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Thoughts on Hule versus the City-States

by Kenneth Baggaley

Why are the City-States in the East not more of a Hule target? I look at the map and say "if I'm Hule, why not overrun Nova Svoga and Zagora"? Zvornik might get help from Texieras because of its naval presence/importance, but which Barony will march across to help the other city states? And why would Hule not attack them? Militarily, what chance do they have without allies? (Again, remember I discount magical assistance).

If Hule is the "Ottomanish expansionist evil empire" envisioned by some, and could orchestrate (behind the scenes) an attack on Darokin, surely they could overrun two petty city-states...I mean, we're not talking Knights of Malta level resistance here, are we?

Would the Baronies bring pressure on Hule, via blockade, diplomacy or actual fighting? Would the Baronies risk upsetting the Treaty of Tampicos (what were the actual conditions of that treaty, anyway?)? Would the Baronies use assistance as a bargaining chip to expand control to the City-states?

Good answers. The only problem with the 1950s analogy is there is no Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) from nuclear weapons, which makes intrigue more viable than invasion. In theory, without the nuke deterrent, the USSR would have rolled into the weaker countries more fact, thay actually did, when they gambled the US wouldn't trigger WWIII because of it (see Czech & Hungary).

My take? Stronger countries don't invade weaker ones for one (or more) of the following reasons:

1. They are a benevolent and peaceful society (yeah, THAT sounds like Hule!);
2. They are heavily occupied seeking conquest elsewhere, and national attention & resources are pre-allocated;
3. They are internally screwed up, via civil war, corruption, decadence, economic disaster, etc., so the nation is unable to focus concentrated attention on the target;
4. The target is tough, and will fight like devils (see Knights of Malta). And no vizer wants to take on a war and go back to the sultan saying "they beat us" (CHOP!);
5. The game isn't worth the candle. It would be a tough yet winnable fight, but who wants the prize? (see Arab & Ottoman attitudes to Sub-Sahara expansion).
6. The prize is SO winnable, we'll worry about them later, almost as a afterthought - and this afterthought drags on for decades (some Italian cities survived the 1494-1550 wars because France/the Empire kept saying "ah, we can we take them anytime..." and never did);
7. They have powerful friends. Take them , face the consequences (this is the 1950s scenario);
8. We have more to gain from trading with them than conquering them. Or put another way, conquering them may sacrifice some of the trading advantages we currently enjoy (usually heavy bribes are accepted for independence - and ultimately, invasion happens anyway).

I guess you could argue the citystates are "useful" as indpendent spy havens - though given their geographic isolation (esp. Nova Svoga and Zagora), I fail to see it. Besides, conquering them won't (presumably) stop merchants from profitable trade if it remains - so why not take 'em?

Add two other reasons big states wouldn't attack small ones:

9. The need for buffer states. Sometimes, it's just easier, politically and militarily, to let little states exist as buffers against powerful neighbors. The buffer state should be a.) weak enough not to be a threat to you, b.) enough of a nusiance to slow down a potential attacker, c.) different enough from you culturally to appear independent, and d.) pretty sure not to go over to the enemy they're buffering you against! In this case, I can't see the city states serving as a buffer to anything.
10. Political style. This one is tricky, and never works in the long run. The nation just prefers to infiltrate, control from the outside, and manipulate other states (theoretically independent) to do its bidding. This usually involves money. The best example is France supporting the fractured German Protestant princes against the Habsburgs in 1618-1648. It always fails because, when the fighting escalates enough, or a deep setback occurs, the power behind the throne is always forced to throw away the mask and lay its cards on the table (sorry - mixed metaphores).

I like the idea of Hule officials with city-state bank accounts - it smacks of Ottoman court officials and their business interests with (and generous bribes from) Venice.