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Perhaps it is because of the nature of the books that David writes, perhaps it is because David Weber's fans are unusually dedicated and inquisitive... but it seems that everyone has a question! Here are a few that David finds he gets asked most often.

If you have a question that you would like to see considered as a FAQ, please e-mail us at faq@davidweber.net. Responses will be posted if and when David can get to them. We'd love to hear from you! 

Series Question Posted
Safehold Why doesn't Merlin use SNARCs to sabotage the Church's war efforts? May 2014

Initially, Merlin didn’t use the remotes for targeted “untraceable assassinations or sabotage” because they either (1) wouldn’t have been traceless but would have been inexplicable or (2) fear of exactly the same sort of reprisals which were seen in the last book.

Remember that Merlin was flying completely under the radar and doing everything he could to stay under the radar for multiple reasons. One was to prevent the Church from seeing what was coming for as long as possible, another was to disperse the new ideas over as many legitimate, known innovators (like Howsmyn, Seamount, Sir Dustyn Olyvyr, etc.) in order to make them less suspect and more "explicable," and another — and perhaps the most important of all — was to stay away from anything which the Church could convincingly have portrayed as demonic. It wasn’t so much that he was afraid that the “demon” charge would have any effect on the people close to him, but in a civilization where the single religion’s validity is totally unquestioned, any charge of demonic influence or origins could be catastrophic. In the early days, it would have been catastrophic even within Charis; later, it would have been catastrophic in terms of undercutting the willingness of people like Nahrmahn, Gorjah, or Greyghor Stohnar to have anything to do with the "demonically assisted" Charisians. Because of that, he really couldn’t go around committing all sorts of untraceable assassinations without someone beginning to wonder just how they were magically happening. If you’ll recall, he actually considered the possibility of assassinating Hektor by using two or three (or several) of the SNARC parasites to basically set off a thermite charge in his inner ear. He rejected it for two reasons (1) because any trained healer/surgeon who examined Hektor would realize that something very peculiar had happened at a very convenient time for Cayleb Ahrmahk and the Empire of Charis, and (2) because he didn’t – and doesn’t — want to get into the habit of going around assassinating anyone who seems to him to be an obstacle to his plans.

By the time of the last book, the Church has gotten around to officially labeling Merlin a demon, anyway, which leaves them with the problem of where the true seijins which the Holy Writ promises will turn up to defeat genuine demons. In addition, however, by this time the Church’s credibility has been massively undermined. Or, rather, the credibility of the Group of Four and — especially — Zhaspahr Clyntahn has been hugely undermined, and not just in the Empire of Charis. Because of that, you’re seeing him using not simply his SNARCs but others of his technological goodies more offensively, as, for example, when he took out the semaphore towers to clear the way for the Great Canal Raid, or when Dialydd Mab took out the inquisitors on the canal barge in LAMA. On the other hand, we saw in MT&T Clyntahn carrying out precisely the sort of mass reprisal Merlin had feared when the powder barge exploded and neither Merlin nor any other saboteur had had a single thing to do with it.

Moreover, even though Clyntahn’s credibility has been undermined, at some point (hopefully) the Church is going to be defeated and people are going to begin looking at the “historical record” of what actually happened. Don’t forget that the big reveal about the truth where Langhorne and the creation of Safehold and the Church of God Awaiting is concerned has not happened and that it will not happen any sooner than they can possibly avoid. The reason, obviously, is for them to have the greatest possible opportunity to prepare the ground for revealing the truth. It would be a very, very bad thing if someone whose credibility hadn’t been destroyed started looking at two or three instances in which assassinations or sabotage had been so “traceless” as to leave no non-demonic explanation for them.

There are obviously some exceptions to that rule. For example, Merlin has already promised himself that if he ever gets a clean shot at Zhaspahr Clyntahn, he will take it. In the meantime, as Dialydd Mab and his friends and associates, he has a face, a persona who can carry out assassinations without anything more inexplicable than a “normal” seijin’s mystic capabilities. He is extremely unlikely to attempt to “tracelessly” sabotage foundries or manufactories, for a lot of reasons, including the fact that he wants the rest of Safehold, not just Charis, to be developing those capabilities and facilities. He’s perfectly prepared to do what he can to assist them in being. . . less than efficient, shall we say (which was what he hoped to accomplish with the original Mahndrayn breech-loading rifle design), but he is not going to attempt to eliminate any innovators, even on the Church’s side. Or perhaps even especially on the Church’s side, since he’s already pretty much undermined the anti-innovation mindset in the Empire of Charis.

In theory, there are quite a number of things that Merlin could do using his SNARCs or Owl’s remotes which would hasten a Charisian victory; there is, however, nothing he has to do at this point to ensure a Charisian victory. While the Church is fully capable of producing weapons and using them in ways which will lengthen the war and increase the casualty total, there’s not really any probability at this point that they are going to be able to turn the war’s momentum around. (Absent, of course, some sort of catastrophic explosion that completely wipes out the Delthak Works. Short of the kinetic bombardment system, I can't think of any way that might be contrived, however.)

There was a significant chance of the war's momentum being reversed when what became the Army of the Sylmahn was about to hammer its way through the Sylmahn Gap, in the east, and Glacierheart was about to fall in the west. That is one of the reasons why he was willing to use his technology — which, by the way, I would point out includes every single thing he's ever done with his PICA — in order to clear the way for the canal raid. Should a similar situation arise, he would probably be prepared to use technology at least that “openly” once more.

Readers sometimes forget that while Merlin loves his Charisian allies, regards them as the family Nimue Alban never had in the face of the Gbaba onslaught, his and Nimue’s primary mission is to break the Church of God Awaiting’s stranglehold on Safeholdian society and — even more importantly — on technological advancement. He bleeds inside for every single human being killed in the religious war raging across Safehold, but in the final analysis, Gray Harbor, Cayleb, Sharleyan, and Maikel Staynair are all absolutely correct when they say that Clyntahn would have launched a war against Charis whether or not Merlin had ever waked up on Safehold. Moreover, it’s going to take something as catastrophic as the Jihad to break that technological stasis and keep it broken, and in that regard, the longer the war lasts (in very cold-blooded terms) the better for Merlin’s true mission. I’m not saying that he has reasoned it out that way, but those considerations underlie every single decision he’s made. And, if you’ll recall, when he rescued the kids from the krakens in OAR, and when he rescued Sharleyan from assassination in BHD, he told himself the entire time he was doing it that he couldn’t risk doing it. In those instances, he allowed his heart to overrule his head, but he knows that’s exactly what he did. It was simply something he couldn’t not do, but the sort of things which are being suggested here — traceless assassinations, traceless acts of sabotage, etc. — are things he doesn’t have to do, things he isn’t driven by his heart over his head to do, and things which might actively impede his primary object.

I’m sure some readers will insist that he ought to do them anyway. My response is that he is already operating extremely effectively against the Church and the Proscriptions and that he isn’t going to do anything to muck that up.

Honorverse Is the contact nuke going to make a return now that Apollo makes penetrating  defenses trivial? (Asked Mon Jul 16, 2012) January 2014

The only problem is that you won't get the hits in the first place, for a lot of reasons.

The biggest one, as I've mentioned several times, is that the vulnerable aspects of an Honorverse ship are extremely limited even when the ship in question isn't maneuvering radically to make things worse. You can't get a hit through the wedge; you can only hit it through the sides of the wedge, up the kilt, or down the throat, and Honorverse missiles aren't that maneuverable, especially at the ends of their runs when they have an enormous velocity.

