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Frequently Asked Questions

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 Responses will be posted if and when David can get to them. We'd love to hear from you! 

Series Question Posted
Safehold How is the Harchongese army organized? (Asked August 26, 2016) August 2016

Someone asked about Harchongese rank titles, so here's a section from the series tech bible which was written before LAMA. I mention this because Church rifle production numbers  have been substantially increased by several factors since October 896. There's a section in ATST in which Green Valley is rfelecting on Temple production numbers and comparing them to what the Union managed during the American Civili War with a total population of only around 15,000,000.

The projections are . . . illuminating. :o

Imperial Harchongese Army

Ranks and nomenclature:
Lord of Armies — Army minister
Lord of Hosts — field marshal
Lord of Horse — general (a floating rank)
Lord of Foot — brigadier
Captain of Horse — colonel
Captain of Foot — major
Captain of Swords — captain
Captain of Spears — senior lieutenant (no precise equivalent in other armies)
Captain of Bows — lieutenant
Captain of Staves — cadet/midshipman

Noncommissioned ranks (which are less important and therefore less flowery) are the same as those used by other armies: corporal, sergeant, etc.

The Imperial Hanchongese Army traditionally has relied upon mass and the toughness and endurance of its serf and peasant soldiers. Cavalry has much greater prestige, and traditionally missile weapons have been regarded as suitable for serf soldiers but not for noblemen. There’s been some change in that attitude since the introduction of gunpowder and the emergence of a professional standing army, but old habits die hard, especially given the enormous expansion of the standing army demanded by the requirements of the jihad.

The quality of the standing army is actually quite good, although it can be badly hampered by the influences of nepotism and aristocratic privilege within its officer corps. Long-term noncommissioned officers and enlisted are professionals who spend too little time in training in many ways but who compensate for that with length of service and experience on deployment. They are as much (or more) wedded to old model tactical doctrines as anyone else — in part because whatever the faults and flaws of the Imperial Harchongese Navy, the Imperial Harchongese Army has had a tradition of success in battle. Of course, it never came up against the Republic of Siddarmark, where it would undoubtedly have experienced much greater difficulty. The levees conscripted for the jihad are not going to approach that level of competence; the professional regiments are extremely proficient within the limitations of their tactical doctrine and their archers/arbalesteers are well-trained and accurate, able to produce a very significant volume of fire at ranges which would allow them to more than hold their own with slow-firing smoothbores.

Outside the professional regiments, Harchongese archers tend to have very limited proficiency. This is a direct result of the Harchongese aristocracy’s determination to keep effective missile weapons out of the hands of serfs. For the most part, the Harchongese peasantry is allied with the aristocracy against the serfs, because liberating the serfs would threaten the peasantry’s landownership (the serfs would need land of their own), because the serfs provide a lower-class to which even the poorest peasant can feel superior, and because the peasantry is usually attacked along with the aristocracy in the event of a servile insurrection and peasants usually lack the organized military force to defend themselves. Peasant landowners are permitted to possess arbalests and bows and are subject to emergency call up by the militia in the event of servile insurrection. As a result, many of the peasants are proficient archers. Serfs, who are punishable by death if they are found to possess any missile weapon other than a shepherd’s sling, have no opportunity to develop archery skills during peacetime. This is one reason why the IHA continues to deploy slingers in its missile troops; serfs (and especially serfs who work as shepherds for their masters) are likely to be skilled with that weapon.

The conscript troops raised for the jihad are, for the most part, not very skilled in missile or melee combat and have highly inexperienced officers. The men are tough, by and large, and controlled by brutal discipline and impelled by faith in Mother Church, they possess (or will initially possess, at any rate) a great deal of determination, but their forte is going to be hard, stubborn defensive fighting rather than offensive operations. The standing army, on the other hand, is actually well-suited to old model offensive operations and, in addition, will find its own morale and determination enhanced by its sense of superiority over the vast sprawl of the conscript army.
The peacetime strength of the Imperial Harchongese Army (standing regular army, not counting cadre of feudal cavalry regiments) was 471,310, organized as follows:

Household Cavalry (heavy); 45 Regiments; 89,955 men
Household Cavalry (light); 40 Regiments; 79,600 men
Line Cavalry (heavy); 10 Regiments; 19,990 men
Line Cavalry (light); 70 Regiments; 139.930 men
Heavy Infantry; 75 Regiments; 111,975 men
Light Infantry; 20 Regiments; 29,860 men

In addition to the combat formations above, the Emperor’s Spears (military police) contributed an additional 20 cavalry regiments (29,860) and 25 infantry regiments (37,325), for another 67,185 men, bringing the total peacetime armed forces of the Harchong Empire (excluding feudal cavalry regiments and purely local militia units) to 538,495 men.

