The Great Game: Postwar Thoughts

Some thoughts on the future development of this alternate history. It’s not a pleasant place, compared to our world; it’s occasionally sobering to think that, after all, Leibniz may have been right. At any rate, there are clearly many more ways for history to go more wrong than ours did, than for it to go more right.

I disagree with Blayne’s analysis here; I do not think a rational Chinese government would have started a war for Japan, knowing that Norway would be certain to interfere. (It’s worth remembering that Beijing went up in radioactive smoke a few days into the war. I think that would weigh rather more heavily with a real Chinese government than with a human player of computer games.) That leaves us with a long-drawn Cold War with three camps, although England is markedly less powerful than either the Comintern or the Yngling Realm. I suspect that England would incline towards the Ynglings at least to start with, for two reasons: First, remember who nuked London; second, only the Yngling nuclear shield would keep Japan under English rule. (Let me mention that the British Empire at this point is essentially the Isles, Japan, Australia, and Canada.) As the British developed a credible deterrent of their own, this quasi-alliance would grow weaker; but the Comintern is the largest of the three power blocs, so it makes sense for the two weaker ones to cooperate to a certain extent.

So we get three empires, holding each other at bay with vast nuclear arsenals (clearly they are going to grow a lot faster here than in OTL, and it’s not as though the USSR and USA were sluggards), and skirmishing for influence in the various nominally independent nations. In particular, the Balkans would be a flashpoint for all sorts of intrigues, not that this should be a surprise to anyone. I will point out that Norway still has the rightful Byzantine Emperor stashed away somewhere; something might be made of that at some point.

I think Finland would change sides quite rapidly; it is a totally artificial construct upheld only by Comintern bayonets. In the first place it’s surrounded by Norway, which controls its trade routes through the Baltic; in the second place it was heavily colonised by Ynglings from roughly 1200 onwards; in the third place it is ethnically Norse, and its inhabitants are therefore all considered Ynglings by law, since the Twenty Years’ war that ended around 1900. This is not Africa we are talking about; these people are Ynglings and proud of it, and they’ll be chucking out their Communist occupiers at the first opportunity. Conceivably they could maintain a nominal independence as a sop to the Comintern, but there would certainly be no question of tariffs or barriers to movement, and they would do whatever the Storting said, at least as much as any other region of the Norwegian Empire. Admittedly, the said regions do have quite a bit of independence.

Europe is more of a problem for the Ynglings; certainly we’re not going to make any headway in the Balkans for the first twenty years or so, while people there remember the occupation. Eventually they’ll probably get tired of being Communists, just as they did in OTL; but unlike the US, the Ynglinga Rike is hardly a shining beacon of freedom and affluence for the workers and peasants to aspire to. Any liberation movements might take money and weapons from Norway, but they’d be extremely wary of anything even remotely resembling Yngling troops coming to their aid. The way for Norway to do anything here might be to propagandise about the rightful Byzantine Emperor and his Senate-in-Exile; the Greek government probably wasn’t all that great, but it did have some semblance of democracy and personal freedom, and time tends to blur over the bad parts of a former regime when dealing with an oppressive new one. It is just barely possible that Greece could recover, become a genuinely independent Power again, and assert its dominance in the Balkans. Of course, there would be no question of any permanent alliance with the Ynglings; such a Greece would acquire its own nuclear deterrent in short order and point its rockets both north and east, thanks. The Ynglings would probably be happy just to weaken China, though, and would work for such a development even knowing that there would be no long-term ally. This doesn’t depend on any guerrilla movements or suchlike chancy stuff, mind you; it could conceivably be sufficient just to supply the nominally-independent government of Greece with some rockets capable of reaching Beijing, a few nuclear warheads for them, and their Emperor and Senate. It all depends on just how annoyed the mid-level bureaucrats and the army in Greece become at having to take orders from Beijing.

Africa, I think, is going to remain a thorn in the side of whoever owns it, in this case Spain. Norway and England will supply weapons to the tribes, and Spain will smash ’em with airpower. In the former Norwegian colonies, they’ve been fighting the foreign oppressor for two hundred years anyway, and England has been supplying them with weapons about as long; smuggling guns to the Gold Coast is how bright young officers make their name in the Royal Navy. All that’s changed is just how much coast is available to smuggle to. Plus ca change. So Spain will basically be busy and oppressive and maybe not very interested in helping China out with the Balkans. Let’s not forget that the Iberian Peninsula was on the receiving end of quite a few nukes; I would think they’re stretched pretty thin just occupying their huge empire. They might even exit the Comintern, much like the Sino-Russian split in OTL, just in exchange for some peace and quiet from their European tormentors.

