What If – The Star League-in-Exile Had Survived?

Our BattleTechBattleTechWhat If – The Star League-in-Exile Had Survived?

Death of General Aaron DeChavilier

Assuming for a moment that General Kerensky had not suffered a massive heart attack or that his son Nicholas was unanimously elected to be his heir, what would have happened? Would the Star League-in-Exile have survived the wave of violence, mistrust and fear sweeping the young nation? While my personal beliefs are such that the Star League-in-Exile as Alexandr Kerensky envisioned it actually died when he left the Inner Sphere, the nominal truth is that the Star League-in-Exile had every opportunity to survive up until Nicholas’ second Exodus to the Kerensky Cluster. However, before that conclusion can be considered valid we should consider why.

Without delving into a lengthy dissertation on the socio-cultural aspects of the military, suffice to say that the military’s role in culture is merely to enforce its own culture at the expense of the individual’s. Military culture, as a distinct entity in its own right, isolates and curtails facets of the greater host civilian culture in an effort to create a homogenous division of control. This in turn promotes smooth functioning and in theory, a level playing field for advancement. Since one of the core tenets of most western militaries is promotion or reward based on ability, a soldier’s faith, heritage or beliefs should be inconsequential. For the most part they are usually treated as such in that regard and soldiers are forced to work with and among individuals of different faiths, racial heritage and beliefs. They overcome the barriers of their culture because this civilian culture is systematically repressed and replaced. While there is an almost endless list of the many benefits of military culture and its homogenizing effect on the divisive human condition, it is the concept of shared hardship that is most valuable to this argument and a theme that will continue to crop up throughout the piece. It should also be noted that this is an idealized version of the type of military culture the SLDF would have enjoyed and does not take into account bias against gender or sexual orientation.

With firm roots in the history of pre-Exodus Terra, a smart man would have known that despite shared hardship and the forced bonds of camaraderie a universal release from military employ will find the average individual returning to what he or she knows best. Think for a moment of the reflexive response of the World War II veteran upon his return home from war. What did he do first? Did he immediately head for the highway? Did he aim for the great unknown with only the clothes on his back and the shoes on his feet? While that did happen, most often he made an attempt to settle back into an approximation of normalcy, or in layman’s terms, the civilian life he once knew before war and the military. More important than the actual settlement or return to civilian life, is the basic composition. Since the compositional components of normalcy are personalized by the individual, only the broadest examples are pertinent to the overall picture. Things like family, neighborhood, city, region, etc., are good examples of the building blocks of normalcy and help reinforce civilian culture. So taking a quick snap shot of the Exodus fleet we are presented with the reverse of this presentation of normalcy. In the fleet, the broadest building blocks of civilian normalcy would have been civilian culture rather than civilian life, since neighborhoods, cities, regions and planets were no longer viable or even an available option to the one-time soldiers and their dependents. And while this is a discussion of the Star League-in-Exile, it would be a serious oversight to ignore the SLDF’s Exodus from the Inner Sphere and the trip’s effect on the fleet or its long-term contribution to the stresses responsible for the Exodus Civil Wars.

The Exodus

While the cramped conditions of the Exodus fleet could have created a cultural crucible for the fleeing refugees and with it the possibility of permanent cultural diffusion or a bonding trust through another shared and common hardship, the truth is that the Exodus voyage was merely a band-aid or temporary patch placed over the cultural headwaters of the SLDF. Not only was the voyage too short in terms of actual time spent in space, but the decaying conditions created focal points for growing tension. Rather than develop or build a new cohesive Exodus “culture” during the trip, distrust and anger directed at General Kerensky would become the single permanent fixture of Exodus “cultural” development. This is best exemplified by the eruption of the Prinz Eugen Mutiny and re-emphasized by the harsh penalties for its participants. The end result was a mutiny that was neither a reaction nor a revolt against a growing Exodus culture, but rather a mutiny against General Kerensky. There was no culture involved, just the hardships of the Exodus and anger manifested into a physical response.