For security purposes, given the perpetual Harchongese fear of servile rebellion, 20 percent of the standing army and 50 percent of the Emperor’s Spears have to be left home both for security purposes and as training cadre, so the maximum deployable force of “regulars” would be approximately 375,000 combat troops and 34,000 military police, or 409,000 men. This means that of the estimated 1.5 million men being sent to the Republic (actually closer to 1.75 million, in the end), approximately 1,341,800 (or better than 75%) are conscripts or feudal cavalry. The actual breakdown is (approximately) :

Feudal cavalry; 135 Regiments; 269,865 men
Conscript cavalry; 53 Regiments; 105,947 men
Conscript infantry;**  647 Regiments; 965,971 men
Total: 835 Regiments; 1,341,783 men
*Number of regiments for feudal cavalry is approximate because of fluctuation in unit organizations.
**75 percent of the conscript infantry regiments (485 regiments = 724,105 men) are heavy infantry. The remaining 162 conscript regiments (241,866 men) are light infantry, of which 45 regiments (67,185) are actually slingers.

Of this total force, 40 regiments of regular heavy infantry are equipped with bayoneted rifles (total of just under 60,000) and 10 regiments are equipped with matchlocks (15,000). Thirty of the heavy Household Cavalry regiments are equipped with pistols (59,916) which have long enough barrels to effectively be treated as carbines. None of the conscripted infantry regiments had firearms initially, but all of the military police are equipped with them, the infantry (12 regiments) with rifles and the cavalry (10 regiments) with pistols, adding an additional 17,916 riflemen and 19,990 pistol-armed cavalry. That gives the field force an initial total of 15,000 matchlocks (all line infantry); 77,636 ML Rifles (59,720 line units); and 78, 926 pistols (78.916 in miltary police hands)

What all of this means is that of the 1,750,000 Harchongese troops in the Mighty Host of God and the Archangels, only 4.4% have rifles and only only 4.5% have pistols, and roughly 30% of each are in the hands of the military police rather than the combat formations, as of October 895. This means, of course, that they are totally and completely unfit for combat against the Imperial Charisian Army or the re-armed Siddarmarkian regiments.

In light of the poor equipment levels of the IHA, extraordinary measures are imposed by Maigwair and Ducharn. Until their meeting in September 896, all new production in the Temple Lands and Border States was intended for the AOG, although transport difficulties had caused quite a bit of the new weapons to pile up in the rear. After their September meeting, however, everything not already forward of the Border States is subject to reallocation. In addition, the decision is made to recall all pikemen from the Army of the Sylmahn and the Army of Glacierheart. They have proven ineffective in combat, making them useless mouths at the end of a long, difficult supply chain. Those pikemen are drawn on for the AOG cadre being spplied to the IHA under the agreement Maigwair and Duchairn (with Clyntahn’s support) have rammed through. With the pikes withdrawn, the supply situation is improved and there’s less reason to get new rifles to the front and many of the rifles which were supposed to be sent to the AOG by the various other realms are diverted to the IHA, instead. Of the roughly 295,000 rifles produced between October 895 and October 896, 225,200 went directly to the IHA, a 317% increase in the originally projected number of weapons going to the IHA.

Safehold Why are the Gbaba so mindlessly bent on genocide? (Asked April 5, 2015) April 2015

I can't explain the behavior behind the Gbaba without explaining things about the Gbaba themselves that I don't want to explain at this point.

