will obey any order, especially in these troubled times.”

Herewith is that reprimand:

Next time, be sure the galactic press has been invited to the party, not just the locals. Makes it harder to cover up.

Drinks at the Mustelid are on me next time you make it back to the capital.

– Ektalis

Diplomatic Incident

kchellis> So, what’s the problem this time?

socularios> Cleaning up the diplomatic fallout from last night’s dinner at the Isliar Primarchy embassy.

kchellis> What could possibly happen at a Primarchy dinner? Those things are so boring that you’re tempted to shoot yourself in the head just to get it over with.

socularios> Got it in one.

kchellis> What?

socularios> Someone invited Chemelé Sarithos.


socularios> Who only made it through the appetizers before announcing “Bored now”, then drawing her sidearm and – leaving the party. In a manner that gave the Ambassador’s mother a case of the vapors, spoiled the atmosphere for the rest of the guests, and ruined the soup, too, confound it.



kchellis> Did she offer any explanation beyond that?

socularios> She’s a three-hours-prior restore. And before you ask, she said that if it was that dull, she probably didn’t want to remember even the part she was there for.

kchellis> Right.

kchellis> I’ll draft the formal apologies if you’ll dragoon our idiot cousin into making some informal apologies. I presume we’re assuming that the Primarchs wanted to generate an incident to get something out of us?

socularios> That we are. Any suggestions on the dragooning?

kchellis> Chemelé’s been living debtstyle for a while now, so talk to her grandmother, Kiril. No-one crosses Old Lady Sarithos, especially not her new least favorite grandchild.

– Ministry of State & Outlands, “Oops” memeweave

Trope-a-Day: Ambadassador

Ambadassador: Enough bits of the galaxy, especially out in the Expansion Regions and Periphery, still play rough enough that… well, there’s a reason that they give many ambassadors a cruiser-class vessel (see: Standard Sci Fi Fleet) for their personal transport and in some cases embassy.  Having to fight your way out-system is hardly standard procedure, but it’s not unknown, either.

(The kaeth had always had ambassadors like this on their home planet, given their donning of something at least close to the Proud Warrior Race hat; unsurprisingly, the IDC recruits more than a few of them for exactly this purpose.)

It also plays well with their occasional deliberate venturing into Ass in Ambassador.

it’s a big stick

Gal-sabra (Falish Traverse) System
Peremptory-class diplomatic cruiser, CSS Occasionally Transigent

Lei’hudal, vizjeri,” Ambassador Cíën Lochran addressed her visitors, “be welcome here. May I offer you some refreshment after your flight? Something to eat, perhaps?”

“No, thank you. Time is pressing: let us get down to business. You said that you had received a communique from the Spire?”

“Very well. Indeed, I have received such a communique. Their Divine Majesties instruct me to inform you that the Empire, as a polity, takes no position on the current or future activities of the Theomachy of Galia.”

The Galian delegation looked at each other.

“No position?”

“Quite so.”

“We find that rather hard to believe. The Empire will make no response to anything we –”

“That is not quite what I said.”

“May I ask you to clarify, then, this lack of position?”

“With your permission to be undiplomatically explicit?”

“If necessary.”

“Their Divine Majesties do not believe that it is their place, nor yet the place of their Ministries, to dictate to sovereign realms or sovereign individuals what they may or may not do. We exercise no force majeure veto; we set no rules upon the non-consenting. You may do as you will and as you must without our constraint.” She leaned back comfortably, and continued. “Of course, in response to your actions, we reserve the right to also do as we will, and as we must, possibly with a fleet task group or two – but that should be by no means interpreted as a threat, since we have demanded of you, and will demand of you, nothing. It is merely the inevitable unwinding of certain branches of the causal graph.”

Going To War With The Army You Have

Self-quoted from a G+ discussion in which the following Rumsfeldian aphorism came up:

You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want.