Terminal velocity on a Mk 23 after a 9-munute run from rest is .81 cee, and you can't turn something moving at that velocity on a dime. But the sidewall is 10 kilometers from the side of the ship and roughly 140 kilometers from the outer edge of the wedge. Threading that narrow chink of vulnerability is tough even with a laser head's standoff range; it would be a lot tougher for a contact warhead. And even assuming you pull that off, without the right penetrator, a warhead's not getting through that, which automatically means a 10-km-plus standoff range for a "contact" nuke in an airless, noncompressible medium, against radiation and particle shielding that can handle incoming particles at .7 cee for days on end.

Of course, the target can deny you that angle by rolling ship as the missile comes in, and as noted above, there's only so much delta vee you can apply in the period in which your missile overruns the target. If I roll, your missile (or its wedge) is going to hit my wedge on the way in if you can generate a sharp enough turn to nip in between the edges of a 300-km-wide wedge in the first place. Same with "hooking" a contact nuke down the throat of a wedge or up the kilt, and the manuvering aspect of the geometry of the warhead's approach to contact completely ignores the active defenses, which are going to have a field day during the warhead's final approach.

The laser head has a vastly larger range basket, is far better suited to "snap shots" as it crosses the vulnerable aspect of an evading wedge, has a greater standoff range, and is a much more difficult target for the close in defenses. The percentage of hits you will score is much, much higher than even Apollo could possibly hope to score with contact warheads (especially against a peer warship with bow and stern walls), so even if each individual hit is less destructive, the damage budget is much larger for the same throw weight of missiles.

I can't see anything on the horizon that's likely to alter those fundamental limitations against an iumpeller drivfe vessel.

Honorverse Could a Peep attack through the Manticore Wormhole Junction succeed? (Asked Thu Jun 14, 2012) January 2014

The defender's problem, of course, arises when there are multiple axes of attack. That is, when someone can flank you and hit you from hyper as well as through the terminus. Even then, you are risking enormous losses for the force transiting the terminus, and one reason to attack from hyper as well is to get close enough that you can target the terminus defenses (including all those mines and stuff) from behind. You cam "sweep" the mines on a terminus with weapons launched in n-space on the other side, opening a gap in any "automatic" defenses, while your forces coming in through hyper draw any defending starships out of position by forcing them to honor the new threat.

In the case of Trevor's Star, the Peeps hadn't put any forts on the terminus. They hadn't needed to. If anyone started any wars between them and the SKM, they intended for it to be them, which meant that --- unlike the SKM --- they didn't have to worry about a sneak attack in peacetime. Therefore, it made more sense to use the immensely less expensive option of mining the single transit lane to a fare-thee-well. That strategy came back to bite them when White Haven managed to convince the Admiralty to let him go after the terminus from both directions at once, but please do note how long it took him to convince Admiralty House to let him try that even with the enormous strategic edge Trevor's Star's was going to give the RMN. Had the PR been able to find the resources to put forts on the terminus to protect it against an attack through hyper-space, White Haven's plans probably wouldn't have worked because there would have been something in place to back up the mines, but the PN didn't have all those big nasty forts and was under the impression that a sufficient number of SDs ought to do the trick.

In Honor's case in OBS, her major concerns were (1) the SKM would lose the entire Basilisk System plus terminus if the Peeps succeeded; (2) in the event of a war, the SKM would pay just as hideous a price as anyone else if the Manties were insnae enough to try an assault through a terminus; (3) Manticore would have lost control of a full third of the Junction's then known termini if the Peeps succeeded; and (4) that the bad guys might not accept the conventional wisdom and that the conventional wisdom might be wrong.

IRT that last point, note that no one had ever been stupid enough to TRY a terminus assault into a prepared defense. Manticore couldn't be positive that the Peeps might not be ready to try it in the event of a war, and until someone did try it --- or until they'd had sufficient time to be sure the laserhead was going to work as advertised --- they couldn't be positive it was unworkable.

I suppose I should admit that the terms in which I have been discussing this sort of a scenario are those of around 1900-1920 --- i.e., after the laser head has been throughly tested in battle. Prior to that time, a terminus assault just might have been survivable in the absence of powerful fortifications, and in that sense I have been guilty of a possibly misleading statement in earlier posts. Prior to the development of the laser head, minefields were armed with the old "boom or burn" warheads rather than laser heads. They required longer to get into effective attack range, which actually might have given someone who transited the terminus long enough to get his own missiles off before he got wiped. At that point, you needed the forts to back up the mines against someone coming through the terminus. It was only after the laser head was developed and thoroughly tested that the SKM's forts became redundant in wartime defense against assault transits and assumed defense against attacks via hyper as their primary function. Prior to the laser head, defense against a "peactime" assault through the terminus and against a more conventional attack through hyper were of coequal importance.

One should also note that SKM doctrine and defensive analysis was lagging even in 1900 because the laser head had not yet been used in combat. To use a very imperfect analogy, their fears that the Peeps might be willing to throw in a wave of BBs, even knowing they would lose them all, in order to erode the defenses, was somewhat equivalent to an admiral in 1939 being unprepared to declare the battleship obsolete in the face of carrier airpower. Until the Manties knew laser heads were going to work as well as they hoped, they were unprepared to risk the SKM's existence on the proposition. In that respect, shutting down the Junction forts as obsolescent reflected the final validation of the laser head. The RMN now knew that the mines could do the job unassisted; until they had the test of combat behind them, they couldn't be positive of that.

Honorverse Could you build an armored shell encasing a ship such that it could survive a transit through a defended wormhole? (Asked Tue Jun 12, 2012) January 2014

First, let’s consider the issue of timing (i.e., could the massively armored “outer SD” last long enough for the “inner dispatch boat’s” hyper generator to cycle quickly enough, irrespective of little things like intruding mass and matter.

in A Rising Thunder, pp 254-55, DW wrote:
Filareta walked back across to the master plot and unobtrusively checked the waterfall display on one of the secondary plots which showed the status of Eleventh Fleet’s hyper generators. A hyper generator built to the scale of a superdreadnought like Philip Oppenheimer was a substantial piece of equipment, and it took time to cycle. In fact, it would have taken Oppenheimer thirty-two minutes—over half an hour—to go from powered-down status to translation into hyper. Recovering from a translation took time as well, although nowhere near that long. In fact, Oppenheimer’s generator could return to standby readiness in only twelve minutes, but it would take another four to cycle all the way up to an actual translation, for a total of sixteen minutes. Unfortunately, they’d been only about nineteen minutes’ flight time from Manticore-A’s hyper limit when they made their alpha translation. That was why his operations plan had specified bringing those generators back to full readiness as quickly as possible, and he gave a mental nod of satisfaction as he observed their progress and then glanced at the time display.




Now, obviously Filareta was thinking about superdreadnoughts and our "inner dispatch boat" isn't a superdreadnought, but bear with me and remember that any starship's hyper generator is designed to produce a translation field tailored to pretty exacting dimensions and a specific mass. There is some flex in those parameters, but not a whole lot, and the nature of a hyper generator's "design capacity," let's call it, is going to have consequences where that little matter of being located in the middle of the "outer SD" is concerned. There's also the problem that we're talking about two separate hyper generators here — one for the "outer SD" in order to get it through the terminus, and one for the "inner dispatch boat" to get it into hyper before the "outer SD" is torn apart around. I'll touch on why this is a problem in a moment, but first, here's a segment from the Honorverse tech bible dealing with hyper generator cycle times:

in the Honorverse tech bible DW wrote:
Just as a ship's tonnage/dimensions affect its acceleration rate, they also affect how rapidly it can cycle its hyper generator. A hyper generator's cycle time determines how quickly a ship can actually translate into hyper from complete readiness -- that is, from the moment the "go" button its punched on a generator which has been fully prepared for translation.

