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In a very large and decadent galactic empire (think of Asimov's foundation empire), a new technology leap allows planet's government bodies to communicate instantaneously across the galaxy. It can be considered a space telegraph. It also means that there is no or few limit to knowledge access (as long as the knowledge database is part of the network).

Because of this new technology, the planets on the edge of the galaxy notice that the empire has become decadent (both on the technological level and societal level), is not able to maintain peace (warlords regularly try their luck - without success so far) and will probably ask more of its subjects in hope to restore order. The planets of the border of the galaxy are the most technologically advanced of the empire, as they were colonised later (or more exactly they only have access to the most recent technology whereas planets colonised before have to maintain and use older tech), but they are also the weakest and less populated.

How would such a planet/group of planet/political bodies gain its independence from a dying, but still strong, empire? It is expected that an independence declaration would result in a military answer but the travel time from the core of the Empire to its edge is around 100 years (but armies can be garrisoned closer). How would the independents use this time to prepare?

Except from the instantaneous communication, the technological level is pretty low for a space traveling civilisation: long distance travel can only be made by big ships (smaller or individual ships cannot go far), energy would probably be nuclear (fission or fusion depending on the planet's history), no spectacular weapons.

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    $\begingroup$ Here is what your folks need to overcome: "After this pinch of snuff, I will send the Naval garrison at Anacreon to bombard the newly independent Terminus until it is uninhabitable. No need for armies or occupation or any of that silliness. One worthless planet will make an excellent example to keep the rest from entertaining foolish notions. If they build defenses, then I will simply drop thousands of asteroids and comets on them until they are vaporized - I hold the high ground, and gravity...and the law...is on my side." $\endgroup$ – user535733 Nov 29 '19 at 3:02
  • $\begingroup$ So, you are saying that: 1 - the example strategy will be even more powerful, as other rebels will know about it immediately, 2 - the closer fleets needs to rebel as well or have more urgent matters to deal with. $\endgroup$ – AllirionX Nov 29 '19 at 3:19
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    $\begingroup$ @user535733 while I don't necessarily disagree with you that this is a response that may well come, ultimately this kind of example setting is self-defeating as it tends to upset those around the now destroyed colony. "Look what they did to Terminus! We could be next! Who knows what could set that snuff pinching leader of theirs off?' You tend to lose the trust of the other colonies who just push their own independence movements underground instead. $\endgroup$ – Tim B II Nov 29 '19 at 3:30
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    $\begingroup$ @AllirionX the real point is that decadent does not mean weak or stupid or lacks resources. Pay attention to Von Clausewitz - "war is politics by other means". If you want a war of independence, say so -- and be aware that the power imbalance is gonna make it terrible. If you want an easier path to independence, then go the politics route and get decadent. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Nov 29 '19 at 3:37
  • $\begingroup$ @TimBII complete agreement. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Nov 29 '19 at 3:39
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The details of how (or whether) interplanetary war could work is a giant topic in its own right. But as user535733 points out in their comment, it is likely that if Planet A just wants to destroy Planet B, they'll always be able to. The mere fact of interstellar travel implies being able to accelerate a large rock to a good fraction of light speed, and make it invisible to any kind of telescope. And if you don't share a planet with your enemy, there's no limit on how much destruction you can afford to inflict.

Of course, if the outer planets have (or can build) their own interstellar travel capability, that is a double-edged sword, and they can just advise the empire that a steady train of invisible planet-killer asteroids are already in flight, and if the empire tries anything, those missiles won't get the instruction to abort at the last minute. The weaker planet has the advantage in that kind of game of chicken, since they have less to lose.

Otherwise, their only option is to use the next 100 years to evacuate to a different planet in secret. The secrecy would be very difficult unless the government of the rebel planet can totally control all faster-than-light communication with the empire.

But if the FTL telegraph is widespread – if everyone on every planet has one in their pocket – that has all sorts of interesting implications about how the empire would work. Distant planets could have very active commerce with one another, because even though physical goods take generations to actually arrive, they can be bought and sold in flight (and, up to a point, diverted from one destination planet to another); plus, things like movies, music, accountancy, legal advice and dating websites would be unaffected by distance. In that case, military power would be almost irrelevant – if you tell planet B you're going to invade them in 100 years' time, they can hire assassins, ruin your economy etc. within weeks.

So, if setting up the planetary rebellion is your main goal, I would suggest that the FTL telegraph is a ten-billion-dollar building-sized device that can only send a thousand text messages in a year.