It is a truth I think greatly underappreciated (especially by politicians, alas) that unless you have paid the ridiculous-even-by-the-standards-of-US-defense-budgets amount of money necessary to have a genuinely omnicompetent army, then it would behove you to go to war in a manner befitting the capabilities of the army (or space navy) you have. Otherwise bad things will ensue… as we have seen a lot in reality, including thanks to Mr. Rumsfeld drawing exactly the wrong conclusion from his above-quoted aphorism.

(In the Eldraeverse, for example, the Imperial Military Service is a finely optimized instrument for patrolling, raiding in force, special operations, and glassing things from orbit. It is, consequentially, pretty much pessimal for tasks like “occupation”, and/or “nation-building”, and if the Minister President asks for that sort of thing, it’s the job of the First Lord of the Admiralty to look him in the eye and say “no can do, sir, unless you give us the budget and the time to develop doctrine and new units for the job”.

…this does occasionally result in more glassing of things from orbit than might be ideally required, but, y’know, it’s a resource-constrained universe and it’s not like they weren’t quite clear up front as to what the steps of this dance were, belike.

Although it is occasionally convenient that the chaps over at State & Outlands can point at the IMS and say, “Well, obviously we’re not out to conquer anybody; just look at our force mix. We couldn’t if we wanted to1.”

1. Spoiler alert: they could, but it would be expensive, inconvenient, and inelegant, thus unthinkable unless really provoked. Glossing over this sort of subtlety is what they pay the diplomats for.

Trope-a-Day: Pretext for War

Pretext for War: Unfortunately, played straight more often than not in these decadent modern times when one is at least nominally supposed to try to solve ones’ differences via the Conclave of Galactic Polities, or the Galactic Trade Association, or some such.  The Imperial Ministry of State and Outlands, among others, feels a certain nostalgia for the good old days when would-be galactic warlords and interstellar imperialists would just come right out and announce that they were starting a War for Killing Those People and Taking Their Stuff, since at least it was honest and no-one had to pretend to take obvious bullshit seriously in the name of interstellar amity.

(I take this moment to note, relevantly, that bearing in mind the pointlessness of resource wars as mentioned back in No Blood For Phlebotinium and the impractical difficulty of interstellar invasions of anything but less developed colonies, most wars are fundamentally for reasons ideological, reasons prejudicial, or the interpolity equivalent of “Your Mom”.)

Epistolary Experiment (28/30)

Republic-Worlds Peace Conference
Synchel ab Kamisir Negotation Center
Eilan (Crimson Expanse)

“You’re stalling.”

This statement from Elyse Phylarius, the senior Imperial representative at the conference, fell flatly across the conference table.

“I’m sure we don’t know what you -”

“Of course you do not, gentlesophs,” she continued. “You would have no reason to stall for time to allow your deep-penetration fleet to reach its objective, naturally. But you also might have no knowledge of the current status of that fleet, given the, ah, difficulties the Silicate Tree has been introducing into your communications recently. Permit me to enlighten you on that point.”

She reached into her briefcase, and tossed an object onto the table with a metallic clank. The kalatri representatives stared at it in silence.

The object had once been a brass plaque, now charred, space-burnt, and warped by intense heat, but despite its battered surface, the bold characters could still be made out:

VNS President Siroshin

“This arrived earlier today by fast courier from the Core. Your deep-penetration fleet, I regret to say, no longer exists. You’ll want to provenance that, of course, and no doubt consult with your goverment. Shall we reconvene in, let us say, two hours?”

“They’re lying. They’ve got to be lying.”

“Then how did they get Siroshin‘s commissioning plaque? Which is genuine. The embedded codes check out. The trace alloys check out.” Admiral Tarvil glared at the younger kalatri. “Your supposed covert operation has failed just as badly as the rest of this war.”

“They could have faked it! If they could get an agent aboard Social Harmony, they could have stolen the details of the security codes. And even if Siroshin has been destroyed, that doesn’t mean the fleet is lost. We need to give them time to complete their mission and report.”


“May I remind you, Admiral –”

“You. May. Not. When we go back into conference, Commander, I will attempt to salvage what I can from this debacle you and the rest of the Propulsion Group have dragged the Republic into. And then, we are going to have an in-depth discussion concerning exactly how many starships were destroyed and how many of my people you got killed on your idiot crusade.”

