In the late 23rd century certain groups of mankind stared down the barrel of what may be possible in the future: cross galactic relativistic kill missile storms, gamma-ray Dyson Beams, Kugelblitz black hole weaponry and potentially even exotic matter-based weapons messing with space and time itself. Some even proposed that these weapons are the answer to the Fermi Paradox, a late and great filter. The view that any group potentially willing to use these weapons must be dealt with at any cost and as soon as possible became quite popular.

After the victory over the old baseline nations in the First War Of Sol, the trans-humanist groups started the gardener initiative, a program for swift, systematic interstellar colonization. All colonists had to agree to mild brainwashing that would instill disgust towards these exotic weapons of mass destruction. This was meant to instill a negative bias against these kinds of weapons in all the future civilizations they would seed.

Additionally, everyone signed a treaty and vowed to make every daughter civilization sign the treaty as well. The treaty states that:

  • no signatory shall build or use exotic weapons, however owning blueprints is fine

  • if an exotic weapon is used in a system, it will have 25 years to defend the incident

  • every system within 25 light-years will broadcast 50 years after the incident if they believe the transgressing civilization has culturally shifted to an acceptance of exotic weapons or if it was an isolated incident

  • if less than two-thirds of the surrounding civilizations believe that the transgressors are not guilty, everyone must commit enough resources to the purge, so that the transgressor's energy resources are matched five times over (there are official formulas for this)

  • exotic weapons may be utilized in the purge, which happens 25 years after the broadcast vote

Since the political state of the galaxy is relevant to this, here is a brief rundown:

  • most civilizations are gardener descendant, thus signatories

  • gardener descendants are extremely diverse, however most are trans-humanist and share a common origin

  • the few pre-gardener interstellar colonies have been "pacified"

  • one later colonization wave was CORE, digital minds with an efficiency agenda, they ratified the treaty

  • baseline humanity was mostly wiped out during the great genocide/ pacification of last regressive strongholds/ Second War Of Sol, only the Luna Hegemony and the Callisto (later Jovian) Republic survived

  • the few baselines colonized very little and with very little organization and signed the treaty due to outside pressure

  • mankind has spread across more than 80 percent of the milky way by now

  • life seems to be common in the universe, but mankind seems to be alone thus far; even distant galaxies seem still uncolonized

  • no FTL travel or communication, the setting is pretty hard SciFi

  • most interstellar travel is done via boost beam at 0.7c, however more advanced drives do exist

  • no great interstellar empires; generally each system is its own or several polities; some macrostates exist, however, they are rarely bigger than a few systems and rather loosely organized

Will this treaty be effective at preventing mankind's galaxy from descending into a state of eternal high energy warfare until everyone is dead? If not, how else could such a situation be avoided? Isolated incidents and the bashing of bad apples are expected, but escalation should not happen.

I'm aware that this comes quite close to being opinion-based, but phrasing it otherwise; I'm asking how to keep weapons of mass destruction out of wars in an interstellar setting.

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    $\begingroup$ You probably don't need the brainwashing, the status quo of "everyone will gang up on you if you use exotic weapons" would probably be enough. As you note, there's nothing stopping societies from going back towards using exotic weapons or a breakaway colony nobody knows about reneging on this. If the setting is hard SciFi and no FTL it also means it would be hard for one system to attack another system across lightyears of space, which makes mutually assured destruction a lot harder. Mandatory galactic brainwashing just kind of seems to be stretching the suspension of disbelief. $\endgroup$ May 23, 2020 at 6:59
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    $\begingroup$ How do you even get wars in the first place? Without FTL, everyone is decades if not centuries away from each other. What are you even quarrelling about? Intrasystem warfare may be possible, but what do you care if some other system far away blows itself to pieces? It is not your problem what weapons they used, and it is not like you can check. $\endgroup$
    – Whitecold
    May 23, 2020 at 7:36
  • $\begingroup$ Like the Deneb Accords in the Honorverse? Note that in the Honorverse they have FTL, and even there non-state actors had no problem violating the accords. (And treaties very rarely last for long enough timespans to make them worthwhile in a setting where interstellar distances are to be traversed at sub-light speeds.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    May 23, 2020 at 7:46
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    $\begingroup$ I'm having a hard time reconciling "dealt with... as soon as possible" and a 75 year delay between crime and punishment. Even if you double human lifespan, if we assume that people still become top politicians in the middle of their lives, they'll all be dead by then anyway. $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    May 23, 2020 at 9:52
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    $\begingroup$ @TheDyingOfLight Manoverable relativistic projectiles are harder than you think. Time dilation means they have very little time to respond to target movements, and they need large amounts of thrust. The situation is very different from missiles within an atmosphere. $\endgroup$ May 23, 2020 at 12:27