There are 4 actual readiness stages for a hyper generator:
Powered Down
Routine Readiness
Stand-By Readiness
Translation

The time required to go from Powered Down to Routine Readiness is equal to 4 times the cycle time. The time required to go from Routine Readiness to Stand-By Readiness is equal to 3 times the cycle time. The time required to go from Stand-By readiness to actual Translation is equal to the cycle time. That is, a 1,500,000-ton BC with a cycle time of 75 seconds would require:

300 seconds from Powered Down to Routine
225 seconds from Routine to Stand-By
75 seconds from Stand-By to Translation
Total: 300+225+75 = 600 seconds = 10 minutes

Under normal circumstances, cycle times apply only to translations into hyper-space. Generally speaking, any hyper-capable ship's hyper generator remains engaged the entire time it is in hyper, and the ship may move freely up or down the hyper bands. Once a ship re-enters normal space, it bleeds off its transit energy (the visible blue flash of its Warshawski Sails) and the generator must be cycled before it can translated back into hyper. Unless the generator is deliberately powered down, however, it remains at Stand-By Readiness and can immediately begin cycling upward again for a translation. Thus our BC with a 75-second cycle time would be required to spend an absolute minimum of 75 seconds (1.5 minutes) in normal-space between translations. Note, however, that accurate astrogation will generally require at least some observation and calculation time, so this minimum figure would not normally be attainable.



Okay, this battlecruiser has a 75-second cycle time. Allowing for tonnage differences, a dispatch boat would have a cycle time of 30 seconds, which is the minimum possible cycle time for a military-grade hyper generator. (Civilian-grade hyper generators have longer cycle times but are also designed for lower power loads and can go much longer between maintenance periods.) However, this is where the problem of "nested" hyper generators comes in, because you cannot have a hyper generator online inside another hyper generator's translation field. That means you can't even have it at Routine Readiness. The inner hyper generator would have to be at Powered Down status, which means that even with its 30-second cycle time, your dispatch boat would require:

120 seconds from Powered Down to Routine
90 seconds from Routine to Stand-By
30 seconds from Stand-By to Translation
Total: 120 + 90 + 30 = 240 seconds, or 4 minutes.

I submit to you that your "outer SD" is unlikely to survive four minutes under concentrated, short-range energy fire.

There is, however, another problem, and one which makes the reference to Filareta's superdreadnoughts rather more relevant. . . and the dispatch boat's theoretical cycle time totally irrelevant.

When a hyper generator's translation field establishes itself, it attempts to translate all the matter within its area of effect into hyper. The translation field must extend a certain distance from the generator which is proportionate to the translation field's designed mass — that is, for a ship of a given mass, the spherical translation field has to be "x" meters across. The dimensions of the field scale with the translation mass, but what matters for our purposes right now is that the minimum dimension for a sustainable translation field is going to be about 600 meters. That is, everything within 600 meters of the hyper generator is inside the translation field's area of effect and its mass affects the translation. The chief engineer can fiddle with the settings on the hyper generator to some extent, and there's usually some safety margin built into it, but it can't handle much more than a maximum of about 6% tonnage "overload" before the hyper generator "departs from its mounts in multiple directions," as the engine room manual puts it. In other words, it blows the hell up, usually inflicting fairly spectacular damage on the ship in which it was mounted.

What this means is that the mass of the surrounding "outer SD" which would lie within the minimum volume of the hyper generator would cause the aforesaid hyper generator to blow up when it attempted to establish its translation field unless the hyper generator was powerful enough to carry the mass. However, that starts requiring bigger generators and bigger power supplies, which requires larger platforms, which increases the size of the translation field. In order for this to work, the dispatch boat would have to have a superdreadnought-sized hyper generator, because all of the "outer SD" mass and volume would be inside the translation field. So the cycle times quoted for Filareta's superdreadnoughts in the passage I cited is very relevant to our problem here, because that's where that 32-minute cycle time comes into play. Never mind the fact that the hyper generator you'd need would be just about the size of the entire dispatch boat in which you're trying to put it, it would also take over a half hour just to cycle up to translation status, during which time both "outer SD" and "inner dispatch boat" would be ripped into very tiny shreds.

As I say, my "can't do it from inside a solid object" was a way to try to avoid having to explain all of this in such detail, but since you asked . . . . [G]

Honorverse Why doesn't the Grand Alliance simply attack through the Torch Wormhole? (Asked Mon Jun 11, 2012) January 2014

As always, I'm flattered that you're giving attention to my humble work, but this ain't a'gonna work, guys. Some points (in no particular order cause it's really late and I'm really tired [G]).

(1) The reasonable assumption for Torch (absent some sort of inteligence info from the other side courtesy of the Daring Duo or some other cloak-and-dagger type) is that whatever happened to their survey ships was a natural hazard to navigation. As such, there is no reason to believe SDs would be any more immune to whatever ate Harvest Joy than a CA was . . . and they'd be a heck of a lot more expensive. Too expensie to be thrown away feeding the nice black hole on the other side of the wormhole.

(2) Even if the more paranoid members of the Torch government decide it was enemy action, instead, they're gonna need a lot of assistance from someone like the RMN of the PRN to come up with the kinds of SDs and such you guys are talking about.

(3) You cannot enter hyper if your hyper generator is surrounded by solid material. The ships lifted into hyper with another vessel have all been smaller than the hyper-capable unit and have been tractored inside the area of effect of the hyper translation field.

(4) A wormhole is a large volume of space and a very complex phenomenon. It takes a long time and a lot of observations to locate it from either side and plot an approach which will let you get back through it without going "boom," so even if it were possible to fit a hyper drive and Warshaswki sails into something the size of a missile (and to get it off before someone shoots you dead), you couldn't get it back through the wormhole with any information about your new discovery.

(5) All planetary-sized bodies generate hyper limits of their own. For habitable planets, it doesn't matter, because they are uniformly within the hyper limits of their primaries where you can't translate into hyper, anyway; for planets outside a star's hyper limit (like gas giants like Blackbird), it does matter, and it's been referenced several times in the books and in responses from me here and elsewhere to questions about things like establishing a star system's infrastructure.

(6) IRT sending someone though the Torch wormhole and immediately translating out in a "normal" hyper-space escape, you are going to be right on the very edge of a hyper limit, which is going to create all sorts of interesting problems unless you come through on exactly the right emergence vector. Otherwise, you've got to correct course away from the hyper limit before you could translate out. And even if it were possible to cycle a hyper generator that quickly (it ain't), the odds of your managing to do so before the Bad Guys shoot you dead would be . . . slim.

(7) I don't see the Manties sending through SDs covered by Ghostrider platforms for several reasons. One is that they don't know what's covering it from the other side --- a couple of dozen BCs? A squadron of wallers? Three dozen 16-megaton fortresses? 17,495,103 mines? Assuming, of course, that it doesn't simply lead to a black hole somewhere? Without at least some info on the possible threat, no way are they going to risk 90,000,000 or so tons of ship, no matter how good their EW is. A second reason is that they would be strewing thousands upon thousands of their very best EW platforms around in a system they will automatically be abandoning to the enemy. No matter how good their security protocols, they would have to allow for the possibility that at least some of their most recent goodies would fall into Bad Hands if they did such a thing.