I will say that I strongly disagree with your father's these us that they "must have evolved as a social species and so should be pre-inclined to cooperate with any new species they encountered." As you yourself point out, there are more than enough instances of human societies waging merciless war against other human societies in order to "take their stuff," if for no other reason. Further, it doesn't follow that our own psychology will be a close match for that of an alien society emerging from an entirely different evolutionary process. The best argument that I have heard for "they should be pre-inclined to cooperate" is based on the thesis that any species which wasn't so inclined would undoubtedly have destroyed itself once it acquired the technological capability to do so because a society which wasn't pre-inclined to cooperate (at least with other members of its species) would undoubtedly enjoy a brief but lively experience of nuclear fusion and that would be the end of it. Again, however, that is (in my opinion) a conclusion whose foundation rests upon a humanity-centric perception of what constitutes "reasonable" or "rational" behavior, and even among humans, "reasonable" and "rational" are not, alas, the default setting of far too many societies and social constructs. There is an unfortunate tendency to argue that other human beings must be "just like us" when it comes to their basic motivations and that they must therefore share our basic worldview and concept of rationality. Those who embrace this argument usually believe that adversaries whose fundamental psychology and motivations are fundamentally different from their own really share their understanding of how the world works and have simply chosen to act in a destructive or irrational fashion out of the selfish objectives of the adversary society's leaders. I certainly don't know that this is the case with your father, and I'm not trying to suggest that it is; I'm simply pointing out that we are governed by our own fundamental mindsets and that even intelligence analysts who consciously try to avoid doing that do it anyway on an almost daily basis.

I will also say that there is, indeed, a reason the Gbaba act in the way they act, that they did not simply evolve from the protoplasmic ooze equipped with starships or the technology to build them and an unreasoning bloodlust. There's not any reason why a sapient species shouldn't evolve "hardwired" to instinctively attack and seek to destroy any competitor/threat species it encounters. One may argue (somewhat precariously, in my opinion) that this isn't the case with homo sapiens, but that clearly doesn't eliminate the possibility of its happening with some other species evolving under different constraints and with a completely different historical/social experience. While I can't (and won't) explain at this point what it is about the Gbaba that satisfies the conditions of my previous sentence, be assured that I have at least thought through the reasons for their behavior on a basis which makes sense to me and does not rely on an unquenchable, totally irrational mania for homicide on their part. And I should also say that the same thing which explains the Gbaba's behavior explains the stasis in their technological development which was observed by the Terran Federation during its losing war against them.

Hope this helps, and if I'm remaining too inscrutable, I apologize, but an author needs to keep at least a few surprises in his shot blocker.

Safehold Why aren't they training dogs to sniff out Clinton's Rakaurai agents bombs? January 2015

I don't recall anyone saying that they aren't training dogs. I do recall saying that the melange of animal waste smells and other odiferorous distractions have made it difficult for chemical sniffers to pick explosives out of an entire city's background emissions, which is how they got past Owl on more than one occasion. On the other hand, if you will recall, it was Owl's remotes which picked up the rakurai headed to blow of Father Payter and the Patent Office.

I haven't specifically talked about dogs being used, but, then, there are (believe it or not) quite a lot of things I haven't specifically addressed in the books but which are cooking away in the background just the same. So far as sniffer dogs are concerned, this is not something you can set up with a snap of the fingers, however, and even after you have the initial program in place, getting enough of them trained and distributed is going to be a bottleneck.

Safehold Why didn't the Terran Federation send out swarms of automated vessels with virtual personalities? Also, since Operation Ark had two separate terraforming fleets, why didn't they colonize two planets? September 2014

What makes you think (a) that the Terran Federation was still running a capitalist economy, on the one hand, or (b) that a capitalist economy is incompatible with maximum efficiency, on the other? One can certainly argue that “capitalism” wasn’t suspended by the United States during World War Two, despite which the US managed to be the greatest industrial power in the world. There is absolutely no reason to believe that state planning/coordination and capitalism are somehow antitheses. Central planning/coordination and unfettered free market capitalism probably are incompatible, but that doesn't mean the capitalist system per se is unworkable under those circumstances

Was the Terran Federation sitting around and letting Apple and Samsung duke it out for the civilian market? Absolutely not. Was the Terran Federation backing competitive projects by Boeing and Lockheed in order to keep production lines running? Of course not. Were the Federation authorities allowing anyone to profiteer at the expense of the war effort? Puh-leese! :roll: I remember a remark made by one of the naval officers involved in the USN’s World War Two buildup. He said that money wasn’t an issue; you could get all of that you wanted. It was steel and government-assigned priorities for it which were the constraints. I guarantee you that with the human race facing extinction, those "government-assigned priorities" were pretty damned steel clad and every industrial facility in the Solar System was running at full capacity 24-hours a day.