When viewed from a cultural standpoint, the mutiny reinforces the idea that the Exodus “patch” was as a temporary fix preventing the mass infection of old civilian culture; a plausible brake on its reintroduction. So while the military circumvents and supplants civilian culture with military culture through the foundations of shared hardship and merit based promotion, the Exodus supplanted military culture with distrust and anger, but continued to maintain its relevance.

In the great scheme of cultural reinforcement military culture tends to lose to civilian culture for two very important reasons. One, an individual’s exposure to military cultural is dwarfed by the years spent immersed in his or her civilian culture. Children are not born into the military (unless they are Clanners) and adult soldiers have to contend with the nagging pull of their civilian culture early in their careers and immediately after it ends. This means many of the “bad” habits their civilian culture enforced, such as intolerance, racism, etc., has the opportunity to erode the homogenizing influences of military culture. Second, not every member of a society joins the military. This results in a lack of reinforcement from one generation to the next of the homogenous benefits of military culture and therefore no military inspired “cultural” institutional memory.

To forestall any additional argument it should be noted that while the Inner Sphere did produce innumerable “military” families, i.e. families where military services as a vocation was passed down from one generation to the next, there is still no discernable pattern of institutional memory within these familiar units, or at the very minimum, those families hailing from the Terran Hegemony. There is also another important distinction that must be made – members of military families hailing from ethnically non-Western cultures will have civilian cultures that may emphasize tenets that are alarming similar to Western military culture, but should not be considered similar since the SLDF was decidedly Terran Hegemony-like, ala Western in its civilian and military cultural construction. So while some individuals would have had multi-generational military backgrounds, like Colleen Schmitt or Raymond Sainze from the Draconis Combine, they could not be studied as equal entities or catalogued equally as their prevailing civilian and military cultures were very different from one another.

So while the basic statement of familial memory through service could be considered inherently true as military families do exist, the basic foundation of the premise is incorrect. Claiming multi-generational institutional memory is akin to saying that the parent generation groomed and indoctrinated the next in totality. Again, while this could be an inherently true sentiment in its own right, we “know” it is also untrue for the Terran Hegemony and therefore for the SLDF. For example, Alexandr Kerensky wanted nothing to do with the military despite a famous “military” family. He was studying literature and poetry before life changing events brought him to the SLDF. Total indoctrination in his family’s history of military service would have made this an impossibility, or at the very minimum, highly unlikely. Colleen Schmitt may have been deeply seeped in her family’s history of military commitment, but a suitable claim can not be made to know whether or not she was truly groomed for military service from a young age. Again, this basic generalization has more to do with what is known about the prevailing culture of the Terran Hegemony than her family. So whereas Raymond Sainze was probably groomed for some type of government or military service due to the prevailing cultural emphasis placed on well-to-do families in the Draconis Combine, the same can not be said for nations of western cultural descent or anywhere else.

Returning to the Exodus fleet, during the Exodus, the remaining microcosm of the military establishment available to the SLDF during the two year voyage would undoubtedly have affected only a small percentage of the total number of soldiers in the fleet. Even with duty rotations and rudimentary work schedules, the basic erosion of the military and its culture would have certainly taken place. This erosion would be further augmented by the close proximity of civilians who joined the fleet and their influence. Therefore, without a new homogenizing “Exodus” civilian culture built, the fleet that reached the Pentagon worlds was instead a degrading umbrella of old SLDF military culture, beneath which sat countless civilian cultural “parts” trying to peak from beneath it crumbling shadow.

