Perceptions on the standards of GPA Neutrality from the viewpoint of a senior member, and their implications for some practical matters at hand.
First published by M_a_C_a in July 2012 on GPA's forums, it was written as one member's viewpoint of the GPA's neutrality with respect to various alliance aspects. GPAers have diverse viewpoints on alliance matters. This treatise is only a written version of one member's viewpoint and is not a binding document of GPA Law.
Having retired from an active role in the daily operations of the alliance, I have still made an attempt to maintain a strong presence in the community of Green Protection Agency by following and commenting the discussions on alliance politics and gameplay tactics that take place in our Forums. Recently, I have observed that these discussions have become energized with new ideas that often portray a more liberal stance on a variety of issues that have traditionally been considered constrained or regulated by the Neutrality of the alliance. These issues include the Foreign aid violations policy, the OWRP gag order and short-term Military co-operation with other alliances against rogue nations, as well as Alliance-sponsored tech deal initiatives with other alliances. My own perception of the discussion has been that the members who promote these ideas often back up their case by arguments arising from viewpoint, whereas those such as myself who oppose these changes respond by remarks stemming from the viewpoint of GPA Neutrality. This often leads to a situation where the discussion is no longer just about the matter at hand, but also touches the various realizations of Neutrality the involved parties possess, and their differences.
Realizing this has lead me to take a slightly more passive role in these debates for the time being, because it has become evident that no conclusive discussion is possible without expanding towards the concept of GPA Neutrality itself; a difficult and daunting topic that has not seen much actual discussion in GPA so far. This treatise is an attempt to open proper discussion towards the actual realization of Neutrality that is prevalent in the alliance today. Here, I will try to outline what GPA Neutrality really means to me on a principled level, by first formulating certain principles that govern my beliefs, and then apply these principles in the aforementioned "hot topics" that have seen discussion within the alliance as of late, as well as some other interesting cases of example. It is my hope that this approach may concretize the otherwise very theoretical ideas.
My goal in this treatise is to demonstrate that while such issues may appear very practical and sterile at the first glance, they are in fact very inherently tied to our practical realization of Neutrality. It follows that while considering our stance to these affairs, it is not sufficient to merely consider the practical viewpoints; the aspects of Neutrality cannot be disregarded in the discussion, and should, as our guiding ideal, in fact take precedence in decision-making. At present, I feel that they are often not sufficiently considered when it comes to questions dealing with the policies and practices that interface GPA with foreign parties.
The Section I of the GPA Charter lists the governing virtues of GPA as Neutrality, Sovereignty and Protection. Neutrality is defined as follows:
1. Neutrality. The GPA shall pursue friendly, peaceful and impartial conduct toward all other nations and alliances, maintaining a strict stance of political and military neutrality.
The Preamble of the GPA Declaration of Neutrality also contains a similar statement:
The Principles and Values of the Green Protection Agency (GPA) require that all GPA nations are legally bound to pursue friendly and impartial conduct toward all other nations and Alliances and maintain strict military and political neutrality and non-intervention.
Neutrality is therefore defined as a type of a universal stance or attitude towards foreign entities that in practice manifests itself as non-involvement into certain aspects of inter-alliance politics. Yet, these are the only definitions the Charter and the DoN directly provide; clearly, the clauses are open for interpretation. I will herein make an attempt to clarify my own interpretation on the subject, that is mainly based on the aforementioned official documents of our alliance, as well as my own experience as an active GPA Member and former government official.
Having considered the issue thoroughly, I've decided to break our Neutrality down into five Principles through which I believe it can be sufficiently defined in practice. I shall call them the Principles of Non-involvement, Impartiality, Sovereignty, Reciprocity and Perpetuity. These principles are intended as my own standards of practical GPA Neutrality. I recognize that they are my personal interpretation only; I take into account that it is very possible they may not be correct, and that they are subject to possible amendments if I'm proven wrong. Nevertheless, they represent what I must live by, when the practical aspects of our interaction with the rest of CN are discussed. For everyone else, they do not need to serve as anything more than mere food for further thought on the path towards an unified GPA Ideology of Neutrality, that provides us with a mutually acceptable moral framework that we can lean on in all our interactions with foreign parties.
The Principle of Non-InvolvementEdit
This principle simply means that GPA and the GPA Members should, neither as an alliance nor as individuals, become consciously involved into the politics of other nations and alliances, unless they already involve GPA naturally. This is a very strict demand that takes a lot of patience and commitment to follow, as there are relatively few fields of Alliance politics that GPA must naturally take part in. The restrictivity of this standard is best demonstrated through practical example cases.
