Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The War in the North

The war has been lost.  Try as we might to console ourselves that there is still time—and I admit there is still time, albeit shrinking daily—the truth of the matter is that the war is lost in all but name only.  The attempts by The Mittani to spin the war as a success-in-the-making, that the Fabian Strategy is the most successful option available, and that given time the “Goonhammer” will win is, at this point, nothing but attempts to save face before a declining population.  Before I begin with this TL;DR piece, I’ll provide my statistics for claiming “declining population”, using the current seven-day population statistics for the remaining six members of the Imperium on 28 May 2016, and then again on 01 June 2016, and provide an actual adjustment after each to show statistics between those two dates:

28 May
Goonswarm Federation: -250 (15,656)
The Bastion: -317 (1,748)
Razor Alliance: -11 (1,400)
Tactical Narcotics Team: -25 (1,149)
Get Off My Lawn: -131 (1,137)
Executive Outcomes: -10 (964)

01 June
Goonswarm Federation: -260 (15,546) [Net Movement: -110]
The Bastion: -348 (1,645) [Net Movement: -103]
Razor Alliance: 0 (1,404) [Net Movement: +4]
Tactical Narcotics Team: -24 (1,141) [Net Movement: +1]
Get Off My Lawn: -236 (1,022) [Net Movement: -115]
Executive Outcomes: -2 (965) [Net Movement: +1]

As shown, the populations of these alliances have been declining (exceptions being miniscule gains for RAZOR, TNT, and EXE); this is not speculation, this is fact that can be seen when using an unbiased third-party site (in this case,  Even looking at Dotlan and the metrics used there, it’s easy to see the constantly declining numbers available for all six alliances.  So while the Imperium members might harp on about “declining numbers” in enemy groups like Pandemic Horde, Horde has been gaining members (+270 over the past seven days for a member count of 9,304) while no alliance in the Imperium has seen similar numbers.  One can make the argument that general activity per capita is higher than Horde, but numbers right now do not lie.

Yes, this is a basic explanation, but I like keeping things basic.  If you want a more intimate explanation, I am not your man for that (right now).

Alright, the Disclaimer.

At the moment, I am a member of Tactical Narcotics Team and have been for a few months, now.  I have been a loyal member of the alliance, and have tried to remain positive and upbeat over this war, even writing several pieces for our alliance forums in which I explained the similarities between the current war and battles/wars of the past on Earth.

I say “at the moment” because I have already become disenfranchised with the alliance, and at this point am still in it because I do like many of the people in it.  I firmly believe, however, that TNT as an entity has lost its identity because of the close relationship with Goonswarm.  Coalitions are fine, but you’d expect that there would be attempts to maintain individualism and identity while working towards a common goal.  TNT is regarded as “Goonswarm Lite”, and to quote one director of Goonswarm Federation on Mumble:

“FCON and SMA leaving are expected.  If TNT leaves, then I’ll be worried because we are so fucking similar.”

When The Mittani talked about folding the alliances of the Imperium into Goonswarm to force the best chance of fighting in FozzieSov, TNT was on the fence.  While CEOs in the alliance were hesitant to do so, there were attempts by Goonswarm directors to point out this “special relationship” between the two alliances, a la the “special relationship” between the United States and Great Britain.  This didn’t fully sway the CEOs, thankfully, and I think that was part of the reason the idea fell behind.  The Mittani and his directors couldn’t even convince “Goonswarm Lite” to go with his plan, so how could they possibly convince the rest of the Imperium to do so without significant failcascades?

But while I am annoyed by this, I can’t overlook the fact that I am a loyal member of the alliance, even with these misgivings.  I wouldn’t betray them, I wouldn’t spy on them.  I’ve never done it, and I have wanted to for previous groups.  Normally I just leave at that point.  TNT has been fun, and I want this to be more of a wake-up call piece than a “fuck you bitches” piece.  However, this is a point in the war where morale is low for the Imperium, and being objective and bringing facts to the table that contradict the narrative is routinely seen as treason.  As such, having already been banned from Goonswarm Mumble and the site because I am taking things more neutral than they want, I hold no doubts that this may be the final nail in the coffin and I might see myself removed because of pressure.

The Fabian Strategy

When the war began, The Mittani called on the Imperium to take up the “Fabian Strategy” in order to win the war.  The Fabian Strategy revolves around denying decisive large-scale engagements in favor of small skirmishes at best, but normally it involves rapid harrying of logistics, stragglers, and forces that can be encircled, cut off, and removed.  This strategy works best against an invading force, where their logistics train is strewn out, reinforcements can’t necessarily be deployed rapidly, and you have a solid “GTFO” strategy and plan.  More commonly, this is seen today as “guerilla tactics”, and we saw in Afghanistan and Iraq that this can be highly effective.

The Fabian Strategy assumes that the force employing it has time on their side.  Alternatively, it is employed if no other viable strategy presents itself.  Once again, the Muj in Afghanistan used it, because they don’t have a viable alternative, and because Western memories tend to be very short: we know about 9/11, but after fifteen years of war we simply stopped caring, and became tired of the mire we were in.

