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Inspired by the question Creating a Species purely for Warfare, there are plenty of reasons why someone who has the capability to create their own warrior race/species would want to do so... a rapidly-replenishing supply of soldiers, soldiers which are better fighters than civilians, you don't have to recruit or conscript civilians, you don't need to worry about how the loss of recruits and conscripts might reduce your popularity, rapidly available skilled troops with low maintenance requirements between wars, and if you're a vindictive sort, you can give your enemies a slap in the face by corrupting and defiling their people into your own, amongst many others.

However, assuming that you could create your perfect warrior race/species such as that described in my answer (and don't have to be a mad scientist/evil magician type, or have to torture innocent beings to do so), and that you have a need for an army, why might you choose not to create your own ideal warrior race/species?

What drawbacks might come with a warrior race/species such as mine, and would those drawbacks outweigh the potential benefits? Would these drawbacks apply to certain types of creator (i.e. good vs evil creators) or to all?

To give some worldbuilding context, my story's antagonist has his own warrior species, and my main character will soon gain the ability to create their own... but I'm undecided if they should

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    $\begingroup$ Questions that start with 'why not' tend to be a window into the world of good meaning ideas that would lead to catastrophic results. I love the answers that arise from them. $\endgroup$ Jan 15 at 3:51
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    $\begingroup$ @TheSquare-CubeLaw Why is easy... why not is a lot harder. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Jan 15 at 3:55
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    $\begingroup$ This seems like a question about the motivations of characters in your world rather than about the facts of the world. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Jan 15 at 3:56
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    $\begingroup$ @sphennings There's no need to enumerate all the arguments, just give a good answer as to which way you think that the decision should go, and why. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Jan 15 at 4:47
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    $\begingroup$ one simple one, what do you do with them when you are NOT fighting a war. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jan 15 at 23:32

19 Answers 19

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Having a warrior species is all well and good until you run out of places to conquer, or stretch yourself too far, and your empire collapses. What happens when your warrior species no longer has a leader or head of state, because the "state" has broken into a group of small, squabbling factions on the level of city-states? Does this induce a civil war within them? Do civilians get hurt?

Or worse, what happens when they get bored? Even modern armies don't fight all of the time. Medieval knights itching for a fight were a huge issue. This may not be an issue going by the species you described in your comment.

And the context matters too. There could definitely be some public discomfort with a super-soldier species (either due to connotations of enslavement or the worry--justified or not--that they might turn on civilians.) People tend to fear what they don't understand, and a species that exists as a clear and distinct "Other" in society/serving a specialized role could easily provoke some backlash.

How much public opinion matters depends on who's pulling the strings and their personal temperament, but these are some broad issues that could be an argument for not having a specialized species just for war.

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Internal Political Pressure

Creating a warrior race could have political consequences or at least the fear of consequences that could lead to the prohibition or refusal to create synthetic soldiers by an army.

  • Creating a warrior species that’s solely and unambiguous loyal to a certain group/person would be an easy route to totalitarian control. Having a powerful army that will never disobey you, depose you or sympathize with your civilian populace is what every dictator dreams of. Therefore strong political opposition could prevent someone from being allowed to create the species in the first place.
  • Creating a sentient species to exist as slaves could be seen as immoral and untenable by society at large.
  • A warrior species could be seen as a threat to entrenched military interests. Whether it threatens the prestige of the landed nobility or the profit margins of military contractors who see the self sufficient creatures as a loss of revenue there would be powerful people who don’t want these things to fight.
  • A quasi Luddite reaction to any kind of labor replacement. If you allow soldiers to be replaced, what else is on the chopping block?
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Criterion 11 is the sticking point

In the linked answer:

  1. Unambitious: The creature should act for the good of its society, not for its own benefit. It should have no desires or expectations for itself or its offspring (if capable of reproducing at all) beyond its loyalty to its society and its orders.

Glad you thought of this issue to avoid the situation explored in the Cobra series by Timothy Zahn, but it is morally very dubious ground to create a sapient being with this kind of limitation. "Here, we've created you to fight really efficiently in our war, but you can't aspire to have... well... anything except the opportunity to do what you're told." If it is possible to engineer this kind of fundamental limitation into an engineered warrior then ambitious politicians are likely to try to wire it into everyone except themselves.