Case of example: Un-neutral foreign aidEdit
GPA has for a long time maintained a strict policy of restraining the members' foreign aid to warring parties; that is, for warring nations, or alliances GPA considers to remain at state of war. The 'state of alliance war' is here usually defined as the period between a formal declaration of war and the following peace treaty among all the effected alliances, where the GPA Alliances at War -list maintained by the MoFA staff is the only officially recognized reference for the purposes of verifying the war/peace status of any given alliance. In CN, warfare is largely seen as an extension of politics, and therefore influencing military conflicts between established alliances naturally falls within the field of involvement banned by the Principle of Non-Involvement.
All the aforementioned points are largely accepted in GPA. However, the technicalities of the foreign aid policy occasionally invoke discussion, as do the possible punishments passed over those who are found guilty of these violations. By interpreting the GPA foreign aid violation policies as extensions of the principles of our Neutrality (mainly, the Principle of Non-Involvement as defined here), it is possible to shed light onto some of the contested points. It is important to recognize that every aid transaction that violates the aforementioned standards must be seen as a severe transgression against this principle, as the in-game materials transferred through the foreign aid feature of the game to a warring nation, or a member of a warring alliance will unavoidably contribute to their favor in the ongoing military conflict, no matter what the background of the transaction originally was. For this reason, each of these violations undermines the very basis of our Neutrality, no matter the associated circumstances, such as whether anyone else "saw it happen".
Harbouring violations, where the GPA member receives the aid from such a party, are not as clear cut, and in general violation of the Principle only occurs if the intention of the transaction is to harbour the materials for the duration of the war in order to return it later on. However, since it is rarely possible to discriminate the intent of the aid at the moment it was sent, the burden here falls on the GPA member to maintain a proof that this was not their intention. The alliance has provided the Public Records Thread just for this purpose: to allow the members to prove that the aid deal was legit at the moment it was initiated, and hence be able to receive their legally-owned goods. I for one compare this to the burden of proof of the real-life businesses to prove their honesty at all times through the means of maintaining a proper accounting of their finances; accounting is an obligation the businesses are required to keep up continously, since otherwise white-collar crime would be impossible to verify in general.
Having established these points, it is clear that the foreign aid policy system actually places a lot of responsibility on the hands of the individual members. Meanwhile, it turns out that it is very difficult to come up with a wording of the policy that would always cover all the imaginable situations that might arise in the CN foreign aid system, while still keeping the policy practical. Due to the fact that the Principle of Non-Involvement bans us from influencing any ongoing conflicts to any direction, we should in my opinion err to the side of caution whenever such circumstances arise. This does not necessarily mean that the alliance should police its members more closely, but that the alliance, and most importantly the members themselves must adopt the mindset of doing everything in their power to prevent aid transactions of un-neutral nature from going through, even if it is debatable whether they are in violation of the foreign aid policy as it is written per se.
What implications does this have in practice? During my career as a MoMC official, I've oftentimes seen that when warned for having a pending, illicit foreign aid transaction for a warring party, the GPA member has, after having read the warning, chosen to maintain the foreign aid at its pending state rather than cancelling it outright as the warning suggests. So as long the recipient nation does not accept the aid during the conflict, no formal violation has taken place. However, why would a member of GPA risk such a severe violation against Neutrality, while cancelling the aid for the time being and re-offering it once the conflict is over would have been a perfectly safe and equally efficient way to handle the issue? While some of us may trust their non-GPA friends and aid partners not to accept the aid, I for one would not count on the foreigners' ability to understand and appreciate our standards of Neutrality. Besides, when at war, would you not accept all the possible material aid sent your way in their shoes?
As for the punishments go, there is in general no satisfactory way for GPA to reimburse the violated party, because that would often require further foreign aid for a participant of the conflict. While punishing the violator neither accomplishes this, it ensures that we as an alliance maintain a serious tone regarding to the aid violations, and may just encourage the violator to put more effort into preventing further violations from occurring. A clear, public policy of the repercussions is however needed to maintain the transparency of system, and the alliance leadership must commit into following it. The severity of the punishment for negligent "honest mistakes" that undoubtedly occur is of lesser importance towards achieving these goals, but against the principled background presented before it is clear that no mercy can be given for those who repeatedly or deliberately violate these very important standards of our Neutrality. Therefore, expulsion must remain as an option among the punishments for aid violators, although I would hate to see it applied as a standard punishment.