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    $\begingroup$ The Empire would probably end up the winner of an "assassin" war. Either the rebels are bluffing, either the Empire will lose one planet which is an excellent symbol and pretext for more repressive action. The second part of your answer is more likely to happen. Not that the FTL telegraph is widespread, but it in 100 years time in can become widespread. One consequence is the facility to transfer of money (you can indeed hire an assassin and pay him regardless the distance between him and you). In this sitatuation controlling the FTL telegraph network is actually stronger than military power $\endgroup$ – AllirionX Nov 29 '19 at 4:30
  • $\begingroup$ Accepted this answer as it also address the second part of the question. "How would they prepare during those 100 years ?" : by using the the FTL telegraph to create a service economy that the Empire could not use military strength again. $\endgroup$ – AllirionX Dec 1 '19 at 21:45
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Communication != Contribution

There are a few considerations that factor in to the decision that the masters of an empire take when faced with a request for independence of a colonial state;

1) Ongoing Contributions of the Colony to the Empire
2) Ongoing Expenditure in maintaining / defending that colony
3) Reputational Damage

Let's deal with these one by one. A colony that is contributing to the empire in a critical way (either it is a contribution well above the cost of maintenance and defence, or it is a source of a critical resource that is not available elsewhere) is unlikely to get any traction on an attempt to assert independence. It's in the interest of the Empire to preserve the existing relationship.

A colony can solve this problem by either agreeing to generous trade arrangements, ensuring that there are alternative sources of critical resources that the Empire needs, or by finding their own access to these critical resources to be depleted. So, if there is a resource that the colony is obligated to provide but production is reduced due to 'critical shortages' or whatever excuse you can sell to the Empire, your usefulness reduces. It sounds counter-intuitive but if the Empire genuinely believes they have sucked you dry of what they need, they tend to lose interest, especially given the cost of maintaining you as a dependent colony.

That of course leads us to point 2 and the fact that it takes 100 years to get from the core to the outer colony tells me that shipping goods or troops there is going to be hideously expensive. If you can't provide them what they need, and it's going to cost them more to keep you in the empire either through concessions or through military action, they are less inclined to do so. A bad investment is a bad investment whether it is a flutter on a dodgy horse at the races or in maintaining and defending a non-performing colony. Good leaders would understand that so wouldn't press the issue if they were approached in a respectful way with their request.

That brings us into point number 3 - if we were to look at the American Declaration of Independence as an example, this is probably the classic example of what not to do on both sides.

Britain was unresponsive to the requests of the Americans and saw their colony as little more than a resource that needed to do as it was told.

America boldly declared themselves independent in a 'sod-you' to the British, who were forced to respond in an attempt to preserve their reputation on the international stage.

So; if your outer colony really wants independence, all it has to do is follow 3 simple steps;

1) Minimise your usefulness
2) Maximise your cost of maintenance (already done in part by the tyranny of distance)
3) Ask nicely

There are plenty of examples of how this works in practice. Just look at pretty much every African nation in the post-imperial era. Also look at India, Canada, and Australia as examples of how to detach from Britain with minimal, if any, bloodshed.

The mistake that can be made (and we learn this from the Roman experience) is to say that independence is a threat to an empire. That empires must by necessity grow. This just isn't the case and good leaders that have learnt from history know that and as such are not going to push the issue unless they're slapped in the face.

In short, gaining your independence may be a lot easier than you're led to think by those in power in the Empire. They're not going to advertise the fact but if a few colonies on the fringe want to leave they may actually breathe a sigh of relief; more resources to spread across the rest of their (now smaller) borders to protect themselves and their subjects.

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  • $\begingroup$ India is a bit of a controversial example to use there, even if you don't count Partition (with its deadly consequences up to the present day) as a direct part of the independence process. $\endgroup$ – bobtato Nov 29 '19 at 3:54
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    $\begingroup$ As much as I like your answer, I think a maximised cost of maintenance. If we consider that the empire is quite functional, the distance induced cost is the normal maintenance cost. A functional empire will even be organised around this to minimise this cost for day to day operations. I do like that the easiest, and historically accurate, strategy would actually to try to look the less attractive possible to the Empire. This could be done by giving/selling your resources to a neighbour, making him look as prosperous instead of you. $\endgroup$ – AllirionX Nov 29 '19 at 4:53
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By not mattering enough

Afghanistan has done this repeatedly since the bronze age. A bigger, stronger, richer empire absorbs them, only for them to re-emerge as an independant and uncontrolled state the moment said empire is on the ropes. This is possible for a few reasons.

