Saturday, 12 August 2017

How The Terran Empire Might Go Wrong

See The Imperial Gardener and The Widow Of Georgios by Sean M. Brooks.

"'Does Molitor imagine we'll never get another Olaf or Josip on the throne?' the Gospodar rumbled. 'A clown or a cancer...and, once more, Policy Board, Admiralty, civil service bypassed, or tyrannized, or corrupted. If we rely on the Navy for our whole defense, what defense will we have against future foolishness or tyranny? Let the foolishness go too far, and we'll have no defense at all.'
"'Doesn't he speak about preventing any more civil wars?' Kossara ventured.
"Bodin spat an oath. 'How much of a unified command is possible, in practical fact, on an interstellar scale? Every fleet admiral is a potential warlord. Shall we keep nothing to stand against him?' He stopped. His fist thudded on a rail."
-Poul Anderson, A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows IN Anderson, Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Knight Of Terra (Riverdale, NY, 2012), pp. 339-606 AT p. 408.

They nearly do have another Olaf on the throne because, later, Olaf Magnusson tries to overthrow Gerhart! But we gather that there was an Emperor Olaf - and that he was a clown?

A bad Emperor can bypass, tyrannize or corrupt the Policy Board, the Admiralty and the civil service; a fleet admiral can become a warlord. The Pax is precarious.


David Birr said...

Note, however, that although the assessment of the Empire in that discussion is accurate — empires are like that — the conversation isn't necessarily REAL ... it occurs among the memories Aycharaych implanted. It may be made up of things Miyatovich actually said in anger, but Kossara later recovers the memory of another talk in which he expresses firm loyalty to the Terran Empire, saying the only options are Terra, chaos, or being enslaved by Merseia.

Paul Shackley said...

Yes, especially since, in the part that I did not quote, Bodin goes on to say that another civil war may be necessary...

S.M. Stirling said...

A bad ruler who has a high degree of formal power can do very bad things, but it depends on the actual circumstances, which are never precisely aligned with theory.

For example, when Frederick the Great died, a bundle of laws and decrees was found among his effects, tied up in a bundle with a note reading: "None of these every implemented or carried into effect, to the best of my knowledge."

Particularly in a state with a large bureaucracy, there are innumerable opportunities for covert opposition, foot-dragging, willful stupidity, hostile leaking, and so forth.

In the Spanish Empire there was a saying: "These orders to be obeyed, of course, but not put into practice." With communications between Madrid and, say, Chile or the Philippines taking a year or more, you could work up a lot of delay!

So for a ruler to actually accomplish anything can take sustained pressure, which requires hard work.

And even if the government is theoretically an absolutism, if the ruler PO's enough important people, something will happen to him -- several Roman Emperors provide examples.

The main way bad rulers cause disasters is by making bad policy decisions. Starting wars on inadequate information, for example.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, DAVID and Paul!

David, now that was interesting, that what Kossara THOUGHT she remembered might actually have been, at least in part, false memories implanted in her mind by Aycharaych's agents. I never thought of that before.

And, yes, I too remember that part of A KNIGHT OF GHOSTS AND SHADOWS where the Gospodar declared Dennitza had only three choices: Terra, the Troubles, or the racist tyranny of Merseia, and he picked Terra.

I also remember Miyatovich telling his niece that he was determined never to make important decisions when he was angry about something (such as Emperor Hans proposal to unify command of all military forces directly in the hands of the Imperium. And I agree with the Gospodar that it was good for Dennitza to have its fleet, that it was not realistically possible to centralize control of all armies and fleets from Terra. And in fact the book ends with it being implied Hans came to agree with Bodin on this matter.

Paul, you're right, if Olaf Magnusson had succeeded in seizing the throne unlawfully, there would have been another Olaf as Emperor. Bodin Miyatovich called that earlier Olaf a "clown," which makes me if he was inclined to be foolish and prankish, rather like Caligula or Elagabalus, to cite two Roman examples.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Dear Mr. Stirling,

I agree, for a ruler, whether bad or good, to EFFECTIVELY govern or do things takes hard work and determination. It would be so tempting to simply relax and go with the flow.

I remember Aaron Snelund discussing with Admiral Pickens in THE REBEL WORLDS how he found out the hard way how important a civil service was and how difficult it was to implement policies many bureaucrats privately disliked. He listed some methods of covert opposition almost the same as yours. Snelund could issue a top priority order and NOTHING would happen except endless requests for "clarification" of what he meant over the most minute details, memos being filed and forgotten, etc. It took Snelund years of hard work at being a bad governor before he goad McCormac into rebellion.


Paul Shackley said...

Anderson tells us Kossara's Aycharaych-influenced memories which are sometimes indistinct. Then she regains her real memories with Flandry's help.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

And I think some of Kossara's memories were edited to put a false slant on them. And Flandry and Chives restored a correction understanding of those memories.