War & Diplomacy: Two Sides of The Same Coin

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TECT

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Introduction

Hello. My name is Common Territories, but I often go simply by “TECT” (my nation’s full English acronym). I have roughly been a player of NationStates for over a decade with my first onsite RP presence debuting in 2011. You may simply refer to me field as an “Open World, Hardcore Realism, Modern Tech (MT)” player (which I roughly define as a more staunch approach to realism in the more loose open world setting) since my only onsite credentials is my World Assembly Commendation under SCR 284. I won’t bore you with my entire on/off site story, but long story short, my interest fields on NS delve in MT war, diplomacy, world/nation building, and my more famous sphere, Global Economics & Trade (GE&T). To be more specific, I am best known these days for creating storefronts such as Wolf Armaments, Royal Bancroft Bankcorp, and my original flagship, Commoner League Incorporated. Outside of storefronts/economics, I am known as the refounder/leader of the Imperion Coalition, leading member of the Santiago Anti-Communism Treaty Organization (SACTO), and for my more dated participation within regions/regional threads (Cornellia and Greater Dienstad to name two). Before making my own HQ Region for Open World activities, I resided in Adrastos before it collapsed. The only other notable public piece of information that comes to mind is that I am the focus of a meme simply referred to as “Wall of Text” or my version, “Wall of TECT;” originally an insult to my habit of writing overwhelming lengths of texts – if you haven’t already noticed, you probably will soon. So with that out of the way, I apologize if this article is overwhelming and if I go off topic at times to illustrate my points. My intention is to provide as much information as possible, thus this article will be… expansive.


Foundation

Although ninety-nine something percent of us weren’t around when the RPing forum was added to the NationStates forums, those original members helped found the basic norms we mostly follow to this day. Norms on NS change over time as new people arrive and older members like myself typically retire as adults. These norms and traditions include the very rules we live by as RPers, how we conduct ourselves in every subforum, and even the lesser known ones like how NationState Dollars/Universal Standard Dollar became a thing. It is also from these norms that we derive how In-Character (IC) conflicts happen; how the threads are created, what leads up to events IC, and how disputes both Out-Of-Character and IC are settled. Everything from why, how, and where these IC conflicts are fought also originate with previous RPer generations. I was lucky enough to meet some of the original people who fell within this category and I still know many of the following generation that many used to refer to as the “ancients.” That term and these people are often forgotten nowadays and I’ve been referred to as an ancient once or twice by newer players myself – an example on how RPer generations have continue to evolve. You may be asking why I bring up generations of RPers and their norms, confused by what this has to do with either war or diplomacy. The answer isn’t simple, but to try and narrow it down, there are two important reasons why RPer generations matter.

Firstly, RPer generations have differing sets of beliefs, atmospheres, and sometimes even quality. Just to touch upon those points, let me briefly go into detail about my own experience as a once newer RPer. Although I had earlier starting points on and offsite, my real flourishing point on NS was in late 2011, 2012, and 2013. Before those three years I was less serious and not dedicated about RPing but was still passionate at what I did take part in. During those three years I was broke down and rebuilt, then later taught by people who had been writing on NS for almost a decade themselves in many cases. Thus I took in their style as well as their beliefs throughout my earliest years. Even as 2011 rolled to an end, NS was still filled with a mostly dying breed of RPers who lived within an atmosphere of extra-regional powers, empires and alliances within loose hierarchy/popularity, wider open world connections, and almost everyone wanted to be the next big open world empire with connections or multiple colonies in other RP regions. I too strived to become one such nation in any way I could, mainly because my mentors, my idols, and even friends had achieved such statuses in the NS RP community. I find myself where I am today because of them and their teachings. Today’s atmosphere is totally different. Aside from myself and maybe a few others, I don’t personally know anyone who fits that same mold I do nor do I see it too often whenever I peruse open threads – even then I cannot recognize myself today with myself in 2012. At the same time, writing was often a competition of who wrote the best, who outsmarted who, and who won the war; not all in happy sportsman manner admittedly, but in the majority of cases it was shameful to not be fair or make a total ass of oneself. Just like a game of basketball against your best friend, you strive to beat them as best you can. Even if you lost you didn’t resent them or hold a grudge, you are friends to the core and enjoyed the competition as good fun. Competitive writers are a dying breed if they’ve not already been killed off by the changing times and the “anti-competitive/cooperative writing” culture who’s radicals were more vocal about wanting more competitive RPers like myself extinguished entirely. Im not entirely disheartened by some of these changes in the MT community, but some of these changes have (in my opinion at least) drastically harmed the community unintentionally. By no means am I non-cooperative, but at the cooperative revolution during 2012/13/14, the most radical elements had views on RPing I simply couldn’t align myself with.