1: The value they pose to the empire is outweighed by the cost of re-subjugating them

2: a strong local culture that paid lip service to the conquerors while maintaining a local identity exists

3: said strong local culture simply never stops resisting. Every overt and expensive move against them by the parent empire is met with low grade but unceasing resistance. This makes it unprofitable to maintain a presence there.

4: They are so far removed from the center of power that losing control of them will go unnoticed by the majority of the empire. Converseley, expending a laughably high amount of resources on re-conquering them WILL be noticed by the empire negativley.

Conclusion

If you want to know how some unimportant backwater manages to establish itself as an independant state seperate from the seemingly invincible empire, just read up on why afghanistan has become "The Graveyard of Empires." Essentially, periodically throughout history they have managed to make themselves a more expensive problem to deal with than its worth, and been abandoned because said empire is too busy trying to fry bigger fish.

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  • $\begingroup$ Of course, the balance may have changed in Afghanistan, now that it's a world leading source of lithium and the entire world is, or very shortly will be, dependent on lithium for everything... $\endgroup$ – Zeiss Ikon Nov 29 '19 at 13:44
  • $\begingroup$ Afghanistan is important to rising "empires" since it is the only real land bridge both between Asia and the Middle East, and between Asia and India. It occupies a critical geostrategic position that rising and established Empires can use for trade and to project power across critical regions. Since it is on the periphery, it is also expensive to garrison. Declining Empires might not want to give up control, but generally cannot afford to keep it either. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Nov 29 '19 at 17:33
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    $\begingroup$ Data point / just for fun: Vietnam has done a remarkably good but less noticed job. Japan / France / US / China. Having the same & world's best general in charge of all campaigns didn't hurt. Utterly ruthless violent technique also. $\endgroup$ – Russell McMahon Nov 29 '19 at 22:07
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The answer is quietly. The Empire's capacity for the projection of force takes a long time to implement. Locally based battalions can attack sooner. The name of the game is gradually and subtly change the management arrangements. In fact, an Empire will be mostly managed and controlled by local officials and institutions.

A remote planet aware the Empire is falling apart and wanting to gain their independence will exploit imperial officialdom and institutions to strengthen themselves against the impending collapse of the central power. They will do this to ostensibly strengthen the Empire, locally, in their planetary system. Effectively they will be self-managing and self-governing.

Now what they won't do is play the mug's game of actually declaring themselves as being independent. No-one wants the Imperial forces to turn up a century later and blast your planet into dust. Actually, if the Empire only has fission and fusion weapons this won't reduce planets to dust, but they will do a lot of damage. Populations will get hurt.

Your remote planet will become independent by becoming independent through taking over the imperial system of government at the local level. They will end up ruling and governing themselves. And isn't this what independence is all about? Of course, it is!

Stick your collective head about the parapet and declare yourselves independent from the Empire and you will get stomped on. Better to sneak out the back door, while still calling yourself a loyal part of the Empire, while becoming de facto independent. Substance is always more important than style.

There is absolutely no need to try and fight a massively more powerful opponent in the form of the Empire, when you know you will inevitably lose.

Once the Empire has actually fallen, then the remote planet can fully declare itself an independent world.

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    $\begingroup$ Thought about the same. Except as bonus I thought also about some mixture of partially ignoring central orders, partially claiming that you're only putting your greatest efforts in preserving the empire and building de facto arrangements with nearby systems which are of course intended for combating piracy. $\endgroup$ – Shadow1024 Nov 29 '19 at 18:23
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    $\begingroup$ "The mountains are high, and the emperor is far" $\endgroup$ – Jonathan Dursi Nov 29 '19 at 18:38
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    $\begingroup$ @Shadow1024 I must have expressed myself poorly. Your idea is essentially what I had in mind. Keep up a presence of being four square for the Empire, but under the radar going your own way. Building political alliances with nearby systems is and will be necessary. Once the Empire falls, nobody wants to be prey to the pirates and warlords who emerge. Should have given that point more emphasis. $\endgroup$ – a4android Nov 29 '19 at 21:44
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    $\begingroup$ @JonathanDursi You have it a nutshell. I had heard it in an alternative form. "The sky is bluer the further from Beijing." Thanks for presenting it in its form. A vast central empire ruling China is little different from a vast central empire ruling a galaxy. Except in terms of scale, size and complexity. Biggersisn't always best, or even better. $\endgroup$ – a4android Nov 29 '19 at 21:50
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The best play may be to simply wait for an opportunity to present itself. Decadent empires by definition often have many domestic problems. These could range from widespread corruption to very serious affairs like civil wars over the throne.

