Note: This essay requires a basic understanding of the principles of civilization laid out in the Meaning of Freedom.
Back in 2016 I briefly suggested what could lead to a revival of moralism here:
"I do think that any rejuvenation of moralism won't be by that name or necessarily looking much like Dajobo's NpO or the Cult of Justicia, but will instead be a result of tired nations choosing for themselves alliances with stable and codified FA approaches."
My comment was ignored, but as the subject came up recently, I thought this would be a chance to discuss my thoughts on the issue. When the concept of Realpolitik comes up, images of immoral Machiavellian plots and shady back-alley scheming no doubt comes to mind. But when we examine the origins of the term...
The term Realpolitik was coined by Ludwig von Rochau, a German writer and politician in the 19th century. His 1853 book Grundsätze der Realpolitik angewendet auf die staatlichen Zustände Deutschlands describes the meaning of the term:
The study of the forces that shape, maintain and alter the state is the basis of all political insight and leads to the understanding that the law of power governs the world of states just as the law of gravity governs the physical world. The older political science was fully aware of this truth but drew a wrong and detrimental conclusion—the right of the more powerful. The modern era has corrected this unethical fallacy, but while breaking with the alleged right of the more powerful one, the modern era was too much inclined to overlook the real might of the more powerful and the inevitability of its political influence.
Historian John Bew suggests that much of what stands for modern realpolitik today deviates from the original meaning of the term. Realpolitik emerged in mid-19th century Europe from the collision of the enlightenment with state formation and power politics. The concept, Bew argues, was an early attempt at answering the conundrum of how to achieve liberal enlightened goals in a world that does not follow liberal enlightened rules.
This essay will primarily address the bolded text above: If we accept that the Imperium represents a form of post-revolutionary enlightenment, then how do we advance our way of playing in a contemporary world that has often rejected morality? What is morality?
The Producerist Renaissance
Producerism represents a renaissance of classical CN materialism as first interpreted by Vladimir, from the viewpoint of the modern liberated tech producer and our upper-tier supporters. At first glance, materialism and morality wouldn't seem to share much in common. The Moralism described during the Cult of Justitia era was often divorced from an analysis of material reality. As a result, it tended to lose value as it became a rhetorical weapon used conveniently against one's more powerful adversaries.
As wryly stated by one critic of Moralism:
Some of the arbitrary positions taken by moralists, such as an anti-raiding stance against non-aligned nations, were based more on feelings than the material reality of the world. In the case of the Imperium, there have been times when raiding ended with the recruitement new members. These new members were then able to achieve a greater potential for economic growth and cultural development than was possible in the dark, dangerous existence of the <5000 NS zone.
So, we are not interested in morality without substance.
The Threat of the Sociopath
However, there were and continue to be cases of nation rulers and even major alliances with a functional understanding of material reality completely divorced from any sort of morality. While the moralists could sometimes be a nuisance, the more sociopathic members of the global community would prove to be a real threat. On a more isolated level, rogues like Khan understand how to leverage their upper-tier warchests to cause maximum destruction to smaller nations. Bands of pillagers ranging from Mushqaeda to Monsters Inc have dominated much of the political discussion over the last few years. Wars like the Plutocratic War waged against the Imperium caused much more lasting damage that took months to repair.
From the perspective of a sociopath, why attempt a productive existence when one can wreak seemingly unlimited destruction?
The answer is the fact that according to most studies, more than 95% of the population is not sociopathic. The majority of nation-rulers are loyal members of their alliances, follow the rules, and otherwise participate constructively. Although many nation-rulers don't necessarily understand advanced concepts like material analysis, they intuitively understand the basics related to it such as the need for mutual stability in order to grow their nations.
National Self Interest
While individuals have different preferences, desires and goals, all nations have the same basic self-interests as outlined by Vladimir:
"The self-interest of every nation is to remove itself from the state of nature: to give up its absolute freedom with the resulting removal of perpetual terror. It is in doing this that the individual nation will naturally come to sign a social contract and band together with other nations in an alliance, which allows them to concern themselves less with the matter of survival and instead concentrate on achieving their potential in other fields."
The sovereign is charged with the necessity of lifting member-nations out of Chaos, the state of nature:
"The sovereign thus becomes the centre that the rest of the alliance revolves around. It is a sovereign and only a sovereign that can have the strength and authority to provide stability in the face of the natural conflict that goes on all around it, both inside and outside of the alliance."
Realpolitik as defined by John Bew is inseparable from morality. Our enlightenment is centered around the idea that progress is based on the "forward march of civilisation against the barbarism of absolute freedom." Our first duty therefore is the protection of our comrades, whether we are an Emperor or a new recruit, this duty remains the same. Even when the use of military force offensively is necessary, it is predicated on self-defense, which is why the Casus Belli is required to explain why an offensive war is necessary to our collective defense.
The Conditional Treaty
A war of aggression should not be unconditionally supported. One of the major problems with the treaty web is that a series of MDoAP links together alliances in a way that can drag an otherwise unobservant alliance into a conflict that isn't in its own self-interest. Alliances should never find themselves baited into joining a conflict, nor should they be unthinkingly chained into a conflict some distant ally of an ally started. The term meatshield came into use because of the tendency of some alliances to support a treaty partner unwaveringly without regards to the context of the operation, thus dissipating resources and weakening the membership.
ODoAPs and MnDoAPs (nonchaining) tend to be wiser. In the case of the Imperium, we will always provide some level of support to allies, whether diplomatic assistance, rebuilding aid, or military action. However, we have no intention of ever being dragged into unwinnable conflicts with unclear political objectives at the cost of our own membership.
There are of course risks inherent with the conditional treaty approach: One can find themselves isolated in the event of a "curbstomp," and it takes a high level of activity to maintain the alliance against an attack. Many alliances choose the "meatshield" path because it is easier, but in doing so they cede a certain degree of their sovereignty, and in effect, sacrifice their own ambitions to become a satellite.
However, with active leadership in place, a reliance on conditional treaties provides increased political flexibility and the opportunity to pursue a morally consistent realpolitik agenda. This means a membership that is less prone to war fatigue and more willing to fight when it really counts.
In an ideal world, all major political actors would act in the same manner the Imperium does. However, as John Bew noted, we find ourselves trying to advance enlightenment goals in an world that is sometimes outright hostile to them. Thus our realpolitik stance is our attempt to navigate the dangerous politics of CN, true to our principles, without being stomped out of existence.
The Imperium was formed from the merger of ancient alliances like MCXA and LoSS. As we defend and advance this tiny surviving faction of civilization, we have found that morality and realpolitik have organically grown intertwined from the success of the stability we imposed in our corner of the world.