Assuming that this limitation can be imposed at all, what if it fails? Everyone has full trust in the warrior species because they know they can't rebel, which means that a glitched one looking out for itself can take advantage of that trust to literally get away with murder. "Oh, Unit 9753 just killed Mr Smith and took his car, saying that Mr Smith was an enemy collaborator. These units can't be bad, so I guess it must be true." (OK, a silly example, a smart renegade could do much better, especially by taking advantage of the trust of not just the civvies but also its fellow warriors.)

Then there is the point where "loyalty to its society and its orders" does not have a clear "right" pathway. People with authority make stupid decisions which are frequently not "for the good of its society". If the warriors are told by their legitimate commander that what they know is a serious virus is just a minor infection and they are not to assist with vaccinations or quarantine measures, do they follow orders or do what is good for society? This is always a thorny issue for soldiers throughout history, but I suggest that it is practically impossible to hardwire in a reliable "moral code" - people can learn, adapt and make new judgements based on changed circumstances (even if they don't always), but a hardwired rule must allow for all possible scenarios at the time it is written. Clever enemies will work out a scenario that will "break" the logic and make the warriors' actions work for them.

In short - don't go for designer warriors and don't try to hardwire their motivations. Let soldiers be ambitious, whether for glory or just the chance to return home and stop being a soldier.

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    $\begingroup$ This sort of limitation - a lack of personal ambition - would be found in creatures that are unable to reproduce, and act as soldiers for a greater whole, such as bees, ants or termites. Their ambition would be to advance their society or family. Hence why my proposed species has the soldiers as a non-reproducing caste. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Jan 15 at 4:45
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    $\begingroup$ There's also a reason why I put intelligence higher on the list: I want them to think about their orders, and if necessary, call out bad orders when someone tries to give them one. I want intelligent soldiers, not mindless drones. I'd want to hear "That's not a good idea..." from them. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Jan 15 at 4:53
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    $\begingroup$ As to what they do, they'd want to help their society. If that means fighting, so be it, but there's other ways that they could help too. There's plenty of scope for recognition of their personal achievements without their necessarily becoming ambitious for themselves rather than their society. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Jan 15 at 4:57
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Deliberately knocking yourself down the food chain is never a winning plan.

What goes in to a warrior species? You want either be a carnivore or, and this is the better logistical option, a highly aggressive omnivore. It's also got to be bigger, faster, stronger, and/or meaner, but definitely more deadly than the average civilian or it can't do it's job. You probably also want a pack hunter because they're easier to domesticate. You're breeding for aggression and physical prowess then training them to kill people.

The existence of a warrior species, as opposed to creating individual killer creatures at need, even if they're made in vast numbers, puts people on the menu. This may not be an immediate danger but any lose of control and containment, however small, and a warrior species goes from guardian to existential threat.

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    $\begingroup$ Can you suggest how a human-derived warrior race might be created that is related by blood to those it serves? Matrilineal descent? Patrilineal descent? Something else? $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Jan 15 at 7:53
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    $\begingroup$ @MontyWild That sounds like a weaponised slave revolt waiting to happen. To make any serious, and permanent, changes to a human subpopulation through breeding it needs to be relatively small to start with and selected across both genders for the trait(s) you want to concentrate. Then you have to largely isolate it, the occasional introduction of a suitable individual from outside will be acceptable but it will be harder to find people who measure up as generational changes accumulate. Then be utterly ruthless about culling/sterilising the weaklings. It worked for the Spartans, for a while. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Jan 15 at 8:07
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    $\begingroup$ Actually, the warriors would be born sterile (so as to not be ambitious for their descendants, but for their fertile relatives) and to be more willing to sacrifice themselves if necessary. Their mothers would be half-way between the warriors and basic humans (6 limbs but not super-powered), and would transmit their skills to their mass-produced, fast-growing offspring. The mothers would need to mate with human men to produce offspring. Any thoughts on this? $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Jan 15 at 9:47
  • $\begingroup$ @MontyWild My first thought was that you would need magic to create and to maintain this situation against genetic dilution but if the supernatural traits are coded on the X chromosome and effected by partial masking then, if you're using normal humans for half the genetic input, you're going to have to cull half the off spring of every generation because they'll be born pure human but otherwise it'll work. And the cull may be a natural process because normal humans simply can't survive the harsh environment of the breeding pits. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Jan 16 at 1:55
  • $\begingroup$ Actually, you can add entire additional chromosomes that stay in the maternal line by use of alternate DNA transcription start sequences and a few other tricks... no magic required, at least for that. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Jan 16 at 2:03
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We have other ways of solving conflicts.