Case of example: Warfare in generalEdit
An extreme violation of the Principle of Non-Involvement could be the decision to take offensive military action against a foreign alliance. Even though we have lately been spending a lot of effort to improve our military capability, it should always be kept in mind that to take alliance-wide military action on any alliance would require a strong preceeding action from their part to allow us to take this Principle out of consideration. In practice, this means that waging offensive alliance war through a large-scale attack on another alliance is a non-possibility for GPA under most imaginable circumstances. However, it should be clarified that responding to a direct attack such as a rogue attack or a spy operation cannot be seen as a violation against this Principle, although the magnitude of such retaliation should always remain proportional to the nature of the initial attack.
In case of an individual nation, offensive military action can be justified, for example, in the event of prolonged ghosting, because in this case the continued use of our alliance affiliation (an ever-present in-game feature that is all that ties a nation into their alliance) despite the multiple warnings that the MoMC kindly sends them, provides the necessary coupling between the nation and GPA for us to cross over the Principle of Non-Involvement. Ghosts are lose cannons, whose actions cannot be expected to follow the rules of the alliance unlike those of the actual members, and therefore it is definitely within our interests to forcefully remove them from our Alliance Affiliation to protect our Neutrality if they do not remove themselves peacefully.
Case of example: Military pacts with other alliancesEdit
While most alliances considered their in-game applicant alliance affiliation protected, GPA has not traditionally recognized "GPA Applicant" as an official, protected alliance affiliation. We have not made this public information, however, and a lot of the time it seems to have been enough to keep our applicants as non-targets for raiders. It is my belief that regardless of whether the nation has actually applied for membership, nations on this alliance affiliation cannot be protected by GPA. This is simply because they are not members of the alliance yet, and therefore any conflicts they might have with other nations cannot be our concern in accordance to the Principle of Non-Involvement. The AA of GPA applicant is completely undefined in the laws of GPA, and the nations that maintain it in-game have no official standing in the alliance. Further, defending these nations blindly could increase the chances of GPA being lead into a conflict because oftentimes we cannot know for sure what their background is, and what their attackers want of them.
Case of example: Short-term military co-operation with other alliancesEdit
There has been a handful of occasions where GPA has practised short-term military cooperation with other alliances without a formal treaty, thereby separating this case of example from the former one. These occasions have involved particularly dangerous low-NS rogues who have attack a number of alliances including GPA, and proved difficult to handle by any alliance alone. Effective cooperation has ensured that these threats have become removed with less casualties for us than expected, had we insisted on not co-operating with the other alliances. Since there exists no commitment of any co-operation beyond the immediate threat, there is no significant increase of the risk of GPA being further involved in the future, and hence this sort of co-operation is may be borderline acceptable. However, it must be made clear for all parties that such co-operation is temporary, and no further commitments of assistance can be given beyond the immediate threat. GPA military officials should also frequently re-evaluate the extent of the threat, and seek to break away from the co-operation as soon as the threat is eliminated, or reduced insignificant from the viewpoint of GPA.
The Principle of ImpartialityEdit
The Principle of Non-Involvement bans us from voluntarily involving ourselves in the inter-alliance politics in a manner that would violate the standards of Neutrality set by the GPA Charter and the DoN. This Principle can therefore be seen as one that separates GPA from the rest of the CN community. However, this separation cannot be complete, as GPA is still expected to remain as a part of the global political scene and perform some associated diplomatic activities with other alliances. The Principle of Non-Involvement only rules out subset of such activities, e.g. those entangled with political interests that do not naturally involve GPA. One may then ask whether all the possible interactions that survive the test of the Principle of Non-Involvement are unequivocally acceptable for us? Keeping this in mind, I next formulate the Principle of Impartiality, to further determine the kind of interactions that are acceptable for GPA to participate in with foreign alliances.
This Principle comes into play in situations when it is necessary for us to maintain or initiate diplomatic contacts that comply with the previous Principle, or when involvement simply cannot be avoided. It basically means that in such kind of situation, GPA as an alliance should pick the course of action that allows us to treat all other alliances in impartial, equal manner. What is most relevant in evaluating whether a certain activity is in compliance with the Principle of Impartiality is the nature and the degree of symmetry in the "political landscape" surrounding the decision, a concept that I hope to explain through the following examples.