(8) IRT the notion of using a grav pulse to mark the location of the warp bridge's other end --- not gonna happen. First, the range at which you could detect such a pulse is far, far. far lower than certain, ah . . . enthusiastic souls seem to be prepared to argue. Second, it would propagate at a grand and glorious real-space velocity of about 64 times the speed of light. So even assuming you could detect it at, say, 200 LY (which you couldn't), it would take over three years to get to your sensors. Third, it wouldn't tell you much of anything when it did get there (if it were going to, which it isn't) without a cross bearing. Fourth, it would take a measurable period of time --- probably at least several minutes --- for you to fire up a grav pulse transmitter big enough and powerful enough to have a prayer of being detected at interstellar distances (even short ones) and while you were doing that, the defending ships (or fortresses, or mines, or whatever) would turn your ship into toasted wreckage.

(9) Unless you're prepared to design (and take the time to build . . . and armor) an SD especially for this mission, any ship that comes through (under Warshawski sails) is going to be exposed to energy fire through its completely unarmored ventral and dorsal aspects until it can reconfigure to impeller drive (which is going to take at least 15-20 seconds, even for a terminus whose stresses you know ahead of time), in which case even lasers would kill just about any ship ever built, SD or not.

(10) IRT (7), above, Ghostrider is most useful against missiles, people; it has very little effect on energy-range fire control that already has you locked up. You can fire off all the decoy drones you want at knife range and your opponent's energy batteries are pretty much going to drill you, anyway. Now, if you were to come in through normal-space with your drones already deployed in a truly massive, dense shell around your ships, you might --- might --- be able to get down to energy range under their protection, but not coming through a wormhole from the other side. You couldn't possibly get them deployed before shipboard fire control locked you up, and at such a short range, it would never let go until you were dead, dead, dead.

I could probably think of a few more point relevant to the topic but, like I say, it's late and I'm tired, and ten makes a nice, even, two-handed number.

Honorverse Why didn't Queen Elizabeth and her coalition try to negotiate peace at the outset of the Havenite Wars? (Asked Fri May 25, 2012) January 2014

I think that throwing around terms like "tunnel vision" where the Centrists are concerned is a bit like calling Winston Churchill an "alarmist" where the rise of Nazi Germany was concerned. In fact, it would actually be rather more like calling an alternate-history FDR alarmist for regarding the Axis as a threat following the conquest of Western Europe by Germany and the conquest and partition of the Soviet Union by Germany and Japan. The People's Republic began its forcible expansion through conquest in around 1850; by the time war between the Manticoran Alliance and the PRH actually began 55 years later, the People's Republic had become second only to the Solarian League in size, population, and military power. Throughout that entire period, the Star Kingdom (in the person of first Roger III and then Elizabeth III and their ministers) had known — not simply from observation but from all manner of human intelligence sources — that the Peeps had no intention of halting their forcible expansion . . . ever. They also had plentiful experience of watching the PRH's foreign policy, including the subsidization of domestic "separatist" and terrorist organizations (a la the Office of Frontier Security's tactics) against the targets of their expansion, covert operations to destabilize regimes, assassination, bribery, graft, blackmail, extortion, and economic warfare. And that was simply what they were willing to do to star systems they had not yet conquered and added to the empire; it didn't even consider what they were willing to do the star systems they had already conquered in order to pacify them. They had, in fact — to the certain knowledge of the then prime minister of Manticore and the Queen, her then regent, and her most trusted inner circle of advisers — used assassination, suborned senior political operatives, and a deliberate effort to destabilize government against the Star Kingdom itself at a critical moment, 20-plus years before active and open hostilities broke out. From Elizabeth's perspective, the Star Kingdom had been at war with the People's Republic from the date that it had committed an act of war by murdering the Manticoran head of state, even if the constraints both sides faced had prevented that war from being openly declared before the entire explored galaxy.

It was neither tunnel vision nor paranoia to regard the People's Republic of Haven and all its works as a mortal threat to everything the Star Kingdom of Manticore held dear in 1905, regardless of what might or might not have been going on domestically in Nouveau Paris. No, there was no formal Peep declaration of war against the Star Kingdom under all of the niceties of interstellar law. On the other hand, there'd never been a formal Peep declaration of war against any of the PRH's previous victims. In addition, I don't believe any of the people criticizing Elizabeth's approach to the People's Republic in 1905-1906 can point to any communication from Rob Pierre or the Committee of Public Safety offering so much as an apology for the PRH's unprovoked attacks, far less a stand down order, on the new regime's part. And the reason you can't, is that there wasn't one. There was, however, a great deal of information coming out of the People's Republic — from both public sources and from existing Manticoran intelligence channels — to suggest that the Pierre regime was using the threat of an external enemy (Manticore), which the PRH's propaganda had spent decades demonizing, as a means to consolidate his new position in Nouveau Paris. So Elizabeth and her advisers and government were hearing from the new management exactly what they had heard from the old management, with the kicker that the new management was involved in a bloodfest of purges, executions, and a general reign of terror which dwarfed in intensity and violence anything the Legislaturalists had previously produced. A regime, one might also point out, which already controlled or was in the process of consolidating control over the largest navy in the galaxy outside the Solarian League Navy itself.

This is a time when Elizabeth, whose star nation was the victim of aggression to begin the war, is supposed to exercise restraint and open negotiations with a regime which is busy expressing its openly avowed determination to continue the "People's war" against the "plutocratic oppressors" and "kleptocracy" of Manticore? Please. It was all very well for people outside the government to advocate for "giving peace a chance" and "taking the high road" or "engaging the new regime in dialogue" when (a) they bore no responsibility for what would happen if their advice was/wasn't accepted and, even more importantly, (b) the people giving that advice knew it would not — and could not — be accepted by the Queen or her government. They were posturing purely for domestic political advantage, for the most part, although I will grant that there were individuals so fundamentally misreading the situation as to believe their advice was also sound policy. They were very few and far between in the Manticoran Opposition at that time, however, and after decades of bitter political strife against the Opposition, Elizabeth understood that perfectly, which was precisely the reason she was so bitterly infuriated at finding herself blackmailed over the matter of Pavel Young's actions in Hancock and the political machinations pivoting around his court-martial.

Even if Pierre had been willing to entertain the possibility of a negotiated cessation of hostilities at a time when he clearly needed/desired an external enemy in order to consolidate his grip on power, it would have been criminally negligent of Elizabeth to halt military operations against the adversary who had just initiated open hostilities against the Manticoran Alliance — in effect, for NATO to have halted operations against the Warsaw Pact following its invasion of West Germany in 1985 — until she had some evidence of that fact. The last thing she could afford to do would be to permit a new, terroristic, extremist regime busily using the PRH's historic (and carefully fostered) hostility against the Star Kingdom to whip on the mobs cheering the equivalent of the guillotine in downtown Paris to reorganize and regather its forces for a second, more powerful, and better organized offensive.

If — if — there had been one single word coming out of Nouveau Paris that consisted of anything suggesting for even one moment that the Committee of Public Safety intended to disavow the last 50-plus years of the People's Republic's foreign policy, then perhaps it would be legitimate to criticize Elizabeth for failing to "stay her hand" and "give peace a chance." There was no such single word, however, nor did any of her intelligence sources — which were giving her accurate intelligence — suggest for a moment that there was going to be any such word. I didn't give you every single gory detail about the intelligence coming into her hands, the blow-by-blow discussion in her cabinet of the position of the Committee of Public Safety, the competing analyses being handed to her, etc., etc., because — in my humble opinion as the author — it wasn't necessary in the absence of anything from the other side suggesting any change in its foreign policy objectives.

Next, I suppose, we come to the allegation that Elizabeth was wrong to oppose negotiations with Saint-Just following the successes Buttercup and Pierre's assassination.