However, the main problem is that we did not cut off the MBC’s logistics.  Their jump freighters continue to move unhindered and unmolested, bringing in the necessary ships for doctrines, modules, and other sundry necessities.  As such, while the Imperium likes to say eventually our enemies will get bored and tired of no SRP, PL, TEST, and other larger conglomerates can easily replace what has been lost, even supercapitals.  That is part of the reason they aren’t afraid to engage in supercapital fights, and The Mittani knows it: we can no longer easily replace lost supercapitals; replacing basic capitals is a chore as-is.  We have no industry capability anymore.  We risk scams by buying from outside sources.  Meanwhile, I Want ISK is funding the war effort, and easily replaced the supercapitals destroyed by SNUFF in the infamous “backstab” not too long ago.  So while the Imperium may have the largest supercapital fleet available (up for debate), it is not easily replaced, which makes it more dangerous to utilize.  Our assets are locked for the most part; our enemies’ are not.

But our own logistics are harried.  The recent move of pretty much every swinging dick into Saranen has pretty much shut off our ability to bring in jump freighters.  Cynos will be removed post haste, as we have seen over the past few days.  It is safer to light the cyno on another station in-system and warp to our home base at 0 than to jump directly to a cyno on said station.

There are also two key components to the Fabian Strategy that are not being utilized, thus actually making it the worst alternative presented to, and by, The Mittani.  The first is that the force utilizing the strategy is not centralized, and that instead of a large force, you have multiple smaller forces camping out.  This is to prevent that decisive, large-scale battle that the strategy seeks to avoid from happening.  While low-sec might be unconquerable, by consolidating the forces into Saranen—and into one station when three are available, at that!—it serves to weaken the overall objectives stated by The Mittani.  Having hundreds, if not thousands, of players in one system, it actually eases up the enemy’s intelligence services: you can now view that one system as your center of focus, and send a very small amount of scouts out to the systems important to the Imperium: Daras (the system important to Imperium Black Ops), Aunenen (the mid-point between Jita and Saranen for jump bridges), and Tamo (the midpoint between Aunenen and Saranen for other capitals).  The stated goal of this consolidation was to make fleets easier to manage, but what it does is allow the enemy to know when a fleet undocks.  And considering The Mittani and directors of Imperium alliances like to harp on about the MBC not having unified communications, wouldn’t it be smarter to take full advantage of that, and spread the forces out in order to minimize the chance PL, TEST, and TISHU might see the same damn fleet undocking?  If the communication lines for the enemy are truly disgruntled (read: fucked), then it makes sense to force greater hardships on it, not make it so one TISHU, one TEST, and one PL scout can each be in the same system and allow for all three to form up.  The purpose of this strategy is to introduce Mr. Murphy far more readily to the enemy, while also increasing the chance he visits himself upon you as well (Murphy’s Law: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, and at the worst possible time).  Compounding problems on the enemy is crucial to the power of the Fabian Strategy, but The Mittani ignores this, because of the following component he ignores.

The Fabian Strategy makes use of small-unit commanders.  Normally, a military would entrust a captain or lieutenant with a company or platoon, but the big decisions would be left up to the major or lieutenant colonel in charge of the battalion, at the lowest.  While the United States military offers the ability for those lieutenants to make command decisions based on a changing tactical situation, overall it’s frowned upon to change entire sections of a plan.  The Fabian Strategy removes such limitations, oftentimes letting the junior officers or senior noncommissioned officers make decisions not normally at their paygrade.  You actually encourage those people to think, make informed judgments, and run things, which can put a lot of pressure on them, but it helps to shape them.  The idea is to turn your forces into makeshift SEALs, Special Air Services, Force Recon, Delta, etc.  They become specialized small-gang fighters, looking to make the enemy bleed in the most efficient way possible.

Unfortunately, the Imperium has kept things to the “coalition-level FCs”.  Sure, there are individual alliance-based FCs, but if you don’t have the FC tag attached to your name you actually miss out on many of the perks associated with FCing.  You don’t get to do pings unless someone higher-up is willing to do so.  In many instances, your fleet will not be eligible for SRP, and there have been several FCs who have said their fleets have been denied SRP because they aren’t “valid”, despite the fleet running the literal fits and compositions found on Goonfleet.  So the enemy knows DBRB, Asher Elias, Amyclas Amatin and the like are FCs, and to headshot them.  There’s little chance of that happening when other people who have proven leadership traits taking fleets out, because it messes, once again, with the enemy’s ability to gather intelligence!

The more pressing matter is that the Fabian Strategy is pretty much a solid “win” card.  Barring the entire coalition falling apart overnight, eventually the MBC will grow bored, either because of no more fights, or just general apathy.  At that point, The Mittani can claim victory, as he “knew” it would happen.  In essence, there is no way to lose with the Fabian Strategy.