Now, does that mean that no consumer goods whatsoever were being produced? Of course it doesn’t. And does it mean that somebody who was the equivalent of a majority stockholder in Boeing in 1942 wasn’t still able to pull strings sufficiently to acquire a single PICA for his beloved, only-child daughter? In what world do you live that you think Howard Hughes or Warren Buffet or George Soros couldn’t pull that off no matter what the priorities were? The diversion from the war effort would be so minute, so miniscule, that no one would ever notice. It literally would make exactly zero difference to the war effort, and the authorities would probably think it was an extraordinarily minor concession to someone who was an enormous net contributor to that war effort. And that someone, if I haven’t been perfectly clear, was Nimue Alban’s father. He wasn't just sitting on an inherited trust fund somewhere. He was one of the handful of wealthiest people in the entire Federation, and he'd placed his resources completely at the service at the Federation fifteen years before Nimue was born. That's why he knew just how bad the situation was long before it became evident to the majority of the human race. In fact, Elystan Alban was one of the individuals who'd been pressing the Federation to pursue a much more robust military budget well before the Gbaba were actually encountered at Crestwell's Star.

Remember that only forty-three years elapsed between that moment and Operation Ark. (Nimue was born less than sixteen years after Crestwell's Star, which is one reason her mother was able to convince herself that her father's pessimism about humanity's future was unfounded. On the surface, things just looked grim to those outside the innermost circles, not hopeless.) Now, forty-three years may seem like a long time, but given the distances involved, the nature of the threat, the fact that humanity had multiple star systems to defend, that its military machine had to be essentially built from the ground up, and that the Gbaba had a pronounced tech advantage from the outset, it really isn't all that long, and for that entire time period, humanity had its back to the wall, whether everyone realized it or not. The Federation's government had every reason to use its already existing infrastructure and economy as the basis for its war effort rather than trying to build something new on the fly. So, yes, they retained a capitalist structure under a strictly rationalized war planning authority, and it worked very well for them. In fact, for the first twenty-odd years, while a majority of the human race was still able to convince itself that the Gbaba were not, in fact, unstoppable, the retention of a familiar, known economic system — on the surface, at least — was a plus for civilian morale.

As to why the Federation might still be producing something as "frivolous" as a PICA, I've already told you that PICAs were being produced throughout this period both for industrial applications and for people who needed them for medical reasons. And unlike the purely "industrial" models, most of those PICAs being manufactured for people who needed them for medical reasons were last-generation PICAs, just as capable as Nimue’s. They were no longer being built for recreation (although there were more of those "recreational" PICAs than you might think around, most of which had been built before or during the first couple decade or so of the war against the Gbaba), but they were certainly being currently manufactured for medical purposes, and Nimue's father happened to own one of the companies which built them. So basically, he diverted a wheelchair from the Army Medical Corps's delivery queue and repurposed it as a gift for his daughter. Somehow, I don’t think FDR would’ve gotten his undergarments in a wad over that, and neither did the Terran Federation, war of extinction or not.

As for the eggs in a single basket and the second terraforming fleet.

There was never any intention for the Safehold colonization fleet to establish multiple colonies. The planners calculated that the existence of a second colony would have more than doubled the possibility that the Gbaba would stumble across one of them and realize that any colony had gotten past them, but they could have lived with that, given the survival benefits of redundancy. A far larger factor in their thinking, however, was that they had decided that they needed all 8,000,000 of those colonists in a single colony, sufficiently widely spread across the surface of humanity's new homeworld that no conceivable natural catastrophe or unanticipated environmental disaster was likely to wipe them out. (Excluding, of course, the probability of some planetary extinction event like a cometary collision, but for that to happen the human race would have had to crap out, indeed.) If they were only going to get one shot at building a new home for the human race, then they intended to give that shot the very best odds of success and survival that they could.

