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My take on (our) Neutrality

Posted by jerdge , in GPA, IC, OOC 13 December 2011 · 378 views

I am one of the GPA members that most speak with other people, and every once in a while I am asked if the GPA likes/dislikes some other alliance, whom we'd like to hit and such.
The last time I answered to this, on the forums of another alliance, I came up with a bit of a wall of text that I think explains rather well my point of view on the issue, and which is also probably near to some of the best and most honest answers you can get from any long term true GPA member.
It's not an official stance, though (if you want one, please ask our President).

Without further ado, here is an adaptation of what I posted on that forum (I basically just removed an example, to shorten it a bit).
Those of you that (like me) care about it can consider it "mostly" (not entirely) IC.

  • Q. Just for !@#$% and giggles - if you (GPA) were ever to decide to go to war or involve yourselves in politics - which "side" do you find yourelves more in support of - what alliances do you guys like / dislike - is there anyone you guys would love to roll ??

    A. The only side I've ever seen "supported" in the GPA is the GPA one. Our membership, while often aware of the general aspects of CN politics, usually doesn't know exactly what the "sides" are about and why they were formed in that way in the first place. At each war we always have people asking about the reasons behind it.

    As we don't have any FA preference, members usually end up liking/disliking other people for specific reasons. Our Ambassadors, for example, usually have a kind attitude towards the alliances they are assigned/went to, and at times there's some disliking that arises when someone else is perceived as being hostile towards the GPA.

    Without having any specific data/evidence at hand I'd say that many of us probably feel sympathy for the other neutrals or semi-neutrals (WTF, TDO, GOP, OBR, Pax Corvus, Créole etc.) but that's just a series of individual attitudes (which I am not even sure about) and not a characteristic of the alliance as a whole. Those of us that deal with foreign tech also like alliances that stay at peace, for obvious reasons of reliability.

    The GPA likes peace, for several reasons. Many don't spend that much of the time in CN (and couldn't thus very well cope with war); many others like nation building more than anything else (if you don't dislike math it's way more interesting than war, IMHO); others like the challenge of going alone and peaceful in an often violent environment, protected practically only by the "soft power" of our hard-earned reputation of trustworthiness; others again are RL pacifists, etc.
    Our culture is strongly against war and we wouldn't like attacking anyone else unless it was necessary to defend our way of life, thus there's nobody that "we would love to roll".

  • Q. If you, as a neutral alliance, were to attack any other alliance in the game one on one, who would it be, and why??.

    A. As said above, in principle no one. I can tell whom we'd never attack no matter what: everyone that leaves us alone.

    I can also imagine that, in case we had absolutely strong and irrefutable evidence that someone is threatening us, if we could think that we may have a good chance at averting the threat with a first-strike attack and we had the reasonable expectation to not destroy our reputation, or to jeopardize our status among the alliances - well - in that case it would probably make sense to attack the threat military, and to be over with it.
    However, that scenario is absolutely improbable. For one we don't routinely go around collecting intelligence, thus we are unlikely to have any strong evidence about anything (people talk with us and you know there's a lot of gossip going around CN at any given time, but that's not the kind of thing that can give anyone any certainty).
    An enemy that we could put down with a pre-empt would also have to be weaker and unconnected, thus the very rationale behind an attack would logically fall apart: much better to let them attack and have that blame fall on them.
    Going on the aggressive wouldn't be taken well by many parties, a lot of which are absolutely influential. We have no desire to have an "imperialistic" FA - not only because it would be suicidal for a neutral, but mostly and especially because of the culture I was talking of above - and it would be terribly silly and counter-productive to have the look of having an aggressive/imperialistic agenda we're not even interested in.

    Finally, the GPA has a strong government but also a long tradition of democratic discussion. Were we attacked the President would have all the powers s/he needs, and the backup of all the alliance, but an attack on our part would need a long discussion that would never end in a great support for the action (most likely the opposite). This obviously leads to all the problems you can imagine about the opsec, the quickness and the internal political impetus that any aggressive action badly needs, to have a chance to succeed. The GPA is basically structurally unable to attack other alliances, and she will never have the will to do so.

You can BTW take this occasion to ask other Questions. Be anyway aware that you'd be asking them to me, not "to the GPA".