What it boils down to is leaders who have no other options, or who can’t actually strategize and plan, turn to this tactic to save face.  Nothing more.  It offers no actual chance for lower-level commanders and leaders to take initiative and do their own thing.  It is rather like the Soviet doctrines, in which everything was decided by the military leaders in Moscow, and it was expected there would be no deviation at the sub-unit level.  That is that antithesis to the Fabian strategy.

Saranen “Standing Fleet”

24 April 2016: “Firstly, the Saranen Standing fleet which is keeping Saranen clean. The enemy that used to be sitting on the undock having fun is no longer having fun, either because the Standing Fleet docks up and advises nobody else to undock, denying content until hostile forces leave, or increasingly because the Standing Fleet kills the hostiles and fewer of them return. The enemy does not deserve content, they deserve misery, and right now Saranen is a rather discouraging place for them to be.”

15 May 2016: “The standing fleet doesn't work because the enemy is always ready to drop overwhelming force, and because Caracals can't take on carriers. If they're going to camp Saranen, let them camp a station where nothing is happening. Use you own insta-undocks and be smart when undocking. We will deal with their campers by boring them to death and then flash forming occasionally.”

In less than a month, the concept of the “standing fleet” went the way of the dodo.  This concept is routinely used in high sec war decs, where overwhelming force isn’t expected.  One alliance can keep people outside the home station, going suspect or other shenanigans while people do real life stuff.  Once hostiles show up, everyone prepares to fight.  This is effective because high sec prevents neutrals from opening fire unless one side goes suspect.  The real strength is that neutral logistics will go suspect, allowing free fire on them.  Mittani tried to take a high sec tactic and turn it into something in low sec.  It does not work.

The reason for this is simple: the Imperium has preferred staying with cheap fits and doctrines, limiting the power of the fleet itself.  Since it’s so easy to prepare for, and you know exactly where they are, you can camp it all day.  The standing fleet’s purpose was to either pop enemies, or deny them content.  It was easily countered, and people only joined to whore PAP links.  A fleet of 90 would only have about 45 undocked, if they were that lucky.

In short, Mittani expected overwhelming numbers on his side.  However, as he’s constantly said the entirety of EVE is arrayed against us.  While he flaunts a “lack of communication” amongst our enemies, he ignores the fact that you don’t need impressive communication lines in order to stay outside a station and blap anything from the Imperium that undocks.  It was folly to think we’d have the numbers to maintain a round-the-clock standing fleet and maintain numerical superiority, when we simply do not have it.

Once Allies, Now Falling By The Wayside

When SMA and FCON broke ties with the Imperium, I was one of the few saying they should not maintain blue status.  The truth is while this war has been on the minds of many for years, the actions of SMA were the catalyst that caused everything to begin.  As such, it seemed only fair that they should have a part in the defense.  The truth is, SMA was never prepared for this, and hubris on the part of their leadership, and a general belief that the Imperium as a whole would save them, led to their eventual destruction.  It was difficult—nigh on impossible—to fully fight this war on one front, let alone multiple.  As such, bailing means that they had nothing to gain, and their rapidly declining memberbase showed it.

FCON has engaged the Imperium.

The Bastion no longer sees itself as part of the Imperium.

Only TNT, EXE., and RAZOR remain at this point.  And to be frank, given talks lately that I have been privy to, at least two of those alliances are talking about evac’ing the war zone.  Maybe not cutting ties, but moving on to “rebuild”.

So, Is The War Lost?

Right now, the war is lost for the Imperium in everything but name only.  I want to make that clear: there is a chance to pull victory out of this, but it would require a complete restructuring of leadership, and an openness to new tactics and strategies.  It would require humility, which The Mittani lacks.  In fact, I would argue the entire Goonswarm Federation leadership lacks it.  They simply believe that what they are doing now is the only right way to achieve success.

The Mittani’s many claims have never been validated by evidence he claims to have.  In fact, each and every time he’s asked for evidence, it’s never provided.  He’s always said, “we’ve seen”, but the average member hasn’t seen these cracks forming in the MBC.  The average member hasn’t seen Pandemic Horde being decimated and farmed by other MBC groups.  The average member can only see massaged numbers claiming proof of Horde inactivity, and they have to take the promises of this war being “won” by the Goonswarm leadership as gospel.  In fact, on the Fireside Chats, he readily admitted he doesn’t have a “ready list”.  Okay, The Mittani might not have a list right now, but why hasn’t be provided one since?  Why don’t we have video of all these amazing things happening to help us win the war?

It took less than two months to make Goonswarm Federation and the rest of the Imperium a non-sov-holding entity.  This isn’t the first time anyone in the Imperium has lost their sov, but it is the first time it’s happened since the new sov changes came to pass.  In time, yes the MBC will lose interest in the war, and they will go to do their own things.  At that time, the Imperium may rise again and reclaim sov.  But for the foreseeable future, without a severe change in tactics, strategies, and in general a change in thinking, the Imperium will likely continue to be camped into Saranen station, until such time as it falls apart.

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