Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Alliance In Being

"The fleet-in-being principle has been adopted by small nations in confrontations with great powers. The idea of such a fleet is simple: keep a viable fighting force together and occupy enemy assets with the threat of a sortie. Since this force can choose the time and place of attack, its enemy must keep an equal or superior force in battle position continually as a counterweight. Considering the need to rest and refit this masking force, an enemy can tie up a force twice its size. This has made the fleet-in-being a favorite strategy of weak naval forces for centuries."

"Fleet In Being",

The idea that eliminating an enemy's fighting strength, not capturing territory, is the true object of a military campaign is not new.  Eve Online's null sec warfare takes the concept one step farther as an alliance's fighting strength is directly tied to the alliance's membership.  In Sins of a Solar Spymaster #57, The Mittani describes the goal of war in Eve Online:
"War in EVE is not about battles between fleets or even capturing territory. Battles between fleets and territory changing hands are byproducts of war, of course, but the real purpose is to annihilate the enemy’s capacity for resistance in all forms. Once resistance is eliminated, what battles remain can be won easily and territory taken as an afterthought. Many wars begin with a stalemate of battles won and lost and systems traded until one side finally breaks their enemy’s will, whereupon the enemy implodes." 

If victory is the destruction of the enemy's capacity for resistance, then preserving one's own capacity for resistance, even if heavily outnumbered, is a requirement for continuing the war.  Basic logic, right?  Not according to those who mock Against ALL Authorities' decision not to wage all-out war in Delve and conserve their super-capital strength.  But I have reason to discount such calls for eHonor as mere propaganda.

In strategic naval theory, -A-'s super-cap fleet is a "fleet in being".  A concept coined in the 17th century, the purpose of such a fleet is to make a more powerful force tie up considerable forces to counter the fleet's threat.  Perhaps the most famous example of a fleet in being was during World War I as the German High Fleet tied down the British Grand Fleet in the North Sea, thus preventing it from supporting land operations in other theaters.

Another reason for dismissing the criticism of -A- is a look at Goonswarm's own history.  In 2005, the newly formed Goonfleet disbanded into NPC corporations under pressure from mercenary wardecs and set up a shared communications channel to act as a pseudo-corp until the pressure subsided.  In 2006, under pressure from Band of Brothers, Goonswarm actually played possum and convinced BoB that the alliance had disbanded.  From stories I heard part of the deception plan involved convincing Goons not to post on forums for 30 days.  Can you imagine the effort that took?  And finally in the wake of Karttoon going on vacation and failing to pay the sov bills in 2010, instead of fighting long odds after their sovereignty dropped, the Goons chose to abandon Delve and fled to Syndicate.  But in each case, the Goons came back from their setbacks bigger and more effective than before.

Can -A- duplicate the Goons' success?  They do have some experience retreating to NPC null sec and then regaining sov.  But -A-'s margin for error is smaller this time as they face a foe in the CFC that is better led, more numerous and funded by their OTEC wealth.  If they are to have any chance, -A- must ignore the calls to follow space Bushido and maintain their status as an alliance in being.


  1. Excellent read, NozyGamer. Thank you for the insightful analysis. Of course, I'd like to add one more paragraph to the article.

    The Fleet in Being is a valid defense so long as the other side cares about the assets it controls. However, if the assets are so vast or the adversary so unconcerned about them that it doesn't matter what the Fleet in Being attacks, the strategy will fail. In a situation as outlined, the elimination of the Fleet in Being becomes the focus of strategy for the other side. Eventually the Fleet in Being will become trapped and have to fight. Since it fights vastly outnumbered, it's elimination is inevitable. At that point, the war is lost for the smaller power. Without the Fleet in Being, they have nothing.

    Now in Eve, capsuleers will simply re-ship and the fleet will live again. Therefore, it only remains to be seen how much Goonsawarm and TEST care about what they've conquered. I doubt they are all that concerned about it. Thanks for giving me a chance to spout.

  2. I wrote a long response earlier which got eaten.

    So I will just say, I dont think many real-world historical situations ever get robustly demonstrated in Eve, and I feel here again the same.

    Currently, the -A- fleet is not stopping the CFC/PL fleet from doing anything. Delve et al is burning. They have no commitments anyhwere else that -A- is keeping them from. Aside from maybe hotdropping gatecamps in lowsec or whatever stupid things PL likes to do with their supercaps when they arent at war.

    When the area around Delve is conquered and only Test remain, what then?
    The difference between Eve and real life is there is no great worry about having territory invaded in Eve.
    If -A- attacked, how much damage would they be able to do before the CFC returned and made them go away again? Certainly not enough damage for anyone to care much. A few towers reinforced/killed maybe.
    As opposed to real life where there would be massive political upheaval as citizens were invaded and subjucated. Which is what makes the fleet in being such a powerful strategy in real life.
    You dont have the same overwhelming importance to protect territory in Eve. A lot of the time territory is just an excuse for a good fight, not the whole reason you have a navy in the first place.
    Important differences that make the comparison fall down in my opinion.