Being serious for a second (though I dont know why im bothering here) the real problem with threads like this it is mostly outsiders commenting on relationships they arent a part of. If we put aside the 'spin' and 'pr points' motive of a topic like this and take it at face value, you essentially have people who dislike said alliances commenting on how they suck and dont think for themselves. Why dont they think for themselves? Because they are doing something *you* wouldnt do. You dont like MK, cant stand them, think they are evil. Whatever. As such, you cannot envision a scenario where MK has a genuine give and take friendship with someone else.
To those that know them, the idea that alliances as strong willed with independent smart membership/leaders and a strong community as alliances like TOP, NG, TLR, Umbrella (ODN though im biased there) are just blindly following MK... or are just trying to hide behind mk... is ridiculous. You dont have to like these alliances, but I dont see how anyone who interacts with them on a regular basis can actually seriously think they are mindless lapdogs.
Reality is rarely as black and white as you would make it out to be. In reality, MK's relationship with every alliance in this thread is complex and filled with genuine respect and also a give and take in terms of how it works. The idea that you can play back-seat quarterback and make sweeping judgements is ridiculous.
Ultimately, by dumbing down complex motivations and relationships into catch phrases all you are accomplishing is limiting your chance to actually understand your enemy (and thus perhaps beat him)
(Pre-emptive apology to OsRavan for the heavy cutting of his original post.)
I found some of OsRavan's points to be very solid, and my general approval of his post caused me to write this entry. Unlike the original thread this is OOC (the rationale in OsRavan's post probably came from an OOC angle as well, anyway).
I don't want to write a wall of text and I'll limit myself to "briefly" (lol) touch three main points, which IMHO have much to do with the debate over "lapdogs". They're the Imperialism "Temptation", the divide et impera method and the Prisoner's Dilemma mechanism.
- The "Imperialism Temptation" (see: Offensive Realism) is just the tendency of any power to achieve hegemony to increase its security. To my understanding, during "Pax Pacifica" the NPO continuously worked to isolate and to neutralize every possible rival. After their fall, a turbulent multi-polar period saw the eventual rise to power of the MK/DH power cluster. The fall of SuperFriends is still relatively recent and the core of the (currently) major power cluster doesn't really look that unbreakable (at least from an outsider's perspective): I am thus uncertain whether we're really living the end chapter of the after-Pacifican era, or we're still in the midst of that turmoil. I don't presume that I know.
What serves the point of this entry is anyway just that every alliance and bloc has always tried to achieve security either by being/leading a credible claimant to the hegemonic throne - if they thought they stood a (good) chance - or by attaching themselves to someone more promising (either to wait for a better chance or just to stay around). This isn't "being a lapdog" because of some psychological defect (otherwise we'd "all" be defective wait maybe we are), but it's just "playing by the unwritten rules" of CN politics.
- One method to pursue hegemony is to divide your rivals. Everyone tries to do this (or they should) and those more successful in it are usually those that emerge at the top.
An hegemonic core will always tend to keep its enemies divided - that's obvious - but they'll also most likely try to prevent their friends too from getting "too close" one with the other. Friends are rivals as well!
This means that the "tolerated" standard is a prevalence of bonds with the core and a minimal presence of bonds between different proxies. Friends that became "too active" in creating bonds with other proxies of the main core will start to be considered too independent, and they'll likely become a target in the future. Note that they might not be military targeted, as political manoeuvres might be enough to keep them isolated and/or to bring them to "reason".
Again, alliances or groups that have limited links with everyone but the core hegemony aren't "lapdogs by vocation": they're just aware of the invisible limits to their political action, and/or they can't cross that line (at least for now).
- A third very important concept is the very powerful Prisoner's Dilemma. Simply put, there's a high risk in being among the first that go against the hegemony, and you need to make a lot of effort to successfully topple it; it's much "better" to wait for a credible alternative to build up and to then join them. The end result is obviously that stagnation generally reigns for long times, with (relatively) short periods with more action (see: Karma). I think that the long period without a clear hegemony that followed Karma is more the sign that the grab for power was more difficult then expected, than the sign of an intrinsic instability of the overall political system.
But, do I have any conclusion?
Well, I'll start with some negatives.
I disagree with Prodigal Moon that "lapdogs" are the result of a need for "social approval". Social approval is a powerful glue - a tool - but not the drive (it's not a goal).
I disagree with Roq that points of contention get pushed aside because there's no will to be independent. They get pushed aside - and they may be stored away for future use, for what I know - because people don't want to fall from the hegemon's grace and to burn to make a point, but they want to increase their influence and eventually, if and when it will seem possible, make the hegemon burn to "make their point": it's realpolitik, not "being structural followers".
I again disagree with Roq that the lack of an "appropriate King of the Mountain mentality" is the issue here. While indeed there are alliances that (for realism) don't aspire to become the hegemon, everyone wants to be safe. The combination of mechanisms that "block" CN politics (if it's blocked for real) is what I tried to sketch above. It's not a lack of ambition as we definitely have a lot of parties with a lot of ambition.
The "positive" conclusion is that the above drives/mechanisms work better because CN is "old", and being on the receiving end of a beating is now much worse than what it was years ago, hence people are less inclined to take risks and more inclined to just attach themselves to the hegemony. This is not true in general, but it's mostly correct on a scale wide enough to severely affect the game.
I personally think that a few political inventions may change this situation (not the "current hegemony", but the mechanism that tend to produce stable hegemonies in general). They're not easy to perform (if they were they would have been already performed!)
- People may try to devise new political constructions centred on cooperation instead of rivalries. Creating structures that ensure the safety of your group(s) without the need of becoming an empire would help others to join your cause - or rather: to become a part of a cause with you - without the fear of being later put in your black list. Because there wouldn't be any "you" and "me" anymore.
- People may continue to try foster multilateral interaction at every level. An hegemony can exercise control only up to a certain extent, and they simply can't really prevent everyone from creating links if the dynamic is too fast and widespread. In a certain sense, working to sterilize the links of your current "enemies" can be counter-productive in the long run, as compared to working to extend and increase your (or even everyone's) bonds.
- The Prisoner's Dilemma is instead very difficult to overcome. We'd need structural changes to the game that made it possible for the runner ups to close the gap with the most powerful nations/alliances/blocs in a reasonable time. Unless the treasuries inflation and the tech gap are properly addressed, we're in for a long wait on that aspect. It is anyway still possible to work to break the unity of "the 1%" and to try to have the stat hegemons spread among multiple actors. I wouldn't tell you how to do it even if I had ideas on it (which I don't have).
The path (at times attempted) to try befriend neutrals with "strong" top layers is instead doomed to fail, due to two very good reasons: neutrals aren't interested in CN politics, or they wouldn't be neutral; often they can't fight very well, and/or they aren't really that well equipped - wonders and money - and they'd just inflate one party's NS and self-confidence.)
A final "joke":
Whatever alliance you are in... I can point to someone and call you their lapdogs.
Really? I challenge you to name whose I'd be the lapdog of...