Case of example: Bilateral non-military treatiesEdit
Satisfying the Principle of Impartiality requires that we are able to treat the other party in impartial manner, regardless of their identity. As an example, since we are not entirely separated from the inter-alliance politics, it is natural that there are times when another alliance comes to us with a treaty offer. Even if we find that the treaty is not in direct violation with the principle of Non-Involvement (namely, does not contain clauses of mandatory military co-operation, financial aid, intelligence-sharing, etc...), we must still consider the aspect of Impartiality before we can think about signing it in practice. The test we must make here, is to ask ourselves whether we would be willing to sign the same treaty with any given foreign alliance. If it appears that there exists alliance(s) we would not be ready to sign with on identical terms, then it is likely that our own personal preferences over different alliances are influencing our decision, and we are in violation to The Principle of Impartiality. Another possibility is that GPA initiates talks with another alliance regarding to a bilateral, non-military agreement. Since it is very difficult to imagine that there would be some kind of natural preference that would justify us to favor a certain individual treaty partner over another in a generic situation (a symmetric political landscape, not considering the nature of the treaty), it follows that indeed any GPA-initiated bilateral treaty would be in gross violation with this Principle.
Here, it is very important to observe the differences between the two cases. Signing a bilateral treaty offered to us does not automatically violate The Principle of Impartiality, as long as we are willing to sign the same treaty with any given alliance, while a bilateral treaty offer from us always shows existing bias towards the given partner. However, since our Charter and DoN already place some strict limitations on the nature of the treaties we are able to sign, it is usually preferable for GPA nevertheless to counter any offer of a bilateral treaty by an invitation for them to sign our DoN instead.
Case of example: Non-military blanket agreements sponsored by GPAEdit
It follows from the last point that GPA is essentially limited to only sponsoring 'blanket' agreements such as our Declaration of Neutrality. The DoN is a multilateral, non-military agreement that is open to sign for any alliance at any time, and the terms of the treaty are the same for every assenter. Specifically, GPA does not compromise on the content of the DoN with any given alliance. This makes it an acceptable multilateral treaty for GPA to sponsor under the The Principle of Impartiality.
Case of example: GPA-sponsored tech deal initiatives with foreign alliancesEdit
As a top-heavy alliance, it is difficult for GPA to satisfy its need of technology only through domestic markets. Import of tech from foreign sources has always been legal for the GPA members within the framework set by the foreign aid regulations of the alliance, and nothing here violates the Principle of Impartiality as the individual members themselves can pick their own partners freely within those constraints. Recently, ideas have been brought up about alliance-sponsored and alliance-organized tech deal agreements between GPA and other alliances and/or individual nations. These agreements are believed to be beneficial for the GPA tech buyers through more favorable rates and increased supply of tech, with the additional benefit that such managed programs would probably encourage also the otherwise passive members with nations on the tech buying range make purchases.
There are significant neutrality concerns related to agreements like this that must be reviewed. Even if these agreements contain no clauses that directly violate the Principle of Non-Involvement, they still implicate us to long-term alliance-level economic co-operation beyond the typical nation-level tech deal agreements that only concern either two individual nations, or small groups of nations at a time. Naturally, this kind of agreements may become intercepted by the GPA foreign aid regulations just as any regular tech deal, and if that happens, there exists a potential for a great number of impending aid violations. If the details of the agreement are however designed carefully so that GPA members have a right to delay the transactions for the reasons related to our foreign aid regulations, these risks can be brought down to, or even below, the level the regular nation-level tech deal agreements present. It follows that the Principle of Non-Involvement can largely be complied here.
However, a long-term tech agreement between GPA and any one particular alliance also shows favoritism towards the selected partner alliance. Under the Principle of Impartiality, this is not acceptable. It follows that the only way we could in my opinion enter such agreements, would be through the means of a GPA sponsored, written blanket treaty, where the conditions of the treaty are clearly spelled out, and which is open to be signed for any alliance. Similar to the DoN, the articles of this agreement must remain the same for all the assenting alliances; meanwhile, absolutely no technology deals can be carried out under the sanction of this treaty that do not fully comply with each of its articles. Finally, the aforementioned concerns on the GPA foreign aid regulations must be taken into account in the treaty text in a manner that allows us to avoid un-neutral aid under the treaty; this is particularly important in a written agreement, because we cannot afford GPA to be seen as a treaty breaker due to transactions that could not be completed for the reasons of Neutrality. On the flip side, if such written treaty were to be drafted with the necessary care, and then introduced to the CN interalliance community in a diplomatically shrewd manner, it could also come with additional benefits to our standing as a Neutral alliance due to reduced number of aid violations and increased positive interactions with the foreign alliances.
The Principle of SovereigntyEdit
Sovereignty is listed as one of the governing virtues of GPA in the Charter. There, it is however explained only as the Sovereignty of individual GPA member nations:
2. Sovereignty. All GPA nations have the right to govern their nations’ internal affairs subject to the GPA's Charter, Laws, and Treaties.