First, let's think about whether she should have halted operations short of "dictating peace" from Haven orbit. Why should she have been insane enough, for a moment, to have considered anything else after 50-plus years of cold war followed by 10 years of hot war against an adversary like the People's Republic which, under its post-Legislaturalist management, had become even more of a police state marked by terror tactics against its own citizenry and an absolute ruthlessness in military operations? She was in a position to destroy the PRH's military capability, then do the equivalent of anchoring in Tokyo Bay and saying "we need to talk" from a position in which even the Committee of Public Safety would have been forced to negotiate seriously. The fact that she would be in a clearly demonstrated position of military supremacy — with an unchallengeable military advantage, proven by the destruction of the People's navy and the fact that her own naval forces were literally anchored in the middle of her enemy's capital city — doesn't mean she would have been required to impose a Carthaginian peace and plow the surface of the planet with salt. Nor does the fact that she was never allowed to present peace terms to the People's Republic under those conditions mean that she didn't have a set of peace terms in mind. There was never any reason for me to give you a discussion of what sort of post-Peep regime she had in mind for the People's Republic of Haven, because there was never an opportunity for her to present it to anyone, was there? People seem to be assuming that because she had never enunciated her view of an "exit strategy" from a 70-year (or so) conflict that she must necessarily neither have had one nor been capable of producing one — short of nuking Nouveau Paris into a puddle of volcanic glass, of course, since that was obviously the only outcome she could possibly envision.

When Elizabeth went to consult with Benjamin, she was going to discuss their joint policy towards the People's Republic in the newly demonstrated military situation. She was going to Grayson for the specific purpose of discussing that with her closest, most trusted, and most powerful ally. (Think of it as the Tehran or Potsdam Conferences from World War II, if you have to have a real world equivalent, although that analogy is rather badly flawed, since there was no equivalent of Joseph Stalin and the USSR in the power equation.) Hostilities were still ongoing, there'd been no initiative (at that time) from the enemy — the enemy in the losing position, given the current correlation of military force — to end or even suspend operations, and the meeting with Benjamin was the first step on Elizabeth's part towards initiating a discussion and exposition of the Manticoran Alliance as a whole's position in the endgame of the war against the People's Republic. This is the act of someone whose "tunnel vision" prevents her from seeing the complexity of the interstellar situation? At what point in this process do we see Elizabeth saying the equivalent of Bill Halsey's "When this is over, the Japanese language will be spoken only in Hell" following the attack on Pearl Harbor? Yes, she's a good hater. Yes, she's determined to see justice done for her father's murder. Yes, she doesn't trust Peeps as far as she can spit upwind in a hurricane. So what? I would submit to you that there is exactly zero evidence — prior to her trip to Grayson — that in 1914-1915 PD she intended to impose a peace so punitive that it would fuel revanchism against the Star Kingdom of Manticore on the part of whatever replaced the Committee of Public Safety. I'm not saying it wouldn't have worked out that way; I'm saying that the only thing you actually have evidence of is her determination to dictate the terms of whatever peace emerges from a position of overwhelming strength founded on the complete destruction of the People's Republic's military capabilities. And that, I would submit, was no more than a case of simple sanity after how long her own star nation had been facing outright destruction by those same military capabilities, which doesn't even consider the . . . psychological stimulus towards accepting terms it would necessarily generate in Havenite minds. The destruction or complete, unconditional stand down of the People's navy had to be a nonnegotiable precondition for any realistic peace negotiations at that time.

So, she goes to discuss this with Benjamin, and what happens? The Peeps attempt to assassinate her and Benjamin and do manage to kill their prime ministers and their foreign ministers (one of them Elizabeth's uncle, and along with him her first cousin), and then they offer a cease-fire in place, preserving their military forces and their current conquests and borders by diplomatic sleight-of-hand when they could not possibly have attained either of those objectives by force of arms . . . and "her" own government, without bothering to consult with their treaty partners, decides to accept it at a time when purely domestic political considerations prevent her from rejecting that decision. And please note that the High Ridge Government accepts the cease-fire before Theisman's coup or any suggestion that any such coup might even remotely be in the offing, so it knew it was dealing with the same management — and the same regime which had just attempted to murder his own head of state and her closest ally. Yet despite Elizabeth's "tunnel vision" and irrationality where the Peeps are concerned, she swallows all of this rather than provoke a potential constitutional crisis which could have completely paralyzed Manticoran diplomatic and foreign policy at that critical moment. (Had she known how High Ridge & Co. would proceed to mismanage the cease-fire, she might well have gone ahead and provoked exactly that constitutional crisis . . . at which point, I have no doubt, certain of her critics would have used that as proof of her irrationality and unfitness to rule.)

Then, following the High Ridge Government's unspeakably incompetent foreign policy, the "reformed" Republic of Haven, which has disavowed the Peeps' traditional foreign policy — officially, at least — forges diplomatic correspondence from Manticore, which Elizabeth knows (correctly, I might point out) is forged, and uses that forgery as a pretext to reinitiate hostilities against the Star Kingdom with the new, powerful, modern navy which it was permitted to build because Elizabeth was never allowed to "dictate terms from Haven orbit" in 1915. Again, her military forces — at the cost of heavy casualties, heavy loss of warships and lives — manage to fight back from an initially highly disadvantageous position, and — again — a Havenite regime proposes a "peace conference" (without ever saying "And, by the way, we're ready to admit we forged the diplomatic correspondence").

Admittedly, Pritchart chose a very different messenger, and the strategic situation, what with the looming threat of a confrontation with the Solarian League, was quite different, but only an amnesiac could have been expected to overlook the parallels between the situations, particularly since Elizabeth was fully briefed on what was going to happen when Apollo went into action (or the minor fact that she had proof of the duplicity of the Pritchart Administration's prewar diplomacy and no reason to think it had become less duplicitous since). Despite that, and against all of her admitted natural inclinations to see the Republic of Haven destroyed once and for all, she allowed herself to be convinced — convinced herself on the basis of her understanding of the situation — to not simply agree to the conference but to use the conference itself as a means of patching up relations with Erewhon, despite Erewhon's "desertion" to the other side and her full knowledge that in changing allegiances, Erewhon handed the PRN a huge technological bonanza Haven would not otherwise have enjoyed. This is the act of someone with "tunnel vision" which prevents her from formulating rational policy?

So what happens? Having convinced herself to negotiate, to accept that these Peeps actually might be different from the ones she, her star nation, her government, and her family have been facing for 70 years at enormous cost in blood, money, and the deaths not simply of her subjects but of people she'd personally known and loved, her ambassador to the Solarian League is assassinated and her niece and the Queen of Torch are almost assassinated in a direct (indeed,an intentional) reprise of what happened at Yeltsin's Star in 1915, under circumstances which point directly towards Havenite involvement and responsibility.

It is certainly fair to say that at this point Elizabeth was "played" by the Mesan Alignment; indeed, she herself later sees it that way. It is unfair to see her response as irrational. There is no question, and I never intend there to be any question, that her response was flawed, that the way in which she interpreted events — while internally consistent, logical (based on her knowledge and understanding of what had happened), and supported by the majority of her counselors, without any hard intelligence data to demonstrate its inaccuracy — wasn't shaped by her own life experience, attitudes, and — yes — personal hatred for the Peeps and all their works, or that some of those closest to her, notably Honor and Michelle, weren't worried at the time that it was flawed. It was not, however, irrational, and it was based firmly on decades of experience as the leader of a star nation which she had guided not once, but twice, from positions of weakness to positions of overwhelming advantage against a far larger, expansionist, and hostile star nation. She had an absolute moral responsibility to avoid repeating what had happened following Buttercup and to end the threat of the Republic of Haven — once and for all, without question or equivocation — in the face of the new and even greater potential threat of war against the Solarian League. Since events had just demonstrated to her satisfaction that the Republic of Haven was still essentially the People's Republic of Haven at the genetic level, it was completely rational of her to terminate that threat by destroying it rather than giving it yet a third opportunity to go for the Star Kingdom's throat. "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me."

