This part of a new series called Practical Ethics, which will be about the ethics of affairs across the Cyberverse.
This entry will be on poaching, which for the purposes of this article is defined as soliciting a member of a foreign alliance to join your alliance without that alliance's explicit permission to do so. The question is whether this is ethically permissible. This is actually a rather complicated question because for many the gut reaction is to say no, but it brings up issues of consent, ownership, and even the nature of alliances themselves.
What does it mean to be a member of an alliance? Does being a member give that alliance exclusive rights over you? It seems that the answer is yes. Joining an alliance does mean giving up certain freedoms, and it certainly gives alliances the right to a level of control over you and your nation, but the interesting question is where does this end? How much control is really turned over upon joining? There must be a limit as nations can and do leave alliances and join others. Certainly there is a limit to be found there. That limit is that alliances can never really possess ownership. Alliances never own their members, which means that those members don't give irrevocable exclusive rights to the alliances that they join. Because of this, nations can revoke those rights and grant them to another. By virtue of this, can others solicit nations to exercise their ownership?
While nations possess a right of revocation, if you will, this doesn't necessarily mean that foreign alliances can solicit its use. For one, only the nation can exercise it and until they do, the alliance it is currently in possesses exclusive rights, that, while revocable, are valid until revoked. So do alliances have as one of these exclusive rights the right to exclusive communication with their members? It seems difficult to justify this because a right to exclusive communication hardly seems necessary to the functioning of an alliance, and nations really only grant those rights which are truly necessary to the functioning of an alliance when joining. Any rights that are not necessary are never granted by implication, they must be explicitly granted by a given nation, and are not automatically provided upon joining. To state otherwise would be to violate principles of consent by assuming too much without reason to do so. No reasonable nation would assign rights beyond which are necessary for membership itself since it can be assumed that reasonable people will want to reserve as many rights to themselves as they can.
If alliances do not normally possess the right to exclusive communication, then other alliances would be within their rights to message nations with solicitations of membership. However, there is a massive caveat to this. If alliances do not possess this right, then nations do, which means that they must, by implication, have the right to control communication with themselves. So they can decide not to accept such solicitations, and alliances should respect this stance because to do otherwise would be to harass, which by definition is unwanted communication. I think we can all agree that harassment is something that is not ethically permissible.
What it comes down to is this: poaching is allowed in the sense that alliances do not really have the right to control who their members communicate with, but that said nations do have such a right and thus nations, and not alliances, decide when poaching is over the line and when it isn't. By default (i.e., in the absence of a nation deciding to exercise its rights over who may communicate with it), poaching is ethically allowed as there is nothing inherent to alliance membership to indicate otherwise, and there would have to be if it was by default not ethically permissible.