Under normal circumstances, a crumbling military culture is not a “bad” thing. Remember, before the Exodus the crumbling of military culture meant resuming one’s civilian life and civilian culture in one of the Great Houses. However, without political and physical bastions to return to, the SLDF became the only entity for return – just without the return. One of the great tragedies of the Exodus is that it inadvertently took an unprepared SLDF from being a component of a state(s) to a state in its own right, but without the natural domestic cultural growth. To put the description into perspective you could compare the SLDF to a summer camp. You leave home for a stint at summer camp and then return home at summer’s end. Home represents your pre-existing civilian culture and life. Summer camp is a brief distraction, something different, but ultimately nothing permanent. But what happens when summer camp becomes home? You clearly remember and were influenced by your real home, but can longer return to it. And the summer camp, which was always just a camp, now has to become a home and develop all the homeliness associated with that definition. Who is going to develop that new home, the camp councilors or the campers? Is either party capable? Without direction or guidance, development, if any, would descend into chaos. Something akin to what happened in the Lord of the Flies if left unchecked.

However, by the time the Exodus Fleet reached the Pentagon Worlds it is all water under the bridge. While the two year window to begin development of an “Exodus” culture is lost, it is not absent from the realm of possibility. Despite a crumbling military culture, anger, distrust and exhaustion, the basic building blocks of new civilian life and therefore another chance at a new civilian culture is available – the colonization of the Pentagon worlds.

The Pentagon

The failure of General Kerensky and the colonization of the Pentagon worlds is perhaps the most inexcusable and tragic decision of the entire Exodus. While failure to create or start a new Exodus or Star League-in-Exile culture during the voyage was a lost opportunity, it could be chocked up to simple inexperience, lack of preparation or distraction. Depending on what theory you succumb to, either Kerensky knew about the Pentagon worlds and just took his sweet time getting there, or he was blindly making stabs in the dark and hoping for the best. Assuming for a second he had only the vaguest idea of where the Pentagon worlds lay, then the General was obviously distracted by the task at hand. Between maintaining the fleet’s basic needs, covering their tracks and finding a new home, there might be a plausible explanation for his apparent lack of interest or foresight. Conversely, if the General did fully know the location of the Pentagon worlds, then the failure of Kerensky was as monumental as his decision to leave the Inner Sphere. Or maybe the General simply continued to see himself as a General, and not the future leader of a civilian nation. After all, it is probably one of the underlying psychological factors for his refusal of the Star League throne, or the Director-Generalship of the defunct Terran Hegemony. But one has to wonder if the General realized that the SLDF was no longer an army. Sure he claimed the SLDF would become or was the Star League-in-Exile, but did he ever approach, treat or view his new society as anything other than the SLDF with a new name? And if Kerensky did view his new society beneath the veneer of a life time spent in the military, why callously forget some of its core tenets during the colonization?

While the rushed colonization of the Pentagon worlds should not have been an excuse for complete disregard, it was. Rather than settle the Pentagon worlds in a semi-balance of order, or in military fashion, General Kerensky allowed the SLDF to settle in any manner they saw fit. Place the concept of culture building and cultural mixing to the side for a moment. From a logistical perspective, would it not have made sense to allocate the limited colonization resources to groups with a familiar work relationship, i.e. military units? Here you have the SLDF, which has just spent a decade fighting one of the most horrible wars in human history, who have also spent two more years cooped up with one another in the bowels of a ship over a vast interstellar distance. You would think the soldiers who made up the various combat units of the SLDF would have a decent working relationship by the time they reached the Pentagon worlds and that Kerensky would want to capitalize on that experience in building his new society. Not too mention using the esprit de corps and shared history of said soldiers to help slow further erosion of the existing military culture through their self created cultural Diaspora. Yet, it happened. And while it is true the unique challenges each world presented may have been another distraction in a long list of distractions and contributed to the manner in which the Pentagon was colonized. It was the General’s leadership style, waxing and waning between civilian and military application with alarming frequency throughout this period that created the worst of the problems.