Elizabeth Winton is not the perfect head of state, but there are no "perfect" heads of state. She has weaknesses, and while some readers seem persistently unable to recognize it, she understands that she does, and on numerous occasions in her career — occasions which have been shown in the books — she has cut against the grain of those weaknesses in the name of doing what she recognized pragmatic realities required. She is absolutely and totally committed to the protection and well-being of her people and her star nation, and she has demonstrated her willingness and ability to subordinate the things most desperately important to her personally in the universe — like vengeance for her father's murder, like vengeance for the murder of her beloved prime minister, uncle and cousin, and the minor matter of her own attempted murder — to that protection and well-being. She is also intelligent, determined, and personally fearless, and if the test of success is to protect and preserve her kingdom and its people in the face of overwhelming threats, she is also arguably the most successful head of state in the entire Honorverse.

It's totally fair for readers, from a reader's omniscient perspective, to say "it's really a pity Elizabeth didn't do thus-and-so" at specific points in the story line. In fact, you're supposed to say that, to recognize the points at which history could have gone differently "if only." It's equally fair for readers to analyze the reasons she didn't "do thus-and-so," and I've tried to give you a deep enough look inside her skull and inside her heart to understand those reasons. I do not, however, and never have understood why there seems to be a tendency to find her competence as a monarch and a war leader so wanting because she didn't somehow magically and unerringly see into the minds of her potential and actual enemies as clearly as the readers themselves, having had the opportunity to be inside the heads of those potential and actual enemies are able to see. If she'd had that ability, she would have been God, or a reasonable facsimile thereof.

Or else, of course, she could have had Merlin's SNARCs reporting back from inside the council chambers of all her adversaries, but that's another set of novels.

Honorverse What do the various planets/regions of the Honorverse sound like to you? (Asked Tue Sep 20, 2011) January 2014

In general:

Planet Sphinx = Midwestern American;

Planet Manticore = British (specifically, English with upper and lower class distinctions, but with a pronounced, rather dreadful 19th century sort of Anglo-Irish drawl for certain segments of the uppermost upper crust [i.e., Oversteegan & Co.]);

Planet Gryphon = Highland Scots;

Haven System (particularly Nouveau Paris) = French;

Planet Grayson = Welsh, that sort of soft, musical edge;

Solarian League (particularly Old Earth) = various "big city" American accents.

This is how my ear "hears" them when I think about it, although to be honest, I usually don't worry about pronunciation as much as I do about word choice when I'm writing.

Honorverse What exactly can a treecat pick up from a human, and how useful would it be in a court of law? (Asked Tue Sep 13, 2011) January 2014

Treecats are capable of detecting and parsing human emotions with a high degree of accuracy. They can, thus, detect emotional spikes connected with anxiety. They can also detect/read what you might call "sideband" transmissions. This is spelled out in somewhat greater detail in A Beautiful Friendship (that would be the novel version coming out in October), when Climbs Quickly is thinking about the message content which is subsumed in the emotional/empathic portion of the mind-glow. It's much more difficult to strain exact meanings out of those "sideband" transmissions without considerable practice with the individual mind-glow in question. That is, a mated pair of treecats would be able to read a great deal of actual meaning and communication out of their mates' mind-glows, and a treecat who has adopted a human can pick up a great deal of information/communication from the emotional side of the human's mind-glow. This isn't the same as telepathy, which is a coherent, deliberate communication — what you might call a "formed" communication. That doesn't mean that information isn't transferred, however.

There are, in the human mind-glow, discernible "triggers," for want of a better word — information tags from a treecat's perspective which indicate that someone is deliberately telling an untruth. One reason that they can detect this as well as they can is that it is a trigger/information tag completely lacking in treecat mind-glows, because treecats don't lie. So, yes, when Honor calls Nimitz a "furry lie detector," she is being exactly accurate: Nimitz can tell whenever someone sets out to deliberately tell an untruth or mislead. Now, the limitation here is exactly the same as would be provided by any other lie detector that was capable of differentiating between a knowingly true and knowingly false statement; you may know the statement is knowingly false, but that doesn't tell you how it is false. That is, knowing that someone isn't telling you the truth doesn't automatically tell you what the truth is. Obviously, if you ask enough questions and are able to tell whether any given answer is true or false, you can eventually narrow the options of the person you're questioning to a point at which the truth is revealed.

If your alibi in a murder case is that you were cheating on your spouse somewhere else at the time the victim was murdered and you're asked whether or not you committed the crime and you say "No," a treecat would know that your statement was not deliberately and knowingly false. He might also know that you were upset, that you were embarrassed about where the questioning might lead if it continued, etc., but he wouldn't know why you were upset unless specific additional questions were asked. (Well, that's not entirely accurate; a treecat probably would pick up at least a little information from those "sideband" transmissions. Whether or not he would be able to put that information together to realize what you had been up to and why you were embarrassed about it would be highly problematical, however. He might be able to get as far as your embarrassment/shame focusing on your spouse [or, perhaps, on the public consequences of being found to be an adulterer, assuming you were more concerned about that than about any hurt/paint it might cause your spouse, you louse!], but he wouldn't be able to tell what, specifically, you'd done to be embarrassed or humiliated by.)

This is something that treecats can't help knowing. They aren't especially interested or judgmental about it, but they can't help knowing. A lot of the things that bother human beings seem pretty silly to treecats, since they're telempathic, after all, and none of them can help knowing this sort of thing about any of them. Human beings who simply can't stand the thought that this little alien creature here knows what they're feeling (whether the little alien creature really cares what they're feeling or not) are going to be extremely uncomfortable around treecats under any circumstances. But if treecats are going to be accorded the same rights as any other sentient being, then they're going to have to be allowed in society. That's just the way it is. And if they're not allowed in society because of their empathic abilities, then they won't be being accorded the same rights as any other sentient being. That's just the way it is, too. In other words, humanity is either going to have to learn how to cope or the people who simply can't stand that are going to have to isolate themselves from treecats.

In the meantime, however, the issue of using treecats as lie detectors is essentially a nonissue. In the pursuit of security clearances for government officials and — especially — members of the military, being asked in front of a lie detector whether or not you are an agent of an enemy power is not inappropriate. It might become inappropriate if only certain members were singled out to be questioned, although even then it would depend on what the basis for singling out was. If, however, it is an across-the-board policy — in effect, every member of the Navy, for example, is going to be asked exactly the same question and no fishing expeditions are going to be permitted — then it does not constitute an unfair invasion of anyone's privacy, since the treecat isn't going to be able to tell a human interrogator (even if the treecat wants to) anything more than the fact that you are/are not lying. That's it, pretty much.

If you are a civilian, under the Manticoran Constitution, you would have the right to refuse to answer. The treecat might be able to tell that you were upset, but it couldn't tell the interrogator why you were upset. The consequence of your refusing to answer would be the loss of your security clearance, which would probably cost you your job (assuming that your job was sufficiently sensitive that you were required to have a security clearance in the first place) and it might well lead to an investigation which could turn up all sorts of things you'd rather weren't turned up. But that would be because the fact that you chose not to answer the question generated suspicion, not because of anything the treecat was able to tell them.