3 Answers 3


I see an issue.

A prescription is enforceable if the sanction for not observing it is deemed realistically executable.

When you prescribe

exotic weapons may be utilized in the purge

You are basically stating "having exotic weapons is forbidden, and if you do, I will use my exotic weapons to punish you". This is a logical shortcircuit, because every signatory of the treaty will of course produce those weapons for the sole reason of punishing possible transgressors. Not having them will make the prescribed punishment vane.

The above logic is exactly what lead to the nuclear escalation between USA and USSR: I won't use nukes to attack, but I will use them if attacked. As you might now, it didn't bring to a non proliferation.

  • $\begingroup$ Agree - Reprisals as a justification for war crimes has lead to some brutal conduct as they spiral into a series of accusations and counter accusations. Reprisals can not be used against civilians anymore (but not under prior Geneva Conventions). This scenario 100% is killing innocent people for the sins of the leaders (25 years earlier) . ihl-databases.icrc.org/customary-ihl/eng/docs/v2_rul_rule145 $\endgroup$ May 24, 2020 at 1:25
  • $\begingroup$ On the other hand, the USSR didn't, and the US and Russia and everyone else hasn't, used any of those nuclear weapons in anger, which suggests there's something to the whole doctrine of mutual assured destruction. And that in turn suggests there's no need for a complicated system of voting and brainwashing when the old-fashioned logic of "if you shoot first, we'll shoot back" works just as well. $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    May 24, 2020 at 2:02
  • $\begingroup$ @Cadence, OP wants to prevent escalation. Escalation is what happened during cold war. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    May 24, 2020 at 8:13
  • $\begingroup$ Actually, it did bring about some degree of lesser proliferation as both powers guarded their secrets quite closely. There's a limited amount of nuclear powers nowadays, who knows what would've happened without the cold war $\endgroup$
    – bytepusher
    Jun 21, 2020 at 22:32

The edict is enforced by a mysterious group.

The Watchers date back to the late 23d century - a group which took possession of all remaining weapons and which dedicates itself to preventing their future use. The Watchers themselves are enigmatic - it is not clear where new recruits to their numbers come from, or if there are new recruits. Some Watchers are deathless transhumans augmented by technologies kin to those of the forbidden weapons. Or the Watchers are angels, or ancient aliens stirred from their sleep to prevent the destruction of space time. There are many stories, and they get better with the telling.

Watchers do not intervene in the affairs of the current nations in any way. Their whereabouts are not known. Their interventions, when they come, if they come, are the stuff of legend. It is possible they are legend. Do you want to test them, O King?

sodom and gomorrah source

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    $\begingroup$ If the watchers have exoctic weapons to cleans transgressors, then they probably understand other exotic technologies too; so, they may have FTL with which to keep a close eye on the whole Galaxy with. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    May 23, 2020 at 19:28
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    $\begingroup$ If you'll pardon the phrasing, who watches the Watchers? $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    May 24, 2020 at 2:02

Adding to L.Dutch's answer. I think this situation is worse than a Cold War-esque arms race. I think you are looking at inevitable total war. You will see hegemonies form, analogous to NATO and the Warsaw Pact. Then, someone on Side A will use a banned weapon. Maybe it's an accident, maybe it's on purpose, it doesn't matter. Side B will decide it was on purpose, the other members on Side A will forgive it. Side B will try to enforce the ban, by using their own exotic weapons. Side A will then try to enforce the ban on Side B, because from their point of view, B is the aggressor. Both sides end up exchanging fire with exotic weapons.


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