– Republic discussions at peace conference,
Second Directorate transcript

“These talks are a waste of time. We’ve got them against the wall, now. We should press our advantage! Their forces defending their side of the Borderline are weakened, demoralized! An advance, now, could take three sectors before they respond – or, hells’ favor, we could punch right through and knock out Vonis Prime!”

“The Conclave agrees!” a second voice spoke up. The Qirafian who had been sent to represent the other polities of the Worlds pushed his way to the front of the crowd. “A return to status quo ante is not acceptable to us. We require victory!”

“And there,” Elyse replied wearily, “speaks the voice of innumeracy. The Republic is eight thousand systems. We are hundreds. Even if we could take it, we could never hold it, and the Empire does not pursue wars that it can’t win, however winnable the battles look.”

“And as for the Conclave,” she continued, turning to the Qirafi deshnik, “do you have new promises with you of starships, logistics trains, occupation troops? If the Conclave wishes a full military invasion of the Republic, the Conclave needs to put its military forces where its warmongering mouth is. Our existing allies in this affair have already indicated to us that they aren’t interested in sticking any parts of themselves into that meat-grinder.”

“We could still punch out Vonis Prime!”

“Yes, we probably could do that. If we did, clionomic projections suggest that, as a tightly-controlled centralizing governance, Republic space would collapse into an extended period of anarchy, and I don’t mean ‘like us’, or even ‘like the Rim Free Zone’. I mean 8,000 worlds of chaos and warwilds. The collapse of infrastructure. Entire fleets turning to piracy. A complete bloody catastrophe, in short, and one that going to come boiling out across the Borderline and ruin all our tomorrows.”

“You didn’t object to that when it was the People’s State collapsing!”

“And if the Republic was a handful of worlds and notoriously worse as a governance than a complete absence of one ever could be, we wouldn’t object to it collapsing either. But it isn’t. In any case, gentlesophs, I strongly suggest that you take what you can get – and what we think we can get is a general return to status quo ante bellum, reparations for the damage, and half a constellation, twenty-six systems, chopped out of Vonis 31 – and be satisfied, because the only thing that could possibly be worse for us than losing this war is winning the damned thing.”

– Associated Worlds discussion at peace conference,
legate’s personal transcript

From: Elyse Phylarius
To: Ministry of State and Outlands, Republic Affairs Committee
Subject: Conference status

We got lucky this time: our allies came through for us, and with their help I was able to talk the Conclave representatives out of doing anything stupid and beat down the factions. But it was a close-run thing – we’ve got to find some way to cool things down or accelerate the timetable, or else ICE SHADOW and our hopes for inducing a peaceful fragmentation may not survive another incident.


Trope-a-Day: Language of Truth

Language of Truth: There is no first-class language of truth (that is more or less impossible), but Eldraeic was custom-designed to make speaking logical fallacies – by a variety of logics – bad mathematical statements, woeful imprecision, etc., etc., as difficult as possible if not downright ungrammatical, especially when spoken in formal registers.

While this does, as intended, make life more difficult for amateur liars, the general feeling is that even when professional liars (diplomats, say; see Will Not Tell A Lie) are called for, they really ought to be above that sort of cheap fast-talking anyway.

Trope-a-Day: Will Not Tell A Lie

Will Not Tell A Lie: Not strictly played straight with the Imperials, but mostly played straight.  They are very averse to lying, for reasons of honor/integrity, for reasons of ethics/religion (remember the appropriate verse of Elmiríën’s Truths?), for legal reasons based off of those (“falsification of information” is a public crime, and fraud, false claims, etc., are much more wide-ranging), and because as such a self-evidently superior and strong crowd, it really ought to be beneath them.  Thus, whenever they can possibly get away with it, they play it straight.