Dear Human,

First of all I want to say that I'm really quite excited at this opportunity to contribute to your understanding. Alternatives to violence is a topic that's very dear to me, and I understand that you want to know why we have chosen not to create a species more effective at warfare, despite having the theoretical ability to do so.

Second, before diving into the answer, I want to admit I'm afraid you might not like this answer. Because in order to understand it you will have to let go of one fundamental assumption that is currently taken as a fact by virtually everyone in your society (based on a cursory glance on your most popular entertainment, newspapers, advertising, religious texts, etc). I therefore ask you to suspend any judgements until you have finished reading. If after this you find yourself triggered, that's ok! Perhaps it will be easier to read at a later time, maybe in another hundred years or so.

Now, the assumption I'm referring to is the idea that violence is an effective means for creating lasting solutions to conflicts. Our assumption is quite the contrary that violence in any form, although sometimes necessary, always leads to more conflict. How did we get there?

Just like yours, our history is long and full of stories of wars and victors. Long, because it takes time to get to the point where one could create a species for a specific purpose without it going completely sideways. Full of wars, because all civilisations naturally goes through a phase where the ability and technology to control and kill develops faster than the ability the communicate and empathise with each other. So for some time violence might be unavoidable, and from that perspective undefeatable armies must seem like a valid strategy. At some point, however, the question arises if there might not be an alternative to an endless cycle of wars.

So we took a long hard look at our history and asked: what was all this violence good for? Not even the greatest victories attributed to the longest lasting peaces (what's left of your roman empire today?) have lasted in the long run. It seems quite pointless and hopeless, but, being giraffes, we know that behind all actions there's a life-serving need. What needs might we be trying to meet through war, bigger armies, and more deadly weapons? Is it security? Stability? A need for food and water? Obviously, to some extent, peace and harmony? And haven't many conflicts started because of a need for understanding and mutual trust? How many civil wars haven't really been about respect, identity, and belonging?

Surely, in an age where we have the technology and resources to design custom species at will, we can find alternatives to solving conflicts that are more effective (and more fun!) at meeting these needs than deadlier armies. Exactly how that is done is more than I have the energy to go into today. Perhaps it can be left as an exercise for the reader to come up with? As a starter, just consider what would be possible if you instead of 100k elite soldiers had at your disposal 100k elite mediators, empaths, communication experts, counsellors, negotiators etc.

Hopes this provided the understanding you were looking for!

Warm regards, A baby giraffe

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    $\begingroup$ Want lasting peace? Remember to vote for Giraffe party candidates on election day. $\endgroup$ Jan 16 at 3:57
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Diplomatic problems

Both internal and external.

Within your country, your subjects realize that you have the means to subject them to your will, that no one else has any influence in the matter, and that their loyal service is no longer valued. This does not inspire trust. This is especially dangerous because these are the people you need to supply your forces.

Other countries regard the creation of people whose sole function is to serve in an army as dangerous provocation. Obviously you have evil intentions toward them. Why, you might even foment a war merely to keep your soldiers busy.

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If you're a good guy, you'll agree with the following two points

1. Slavery = bad

They would be slaves, from birth till death. They'd have no choice, no self-determination, no prospect of retirement. They'd be bred for war, educated for war, trained for war, and likely would die on the battlefield, or remain in active service until natural death.

2. Racism = bad

Even if they were allowed to retire, they're a different species, used to do something your citizens don't have an apetite for. You didn't teach them marketable skills. They'd be considered barbarians, second-rate, a weight on society, unable to contribute. They'd be judged by a nature that was artificially inflicted on them. A nature you chose, by depriving them of any other opportunities, because you decided they were inferior.


