The bottom line for this whole thread[A Sad GOONS Announcement]can be boiled down to this; if I have an agenda, I expect that to not only be adopted by my allies but every bit as important to them as it is to me. This is the price I ask for giving them the exact same courtesy in return. That is not the wavelength the GOD-GOONS relationship was operating on, and it had to go. It hurt to do, and I absolutely wish everything I did as a leader was things I enjoyed doing, but it's not. This is a job, and the good comes with the bad.
That said, the treaty web is a malady, sapping the lifeblood from this planet. It entraps and entangles. It prevents. And, most criminally of all, it dictates. It defines who your friends are. It defines who you respect and who you don't. It divides the world into poles and ties you to people you may not have consented to.
The trend of politics in CN is that movement occurs multilaterally; WoTC, Karma, the World Wars, Unjust war, you name it, they all were effected on the coalition level. Thus, an approach to politics with a unilateral focus, such as the historical trend of signing non-chaining treaties with "friends", and not judging the political implications of "their friends", runs counter to the way politics actually occur. This carries with it the threat of having one's interests marginalized and one's movement paralyzed. If you aren't connected to the multilateral organizations purposefully and congruently you are left on the side lines, your ties become strained, or you end up being used in someone else's schemes.
Nothing is more indicative of the broken nature of our treaty structure than seeing alliances and blocs fight on both sides of a global conflict, or some alliances failing to enter altogether in the name of 'non-chaining'. So many alliances conduct their affairs with a unilateral yet mandatory approach that when the big multilateral organizations stir the whole system contradicts itself and you end up with many FA causalities as alliances process the new information and reform their ties with a mind to avoid a similar occurrence, using the same approach as before. We find many alliances rinsing and repeating after finding themselves the latest victim of political reality.
This historical trend of signing with 'friends' irregardless of their place on the web is the biggest threat that competitive balance faces today.
Politics relates to how power is used. Power is the ability to affect outcomes. Now more than ever, due to the diffusion of power amongst individual actors, alliances find themselves impotent to effect global outcomes. Movement, in terms of using the "declare war" and "spy" buttons, is paralyzed unless you target the unaligned, which in turn effects the character of the assault and limits the occurrence of competitive war.
This paralysis makes perfect sense when you consider the multilateral nature of politics contrasted to the unilateral approach of most alliances. The unilateral approach dictates that one is the center of one's treaty web. 'Z' alliance treaties alliance 'A', 'B', and 'C' (and usually many more), and their influence is diffused 3x. 'A' treaties 'D' & 'E', 'B' treaties 'F' & 'G', and 'C' treaties 'H' & 'K', further diluting the influence of treaty partner 'Z'. 'Z' wants little to do with 'H' or 'G', nor do 'A' 'B' or 'C' want much to do with each other, and so on. By its very nature the unilateral approach ignores other actors; they have tied themselves tight, purposefully ignorant of outside forces.
Historical analysis shows that multilateral organizations find these unilateral spheres to be easy prey. There tends to be some germ which sprouts a multilateral movement. The germ focuses intent and propels multilateral cooperation until critical mass is reached and the unilateral bystanders are caught up in its wake. An alliance either surfs the wave, wipes out in a mess, or breaks away from the mass and finds itself alone and adrift. Whatever course an alliance follows one thing is clear, the mandatory ties binding alliances unilaterally to the mass are strained and leveraged against its will because the alliance didn't connect itself purposefully and congruently to a multilateral organization.
Competitiveness refers to freedom of movement. Balance implies stability. Stability in this case refers to equality of opportunity. Equality of opportunity can only occur when all parties are fully conscious of their place in the social network we call CN. Competitive balance is then the conscious freedom of movement for each nation within the social network. Ignoring your friend's friends is to purposefully remain unconscious of your place in the social network, to purposefully (though granted unwillingly) decrease your own competitiveness. Maintaining only a small, elite, base of movers that act multilaterally creates imbalance; there are those few puppet masters, and a multitude of puppets.
The community has seen leadership on this front. From Xiphosis choosing congruency over convenience in the GOONS cancellation, Umbrella consolidating their sphere into PB through countless hours of diplomat work, Mushroom Kingdom cancelling all their treaties and marking out a path free of contradiction, or even the most current statement from Bob Janova regarding the future direction of Grämlins FA:
...snip... But yeah, much as we love TOP and still have feelings for those other alliances, a bloc tied into all corners of the web is not the way forward. We've been there and seen how that works out.
The way forward is clear thanks to those examples and many others. Diplomatic work is much more than answering the question "Do I like these guys", it is "Do I like these guys, and their friends". Each alliance is a synthesis of their friends, of all the forces tugging at their interests, you either accept them holistically and make room for them in your agenda, or you turn the blind eye via a non-chaining pact and get swept up in the inevitable tide.