And on such occasions as it is required (“necessary lies”, permitted to certain difficult professions and certain difficult circumstances), they much prefer to mislead – or better, let you mislead yourself – obfuscate, omit, exaggerate, imply, circumlocute, equivocate and filibuster their way to victory by, ah, carefully positioning the truth rather than actually lie (and certainly won’t ever break their word to do it).  Their reputation for Will Not Tell A Lie is very useful, after all, and worth preserving.

Trope-a-Day: Humans Are Diplomats

Humans Are Diplomats: There not being humans, well, no, but since there is greenlife, the diplomatic hat is worn by one of Earth’s species.  Well, sort of – diplomacy and community-building is the hat of the dar-bandal, the uplifted dogs, who bring their talents for social cognition to this field much as they do to professional negotiation, arbitrage, community genesis, fixing, and path-pointing.

Trope-a-Day: Gunboat Diplomacy

Gunboat Diplomacy: The traditional Imperial diplomatic transport is a cruiser-class naval vessel.  Need I say more?  (And the Empire in particular is quite notorious for this; the Don Pacifico Affair would not be in the least out of character for them, because No One Gets Left Behind.)

Also, refer back to Flaunting Your Fleets.

Passing the Handbasket

To my successor in office:

I’m leaving you this unofficial note to welcome you to the unique position of being an ambassador to the Empire, to pass on a few hopefully useful pieces of advice, and frankly, to wish you more joy of the position than I had, even before the FO recalled me.

I’ve left contact details in the database for my more useful contacts in State & Outlands.  They can help you out on any of the routine administration that comes up under one of the twelve Accords – but only the routine stuff, unfortunately.  I’d also call Meris Solanel-ith-Serquel to your particular attention if you find yourself charged with any special negotiations; she’s a good back-channel contact and willing to tell you directly if you’ve any chance of getting anywhere.  Which most of the time, you won’t.

As for other matters that will come up:

One might be forgiven for thinking that a country with no visa requirements wouldn’t cause you many problems with visitors, but that’s to ignore their willingness to refuse entry to anyone insane (by their – rather broad – standards), and anyone one of their truth machines deems insufficiently honest when signing up to the statement of rights and obligations they require of anyone entering.  Given how much they preen publicly about their devotion to rationality and principle, this catches less people than you might expect, but your staff will still be arranging repatriations on a regular basis.

You might also expect that their equally proclaimed refusal to impose any tariffs or trade regulations would make that a relatively trouble-free area, too.  Here, your problems will come from the home office, as while the Imperial government declines to use such things in response to those we set up, any number of corporations, trade cartels, and out-and-out smugglers will shamelessly connive to circumvent ours – and even our prohibitions on certain products – with the tacit aid of local banking privacy laws and the non-cooperation of the Market Liberty Oversight Directorate.  I have collected and passed on a myriad of eloquent, polite ways to say, “We regret that we won’t enforce your unethical laws for you,” in my time here, and you will undoubtedly collect still more.

Cultural and military affairs are also problematic.  In the name of freedom of speech and information, they insist that people be allowed to publish practically anything and to read anything that’s published, and are not even willing to discuss this issue with us, whatever the reasoning and whatever their notorious data havens may contain.  On the military side, you may be able to get some action taken against a particularly controversial intervention, even if it’s only likely to be getting the admiral in question beached for a few centuries until everyone’s forgotten the issue in question; but so far as they’re concerned, mercenary work is legal, privateering is legal, attempting to overthrow or to subvert someone’s government using any technique that isn’t violent is legal, and while they’ve never actually come out and said that filibustering is also legal…

Go ahead and file some protests on any of these if you like; it’s worth it just to listen to one of their State & Outlands people pour honey in your ear for an hour or three.  But you’ll realize the next day they talked for all that time without saying anything, and I’ll promise you right now, that’s all you’re ever going to get.

And lastly, extradition.  You will face three problems, here.  First, they will not extradite anyone for something that is not a crime under their law.  Second, if their law would impose a more severe penalty than ours for a given crime, and it’s one they consider particularly serious, they will try their hardest to insist that we prosecute him in their courts, so that they need not accept a criminal back.  And third, the inability to reconcile which – in the viKeruaz case – proved my downfall, they may insist on the second at the same time as public sympathies at home demand that he not be prosecuted in their courts.