The second reason, to touch upon the first reason and where it left off, is generational learning. In the past, new RPers came to NS after discovering the site while on vacation from school – summer and winter break typically – and I was one such player. Some time is typically spent before actually becoming serious about their RPing, but when they do become serious there’s typically two routes new players take. Both of these routes, although not entirely exclusive in theory at least, rely entirely on the older generation of RPers, similar to how you learn basic skills/norms from your parents, grandparents and community. The first route is self-teaching while the second is direct or community teaching. Learning from examples and copying their successes is a popular trait of the former while having a region/community or friend/mentor educate/guide you is an example of the ladder. While you can take both routes (I did for example), as noted just a moment ago, both paths rely heavily on more experienced RPers to teach the new blood how things work. Newer RPers learn how threads are made and run, how their nations should be built and operate, and even how you should interact with others in the realms of OOC; typically this is done through simple observation or by helpful discussion with the community, which is why I would also say taking both routes is common too. Thus, war and diplomacy trends and knowledge laid down by previous generations are passed on to newer players who either follow their educations strictly, or they mutate to some degree as they themselves gain experiences on NS. An issue I briefly hinted at before about unintentional harm done to the community for example are regions themselves. Regions themselves aren’t the problem, but the trend I see these last five years are regions becoming more and more recluse and closed off to the outside NS world. I don’t just mean the separation of canon from the NS World but also their OOC separation from the site itself. More and more regions are encouraging their members (sometimes by rules even) to abstain from open threads, GE&T, and some are going totally offsite to conduct their RPs. This is an off-topic point of interest I know, but the point im making here is that the reclusion of these RP regions, who often possess the most experienced RPers (active recruitment campaigns are a thing), has drastically cut out a sizeable amount of experienced RPers who would normally educate newer players personally rather by simple observations. Not every region is like this and I typically avoid generalizing, but even some other experienced players have noted to me that regions are becoming too exclusive (too “elite” is another term I’ve heard before) to newer players and the open world threads are losing more and more quality by the year. I’ve seen some more positive signs as of late regarding this fear, but time will tell if those fears are completely realized. My last note on this long winded off-topic subject is an open ended question to you the reader: “How many times have you seen people bashing open threads or the open world community as a whole?” For me this question has a simple answer, but I’d like to leave it there as food for thought and return the actual topic of this article now that I’ve explained generational influences on RPing and stressed their significance. This section will be referred to later on, so please keep that in mind once I eventually dive into the meat of war and diplomacy.

To finish off this long winded section, I’d like to briefly touch on the importance of realism when it comes to war and diplomacy in MT threads. For those who’re less familiar with the realism category (im not going to really mention any specific communities with said name), realism is as a definition is the realistic nature of the subject matter within an RP. For example, if I were writing a post about a tank battle on the plains of Europe during say the conflict in Ukraine (let’s say in 2018), Covenant dropships wouldn’t suddenly appear and drop wraiths in an effort to conquer humanity or aid any particular side. That is beyond unrealistic and a violation of so many norms/rules that a player would be corrected or asked to leave; namely this violates the old segregation of tech communities that has become more and more liberally enforced as of late, but that’s an entirely different discussion for another time. A truly realistic scenario, if one wanted to use a similar angle, would be Poland jumping into the war with its own tank units suddenly entering Ukraine in its defense. At the end of the day the question remains, “How likely is this to happen and can it be done?” MT is special in this way because one of the community’s greatest debates is “What’s the cutoff year for technology?” or “Is this tech/tank/weapon etc. allowed?” This topic is incredibly unique to MT simply because our tech, reality itself, changes year after year, becoming more and more difficult to place harder lines in the sand for people to follow than say more open centered tech levels or established communities in say FT. It’s why many people like myself conduct extensive research on topics such as planes, ships, and the technology behind them – we want to be on-point with whatever we say or do. So realism, with its faults and dissenters, is enshrined as a tenant to MT RPing in most communities and will be referenced continuously for that reason and because (in my opinion) I’m one of the stricter retainers of “Hard Modern Tech” that I personally know. It also wouldn’t be wrong to label me as hardheaded in that situation I suppose.