So what was the lasting affect of Kerensky’s Pentagon colonization effort? Well, for one, it allowed those old civilian cultures to flourish again thanks to the recreation of old civilian life. These were the same civilian cultures, which up until the colonization, had either been suppressed by the SLDF’s military culture or the hardships of the Exodus voyage. Set free thanks to Kerensky’s stupidity or inept leadership, would begin to fester in communities on all five worlds. With civilian life once again acting as a mutually supportive institution, old civilian culture would be impossible to fully eradicate. If that was ever the intention of General Kerensky and his new Star League-in-Exile, it was lost with the colonization effort. Culturally, the early Pentagon situation eerily paralleled the first Exodus from Terra, just before the formation of the Inner Sphere’s Great Houses. It was the same potential powder keg only spread across continents instead of planets. Yet even with the continued erosion of the SLDF’s military culture and self imposed cultural Diaspora among its members, the fact remains that General Kerensky was presented with one last opportunity to help knit the tattered fabric of his budding society and perhaps, open up enough breathing space for a true pan-Star League-in-exile culture to develop – even with the existence of older civilian cultures – the reserve militias.

Starting with the earliest moment of the great Pentagon tragedy, let us play the “What If” game for a moment and reflect. What if General Kerensky had allowed the SLDF test-outs to form citizen and reserve militias? What would have been the logical result of that decision? Well, for one it would have helped combat the growing xenophobic feelings of cultural division afflicting the Exodus population and perhaps also help deflect some of the hardships faced by the ex-soldiers settling into their new civilian lives. But more importantly, it would shore up the crumbling military culture and its homogenizing benefits. Again, try to remember that at this point most of the Pentagon’s population had spent the better part of their adult lives in the military. Whether they had intended to remain in the military for so long or not is a moot point, the Amaris Coup and the Exodus created the end result.  Also bear in mind the two reasons mentioned earlier as to why military culture erodes in the face of its civilian counterpart, connect the two points and recognize Kerensky’s final missed possibility.

The missed possibility in question was effectively not taking advantage of the inadvertent creation of an irregular generation born under service to the military. In effect the first generation of a potential new society with the capacity to impart many of the homogenizing tenets of the military to future generations of culturally different individuals beneath a common banner. Meaning, despite being ex-soldiers from the Hegemony, Confederation, League, Suns or Combine, they still hungered for military culture even after being fully immersed in their old civilian cultures. And while the ex-SLDF troopers may have wanted the new militias out of pride or a sense of purpose, the asking for militias was proof of the truth of this claim nevertheless. Kerensky was presented with an opportunity to reestablish the old ties of camaraderie, shared hardship and the experience of different individuals working with one another. The damage caused by the Exodus voyage could have been repaired had Kerensky heeded this final call from his troops.

The Result

What could have happened next was the development of breathing space for the nascent Star League-in-Exile to iron out its birthing pangs and to truly live up to its name. In turn, the first generation of Pentagon children, who would later become the first generation of Clan warriors, would not have been raised strictly within old Inner Sphere cultures, but instead become a transitional generation between SLDF soldiers from the Inner Sphere using their SLDF military-inspired culture to bridge the gap between the old civilian cultures of the Inner Sphere and the possibility of a new pan-Pentagon Star League-in-Exile culture. With a little bit of care, Kerensky could have used the crumbling military culture of the old SLDF as the foundation or glue to hold Pentagon society together as it developed its own unique cultural identity atop the older ones. By transmuting the best tenets of military culture and maintaining even minute amounts of active military structure among the majority of the ex-SLDF, Kerensky could have bridged the cultural divides, effectively creating a true Star League – one where unique civilian cultures were actually a part of the whole rather than simply a participating member-state in it.

2 comments to “What If – The Star League-in-Exile Had Survived?”

  1. Interesting thoughts and a good analysis of what might have happened during the Exodus and immediately after.

    The question of General Kerensky’s mindset is probably a good one as illustrated by his refusal of taking a title in the Inner Sphere.

    There is one main problem:
    the military culture.
    The renascent military culture with militia units and reservists might need an enemy to keep its power and the interest of its members.
    A military force without external enemy will turn its might against its own people, which is not good.

    However the development of mini-societies built around one ship or a couple of them is an interesting idea.

Leave Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *