Diplomacy, whether on an individual basis or between massive nullsec alliances, is one of the murkiest areas of EVE. With this article I am hoping to give you, the average EVE player (or otherwise lost internet denizen), a crash course in International Relations theory and how it applies to New Eden... without being so boring that you resort to reading the article when you run out of sleeping pills.
I hope to explain the two original schools of thought regarding how and why nations act the way they do on the international stage, and then show you how this applies to EVE.
“Diplomacy is the art of saying ‘Nice doggie’ until you can find a rock.” - Will Rogers
They say the best way to start a project is to come up with a really good name. The first Realists certainly did this when they decided to call their school of thought “Realism”.
The basis of Realism is that every nation or actor acts purely with only their own interests at heart. In essence this means any alliances, agreements or otherwise acts of diplomacy are simply carried out as it is of benefit to the nation in question.
War, diplomacy, international trade... All these are tools to the realist that allow them to advance their nation’s interest, as soon as one of these things ceases to be in their nation’s interest they will stop doing it.
This school of thought leaves very little room for emotion, empathy or idealism, which funnily enough leads me to the next school of thought...
“All war represents a failure of diplomacy.” - Tony Benn
If there is one thing you can do to start your project better than picking a good name, it’s picking your opponent’s name, which is exactly what the Realists did when they labeled the “other” school of thought “Idealists."
Idealists are, by nature, given to acting based on ideals or morals than on pure national interest alone. That is not to say they don’t believe in a national interest (or that they should promote it) - simply that ethical and moral concerns should be a considered factor in a nation’s foreign policy.
Things like international organisations, carbon emission treaties, foreign aid... all these things are, generally speaking, the work of Idealists in action on the world stage. The downside, of course, is that Idealists tend to be seen as “weak” for not conforming to the world of realpolitik (i.e. agressive/backstabbing diplomacy and war).
Applying this to your spaceships
Right now you might be thinking: “How exactly does this apply to EVE?” The more astute of you may even be thinking, “What a waste of an article - clearly, everyone is a Realist in EVE!” At first glance, this seems correct; however, I feel on closer inspection that we can see glimmers of Idealism shining through.
The OTEC agreement was a clear example of Realism in action. Hostile forces agreeing to help to defend each other’s Tech Moons and rig prices in order to earn extra income is a wonderful example of past (and present) differences put aside for the goal of advancing self interest. Just because it’s a treaty doesn’t mean it was done out of any ideals other than “this will make me richer."
On the other hand though we can look at Goonswarm’s war with BoB or the HBC’s current crusade against -A-. Were these driven purely by self interest? I don’t think they are. These are wars driven by ideology. BoB and -A- were/are everything in EVE that the Goons and HBC hate about the game. Elite PvP arrogance fly right in the face of the Goon/HBC culture and ideas about what playing EVE is about. Again, just because this is space violence doesn’t mean it can’t be driven by ideals or beliefs.
EVE is often seen as a cut-throat machiavellian universe in which everyone is acting in their own interest. Take a moment to review the wars your own alliance has been in, the agreements it has made and the assistance it has provided to others. Contemplate the motivation behind them all and whether it was purely self interest that drove those actions, or whether there was some overarching ideal, ideology or belief in what you were doing was “right."
So: now that you’ve had your crash course in International Relations theory, you have some homework to do. Think about the following question.. are you a Realist, or an Idealist?