Introduction of Conflict: War & Diplomacy

Conflict, as it’s loosely defined by one internet search, is the clash or serious disagreement between two or more parties. Everyday there’s conflict erupting from the mightiest of scales to the lowest denominator. For example, Libya devolved into armed civil conflict on February 15th, 2011. That same day, I probably woke up tired for school as normal; while fighting was ongoing in the streets into the afternoon, I was conflicted on what to eat for breakfast if anything at all before school started. Too many people today seem to understand conflicts on an international scale between nations as merely being armed conflicts of varying scale. Those who’re hardly paying attention read or watch the news for a quick five minute snapshot of the situation and move on knowing very little of what’s actually happening on the ground. Maybe because of their lack of interest, terrible source, or simply because there isn’t a good source to view from. Today it’s easier to track armed conflicts because there are dedicated human intelligence reporters who either collect or share information on the ground all over the world. People who take the extra time to research will see there was plenty of backstory and events prior to February 15th, 2011 when the first Libyan Civil War erupted on paper. The same can be said about World War 2 where historians track events as far back as the 1920s to explain why the Second World War happened. War doesn’t simply erupt overnight because two nations hate each other, and there is hardly ever one simple reason a war happened. Mention the above two wars with twenty people and you’ll probably get twenty different takes on them if they actually know a thing or two about them. The reason I’m long winded on this is because NS for years now has been lax on the inclusion of the two subject matters, and introducing higher quality writing because of it. Sometimes one is left out entirely and doesn’t make up for it, other times it’s excluded on purpose and suffers the same results as the first, and sometimes writers lack the understanding/knowledge of both war and diplomacy to properly flesh out either. Missed opportunities and unimaginative plotting has even left out the fact that war and diplomacy doesn’t always require nation states or even agencies/bodies for conflict to happen/be RPed. Thus the overarching objective of this article is to at least get the “noggin joggin” as they say and give readers insight into how they can expand or add depth to their writing.

When coming up with the title of this article, I struggled with the topic and how to best illustrate it to the readers. That’s when the “two sides of the same coin” analogy came to mind. Thus I ask you to pick up a coin of any currency or collection you have and flip it. Heads or tails it does not matter because even though both have different faces on each side, they are worth the same amount at the end of the day. I can flip a penny right now and regardless if it lands on heads or tails I can spend that one cent coin on something at the store because at the end of the day that coin is currency before heads or tails. Just like a coin, war and diplomacy are not mutually exclusive to each other and in fact share the same field in any RP thread featuring conflict(s). The reality of the coin flip analogy is rooted in MT primarily because of MT’s base in reality itself. Thus it makes perfect sense to mirror reality as we know it here in real life to the NS world at large – to those who at least subscribe to traditional MT/realism anyways. It is the goal of every MT/realism player to reach a level of realism in their RPing, and to do that we tend to replicate what we see/learn from nations around the world. If this is the case, and my notions on conflict are correct, then nations in real life must have ways of fighting conflicts outside of the traditionally held notions of fighting major wars. Right? A question one must ask then is “how do nations fight conflicts then?”


Art of War & The Deal

In real life, conflicts between nations is an almost constant event; regardless if they’re military, political, or economic in nature. It’s also not untrue to say both war and diplomacy happen at the same time because even the Allies and Axis kept diplomatic channels open just in case talking became the preferred alternative to fighting. Alternatives is the key word here because nations go into conflicts knowing the capabilities of their foe while weighing their options, then they take action accordingly. Why? Because they’re aiming for a goal or a set of goals. That is why all conflicts are fought, regardless if they’re simple long-term goals a country wishes to achieve or if it’s a goal set by a certain leader or group of leaders; it doesn’t even matter if these goals are inherently flawed according to logic or a country’s people. Historians – or people in general honestly – often list out goals a nation had when waging a war, or going into a diplomatic meeting to renegotiate a deal – wrong, correct, off point, it doesn’t really matter. Both war and diplomacy are merely overarching pathways taken to achieve goals on a national/international scale. Thus we must keep that fact in mind when RPing nations. But you may be asking again, how do nations wage conflicts in reality?