In an organization such as GPA where the Laws cannot be expected to cover every single scenario imaginable, it is the responsibility of the elected officials of the alliance to interpret the spirit of the Law in the situations where its letter is not explicitly defined. Since the "Charter, Laws, and Treaties" of GPA mentioned in the Law are intensely motivated towards ensuring our continued Neutrality, I personally tend to understand this virtue as follows: the GPA Government should generally not limit the members' Sovereignty over their own nations, unless there are compelling Neutrality arguments that can be used to justify such intrusion. The Foreign Aid regulations are good examples here; as already shown earlier, their existence is backed up by the The Principle of Non-Involvement in a very natural and immediate manner. However, the virtue as stated in the Charter discusses the rights of the member nations to remain unconstrained of alliance intervention; nothing is said about constraining the activities of the members themselves as characters.
In addition to this nation-specific description given in the Charter, I believe that Sovereignty as an ideal should also have implications in our foreign policy as an alliance. It should be quite clear that no alliance can be credibly Neutral unless they are completely Sovereign; that is, it does not allow external forces to significantly influence its internal decisions. It follows that our ability to resist foreign influence is among the most fundamental tests of our Neutrality in practice.
Case of example: Military preparationEdit
The Principle of Sovereignty can therefore be defined as a rule not to allow foreign alliances or nations influence our political decisions, whether those decisions are related to our Neutrality or not. The right of any collective to exist on Planet Bob as such an independent alliance is fundamentally dependent on its ability to defend its members. A group of nations that carries out alliance-like functions cannot really be considered a genuine alliance unless the members are ready to help each other at times of conflict. On alliance-level, military action is the central tool for the more interventionist alliances to further their interests, and while Neutral alliances that successfully maintain a low political profile are usually left alone, it ultimately happens that a shift in the global political climate makes it attractive for the politically active alliances to consider Neutral entities such as GPA as prime targets; or, alternatively, their members may just become too bored and feel compelling desire to impose their own will over a culture they perceive as inferior. These scenarios may lead to a situation where the alliance(s) in question will actively try to influence the politics of GPA for their own purposes.
In these situations, it is much easier to resist the foreign influence if we know that we have the military resources required to make an organized stand against the potential attacker, and they understand that our capability to inflict harm on their interests greatly exceeds what they can possibly hope to gain from pestering us. Even though we may not be able to genuinely "win" an alliance war that involves us, we may be able to demonstrate any potential future attackers that waging war against us neither profitable nor "fun". In practice, this means that we must be able inflict enough damage on the attacking nations to make the war costly for them. As a Neutral alliance, GPA cannot count on allies, and our ability for political appeasement is also very limited due to the constraining principles of our Neutrality. Alliance-level military preparation for alliance war scenarios must thus also be seen as an integral part of our Neutrality policy. Individual members on the other hand must participate these efforts in building an arsenal that supports our Sovereignty by investing into sufficient military resources (standing military, nukes, technology, money reserves and military wonders) in accordance to the capabilities of their own nation, as well as by actively participating the initiatives of the Ministry of Defence towards improving our co-operation and overall performance in crisis situations.
The Principle of ReciprocityEdit
So far we have strictly limited our discussion to the GPA point-of-view on Neutrality. However, in foreign affairs, there is always another party who we are dealing with. As a Neutral alliance that desires good relations with all foreign alliances, we should also spend some time to try to understand the way they see us and our ideals. Essentially, most alliances and individuals view Neutrality as something of an oddity in CN. It is not always understood why there are players who do not want to wage regular wars and experience the game 'fully', not to even mention those alliances and individuals who appear to hate Neutrality as their own mission statement. Even most of those who respect our ideals and choices typically see our Neutrality as something of a special dispensation that only exists for as long as we have their confidence, and as one that they are not willing to grant us unconditionally. Indeed, there are situations where our Neutrality may conflict with the immediate interests of some other alliance, for example when we are forced to restrict the GPA members' foreign aid to their members when they become involved in a war.
It must therefore be concluded that a Neutral alliance such as GPA is essentially asking for some exemptions or liberties from the rest of the alliances, which can nevertheless be essential for us in ensuring our continued non-involvement. This arises the question, what are we giving back for them in exchange of these dispensations? Our continued Neutrality for sure, but only if they trust us to remain the way we are. But if viewed as a pure technical arrangement, what guarantees that the parties of such agreement genuinely respect each other's choices and ideologies? Mutual trust and respect is the basis of any agreement, and from the viewpoint of the other alliances it may be what they find lacking when it comes to GPA Neutrality.