Now even if you're a bad guy, you should be able to recognise that they're

Too smart to not revolt

They value their lives. You've trained them to value it less than their orders, but they value it nonetheless. It follows they value their brethrens lives. They care about each other to an extent. They'll develop a bond, forged in the fire of battle or some poetic crap like that. All it takes is one instance where this bond comes above your orders. One general that goes "wait a minute, why are we taking orders from you?"

Why would that happen? They're not dumb. Maybe they're too brainwashed to come up with the notion, but they'd at least be able to understand they're being exploited. Even if they can't come up with the notion, then maybe some exterior force will. Might not even be the enemy. Might be your own people, those of your citizens who don't agree that breeding a slave race of warriors is a very moral thing to do.

They're your military. They're the perfect military some might say even. More perfect than any other force you could scrounge up in a pinch. And you brainwashed them into putting your orders above their own species. History is full of dead leaders who thought their military would never pick a different side than theirs.

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Humans are a warrior species

... with certainly enough wars to prove it. There is a certain genre of movies that illustrates humans being made into 'super-soldiers' by being made into robots, dogs, werewolves, zombies ... if it isn't foreign-sponsored propaganda, it doesn't actually make more sense. The soldiers we have typically spend more time drinking tea with local big shots or burning feces with diesel oil than they do actually shooting people. They have a vast range of technical skills they need to apply. They have to be ready for Red October scenarios. There's no actual way to hardwire them to act a certain way or to put their loyalty under a remote control that isn't going to backfire in a truly terrible fashion.

If you have a genetic modification that is genuinely good, makes everyone stronger when they need to be without side effects, well, then you wouldn't reserve it for the soldiers.

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I want to suggest moral integrity and human decency as reasons not to create a warrior species.

There are many things that we, humans, can do, but we do not do them because we consider them to be wrong.

The proposed warrior species are as intelligent as humans. However, they are treated as mere tools. For example, the OP suggests that they can 'be ordered to hibernate more or less indefinitely' when not fighting wars. In other words, they are shelved just as tools are when there is no need for them.

This kind of treatment is even worse than slavery.

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What are you going to do with them when the war is over?

When you create a warrior species, then your end-goal will usually be to crush all your enemies and achieve peace and stability. But what do you do with them then?

This warrior species would be very difficult to integrate into a civil society. They are literally not made for civilian life. Their skillset and mentality would make them more of a burden than a boon to post-war society. When all they can do is fight as part of an authoritarian chain of command, then that's what they are going to do. They will form violent gangs, join terrorist organisations, start an outright organized rebellion and cause all other kinds of trouble, just in order to satisfy their inherent need to take orders and kill enemies.

Sure, you could just kill them all when the war is over. But they are sentient, so you (or your constituents) might have ethical concerns with that. And that assumes that they would let you kill them all without putting up a fight.

A wise ruler might anticipate all those problems and decide that it's not worth it.


Real-world analogy: This is actually one (of many) reasons why it is so difficult to achieve piece in the middle-east. After decades of war there are many people who fought in civil wars for all their life. They don't have any other skills except how to fight partisan wars. Sure, no human is born to be a partisans, but that's what they became. And with the lack of economic and educational infrastructure in the region, there is not much opportunity for them to learn to be anything else. So when one local conflict in the Middle East is over, all these people are unemployed and have nothing better to do than to join the next up-and-coming Islamist para-military organisation. This is why after the Afghan-Russian war there were the Taliban; when the US invaded Afghanistan and pushed back the Taliban, Al-Qaeda started to grow rapidly; when Al-Qaeda started to become weaker, suddenly ISIS showed up and now that the Taliban are again getting control of Afghanistan they have no shortage of recruits either.

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In no particular order. Reasons not to create a warrior race (apart from maybe a 'special forces unit).

  1. Expense: Wars are expensive full stop! Unless war is the default state in your setting historically most nation states tend to spend more time at peace than they do at war. That means more often than not the your super warriors won't be required.

  2. Expense: Normal humans can be re-deployed to other productive economic duties when not required for fighting i.e people can be demobilized your super warriors can't. They're strictly one trick ponies (fighting). So by default they stay on the States 'books' doing nothing else useful until required again for war.