I wish you the best of luck, and a quiet term of posting.

Sev Din Alar,
Ambassador of the League of Meridian (former)

Mentoring Newbies

“One of the most challenging diplomatic posts – in my own opinion, right after being posted to a hostile star nation – is that of ambassador to a planet that has only recently been contacted by the Exploratory Service.  While the Contact team will have done their best to explain to the newly contacted planet the essentials of the milieu in which they now find themselves, the details of ‘the Galactic way of doing things’ will frequently be yours to convey.  In addition, while most star nations have had the rough edges rubbed off their cultures by exposure to the greater galaxy, the same cannot be said of recently Contacted worlds, which therefore pose additional challenges.”

“Another aspect of such ambassadorships is that newly contacted worlds are frequently the recipients of large amounts of attention, both diplomatic, if other star nations are active in the area, and commercial, as starcorporations and trading combines both Imperial and foreign descend in the pursuit of new products and new markets, while the recently Contacted world itself will often seek to establish relationships with greater galactic powers, and to gain technological advancement through trade.  Helping a newly Contacted planet navigate these shoals while avoiding the appearance of attempted domination is one of the most difficult balancing acts the Diplomatic Service has to offer, and successfully doing so often a crown to an individual’s career.”

– Calen Minaxianos-ith-Minaxianos, “Ninety Years Abroad”


“Well, firstly, we’re a civilization of dozens of different species with hundreds of races and clades each.  Given the sheer number of shapes we come in, why would you possibly assume that we’d be invested in your morphological bigotries?”

You’re idiots.

“And even if we were inclined to be, it would have to be a more significant one than hue – even if cross-linked with historical accident.”

You’re petty idiots.

“And even if you had a good reason to refuse to ever deal with these so-called inferior people, that’s what you’d do; refuse to deal with them, build fences, live separately.  Not go out of your way to be appallingly unpleasant for no adequately defined reason.”

You’re malicious petty idiots.

“And you don’t have one, because even if you were right, game theory tells us that defaulting to cooperation is always superior in the indefinite-iterated game, and the law of comparative advantage tells us that you’re better off doing so even if you’re better at every single thing ever.”

You’re self-defeating malicious petty idiots.

“And frankly, you’re not right, because in the light of all this, your self-described intellectual and cultural superiority isn’t looking so good, either.”

You’re hypocritical self-defeating malicious petty idiots.

“So I don’t really think there’s a terribly good basis for an alliance of mutual interest here, I’m afraid.”

Your mothers.

– overheard and underheard in the Crescent Bar, Conclave Drift

Trope-a-Day: Awakening the Sleeping Giant

Awakening The Sleeping Giant: Played mostly straight with the Empire, who despite qualifying as a superpower prefer not to have to referee the world (and, indeed, much of their participation in such transnational organizations as the Conclave of Galactic Polities is to avoid having to, as far as that is possible.)  At least in the public sector – your private organizations may vary.  And nevertheless, if someone is determined to start something, and keeps trying to start something, they’re happy to finish it with the Doctrine of Disproportionate Retribution.

Thus, their foreign military policy looks much like America’s back in the old sensible days, i.e., much like a hibernating bear’s:

Poke.  Slap.

Poke.  Slap.

Poke.  Slap.

Poke.  Slap.


(This also exists in something of a dynamic tension with No One Gets Left Behind, which see.)

Trope-a-Day: Disproportionate Retribution

Disproportionate Retribution: The Empire’s defense and anti-terrorism, etc., policy runs on Disproportionate Retribution – defined as, as we said back in Combat Pragmatist, “the ideal response is one which precludes any possible necessity of its repetition”.  The Empire is painfully aware that being nice is not enough to make you universally liked, particularly since being nice in the eyes of all, or even most, of the more restrictive polities out there – which is just about all of them – would involve trying to exert all kinds of arbitrary prior restraint on Imperials, and there’s no way that’s going to happen.