I formulate the The Principle of Reciprocity by keeping these questions in mind. By asking other alliances to accept our continued Neutrality as we interpret it, we are, from their standpoint, sometimes asking them to provide us with certain exemptions that allow our continued Neutrality. These exemptions may occasionally inflict direct harm to their interests. The Principle of Reciprocity means that as we have to make use of such exemptions to protect our Neutrality, we must also allow similar liberties and dispensations for the other parties that we're dealing for reasons and principles they find essential.
Case of example: Foreign alliances' right to postpone foreign aid deals with GPAEdit
A good scenario to apply this arguably rather theoretical definition would be the following: a foreign alliance comes by, and requests us to delay the completion of certain foreign aid deal(s) agreed between the members of their alliance and those of GPA. They explain that this arrangement is necessary due to reasons that they find very compelling, but yet do not seem very relevant for us. On the other hand, the agreements are of such type that it would be within the interests of the GPA Members to complete them as quickly as possible (to acquire the materials in question and/or free up the foreign aid slots for other use). So, how do we react?
It was discussed in the section 2.1 that there are circumstances where GPA members simply cannot complete their agreed foreign aid deals in the natural schedule without infringing some of the most important standards of Neutrality. By making the (completely unilateral) decision to prevent our members from completing such transactions to protect our Neutrality, we are flexing the understanding that the foreign alliance or nation shows for us for reasons that they probably do not consider very important. From this background, it seems very natural that we should extend the same courtesy for all the other alliances for any reasons that they in turn find compelling, even if they seem of only minute concern for us.
There are some important caveats that must be brought up when applying this Principle is considered. First of all, while GPA can never directly call to question the justification of the foreign party as we must consider their ideals as valuable to them as our Neutrality is for ourselves, it is clear that if made a public policy, this Principle is open to abuse by hostile alliance. Therefore, it would probably be for the best if GPA kept quit about it, and only invoked it on her own accord following a valid request by an alliance whose intentions can be considered sincere. But other than for these considerations that must be put in place to protect the alliance from deliberate abuse, the identity of the requesting alliance should not matter in the decision-making. Specifically, it matters not whether the particular alliance in question has been de facto hindered by our Neutrality-related exemptions in the past; we must guarantee the same courtesies for each alliance, regardless of whether they in particular have become subject to harm due to our pursuit of Neutrality.
Finally, it must be understood that this Principle can only be initiated by GPA, following a proper request by the particular alliance that is also going to be the subject to the arrangements, not by another third party. For example, should two alliances be involved into a diplomatic crisis, it should not be possible for one of them to have GPA invoke this Principle to cease all foreign aid with the other alliance; it could only happen by a request from the alliance whose foreign aid would be re-arranged.
The Principle of PerpetuityEdit
Here I have tried to formulate some principles that I see as important standards of GPA Neutrality, intended to form a complete framework that may serve as a starting point for future discussion. The four Principles so far introduced could in my opinion already fully describe our Neutrality momentarily; however, they do not sufficiently describe the conditions of the evolution of our standards in time. For that reason, there is one Principle left to discuss that will bring my system of standards into closure, and it has to do with if and how we may alter our practical standards: The Principle of Perpetuity. It is within the Principle of Sovereignty, that the Neutrality we choose execute is ours to determine by exclusive right; that is, no foreign power may restain our rights to set these standards of Neutrality. However, one must then naturally ask, are there really no constraints at all on how we can re-define them? Are there maybe some internal limitations, integrated into the system of standards itself, that must be taken into account?
The subject of foreign alliances' confidence on GPA Neutrality was brought up in the earlier section. It is my belief that to keep up this confidence, GPA must maintain its Neutrality with a strong sense of long-term stability, so that other alliances will be able to predict our future course and steer clear of it, while trusting that by doing so we will never interfere with their own interests. If we change our standards of Neutrality abruptly and frequently, how can any foreign alliance trust that we do not pose a future threat for their long-term interests? It is obvious that in order for such stability to exist, it is necessary for us to not only momentarily discuss and execute whatever standards of Neutrality we choose to be the best, but to follow the same set of standards faithfully for an extended period of time, even if the political climate surrounding us changes in a radical manner.