As mentioned just now, a nation must have a goal in mind for starting a conflict. Maybe the leadership desires additional land, a better economic situation (such as better trade conditions or access to resources), political domination, or even the selfish political desire to appear powerful; of course there’s plenty more reasons for a conflict to happen, with arguments supporting or dissenting, but the point here is that all nations part of a conflict have specific goals (it’s usually never just one) they’re attempting to reach – there is no such thing as conflict without the clash of opposing goals. Next in the equation is determining the smartest, likely safest, way to achieving those goals. Sometimes the smartest isn’t the safest and the safest isn’t always the smartest. The largest mistake I see from players on NS is that war is the golden rule for all conflict on NS, or at least total war is the fated ending to a thread. Sun Tzu once said that “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” and that “The wise warrior avoids the battle.” War is not the only answer to conflicting goals and neither is diplomacy. One must be ready for war but also be receptive at the discussion table. Conflict as an event is best measured by “escalation.” Escalation, to define it for our purposes here today, is the measurement and appropriately measured response taken against an originating action. For example, an argument is escalated by the person who throws the first punch, or if one person personally attacks another where “low blow” insults had been avoided until then. The person who’s done this has set a new precedent in which violence, or personal insults, have become normalized and such actions have become a reasonable alternative to simply discussing disputes in a civil manner. To put this into perspective on a national/international stage, it would be the same as a nation enacting tariffs on another nation’s largest export to their country, and in response, that targeted nation enacts an even tougher tariff towards the original nation’s largest export product from that nation as a response; the first nation created a conflict by escalating trade relations, and the other nation responded by escalating tensions right back. To use a military example to further illustrate this concept, a small border conflict between two nations gets hotter because one nation started using heavy artillery instead of the commonly practiced exchange of small arms and infantry mortars. Typically this cycle continues until one side cannot withstand or tolerate the situation anymore and the conflict gets hotter, more direct, or is mutually walked away from – the conflict between India and Pakistan recently is a good example of this. War itself can be considered an escalation because diplomatic endeavors have been pushed heavily since the Second World War, leaving war to be considered the highest of escalations aside from escalations during wartime; of course smaller military actions could also fall under this category, but that depends if the defending party is willing to risk a larger confrontation and if the attacker is willing to withstand the backlash of such actions. Many conflicts today are continuations from larger overarching conflicts where norms have been established for years or even decades – the ongoing generational feud in Palestine/Judea is an excellent example of this. So to sum it up, knowing where the line sits and not crossing it is the solution to not causing escalation. Sometimes escalating is viewed as the correct solution, however, where in certain scenarios a victory is actually both achievable and worth the cost of escalating; maybe an opponent is too weak (in all or some regards) to meet with an appropriate response, or the only response an opponent can muster isn’t enough to deter the attacker’s aggression any longer. Knowing where both sides stand is part of knowing the realism of current standards and practices, but it’s also part of the OOC process to speak with your opponent to establish such boundaries/relationships – knowing is half the battle! But to sum all this information up and move along, nations have set goals they desire to achieve and they will push to realize them according to the value of the goal’s achievement measured against the escalation they cause while doing so and the retaliation they invite taking such actions. A good way to remember this equation would be to ask yourself if something you desire is worth achieving at the risk of time or cost; I wouldn’t go to another State to buy a meal but I would go to another town if I valued the meal enough. So now that we know nations having competing goals in mind create conflicts and those conflicts are fought with escalation in mind, how would a conflict actually look in reality?