Which is to say that while maintaining an overall foreign policy of friendly neutrality, their defense, etc., policy is based much more on oderint dum metuant, Making an Example of Them, and so forth.  By this doctrine, every time an act of war against them is responded to with an actual war, every time (successful) government-sponsored terrorism gets the sponsoring governments’ facilities turned into a scattering of glass-lined craters, every time popular support for (or celebration of) these sorts of things gets Admiral Caliéne “Kill ‘Em All Today, Boys, And We Can Take Tomorrow Off” Sargas called out to educate the bloody savages in common decency, and so on and so forth, is an object lesson to the next dozen idiots who might get similar ideas.

(And, as a side note, it also satisfies the mob of very angry, very heavily armed people who might otherwise be inclined to privatize the retribution in a manner even more disproportionate, and potentially less careful about avoiding collateral damage.)

It wouldn’t work without the carrot, of course.  The foreign policy chaps at the Ministry of State & Outlands work hard to maintain the standard position of “a neutral power, friendly with the world – well, much of the world, and largely indifferent to the rest”, whatever certain individuals and branches may do, and are always polite and civilized and emollient and delighted to help you work out trade deals (to such extent as they’re necessary, given the unilateral free trade policy that the Empire never – and indeed can’t – deviates from, but they can put you in touch with various useful people) and technology transfers and mediate treaties and generally get business done, and would never dream of trespassing, as a polity, on your sovereign rights.

Even if they have to give the occasional more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger speech on the Conclave floor on the general theme of how much they regret the necessity of the recent incident, but nevertheless, “the first duty of any government is to protect its citizens from aggressors”…

…and somehow the underlying message always goes home: if you want to live, if you want to prosper, if you want to see your cause do either – do not fuck with Imperial citizen-shareholders.

Trope-a-Day: Mugging the Monster

Mugging the Monster: Oh, this happens all the time.  Mostly with tourists, in either direction.

Well, I say tourists, when I mean “people visiting the Empire with crime in mind”, which does happen occasionally due to their “just turn up” visa policy.  Such people – on the occasions that they make it through the alethiometric screening – almost always find themselves on the wrong end of Everyone Is Armed with considerable prejudice and usually fatal result.

Also happens fairly often with Imperial tourists elsewhere, given both that martial arts of various kinds are part of normal education in the Empire, and that they often take a… less compliant attitude to various people’s restrictions on the means of self-defense, and indeed other-defense.  (And who, even if they don’t bring their own weapons, or build them on the spot [see Hyperspace Arsenal], can more than likely kill you with their brain [see Psychic Powers].)  Such incidents are an ongoing headache for the Ministry of State and Outlands and an ongoing revenue stream for such specialized travel insurance/mercenary/retrieval consortia as Wolfhound Emancipations, ICC.

Also happens on a rather bigger scale.  See the Burning of Litash, and in a general sense, Disproportionate Retribution and Make an Example of Them.  And, of course, Q-ships.

Trope-a-Day: Ass In Ambassador

Ass In Ambassador: Sometimes – rarely – but usually intentionally.  Which is to say, usually when dealing with those states who keep insisting that the Empire should, y’know, punish people for exercising their freedom of speech, or extradite people for committing something that no-one there would recognize as a crime, or make them respect them, or some such, with a degree of repetition which makes it clear that they’re not going to take “We don’t – and can’t, moreover – do that sort of thing” as an answer.

Granted, sometimes it’s intentional in a different sense; to steal an example’s example from the Discworld section of the trope page, the Ministry of State and Outlands would find sending the equivalent of a Mossad agent and a transvestite as attachés to the Ambassador to Iran – a country which hits a truly remarkable number of the notes guaranteed to make them detest it absolutely – utterly hilarious.  And other necessary qualifications aside, if they could find a female candidate with multiple doctorates, a taste for neat whiskey and fast cars, and the ability to kill a man with her pinkie in eighty-seven separate ways to post to the embassy in Saudi Arabia, they’d do that, too, and enjoy watching the host nation struggle to be polite.  (After all, given the kind of society they are, they don’t think it’s possible to have healthy relations with people like that, so what the hell.)