Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Ways To Wage War

Attack and kill everyone on the other side unless they kill you first? There are better ways. In Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization, the Schotani Empire never launches its planned attack on the Terran Empire because one of its leaders has captured Dominic Flandry during a preliminary intelligence-gathering operation. Flandry, soon becoming not a mere captive but a confidante and adviser, sabotages the enemy empire by fomenting conflicts within it.

In SM Stirling's Dies The Fire, Juniper Mackenzie pulls a comparable stunt against the dictatorial "Protectorate" albeit that Juniper's approach is considerably more benign than Flandry's. By taking prisoners, then offering them a favorable resettlement deal, she incites conflict between those on the other side who want to surrender to her and those who think it more prudent to stay with the Protector.

Juniper's strategy is both intelligent and based on military intelligence. She knows that many people are with the Protector only because they have not yet been offered an alternative. This approach contrasts sharply with the wishful thinking of Anderson's Lord Hauksberg who expects to find a pro-peace party among the Merseians!


David Birr said...

In H. Beam Piper's *Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen*, one of Kalvan's tactics was to see to it that the enemy princedoms got the secret of how to make gunpowder, which until he came along had been the "religious" rite of the (very corrupt) church known as Styphon's House. He did this because Hostigos, the princedom Kalvan supported, was already marked for destruction by Styphon's House ... but any other land that started making its own "fireseed" rather than buying it from the priests would soon be on that list too. Trouble for the other small countries from the priests of Styphon; trouble for Styphon's House from the princes who noticed that Kalvan's brand of fireseed was OF BETTER QUALITY.... Ideally, Hostigos' enemies would get too busy stabbing EACH OTHER in the back to coordinate an assault on the Hostigi.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Nice, how you alluded to Anderson's "Tiger By The Tail." But, the planet SCOTHA was conquered and unified by the Frithian kings.

And the thing to remember about Stirling's books is, like Anderson, he does not create STUPID villain. I don't want to say too much, but Juniper will find her plan to sow dissensions inside the Protectorate largely nullified. But I will let you find out how that happened!

One thing we don't see all that often in Stirling's works are "villains" possessing a tragic nobility and dignity in defeat. Such as the Rahidian general and his colleague the civil viceroy in THE WINTER OF THE WORLD. But that was because they were not bad men, not actually villains.

I think the closest we see to that in Stirling's works is Eric von Shrakenberg, a decent man trapped in a vile culture who loved his people despite their atrocious beliefs. Eric spent his whole life trying to preserve some remnants of decency in his people and hoping the vicious ideas and institutions of the Domination would begin to fade away.