Nations today are vastly more reserved than they were prior to the internet and the Second World War. The reality nowadays is that most governments think more about protecting their interests in the safest/softest ways possible than the people they govern. Governments will act but typically do so behind closed doors or incognito so that the actions they do take aren’t a spectacle. Publicity is often not enjoyed by governments fighting for goals that on the surface (and even below the surface often times) are clearly selfish and not entirely beneficial to their people. This is why diplomacy is more realistic and common than wars. Even smaller military actions like unilateral military decisions (missile strikes or special forces operations) have become more commonplace as ways to exert soft-power because it shows your enemy you’re willing to use military force to achieve your goals. Diplomacy often spills no blood, is handled behind locked doors out of sight from the public/media, all while goals (often concessions to demanded outcomes) are entirely or mostly met; when they’re not, governments can simply take narrative wins such as the appearance of strength or appear as charismatic negotiators. The simple reality is that war has become less favorable as means to achieving goals unless all other options fail because war is ugly, it drains resources and money, and winning the war doesn’t always mean long-term victory. Nations and their governments tend to not desire war anymore unless serious fervor demands it. An example of that would be 9/11. Many users (maybe most I suppose) are too young to remember 9/11 or they weren’t born yet, so maybe this isn’t the best example, but it’s one I will go with. America was shaken to its core deeper than any time since probably Pearl Harbor in 1941. People were terrified, the President was kept in the air to protect him from possible attack, and we didn’t know the full extent of what was happening that day. The aftermath of 9/11 was probably one of our most healthy periods, but that’s another story for another day. To finish the point I am attempting to make, Americans demanding the perpetrators be brought to justice, and if that meant war with a nation that harbored/protected them, so be it; the government itself couldn’t appear weak and had to act even if it didn’t want to, but there’s no doubt people in the government demanded similar action themselves knowing the reactions from leaders during the attacks and how some may have profited from the war on terror overall. Sure military action could have not happened in large if certain nations handed people over or helped in capturing them, but those countries had no interest in doing so among other reasons, thus we witnessed armed conflict in the aftermath of 9/11 that echoes to this day. To fill in my prior formula as an example using 9/11 as the base model: America had the goal of bringing the people who perpetrated 9/11 to justice, did so through measured escalatory actions that eventually led to armed conflict because America was willing to go to war to achieve its goals; although diplomacy with nations throughout the region and world happened extensively, the war on terror was highlighted by two invasions (three I guess now kinda) and other anti-terror military actions throughout the world.

You may be asking “What about diplomacy!?” Well as I noted, war and diplomacy are two sides of the same coin, thus they’re impossible to separate completely – which is why they’ve been intermingled thus far. But you’re right in that diplomacy has not been entirely explored yet and I apologize for the long winded rambling. I rambled, however, so that we can explore diplomacy as an option with a better mindset and available reference points for the remainder of this article and during Q&A. As I quoted earlier, Sun Tzu outlined that the smartest and most effective methods to win conflicts are avoiding the battlefield entirely. The less men, equipment, and supplies you lose the better and Sun Tzu knew this very well. Thus he liked to implement strategies that relied on trickery, diplomacy, and careful thought out processes that led to less bloodshed. What is the greatest way to avoid death and avoid spending resources in a conflict? Not going to war. Diplomacy is not always sitting at the table talking to your enemy until they give into your demands either. Actions need to happen or be taken to shift the balance of power in diplomacy. The United States for example has such weight in the field of diplomacy because it has the economy, military and connections that simply outweigh every other country on the planet. There is no question the US under certain leadership would be able to throw its weight around to get outcomes that administration desired – it’s happening as we speak and it will continue under other administrations, Republican or Democrat. That is an important lesson to learn when conducting diplomacy: He who holds leverage ripples waves the largest, we are all at the wave’s mercy. If your nation wants to leverage other nations it must have standing to do so. We can categorize a nation’s needed assets to hold diplomatic weight as “connections,” “power,” and “incentives.” Connections such as allies, working relationships, economic partnerships, and even memberships in regional/global alliances increase your standing amongst nations sizing your country up. By “sizing up” I am referring to basic logic of human nature when people analyze their opponent and makes comparisons between themselves and their opponent. For example, I wouldn’t walk up to a group of large men and take a swing at one because I disliked that one fellow in particular or I wanted to display my dominance; acting like that would (A) get my ass kicked by the other men and (B) using violence immediately in this situation is flawed thinking. Anyways, connections matter a lot especially with the nation you’re in conflict with. The current, somewhat cooled, trade war between the US and China is a good model for what you’d see in realistic economic disputes. Connections between both nations are the source of the conflict, thus solutions are needed to solve them. War isn’t the best option seen by either side for the many reasons I explained prior (a cure can’t be worse than the disease). Hence why talks were held and a new trade deal was created to help alleviate most of the US’ issues with China. Obviously not all issues with China end there because the overall conflict with China is more than simply economic, but solving the trade dispute with diplomacy is the big take away here. Point being here is that connections between rivaled nations are often the origin of the conflict and solving them through diplomatic means is better than through military efforts.