With enough corruption present and many layers between the local administration and the core imperial bureaucracy, your planet could be autonomous in every aspect except name. Such a situation would be de facto independence with both sides pretending otherwise out of political convenience.

An empire whose core regions are busy fighting each other in support of various imperial claimants will hardly have the time or resources to go and pacify some rogue planet out in the periphery. This need not be open civil war. Even an internal power struggle can stall normal government operations. Post-conflict, a new ruler might well have to prioritize building support in core regions at the expense of letting more distant regions run wild.

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Deception. Take over the FTL communications. "Everything's fine here, no problems, don't need any more security." Stage shows or bribes for any official inspectors. Have a robust counter-intelligence to capture or subvert spies.

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Mutually assured destruction

The lesson from Ender's Game is that you plan your attack in advance.

The first act of the newly-independent planet would be to construct a battle fleet and send it to the Imperial Core, crewed with people prepared to die for their independent planet. (I'm assuming some kind of cryosleep exists and these aren't generation ships.) And with FTL communication, make absolutely 100% sure that this battle fleet is on its way and that the crews are all fully prepared for suicide runs on the Imperial Core planets. If your intention is simply to bomb the planet until the radioactive lava splashes, the gravity well and the size of space are always on the side of the attacker, and there is very little the planet can do about it.

When the battle fleet arrive at the Imperial Core, they can check (with FTL communication) whether the independent planet is still independent. If it is, great - they must have reached some deal with the Empire. If not, it's Hammer-of-God time.

In theory, the Empire could evacuate their core planets and move elsewhere. In practise it's hard to see that working in a decadent Empire without strong civil authority. Plus an Empire being too weak to defend its core planets is going to be a sign that other planets can't rely on it either, which will have a cascade effect from other planets bidding for independence.

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  • $\begingroup$ Many lessons from Enders game. For more space fighting/battle/ FTL/ time effects lore add eg: Forever War (time delays wreck technology, slingshotting around special stars, relativistic battle, ...) |, Mote Around ... [practical battle aspects], Footfall - practical battle - space to surface and space to space " ... they know us that well ...", | "The Moon is a harsh mistress" -> questionable battle lessons . | Much more. || $\endgroup$ – Russell McMahon Nov 29 '19 at 22:14
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The enemy of my enemy is my friend

By using the advanced method of communication, the rebelling planet could attempt to utilize their rebellion as a means of incentive for others to act out against the Empire.

Supposedly, the rebelling planet has some resource that's valuable to the empire (otherwise, why be there?), which is now being deprived from the Empire. Combined with the fact that rebellions take additional resources to address, convincing enemies or other rebellious planets to take action is a strategy that might pan out. This will be especially effective if your 'allies' are made aware of forces that are being sent to take out your planet (which means that there are fewer forces to deal with additional uprisings or foreign armies).

It might make a difference between only receiving half of the number of enemy forces when they arrive (as the other half are reassigned to somewhere more valuable), or the enemy army is delayed by another 100-so years.

As anyone who's ever played Faster Than Light can tell you, dealing with 2 problems simultaneously is much more difficult than dealing with 2 problems consecutively. So the more problems you cause for the Empire at once, the less effective they'll be at dealing with you.

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Guerrilla warfare is the comparison that comes to mind. If the population on the rim of the empire is willing to give up the notion of continuously holding any given planet as territory, then mobility becomes their advantage. By the time the imperial forces have done the years of travelling to reach a destination, their targets have long since moved on.

This advantage grows if you combine this with a geometric realization, that the size of the territory on the rim of an empire is vast compared to the size of the core. The population of the core will be much greater with more disposable resources to put into military might for awhile, but in terms of travel and military policing, and the resources those burn, the rim has a potential strategic advantage provided they can drag out the conflict long enough to starve the core of its excess resource stores. This becomes even greater if the instantaneous communication is used to collaborate with renegades that are sprinkled around the rim. The imperial forces could be playing whack-a-mole travelling back and forth between random locations on roughly opposite sides of the empire.

As the conflict grows and the population at the core becomes more dissatisfied with how their lives become constrained by the demand for resources and manpower, that same instantaneous communication mechanism can become the way to transmit back propaganda that supports the growing discontent. Eventually the empire has to put as much effort into solidifying its hold on the core, as it was in trying to bring the rim to heel. It may even decide it just isn't worth losing it all, and starts to replace conflict with negotiation. Since the rim has the newer technology, trade may become the excuse for starting to coexist, as the traded resources could be brought to the core, and perhaps satisfy the unhappy population.

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