Finally, a small ooc "notice of service": this blog entry apart, I am going to mostly desert these forums from now on and probably for a while, just for lack of time. I doubt that many will notice it, anyway.

Alfred von Tirpitz
Dec 13 2011 10:05 AM
Is there a way by which a rank and file GPAer would be allowed to participate in the IC areas of the owf?
Dec 13 2011 10:29 AM
Damn neutrals being neutral.

Is there a way by which a rank and file GPAer would be allowed to participate in the IC areas of the owf?

We have a long standing blanket gag order, but the term before this one saw some news in that: the MoFA set a framework for any member to basically apply for a "posting permit".
It's still in alpha, though, and I am not sure of a possible term for it to become operative.
Emperor Whimsical
Dec 13 2011 02:15 PM
Are you excited to take first in score?
Is the rising popularity of NO-CB wars a reason for concern for the GPA? This current global war has seen many instances where alliances have been declared on who were not involved in the war or if they were involved they had no direct impact or connection to the people that ended up attacking them.

In a nutshell do you feel a woodstock masacre 2.0 could be brewing with the changing social standards in CN?

Are you excited to take first in score?

It isn't because we had any special growth, but rather it's IRON and then MHA which were/are involved in the current global war, so it isn't that much exciting to me - I don't feel proud or anything.
Maybe it's also because it's not the first time I am in an alliance that gets to the top (I was in the MHA when they/we seized #1).
I also think it won't last much, once the war is over. IRON and MHA will probably both retain the ability to overcome us again quite "quickly", and we don't have the numbers to go faster then them.

Is the rising popularity of NO-CB wars a reason for concern for the GPA? This current global war has seen many instances where alliances have been declared on who were not involved in the war or if they were involved they had no direct impact or connection to the people that ended up attacking them.In a nutshell do you feel a woodstock masacre 2.0 could be brewing with the changing social standards in CN?

This is actually a very complex matter.

In short, the GPA safety is based on her neutrality: as we don't really take part in the power struggle, people has one less reason to want to fight with us.

As a matter of fact, the GPA choice for neutrality is ideological, based on the belief that peace and diplomacy are more apt for civilized people, and that in case of conflict of interest with someone else it is better to try find a compromise through negotiation, than to just count on the "safety through allies" paradigm.
Surprisingly to most, it also generally works! It's an unintentional - but welcome - by-product of our ideology.
Everyone by now knows very well that the GPA can't be considered a threat even by the craziest standards, and the lack of scarce resources to fight for (which are basically absent from the game mechanics) also removes another possible reason of conflict with us.

We aren't anyway really guaranteed to be safe. As you put it, people might want to fight us with "no reason", or rather no reason that most people would call rational. "WoPII" is possible and - given enough CN time - even probably inevitable at some point.

The GPA defence is based on a (small) "hard" (military) power and a "soft" power which is very difficult to quantify.

The hard power logic works on the ability to inflict punitive damage to aggressors, and is effective as long as potential aggressors find it inconvenient to attack us.
While we're not a militaristic alliance, the game mechanics and the tech level of several GPA nations ensure that the top layer of the aggressors would suffer significant damage in any possible configuration (if you ask our MoD - which is me - to quantify that "significant", he'll surely decline to comment...)
Parties that intended to fight with the GPA should thus accept to be damaged, which can or not be acceptable to them according to the global balance of power - after all, generally no one wants to jeopardize their chances in the global race to grab power, by fighting a war that they could have very easily avoided.
This means that attacking the GPA becomes non-inconvenient if the attackers can muster a greatly overwhelming force and they also have a definite dominance over the global game, or if they don't care about compromising their strategic positioning. This second possibility comes into play if people start really believing in the "end of days rhetoric", i.e. they don't care about bleeding military relevance because they're convinced that the game is about to end (for everyone, or for them). There's objectively very little that we could do to avoid that this happens, but at least we have the comfort of knowing that, even in that case, our adversaries will be defeating themselves by giving up on the game and by willingly abandoning the competition.