Moving on. Power for a nation can refer to many symbols of authority a country holds over other nations. This can include but is not limited to economic strength(s), military strength, geographic positioning, population, technology, and so on. The more strength your nation builds, the more fearsome it becomes. This power then translates into diplomatic weight the government can utilize against its enemies. Bartering with your mugger is often a losing strategy for example. A nation’s direct power over another is often the largest factor in diplomacy. Maybe that nation is a puppet in some way, maybe its economy is too closely tied to risk retaliation, or maybe the government is simply too weak to put up a proper fight and thus submits itself to the stronger nation. In the past, military power often translated to a nation’s might because the country had the military power to force others to oblige it, suffer the consequences, or meet the reality that this country can afford its large military and thus making it richer. Regardless, entering into tense talks with a nation that has more aircraft than yours, more allies, or even one that can afford to buy both planes and allies puts your nation at a disadvantage if your country isn’t able to match that strength. Diplomacy is a lot like a gambling table. You’re facing off with other people who have different levels of wealth, experience, and skills, but only one can leave happy and maybe a few others satisfied. The winner is the fellow who has the stacked hand, who plays it correctly, and who knows how and when to make his moves. Power in this equation mostly refers to the gambler’s hand, his connections translates to the other players at the table, and incentives can roughly reflect experience.

Incentives, our last category, covers situations or factors that would sway a nation or government into relenting on another country’s goals without the use of overt force or persuasion. Using the prior category’s power over other countries statement as an example, a government/nation may use its economy (or sections of it) to entice weaker nations into obliging on goals the aggressor desires. For example, China is known to do predatory loans with other Asian and even African nations knowing full well they cannot pay off such loans; literally using its wealth and economy to entice smaller, poorer nations into taking money or working with China. Why? Because the goal is to put that country in China’s metaphorical and physical debt. Paying China back the money was never the actual objective China had in mind. China desires ports and bases to lease to compete with the US and other foreign powers, and this is one method they’ve explored to achieve their aspirations naval supremacy and spread their influence around the world without ever forcing a deal. A more simple explanation of this approach to soft-power (which is the best term I’d use to describe this category) is simply offering access to one’s economy or access to its institutions in exchange for rewards down the road of equal or greater value. To circle back to the gambling example made during the explanation on power, I stated incentives could roughly reflect one’s experience. Warming up, teaming up, or even underhanded deals with your friends/enemies/rivals would fall under incentives one feels based of experiences. Experience could translate into “experiences with others” as well as “experience with the game” after all, it’s all about how your frame your statement and your outlook on situations. Now that you’re warmed up or teamed up, you’re incentivized to win, work with your partner, and most importantly, live up to their expectations. A willing prisoner, co-conspirator, whatever terminology you favor, your partner has the incentive to not fail you because it’s not just you on the line, it’s them too; if you and I decide to steal a pack of candy from the store, you are now incentivized to work with me in the future too and stay on my good side or else I can betray you at the flip of a hat – the same goes for myself with how I should view you too. This can easily be translated into international relations where nations operate on similar basic human logic at times and bureaucratic in others. To use that example just now as a reference for our international relations example, let’s say two nations go into a conflict together against another nation with the mutually assured reasoning that they both profit from it together – think Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union at the start of World War Two. Regardless of the type of conflict, you two are now partners for however long the partnership retains trust or fails. One party could cause a rift in the relationship, they could betray you, they could go for more than the deal entailed, all sorts of scenarios can play out depending on the parties involved and how incentivized they are to follow the other’s lead, regardless of where that lead heads toward. If a nation sees its partner being weak, it will take advantage; one nation decides it was a mistake helping against its mutual enemy and decides that enemy is a better friend than foe and thus betrays your trust to survive; all possibilities outside the pre-planned outcome are possible because nations, their people, and their leadership think about survival and profitability, in that order specifically. But incentives work in more ways than just keeping your partners/foes pleased or satisfied as part of some spoken or unspoken agreement. The other more common model for incentivized nations are those that either have the power and wield it or are seeked out for it, or the powerless who seek out the powerful to attain co-dependency or mutually beneficial terms. If your nation gets most or all of its steel from one place, the threat of cutting off that steel trade could be devastating to your economy; this goes double for things your people need for survival, like medicine, arms, or even food too. The most incentivized nations are those who’re willing to fall under that status to another because they’ve put themselves in the position where they have to in order to survive. Let’s say your nation is the biggest, most powerful in the region. Smaller nations around you come talking sweet words in your ears and they ask for things in return – sometimes small things, other times bigger things. We’ve all probably experienced this in real life at one point or another. Why is that? It’s because smaller nations need your nation to survive or profit. They require you to do much of its business, to protect them from that scary nation across the continent eyeing them for the last five decades, and even to profit from world affairs too large for their nation to ever aspire to politically. If they want to survive or profit, you’re the rich grandparent they can mooch off of until they got a share of the pie. Some may not like it, but your government and many people will find being the shadow of a superpower satisfying if it means surviving or profiting from the relationship in the most part; guaranteed trade/business, slice of the pie in world affairs, and even military protection sounds pretty sweet a deal for being the submissive bottom of a superpower that’ll likely never abuse your relationship unless it comes to their own profit – although some may throw you under after being used entirely depending on the scenario. Japan is an excellent real world example of this type of relationship. Granted Japan and any other nation will attempt to remain independent (at least in appearances) from the dominate partner in the relationship, but it’s undeniable where the battle lines will stand if a conflict arose or the two had a diplomatic spat. But as I said, Japan is an excellent model for incentivized nations because after World War Two, Japan underwent major redevelopment and during the late Cold War exploded in terms of economic and political influence. They understood if they wanted to rebuild that America and the West would help them, but they also saw opportunities to profit from such a relationship. Japan, a conquered nation, used its new found relationships to make profits from its new allies’ economies. Thus Japan’s many industries exported goods and services worldwide and that made them the economic powerhouse they are today while piggybacking off of their relationship with America. In exchange for the alliance both nations mutually share benefits from, America gets a military partner that allows them to station troops and supplies in its land, and an economic trade partner that’s helped made American businesses working in both nations much richer. Meanwhile, Japan gets protection from those forces and the political agreements they hold with America, and access to America’s enormous economy allows Japan to make huge profits for its domestic industries. Not every relationship is like this, but this is a good example of those that lean on the mutually beneficial side of things. An example of a less fair model would be Russia and its former satellites that still remain close; nations who’re tied to Russia in all but name at this point because their survival literally depends on it. Now that this has all been explored in sometimes agonizing detail, you may be asking “How exactly do I implement this information into my RPs or my writing in general?” The answer to that is complicated and doesn’t have a single answer to it, but let’s give a rundown on some examples I would like to see for threads in the future.