Indeed, it is my belief that our commitment to maintain our standards invariant in time, regardless of how individual alliances momentarily perceive us and each other, is the best possible guarantee that we can give for the rest of the CN regarding to our purposes, and that alone will go on a long way to ensure that our principles are never seriously put into doubt. For these reasons, special care must be taken whenever we feel need to adjust the way we execute our Neutrality, even though the relationships between other alliances will naturally shift over time, and the interalliance political culture changes. In general, arguments arising from practical viewpoints cannot provide sufficient grounds to alter these standards, since Perpetuity as a Principle must take a precedence over most practical arguments. Significant shifts in our policies that interface GPA to foreign parties should only be considered if these practical arguments can further be supported by compelling arguments arising from Neutrality standpoints, that is, an improved interpretation of Neutrality that is perhaps more complete or elegant that the earlier one.
Case of example: Public writing by GPA Members, and the OWRP posting banEdit
It would have been natural to discuss this issue together with the Principle of Non-Involvement earlier on; it is easy to see that based on it, absolutely no negative remarks can be presented by GPA Members in the public against foreign alliances. This constraint is absolute: it matters not what is the nature of the public venue, in what context the remarks are presented, nor does it make any difference how politely the member in question expressed themselves. To make negative arguments against any alliance in public immediately and directly involves us against that particular alliance, since as per to the DoN GPA should pursue friendly, impartial relations with all alliances at all times, and there are simply no imaginable circumstances where GPA would be required to publicly criticize any alliance. In practice, we are left with the options of either remaining completely neutral in our interactions with other alliances, or conveying similar positive remarks for all of them, no matter how generic they may sound as the result. Due to the wording of the DoN, the latter option is probably the advisable one, although we should not be overly positive in our interactions with any particular alliance in order to preserve our impartial standing. When faced with unpleasant or controversial topics, members inexperienced in CN diplomacy should not feel discouraged of taking use of the safe, completely neutral stance.
I did however make the choice to save this topic to be discussed here, in context of The Principle of Perpetuity. The reason for this is due to a related issue, the OWRP posting ban, that disallows most GPA Members from posting the in-character subforums of the Open World RP section of the CyberNations game forums without a permission from the President. Traditionally, posting has been allowed for some members of the elected Government, and their immediate assistants, to ensure that we maintain a voice in these forums in matters that do directly concern us. This so-called OWRP "gag order" is in itself not a principle of practical GPA Neutrality; rather, it is a long-standing policy maintained by the GPA Government, and as such, naturally subject to possible change. The OWRP posting ban is well within the scope of the Principle of Non-Involvement, and yet I must concede that it cannot be sufficiently justified by this Principle alone; I agree that it should in principle be possible to maintain positive or neutral interaction with foreign alliances in public venues even without it. However, it is my belief that in practice, we cannot expect every GPA member to be capable of doing that.
I personally view the OWRP posting ban mainly as a practical arrangement, put in place to protect our Neutrality in an environment that was considered particularly hostile and GPA-unfriendly at a time. It has been repeatedly argued that the environment at the OWRP forums has since changed in the extent that we should re-consider this policy in favor of a more liberal one. I personally believe that there still are significant risks associated with OWRP posting, even beyond what exists in other public venues (IRC, Forums of the foreign alliances, the public part of our Forums, etc...). The ability of the President to authorize posting by members who possess the necessary skills and understanding of the dynamics associated with the OWRP subforums provides us with the extent of OWRP presence that is suitable to our interests. That said, it must be understood that even those few members who have this authorization should only use it to provide strictly the GPA viewpoint on matters that genuinely and directly touch us, and possibly to correct any misconceptions that people may have about our alliance. Making use of this priviledge in order to engage into discussions that are only of one's personal interest, or to practice social courtesies with personal friends, can only be seen as abuse of this right.
Those in favor of lifting the OWRP posting ban have so far been unable to demonstrate hardly any benefits that GPA as an alliance could achieve through increased OWRP presence, while still maintaining the neutral tone as discussed earlier. To me, the gains certainly do not offset the risks here, but the debate on the matter goes on at more or less regular intervals. At this time, I would like to provide an additional argument for the preservation of the OWRP posting ban, based on the Principle of Perpetuity of these standards. The ban was originally set up after the conclusion of the GPA - Continuum war, and has been strictly enforced ever since. Even though often ridiculed by foreign alliances, it has become possibly the most well-known trademark of the GPA PR strategy in the public, and is widely associated as a part of our Neutral. So even though we should not see the ban itself as an integral part of our Neutrality on the principled level, it is in practice seen as such by most foreign alliances.
