It’s a Satrap!

satrapy (n.): A foreign polity, for whatever reason, temporarily operating with the advice and under the supervision of an Imperial satrap (typically, an officer of the Ministry of State and Outlands of prefectural or higher rank) but not under military occupation; a relationship one step closer than a client-state.

The purpose and degree of management of a satrapy covers many points on a large scale. The most common type of satrapy is a polity in the process of admission (but not yet admitted) as a constituent nation of the Empire, receiving guidance in the process of discovery, challenge, and adaptation. Other satrapies have existed, temporarily, for purposes as widely different as disaster relief, trade protection, and galactic security, with the role of the satrap varying between “friendly and optional advice” and “the consequences can make low orbit within the hour”.

– Dictionary of Terms, MoSaO Internal Printing

Trope-a-Day: Realpolitik

Realpolitik: The Ministry of State and Outlands would love to be able to pursue such interests as the Empire has (which generally excludes its private interests, who tend to pursue their own foreign policies) with this much ideology-free pragmatism, but since the Empire is a strongly ideological libertist-technepraxic state, they have more often to confront the reality that they’re working for a governance, on behalf of a people – and drawn from that same people – who find some polities out there just too disgusting to deal with.

Played rather straighter with the Presidium of the Conclave of Galactic Polities, which is much more pragmatic – despite the ideological slants of its members – in the interest of preserving the stability of the Associated Worlds and the approximate neutrality of its institutions.

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”.)

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)

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.

Po – “HULK SMAAAAAAAAASH!”

(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: 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.)