Implementation

Implementing the boat loads of information thrown at you by myself, regardless if you treat them as truth or advice, is easier than one may think. If anything, the purpose of this article, the information presented, and my rambling was to provoke thought in the readers. Namely it was to bring attention to my experiences and how one may implement that knowledge into their writing. I am not the best of teachers, but my hope is that me throwing as much to the wall as possible allows this information to stick so that readers will find insights into their writing. It took me seeing inspiring, even daunting posts to muster the drive and effort to improve my own writing. All it takes to reach a more fascinating story about war and diplomacy is balancing individual inspirations and obedience to logic in the world you find yourself in. So in an attempt at gauging my interest in the two types of threads, this is how I personally would inspect a thread if I stumbled into a thread right now.

War threads are a common staple on NS and there’s a good reason for that. Hell, although I rarely get to play in those, I have too much fun when I do and it shows. But there are flaws many make aside from the general ones newer/inexperience players make. One mistake I see all the time in such threads is people often skip over a lot of what was talked about here and jump straight to the fighting. Granted that’s not always an issue as some threads are designed that way while others require you to enter into that sphere knowing their terms. But in other threads where people attempt to replicate a real situation where armed conflict erupt, immediate fighting isn’t the norm. There has to be build up, confrontations, and then larger military action. It’s almost as if the people who make this mistake do so because they don’t care about the inspirations that led to war but just the fighting in that war; to me that’s like eating steak without using any seasoning, which is why I call it a mistake but it could also be seen as alright by some. A norm often practiced (im not even sure if it’s still a norm these days) is that a random individual jumping into the thread would make their post getting involved and then posts military responses on their second post at the very least. This player wouldn’t be throwing their club out of the gate, they would take two or more posts to settle in and be in position to make such a swing. You do this because (A) it’s rude not to, (B) it allows you to establish story and context, and (C) no nation just throws its own weight into a conflict without debate and/or preparations. So to sum up my point here, even if people are pressuring you not to, try to build up the scenario through means outside of direct military conflict. I always tell people looking to improve their writing is adding detail. Details to every little thing gets your noggin joggin and will give you both quality and length in posts. In this regard it brings details and context you’re looking for in war while also avoiding being a total douche. Diplomatic letters, a meeting with an ambassador, lengthy exposition on your nation’s situation or causes to be involved, something that enhances the drama is always a plus. You’re basically throwing salt and pepper onto this steak dinner to add flavor, not grabbing utensils straight away to gobble everything down. But to expand on this, you don’t always need to go to war in a war thread if you’re not the primary parties. Throwing your weight around diplomatically may not be the most fun for some, but as Sun Tzu said earlier, winning conflicts in a meeting room is preferable to any battlefield. Your efforts may not work at first, but reputations IC/OOC build over time as does your skills at writing such posts. From my experience, a well written series of diplomatic letters during war times leaves more of an impression on myself than someone who spends a paragraph explaining how they sent a carrier fleet to beat up my fleet; im more impressed by articulated talking points than some nation’s fleet. Regardless if you take part in fighting or not, it’s also important to find a character type and stick to it. Is your nation the greedy type? Is it up its own ass in spreading its system of democratic values? Or is it an empire unashamed of its series of conquests? Whichever character you pick for your nation, try to stick with it and think through their lens on how things should happen. That alone could add depth to any story and give you context for both war and diplomacy threads.

Diplomatic threads are becoming more and more common I noticed, but it’s probably more correct to say they’re more character based threads than anything now. Before it used to simply be less favored characters chatting in place of their nations, now it seems more than ever characters are their own people who serve their nation too. That’s what’s glorious of diplomatic threads! A thread where nations throw hands (sometimes literally) at a table or party, and it’s all done through characters created by the participants to represent their nations. A lot like war but without the weapons, bloodshed, and inherent stressful win or lose outcome mentality. Diplomatic threads have often been a character driven narrative for people more interested in nation building or characters; most people I know who fall into this category do tend to avoid war but focus heavily on nation building and character development. Personally I never did too much of this in hard writing because I was lazy and found my niches elsewhere, but for diplomacy threads, these types of people live for them. Of course at the end of the day there can be action in these threads, but action isn’t the main theme of the thread. That’s the primary difference between the two threads, one focal point is focused on while the other plays a supporting role. The main theme in diplomatic threads are politics and character development. Your nation goes into these threads and leaves not being a winner or loser, but one that has built experience along with both wins and losses. Yes you can win or lose, but what you should take away is that agreements were made, experiences were had, goals met, and all without sending tanks over the border. My main gripe with diplomatic threads is they lack oomph. Lacking interesting catching points or plots makes these threads weak at times. Some try to overcompensate by adding too much action and the topic gets muddied. That is why most threads are a simple combination of both diplomatic and war in topic. A thread where diplomatic buildup leads to military conflict (among other types, regardless if they’re waged at the same time) at a naturally selected pace. The golden rule on this is simply enter the thread, take part diplomatically for a few posts or pages, and then when war erupts, have at it – or you join in the currently active fighting if you’re jumping into an already active conflict. Not a wrong idea for a thread, but it depends on the participants being up for creating a lot of the scenarios I discussed above and being patient while doing so; a good OP can make it work, a bad OP will spoil it. Not everyone is here for a roundtable meeting and the same can be said for battlefield details. So how would I spice up a diplomatic thread outside what’s already been mentioned just now? I add oomph like I said before. A plot that goes with the thread on why this diplomatic meeting needs to happen, or one that’s explained as time goes on; a reason we all need to be meeting; sub-plots throughout the thread; actual conflict, both armed or unarmed, happening; anything that veers the rollercoaster of the thread off a straight line and creates drama. Some people just want a healthy discussion while others want some spice to their life, so it’s important to find your audience, your own interests, and approach the situation with those key factors in mind.



Conclusion

In conclusion, war and diplomacy originate each as a form of conflict. This conflict is fueled by goals all sides are interested in achieving, but at what cost is to be determined. Diplomacy is a much more rounded method to achieving many goals even if it’s not always the most reliable. At the same time, war is a more direct way of achieving goals but such actions leave even deeper scars than poor diplomacy. It is up to players to decide their forte, if one is worth it more than the other, and how they implement their choices in the future. While I argue here diplomacy is a much more realistic road to take, war or at least military conflict in some regards is often preferable when weighed with the costs. Forgetting that conflicts ranging from economic wars to political slug matches are also options preferable to major military conflict and can’t be forgotten as an option for themes. The primary goal of this entire ramble-fest was to help get people thinking about diversifying their ideas for threads, explaining conflict is much deeper than it seems at first, and help give examples of how real nations may act when given the opportunities we create on NS. Even though I would need to write a book to really give a proper insight on war and diplomacy, my hope is that this introduction serves as a good starting point for everyone to expand their writing skills so that their creations have even further depth to them than before. If I had to put it in my own words, you can’t climb to the top of the stairs without making every step count.
 
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