Considering this, could cancelling the ban not be seen as a significant shift in the GPA Neutrality policy, and hence a violation of the Principle of Perpetuity? How would the foreign alliances view a new GPA policy of increased OWRP activity, a Forum that arguably has very little interest for us as an alliance? Even though one can certainly argue that GPA must be entitled to fully define her own brand of Neutrality, one must also agree that the shift associated with redefining the policy could arise questions regarding to our commitment to a defined set of ideals. It is not that a more liberal policy, in itself, would necessarily be against the standards of my Neutrality, but the concern that the associated adjustment of a well-defined policy might jeopardize the outsiders' belief in the continuity of our ideologic standards.
Summary & ConclusionsEdit
I have here spent many words and hours in order to share some very principal and personal aspect of my thinking that will ultimately only have direct relevance for myself. One reason for this has no doubt been that I simply felt it necessary to put down some of my thoughts, and see if they can be arranged into something even remotely functional. Writing this text was a long process, and it has come together in small pieces. I cannot remember when I exactly I started it, but it may have well been over two years ago. Ever since, I have returned to it every now and then, and ended up re-writing large sections as well as expanding to new ones. All the time, I have felt a degree of doubt whether this will make any sense, and whether I should publish it at all. Yet, during the past few weeks when I finally hammered this treatise together, I felt compelling need to get it out this time. Obviously, it would not have been possible, had I been as deeply involved into the daily operations of the alliance as I used to be for some many years.
As a real-life scientist, it is probably expected that I should generally look things from a very practical viewpoint, ignoring considerations that arise from deeply principled arguments that often have little direct bearing with practice. However, I have often found that at heart, I am a man of principles beyond practice, even though those principles that seem to guide me may often be less than clear even for myself. In CN and GPA, I believe that I have found something clear; something that also works on practical level. When it comes to our policies and practices, I have come to the following conclusion: in discussions that are concerned with the standards of GPA Neutrality, and the way the alliance interfaces with other in-game parties, principled arguments cannot be ignored in a discussion stemming from practical arguments, and should in fact take precedence.
While writing this, I've realized the uniqueness of our Neutrality among the spectrum of CN alliance ideologies, and that alone should provide enough reason for us to do everything in our power to ensure its longevity. Why should we stray from our unique path? Why should we become more like "just another" alliance in the game? We are the oldest of all Neutral alliances, and, without looking down to the others, I dare say that we are the one most committed to our ideals. Let us be proud of what we have. But let us not, however, become too proud. Even though we have the principled right to maintain our own flavor of Neutrality, it is not prudent to trust blindly that we will always have everything right. In this text, one aspect that I have tried to highlight (particularly in Sec. 5) is the subtle interplay that exists between us and the rest of the CN. This dynamic does not mean that we should take orders from other alliances, merely that we should remain conscious of their interests. In order to be succesfully Neutral, we need to understand how other alliances think, and how they see us.
In my treatise, I have tried to avoid mentioning names, and kept direct references to particular discussions in minimum in order to avoid personal juxtapositions and reach the ideas behind the personalities. If you are still reading along, but continue to feel like everything I have written so far has little bearing in practice, think about what one of our most respected members recently said about the importance of the alliance unity in the times of crisis.
BTW, the cultural aspects gamer mentioned should probably motivate our government to work on our identity and internal cohesion, to ensure that in time of crisis we remain united and we weather the storm, together. The Ministry of Defense can do only so much and we'll never be safe from the mobs outside (we'd need to become "bigger than the rest of CN", which isn't realistic). ~ Jerdge
The principled level of GPA Neutrality, as mentioned before, has been largely unexplored territory for us so far. It is actually pretty remarkable how well we have always found an agreement, considering how few guidelines our official documents (the Charter and the DoN) give for us. It is my belief that the clarification of the standards of GPA Neutrality through deep alliance-level discussion is one possible way to improve the cohesion of the alliance. Through the illumination of these very central aspects of our identity, GPA can become even stronger inwardly. While we certainly have only few truly pressing internal problems, our unity has not really been put under test since the days of the War on Peace. We should take this opportunity to fortify ourselves from inside, as our ideals are likely to be challenged time to time.
With this text, I would like to invite all GPA Members to participate in establishing an unified realization of GPA Neutrality, synthetized from our individual ideals and beliefs. Alone, they are only ideas, and individual ideas rarely survive over generations in large collectives such as GPA. Ideologies, on the other hand, can become immortal. When misused, ideologies can be incredibly dangerous. But when used as positive forces that bring people together rather than separate them, they can help the individuals survive through greater challenges. With your help, our Neutrality can become an ideology, and we can make GPA an ideological bastion of Neutrality that will survive through times to come.