The soft power logic works on the ability to damage the reputation of aggressors. While I don't by any means underestimate the importance of hard power, I consider it complementary of the soft power, which is the real drive that allowed the GPA to be attacked only once in almost six years of existence.
The WoP didn't happen by chance and it wasn't improvised. The attackers were at the height of their power and they were able to gather the greatly overwhelming force I was talking of above - to which you have to add that they had the advantage that nuclear first strikes were still socially unacceptable. They had a solid control over the CN forums and they had effectively driven any cultural opposition off them, with the few dissenting voices still existing systematically drowned in propaganda, and made pariah. There wasn't any other bloc or cluster that could be credibly considered to be a rival to their one.
Even in that "optimal" situation they didn't strike out of the blue, but they first engaged in a long campaign of cultural attrition, discrediting the GPA faithfulness to her neutrality and painting her as a "threat". Only at the end of it, they attacked.
This is because they valued the power of words, in this game of words.

While a lot of people claim that their reputation isn't important, or they believe that their reputation wouldn't suffer that much for an attack on the GPA, in reality solid, long-lived successful leaders can't take the luxury of ignoring moral support. CN is a game of words more than anything else, and human beings generally don't like to think of themselves as "evil". Leaders can of course pursue an "evil" agenda (nothing bad, it's a game), but they can't ignore that most of the CN populace (their and of their allies) has a much simpler approach to the game, which isn't that keen against openly harming harmless people.
This is IMHO valid for several alliance leaders (some of which are more or less, but not insignificantly, influential), for a lot of the politically active group, and also for the silent masses that don't really care much for the game, and usually just lend their raw power to their leaders.
In the current situation an unprovoked attack on the GPA is IMHO still bound to cause a violent PR hit, with a lot of people (most of them external to the GPA) being very loud against the attackers. I also believe that in case of need we can put out a more than respectable opinion-making structure, and I personally have a couple of ideas to help that PR hit to really hurt. Simply put, truth will be on our side and that's a great advantage.

Then it can anyway be that some party can again put the public opinion under their control. Or, similarly to the military angle, people can attack without caring about the severity of the PR (= political) hit associated with it.
In this case too we can't really ensure anything, other than being content that we will again emerge to the light at some point.

Not to brag about anything, but just to state what I think to be the simple reality, the GPA is absolutely stable and it's really hard - next to impossible - to permanently harm her.
Back to the War on Peace, despite all the preparedness of the attackers and the severity of the hit, the GPA survived. More, the GPA culture remained untouched. Not even for a moment the Agency lost her faith in neutrality and peace, the Constitution that was "imposed" over her was actually crafted in full accordance with the GPA pristine values, as proved by the fact that only a few adjustments became necessary with time (it actually provided a better governance than the previous one), and in the end the heavy reparations couldn't prevent a fast recovery.
Now, of course I don't claim that the WoP was a GPA "victory"! Literally hundreds of players were lost and that is one of the greatest tragedies that ever hit this game. In the end, though, the GPA way of life continued and thrived again, in the meanwhile the aggressors lost grip on their power and, when Karma struck them down, the GPA proved that they were wrong with their accusations, simply by not seeking revenge on them.

From a cultural point of view the GPA held to their values despite her despairing situation, and she eventually emerged free. This is what I expect to happen in any future case, and this is the strong terrain on which we build our future day after day.
Wow, this is really interesting. Thanks.

Q: Would you expect other neutrals to think differently on these issues? Why or why not? Is that ever a topic of conversation between you? (i.e. do you think a different stance on neutrality could work equally well?)
There is a respect afforded those who stand on principle that is unattainable for those who do not.

Q: Would you expect other neutrals to think differently on these issues? Why or why not? Is that ever a topic of conversation between you? (i.e. do you think a different stance on neutrality could work equally well?)

Well, I actually don't know about them.
I think (=/= "know") that WTF has a more laid back attitude. I imagine they just don't care much about politics, and they think that a war coming to them would just be a war, they'd just fight it and be over with it.
I have no idea about TDO or Pax Corvus.
GOP and semi-neutrals (like OBR and Créole) have probably again another attitude, that I'd imagine more based on military readiness. I for one wouldn't like to have to mess with Hime Themis.
Finally, it's IMHO not imaginable that anyone even just thinks of bothering GC or Ubercon.
Sorry if I am forgetting some other neutral...

Anyway keep in mind that all of these are just conjectures on my part. To answer to your second question no, we never discuss these things with any of them.

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