Even if the original mission planners had intended to provide for the possibility of a second Operation Ark colony, however, Langhorne and Bédard would have scotched it. They didn’t want an additional colony world. They wanted one world, so deeply buried the Gbaba would never find it, and the anti-tech fanatics of the command crew frankly doubted that they could have found someone as committed as they were to their vision of perpetually preventing the evolution of advanced technology to oversee the creation and establishment of a second colony outside their own direct control. They had enough trouble with Shan-wei right there on Safehold. Did they really want to empower a second Shan-wei in another colony (where they would have no control whatsoever) to undo their “hide forever” strategy? Especially since what Shan-wei wanted to do was exactly what the original mission orders had called for before Langhorne and Bédard . . . modified them. Who knew who else in the command crew might secretly have sympathized with Shan-wei and seized the opportunity to reinstitute the original mission plan?

As for the more . . . esoteric notions being floated about, there are two problems. One is that some of the people proposing them seem to be making assumptions about Federation technology based on facts not in evidence. For example, the notion that “the entire human race” could have been recorded on a molecular disk and that the necessary biological material could have been synthesized from elements extracted from asteroids. If you think the Federation was capable of that, then you are are hugely overestimating its capabilities, at least as constructed in my tech bible. The second is that most of the other proposals — for O’Neil cylinders or colonies, for example — would have left/generated a far more detectable “footprint” than a pre-technic colony at the bottom of an atmosphere. Terran Federation stealth systems were very, very good, and emissions control would obviously have been a huge part of any such colony operation. Nonetheless, the creation of a self-sustaining deep space habitat, including the resource extraction necessary if only to provide raw materials for expansion and maintenance, would be much more apparent to a scout ship passing within a few light-years of a star system than a bunch of human beings emitting carbon dioxide into a planetary atmosphere.

The Safehold colony was not the only colonization attempt the Federation made. If you recall, they got one colony fleet (that Nimue knew about) out, only to have the colony detected and destroyed (and see also my final paragraph below). The Federation was probably technologically capable of building a fleet of von Neumann probes, but they couldn’t build interstellar-capable ships with that sort of capability so small that thousands of them could evade the Gbaba blockade. (Considerations of power supply and the need to build a hyperdrive into them, if they were going to attain FTL movement, meant they had to be a certain minimal size, and that size was big enough that the sensor net the Gbaba had constructed around the Sol System would have seen them coming. That was one of the reasons Operation Ark had such a strong military escort — not simply to fight its way through the blockade, but to be big enough for its active emissions to hide the stealthed colony ships accompanying it.) Moreover, as I’ve already stated above, the Federation’s nanotech, good as it was, had not reached the point of being able to build zygotes out of any handy elements. Given another few decades, they might well have attained that level of medical tech; they didn’t have it yet, any more than they had the ability to place someone indefinitely in cryo and ultimately revive him.

The suggestion that they might have effectively sent out a fleet of PICAs (or of von Neumann ships capable of building a tech base that could then build the PICAs) with recorded human personalities is probably the most workable of the options suggested. Even that, however, would have required multiple breakouts from the Sol System, which was problematical at best.

Essentially, the Federation strategists who came up with Operation Ark put everything the Federation could spare from its defenses into a single roll of the dice that was the very best roll — had, in their estimation, the best chance of breaking out and breaking free — available to them in the time window they had. You may disagree with their analysis; you may disagree with my analysis. There were however reasons for their decisions other than abject stupidity or a desire to lose the war. Had there been time, the fleet that was sent to Safehold would have been followed by a second attempt, and a third attempt — as long as the Federation lasted — to create “hidden” colonies, with each expedition dispatched in a totally different direction from any other expeditions. The problem is that there wasn’t time, and there wasn’t a sufficient covering force to get more than one colony fleet out and away in the window available to them.

The clock ran out on the human race. It was that simple, exactly as Admiral Pei remarked to his chief of staff just before his final battle.

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

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.