Although this particular issue [the use, specifically, of treecats as an investigating tool] has not been addressed yet in Manticoran criminal law, the issue of coerced testimony and involuntary use of lie detectors has been addressed. You cannot be compelled to testify against yourself and a jury cannot legally consider whether or not you refused to take a lie detector test. It is possible that criminal law may be modified if treecats become part of the recognized police force or of the practice of jurisprudence in the Star Empire. For example, it might become permissible for a treecat police officer to testify "He lied when he said he was at home playing solitaire the night of the murder," which would obviously be a serious blow. However, the treecat could not then testify "And the reason he lied was that he was actually off committing the murder." If the suspect was then asked "We know you weren't really home playing solitaire that night. Did you or didn't you commit the murder?" and simply refused to answer, the treecat couldn't testify that he had lied when he didn't answer. If the suspect did answer and said "No, I didn't," the treecat would be able to testify as to whether or not that statement was truthful. Presumably, if a suspect did refuse to answer in front of a jury, the judge would give the jury the equivalent of the charge given in the United States and someone pleads the Fifth Amendment and say "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, refusal to answer is a protected constitutional privilege and cannot legally be construed as indicating guilt. Guilt must still be demonstrated on the basis of the evidence."

It's an interesting question and one I've been kicking around in the back of my brain for a while as a logical implication of treecats' abilities. As far as a security investigation vetting personnel for possible membership in an interstellar conspiracy to destroy the Star Empire which has already resulted in millions of casualties in a sneak attack, however, I don't think that requiring those personnel to answer the question "Are you an agent of the Mesan Alignment?" or even "Are you an agent of any power or organization dedicated to the overthrow or destruction of the Star Empire of Manticore?" would be over the line. There may be quite a bit of legitimate difference of opinion over deciding the appropriate consequences of a refusal to answer the question, but asking the question itself and protecting the security of the civilian government and the military against infiltration by someone willing to kill millions or even billions of human beings is certainly not inappropriate.

It may strike some people as an unwarrantable intrusion, but once again, the only thing it's going to tell the interrogator is whether or not you answered the question truthfully to the best of your knowledge. Unless we're going to posit that it's perfectly all right to be a mass murderer, or an agent of mass murderers, as long as we can game the system successfully, then it doesn't strike me that this degree of ability to determine the truthfulness of your reply is in the invasion of your constitutional or personal rights. And it certainly would not be something deserving of the term "Gestapo."

Now, I can certainly think of circumstances under which this ability to differentiate between truthful and inaccurate statements could become a horrible force for the suppression of freedom of thought, expression, and action. A great deal would depend on what your society chose to criminalize. "Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of a society dedicated to the democratic reform of the Solarian League?" "Do you now, or have you ever, opposed the genocidal policies of Our Glorious Leader?" The problem with most of the models which could lead to that suppression of freedom of thought, expression, and action is that treecats would refuse to help enforce them. The very nature of treecats' communication and understanding of one another would make such societies anathema to them, and treecats are very direct personalities. It might be possible to find some way to compel them to cooperate with interrogators in such a society, but it would be very, very, very difficult, and the coercion involved would almost certainly turn around and bite the coercer on the posterior.

Honorverse How does missile telemetry and guidance work? (Asked Thu Aug 18, 2011) January 2014

Missile-to-missile communication is a bear for impeller drive missiles under power. Their own impeller wedges --- and those of their fellow missiles --- cut enormous holes in transmission paths, making it very difficult for missiles anywhere except in very close proximity to one another (and very closely coordinating their maneuvers) to "talk to each other" on the sort of basis which would let them keep track of that kind of detailed positional information. One reason the Apollo control muscles follow behind the missiles they are controlling it so that they can maintain a line of sight to the missiles under their command by remaining in their "impeller shadow," which simultaneously protects them from enemy interception and allows them to communicate with their flocks through the kilts of the attack missiles' wedges.

I may not have made it sufficiently clear, but the telemetry link between an outgoing missile (especially an outgoing SDM) and the ship that launched it is not a continuous, unbroken two-way stream of data. The ship and the missile both know what the missile's maneuvers are going to be. If one of those maneuvers turns the missile's transceiver away from its mothership, both it and the ship know when the ship will be able to re-acquire signal. That "window" on the dedicated channel for that missile is completely predictable and, just as importantly, that window is independent of the window for any other missile in that salvo or any other salvo fired by that ship. What that means is that the other missiles in the flight, broadside, salvo,or avalanche don't have to worry about communicating with each other; they only have to worry about communicating with the mothership, which puts the data from all the distributed sensor nodes represented by its missiles together into a single, cohesive model of the target. Because it knows precisely where each of its missiles are, it can then steer them into the best attack positions without the missiles themselves needing to know a single thing about any other missile in the attack wave. In other words, in an ideal attack situation, even when the missiles "steady down" on their final attack runs, they wouldn't have to share information with each other because that information has been shared for them. And because the launching ship's conversation with each missile is "private," there was no point in the attack missiles' combined flight profile when they had to maneuver into attitudes which would allow them to communicate with one another, depriving their target of any opportunity to analyze their flight paths in order to improve counter missile and point defense solutions.

Now, the problem with this ideal attack model has always been the lightspeed limit on the telemetry link, and I've never meant to imply that the missiles themselves never go into information-sharing mode independent of the firing ship. That, in fact, is precisely what happens when the firing ship cuts its telemetry links because the range is so great that transmission delay is imposing penalties which outweigh its advantages. When that happens, the missiles go on to a "canned" attack profile and continue their individual attack paths completely independent of one another. The launching ship knows exactly what that profile is, however, which means that it also knows where every “independently targeted” missile is going to be at the instant that they enter that "final run" stage of the attack. With that information, it arranges for them to so position themselves as to give them the best shot at communicating before the attack. What they're actually doing in that very fleeting time window, however, isn't trying to find the target. They already know what their target zone is; what they're doing is checking to see who's been killed on the way in and redistributing firing assignments amongst the survivors in order to cover their target zone as effectively as possible. The shipboard control which has gotten them to that point actually has a far better picture of where their target can be then they could determine in the very brief time window they have, so they aren't so much attempting to aim as they are to cover the target they've already been aimed at with the greatest density of fire the surviving laser heads will permit.

There's an inevitable loss in accuracy because the telemetry link which was feeding them their target's location has been lost. In addition, however, one of the tools of missile defense is to analyze the flight profiles of incoming salvos in order to spot that "handshaking" moment when the attack missiles "talk to each other" before firing. One of the reasons point defense gets more effective in the innermost zone is that there's a higher percentage chance of predicting the positions of missiles in the moment that they hold that last data exchange if the defenders have had more time to analyze their flight profiles and the missiles have waited to a closer range to roll into one another's transmission paths. Analysis of relative wedge positions can provide the defenders with a pretty darned good, constantly evolving solution for how the missiles in question have to position themselves in order to get good transmission paths.

Remember that the first time Giscard ever saw MDMs at Lovat, the "clumping" of the incoming fire puzzled him. Standard missile doctrine spreads the attack missiles as broadly as possible, maneuvering them independently towards their targets in order to make them as difficult as possible to lock up and to make prediction of possible transmission paths equally difficult. Tethering the Mark 23s to the Apollo missiles actually makes their positions easier to plot and to predict, which ought to make them even more vulnerable to interception, which is one reason the unusual flight profile puzzled Giscard. The problem for the defender is that because the ship controlling the Mark 23s is looking at its tactical model built on the input from every single attack missile, it's in a far better position to "thread the needle" on its way in and to utilize the penetration aid platforms seeded into the salvo much more effectively than ever before. Moreover, the ships themselves are in a datasharing network, which means that the combat environment model of the ship directing/controlling any given salvo of Apollo-controlled missiles has the advantage of shared input from every single ship in its formation. What that means is that, at least in theory, a single SD(P) controlling its own missile salvo has the tactical input from every single one of the (probably) thousands of missiles which its wall has fired. And, finally, Apollo has the advantage of real-time telemetry, allowing it to use all of that data effectively, out to an effective range no one else can possibly match.