The Middle East, however, will stay firmly under China’s thumb, thanks. Two-thirds of the world’s oil supply! If Spain does split from the Chinese, I expect we’d see a quick little conventional war, China taking over what are currently Spanish puppets in the oil-producing regions. Similarly, India and Kazakhstan are not going anywhere, they’re nowhere near big enough to fight China and they are too far away and the wrong colour for receiving any nuclear warheads from Norway. It’s possible that Russia could go a little more independent, they’re quite far away from China over some of the world’s worst roads, but I don’t really expect it – they ought to be aware that they’re right next to Norway, sitting on lands that were ours for several hundred years, and have no independent nuclear deterrent. Spain is one thing, but if Russia were to try retreating into neutrality, Norway would be all over them like strils on a salt mine.

Speaking of salt mines, what would be the economic development of this world? In a word, slow. There is no single free-market economy here to form a driving motor of innovation; without a war to force the governments to invest heavily in research, there’s not going to be much happening. Expect computers to remain building-sized monstrosities well into the nineties, and the Internet as we know it just won’t happen – the very thought of researchers freely sharing their data (the original purpose of the WWW, as you may recall) would give these governments the screaming secret-police heebie-jeebies. Cars are going to remain a curio for the rich: In Norway, because the little oil we produce has to be sequestered for military and industrial purposes, in China because “Well, why do you need that much personal mobility anyway, comrade? Aren’t you happy in your factory?” In short, we’ll have a much poorer world, carrying a much heavier military burden relative to the size of the economy. No globalisation, either: The blocs may even have internal tariffs (eg between Norway and Poland) as a means of extracting money from the population, and there will certainly be the mother of all export barriers between the blocs.

I mentioned the problems China will have in trying to keep the Balkans under control; what about Norway keeping Burgundy, Poland and Italy under its thumb? After all these are large, homogenous nations with proud histories as independent empires – more difficult to keep down than the squabbling, feud-rich, resource-poor Balkans, to be sure. Against this it’s worth noting that the Ynglings are not going to object to using nukes as riot control, if they absolutely have to – either metaphorically or literally. Certainly Rome, Brussels (or whatever non-radioactive non-crater ends up holding the Burgundian government) and Cracow are all going to have large Yngling garrisons, thanks kindly. And after the bleeding Poland received (0 manpower, estimated 4 million casualties), not to mention two large armies fighting all through Germany, there’s not going to be much enthusiasm for fighting in these nations for a generation or two. It’s not as though they are democracies, either; the Ynglings can farm out their daughters to the governing elite and absorb them by marriage and blood. It’s how we colonised Germany in the first place. You just have to find the right noble to marry. So if that works, we’ll see a large Yngling Empire centered on Norway, where the population is something like 40% Yngling; and there will be tributary nations through Europe where only the absolute top layer, say maybe 0.1-0.5%, are Ynglings, but the strils have a lot more rights than they do in Norway proper. The Ynglings won’t have a problem with that, they’re used to having different rules for different parts of the Empire; the important part is that Ynglings are on top, not the precise form that being on top takes.

A Protracted Struggle, then, waged in the shadow of the mushroom cloud. Three blocs to start with, possibly expanding to four or five later on if Greece or Spain should make a successful break for it. (Don’t bet on this happening, though.) It might not even end in tears. Perhaps there’ll be a movement towards economic and personal liberty in one of the blocs. It might be China, as seems to be happening in OTL – but then again, our Chinese communists have had the advantages of a free-market economy rather conclusively demonstrated to them. It might be England, which has been a democratic nation in living memory; Mosley won’t live forever any more than Cromwell did. But then again, England is definitely the least of the blocs; even if its people gained some freedom, most of the world would still be living in chains. It might be Norway, where after all 40% of the population does have rights – rights to vote, even, and freedom of speech at least where the code duello does not censor. It is possible that the unstable equilibrium of deterrent won’t break down, and that one of the blocs will have a Gorbachev unwilling to turn the machine guns and the tanks on his own people. It’s possible that there will be peace.

And maybe the horse will learn to sing.

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