  3. Expense: Weapon systems also require maintenance even in peace time and soldiers have to be fed, housed and paid and spend time in the field training. You may not have to pay your super soldiers but you will have to feed, house and train them even when they are not required. And that will not be cheap.

  4. Expense: Old super warriors never die. They just get pensions.

  5. MAD: A super warrior arms race neutralizes the advantage of having them in large numbers (a saving!).

  6. Near enough is good enough: (for government work.) If no other nation has them and your current army of regular soldiers is well trained and equipped and has a war winning history behind it? Are super warriors except perhaps in small numbers for 'Special Forces' really needed to act as a deterrent or force magnifier and is it worth all the costs involved? If you have no overwhelming threat facing you whats the point?

  7. Reliability: All weapons system can break down or pose risk to the operators due to mechanical faults etc. What is the 'break down/misfire' rate for these super warriors i.e. Remember the last time a super warrior ate a 2nd Lieutenant for lunch or used some civilians for target practice? Perhaps not the greatest loss an army might suffer but still annoying if things like that keep happening. And remember these type of faults will be biological /psychological and therefore vastly harder and more difficult to manage than just say doing routine maintenance of problem parts in a tank. (Sort of an expense)

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Read the last section of Forever War by Joe Haldeman.

Killer instincts are no match for efficient cooperation

For sure, individual heroes exist - but a good team will always beat a good individual. If warrior instincts come at the cost of being able to work together, then your perfect warriors are going to be massacred one at a time when they meet a squad who fight together.

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If you give one person complete control over an army that has no other loyalties what is to stop him from becoming a dictator?

Will the hero be able to be able to resist the temptation to just use his unstoppable army to get whatever he wants?

Maybe your hero is a good person and incorruptible, but what happens after he dies? who will inherit that power? Once you have shown that it's OK to create such an army to defeat evil, what's to stop other people from doing it, will they all be as good as the hero?

This gives your hero a moral dilemma, he has found a method that will allow him to defeat the evil antagonist, but is using it actually going to make the world a worse place?

If you want to spell it out to the readers, you could have it so the antagonist started out with good intentions and fell to temptation after creating his warrior race.

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Because you are creating not just warriors, but a biological AI that can change over time to adapt itself to the problems it faces. The reason your character refuses to build them is because each additional race of warriors added just increases the chances that a group of them will go rogue and start their own country, if not try to annihilate their former masters.

Most supersoldier programs in fiction have supposedly fearless warriors. But fearless is the worst trait you can give a living being. A fearless warrior would not hesitate to jump out of a window and break its legs if it completes his mission faster, rather than take the stairs and have a higher chance of success. A fearless warrior would not hesitate to run through fire and chokepoints rather than find an alternate solution. Fear is not terror, fear is about self preservation and the preservation of others. You might consider making your soldiers more afraid of losing their human leaders, but that just means that the enemy could force suicidal attacks by hostaging and trapping humans to bleed the supersoldiers dry. It could also lead to one of Asimov's robot problems, where the robots try to safeguard the humans by preventing them from living their lives due to the hazards it presents. And without that fear they see little reason to preserve the humans. That means you need an excuisite balance of fear in a biological creature designed to adapt itself, including its assessments of what it fears. Meaning that its fears can adapt and change beyond safe parameters.

That is just one aspect of the supersoldier. Self-guidance, leadership, ambition and resource management. Each of these has a high risk of changing over time or with genetic defects, if not requiring an extremely fragile balance between how much you give them of each to make sure they are capable of their job and dont break their bonds.

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Fear that they could be turned against you would be one, though technically that is true of any army. Though I would suspect this army is a lot more dangerous…?

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  • $\begingroup$ Also could be limited by how easy or not so easy it is to create said army. If it is too hard to create, then the law of diminishing returns may suggest to not spend all of the time and resources in that direction. $\endgroup$
    – Kal Madda
    Jan 15 at 22:36
  • $\begingroup$ Also could go against a moral code, or perhaps the command of a higher authority? $\endgroup$
    – Kal Madda
    Jan 15 at 22:38
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Great damage to people and resources

If one nation created nuclear bombs, then many other nations did the same.

Therefor if many nations develop warrior race/species then the whole world will be a big battlefield with almost never ending wars or until all the resources are depleted. This could cause a great damage to people and resources.

Intelligence and loyalty

If warrior race/species are dumb, they can be used against you (just like a weapon, owner is the user). So they must be intelligent enough so that they understand whom to fight for and remain loyal to you.

Passion or sentiment

If they are loyal to you, they must have a passion or sentiment for you which is absent in this case. After sometime, they will either flee or be against you.

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They would not be worth the cost. The warrior species would still need to be raised and educated. The knowledge of the world they are in and technical knowledge to use their weapons are indispensable. It would be a 20 years long effort, for a creature that beside war is not productive.

They would be useful only for a repressive empire that is constantly expanding and is constantly suppressing internal rebellions. In this case the warriors will always, or almost, have to fight somewhere. But that would not fit the profile you imagined for your creatures, they would have to be ruthless and feel little empathy towards the local population in order to scare them and keep them in check.

You can look at the example of the Janissaries, they were taken from their families when they were children and raised to be warriors, that is the closest match to the warrior species you can find (except maybe for warrior chastes in India or some noble families in Medieval Europe). After the European nations allied themselves and stopped the expansion of the Turkish empire the Janissaries became an excessive cost (even the unruly behaviour mattered) and they were disbanded.

A cheaper alternative could be a mix of drugs and brainwashing to turn into warriors the normal population.

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Not For Today's War

It is a huge overhead to create your warrior race. Decades of genetic engineering to get all the traits you want. Then another decade to grow the soldiers from a bean to an eight-foot killing machine.

You do not create the warrior race for today's war. You create it for the war in half a century. The project is only worthwhile if you (a) predict being at war for the next 50 years and (b) predict not losing the war by then, but at the same time (c) we are losing badly enough that we need supersoldiers.

The only example that comes to mind is how Israel has been at "war" with its neighbors since it was established. However Israel won all those wars so (c) is not true.

We Won the War -- Now What?

Congratulations. Last week you succesfully genetically engineered one hundred thousand of these bad boys.

enter image description here

Supremely gifted in warfare, blindly obedient and coordinated, and immune to the morale issues of pesky human troops. They have all the extras. Thick hide, bad smell, strong body, extra endurance, lower food requirement, fast healing, disease-resistant, redundant organs, natural weapons, scary face, poisonous blood, fast reflexes, endurance to heat and cold, fast breeding and growing, and short life span.

The following week they steamrolled your enemies, burned down their senate house and ate all the citizens.

Now what? You have half a million genetically engineered monstrocities with nothing left to do and no way to reintegrate into the civilian population.

On top of that, your country now has a much greater enemy -- whoever you put in charge of the army.

In Ancient Rome one of the Emperor's main jobs was keeping the army occupied by having them invade far off countries to slaughter people who spoke different languages. The pretense was those places are a danger to the adjacent Roman territories. The real motivation was keeping the generals far from the city to stop them seizing power.

You have the same problem. Yoour general has command of five million unbeatable soldiers. There are no enemies left to defeat. Soon enough they will decide you are their enemy. You cannot defeat them. That's why you created them. Your country is doomed.

enter image description here

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Why not create a large, powerful, effective, loyal, cheap, disposable army? If we summarise that as "why not create a weapon of mass destruction" then we can look to the real world for answers: most countries don't have nuclear weapons, and those which do have them generally try to work together in order to not have more of them. International attempts to ban certain other classes of weapons have been more successful than that.

So in your world, it is generally understood that creating such an army would be a bad idea because of the sheer destructive power it would have, particularly if it got into the wrong hands; and anyway, if a nation-state builds such an army then it will only start an arms race, leaving that nation-state in no better a strategic position than before. So nation-states don't have them, and try to stop them from being created by private actors too. The issue comes when your antagonist, the owner of the aforementioned wrong hands, has the resources to create such an army for himself and can't be stopped from doing so.

If a terrorist gets hold of nuclear weapon, you should not get one yourself to use against him, because so many others would suffer the damage too. So your protagonist doesn't create an opposing army for the same reason: such armies tend to cause death and destruction far beyond one specific strategic target.

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