The sensor capability of any given missile is very, very limited compared to the EW environment, the complexity of the maneuvering environment, and the extremely short time in which the sensors are going to have a look at the target ship as opposed to the target ship's wedge. The sensor capability of ten or twelve thousand missiles, shared in real time, is quite another kettle of fish, and it is the ability to combine and manage that much data which really accounts for Apollo's devastating accuracy. The probability of a hit by any given Apollo laser head is enormously higher than for any other missile out there. In fact, even now, the Manties are still in the process of coming to terms with just how much that probability has been increased.

Honorverse Does the Solarian League as presently constituted a government? It seems more like a free trade pact with mutual defense clauses thrown in. (Asked Mon Aug 08, 2011) January 2014

Okay, I think there's some confusion over whether or not the Solarian League is actually a "government." It is. It's a government which was established for specific purposes, those having to do primarily with the regulation and protection of interstellar trade and the suppression of threats to that trade, plus the creation of a central military sufficiently powerful to depress any temptations towards warlordism on the parts of individual system governments once the Warshawski sail made interstellar war practical once more, but it is a government, and it always has been one.

If you think about it, that protection against threats is actually the primary motivator for the formation of almost any government. The Solarian Constitution was deliberately structured in a way to limit the power of the central government, but that government was clearly visualized as a government from the get-go, or else there wouldn't have been a legislative body in which every full member system held veto power. The difficulty wasn't that the League was denied the power to legislate and create laws in the sense of any other government; the difficulty was that since the League was effectively unable to pass meaningful legislation because of that veto power, the government turned to its regulatory authority to "do an end run" around the legislature . . . and then proceeded to continue doing the same thing literally for centuries. At the time of the discovery of the Manticoran Wormhole Junction, the League in already been in existence for centuries, however, and the SKM could see pretty clearly what that implied even before it became an uber economic power in its own right courtesy of the Junction. It didn't much care for what it was seeing, either.

For the League's full member systems, political relations with the central government are probably closer to the relations of states in the United States to the federal government prior to the American Civil War — you know, when we actually paid attention to something called the Tenth Amendment? [G] The central government has extraordinarily limited authority to intervene in the local laws and practices of full member systems of the League unless those laws and/or practices are in conflict with the Constitution and the government's constitutional authority. As a consequence, a citizen of a typical core star system has very little interaction with the League government and a great deal of interaction with his local system government. He doesn't care what's going on in Washington, DC, he cares about what's going on in Sacramento or Albany.

From the outside looking in, however, the policies and practices of the government in Old Chicago are clearly evident, and the Star Kingdom (as of the discovery of the Junction) had been a Verge system. I realize that's a bit different perspective from my earlier comments about why the Haven Sector is significantly different from other Verge sectors, but I plead the fact that we're talking about a process of centuries here. When I said that the Star Kingdom and the Republic of Haven hadn't been Verge systems because of their proximity in terms of travel time to the Old League, that's been the case for the last two or three centuries prior to the Havenite wars, but it shouldn't be construed as meaning that it's been the case for the entire history of the League. It's been the case during the formative time period of the Haven Sector's divergence from the Verge norm, and I should have been more careful and precise in how I formulated and expressed my thoughts in that regard when the topic first came up. But at the time that the Manticoran Wormhole Junction was initially discovered, the Star Kingdom had already "enjoyed" three or four hundred years of watching the League in action and seeing the gradual emergence of the Office of Frontier Security from a Verge perspective. In fact, by that time the policies which later led to the rot within the League bureaucracy and the Protectorates was already fairly visible to anyone on the outside who actually looked at the situation. As such, the SKM — which at that time faced no local external threat — saw absolutely no reason to join a government for which it had already developed a distinct distaste.

By the time the People's Republic did emerge as a political and military threat, the contemporary Star Kingdom — particularly as the greatest "maritime" power in the explored galaxy — had directly experienced all too much of the reality of the "noble" Solarian League's policies. As a consequence, it would be difficult to exaggerate the negativity of the late nineteenth century Manty-in-the-street's distaste for the League. The notion of a voluntary association with the League would have been — at best — a bitterly divisive political issue within King Roger's Star Kingdom, and the threatened loss of system revenues once the League government started collecting the "user fees" on the Wormhole Junction (which it would have been entitled to do, technically at least, under the League's constitution) would have been seized upon by opponents to any such association during the domestic political debate over it.

During the Cold War, there was a vocal European opinion group which held that there was actually very little to choose between the Soviet Union and the United States. I suspect that if the members of that group had been forced to choose between becoming citizens of the Soviet Union or of the United States — that is, they'd literally had no choice but to do one or the other — a majority of them would have decided that the USA was a better (or at least, less bad) choice than the USSR. Do you really think, though, that, say France, would have opted to submerge itself in the government of the United States of America, rather than investing in its own military, if confronted by an aggressive and expansionist Germany? France might have sought a military alliance with the US against Germany (seems to me we actually did that a time or two), but it wouldn't have surrendered its sovereignty to the United States, and rightfully so. The political relationship Washington and Paris has been rocky enough from time to time, but the degree of antipathy between them even at their worst pales in comparison to the antipathy between the Star Kingdom of Manticore and the Solarian League as a whole. That's why I made the point about the difference between the Manties' attitude towards Beowulfans and Sollies.

As for the difference between internal and external trade tariffs, there really isn't one as far as the League is concerned. The League is a great believer in "free trade," and "tariffs" in the sense in which they exist in our own experience aren't really part of the League's system. They aren't designed to protect the League's economy from imports, since the League is much more concerned with exports from the most productive (in absolute terms, at least) economy in the galaxy. They are, rather, transactional fees which go into the central government's coffers. As such, Manticoran exporters really wouldn't save anything by virtue of membership in the League, but the Manticoran merchant marine would have found itself paying substantial fees (it would never do to call them "taxes," of course!) which the League automatically levies on its own merchant vessels. (That, by the way, is another reason for the size and power of the Manticoran merchant marine; the additional, government-imposed overhead on Solarian registry vessels is a primary driver in Solly shippers' preference for leasing Manticoran ships rather than owning their own.)

The probable immediate economic cost to Manticore in dollars and cents probably would have been lower than the cost of King Roger's build up, although it should be borne in mind that the increase under King Roger was far less costly than even the prewar budgets under Elizabeth. That is, it was a peacetime budgetary increase, probably something like the Reagan Administration's defense spending increases with a moderate dose of steroids, nothing like defense spending under Eisenhower or Kennedy and not remotely like defense spending under FDR. The long-term, systemic expenses to the Star Kingdom would have been far greater than anything it saved in the short term, however. (Note that we're speaking here about the cost of the military buildup, not about the cost of an actual war that League membership might have averted. I throw that in because I'm sure one of you would be simply delighted to mention it if I didn't at least take cognizance of it in passing. [G]) When you combine that long-term systemic cost with the Manticoran sense of "national identity" and deep-seated distaste for the Solarian League, the chance that any Manticoran government would ever have asked for League membership — even as a full member system — would have to be virtually nonexistent. That might have changed in the face of a truly desperate military situation when something like Churchill's 1940 proposal of joint citizenship for the citizens of Great Britain and France might have offered salvation in the face of actual Havenite conquest, but it would have been a complete nonstarter in the face of any prospect less dismal than that.

Or that's the way it seems to me, at any rate, but what do I know? ;-)