30
$\begingroup$

Humanity has spread throughout the galaxy and has split into several factions in a galactic "cold war" type conflict. The two major factions (think USSR and USA) are in a galactic deadlock, with numerous smaller space-faring factions fighting small proxy wars.

Introduce the arrival of an alien race, (a lot of hand-waving here) and for one reason or another the aliens side with only one of the human factions. The aliens' superior tech turns the tide in the war.

My question is: What are some reasons why the aliens would side with one faction of humanity, as opposed to viewing humanity as a whole, wiping all humanity out, etc?

A couple things:

  • The combined efforts of all humanity could beat the aliens
  • For political reasons, the faction without the aliens cannot broker a truce/peace
  • The aliens know human culture, languages, etc etc
$\endgroup$
  • 27
    $\begingroup$ Historical precedent: The French Indian War wherein some natives allied with some "aliens" (Iroquois and Britain) to defeat other natives allied with other "aliens" (Wabanaki and France). $\endgroup$ – cobaltduck Feb 7 '17 at 15:58
  • 26
    $\begingroup$ 2nd historical precedent: The Spaniards of Cortez allied themselves with Tlaxcala to defeat the Aztecs. In exchange, "Tlaxcala remained independently governed until Mexican Independence in 1821", and even today it is one of the states of the United Mexican States. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Feb 7 '17 at 16:36
  • 18
    $\begingroup$ 3rd historical precedent: The Portuguese assisted the Kingdom of Kongo when they were invaded by the Jaga in 1556. In exchange, the Kongo granted the Portuguese the rights to establish a trading colony in their territory. $\endgroup$ – Michael Seifert Feb 7 '17 at 16:50
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ 4th historical precedent: The British conquest of India. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Feb 7 '17 at 18:37
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ I think you've just described StarCraft 2's story $\endgroup$ – Matt Lishman Feb 8 '17 at 10:59

16 Answers 16

42
$\begingroup$

Alliances always come down to each party needing something from the other.

The humans need help defeating their political enemies (other humans). The aliens must similarly need something which only humanity can provide.

For example, the aliens might themselves have powerful enemies to fight, and require soldiers to defend their wolds because there's simply not enough of them to win out. They might be willing to provide humanity with the the technology upgrades needed to defeat their enemies in return for support in their own conflict.

In this case they would choose to support the human faction whose morality and political inclinations most closely match their own, and whom they feel might be trusted to actually help them.

Another option might be that the aliens are looking for a new world to call home, and are willing to trade technology in exchange for a new planet to settle. This scenario is a little trickier because a race of advanced aliens should be able to locate a world to live on without help from mankind. You'd have to come up with various reasons why they are not able to do so (their ships are breaking down and they're on their last legs, or something of that nature).

$\endgroup$
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Nice answer! "[A] race of advanced aliens should be able to locate a world to live on without help from mankind," but if Earth is the best match for their home climate, that'll save them lots of money/time/work on building sealed habitats or terraforming. $\endgroup$ – MissMonicaE Feb 7 '17 at 14:36
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This is basically what it boils down to. If the aliens needed something bad enough that only one faction could provide, the price for that thing could be assistance in the war. Even if the aliens have rules prohibiting them from getting involved, a great enough need for that thing can easily drive a leader to break such rules. $\endgroup$ – aleppke Feb 7 '17 at 17:41
  • $\begingroup$ There are a lot of great answers on here, but I think you're on to something with the idea that allies stand to gain something from one another. In this case, I think the aliens could probably need assistance in a war of their own, but one human faction does not support the conflict, while the other does... something along those line $\endgroup$ – Saurian Knight Feb 7 '17 at 17:58
36
$\begingroup$
  • The combined efforts of all humanity could beat the aliens

There's your answer, right there. They help one faction, because a combined humanity is a threat to them, and a fractured humanity is not. Destroying either side of the conflict removes humanity as a threat, thus making the alien race safe. Likewise, keeping the conflict ongoing is going to keep them safer as well.

Considering the way humans generally respond to unknown and new things, the aliens would be wise to appear helpful (to one side) and remove the humans as a threat to themselves. Both human factions would certainly set aside their differences and destroy the aliens instead if they appeared to be any kind of threat to the human species. (And with humans, it doesn't take much to be perceived as a threat to the species.)

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It would also depend on the faction's willingness to accept help from this uninvited stranger. That instinct to rally together as the human race to destroy 'the aliens' is quite a strong one, I'd argue. The left-out side would definitely want to start talks again too, "How do you know these guys won't blow you up after? Have you gotten a look at their weapons? We could secretly join up and take their technology." They might formally introduce themselves to the aliens as well. In fact, I don't see why all fighting wouldn't just stop as soon as "aliens" showed up, it's all moot at that point. $\endgroup$ – IT Bear Feb 7 '17 at 17:37
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Might not be 'The' answer, but it's all that would be needed. $\endgroup$ – user2338816 Feb 8 '17 at 5:04
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ In this case they'd actually help both sides like the British or US did (and do) in several conflicts. This way they could play off both sides against each other, which not only prevents humanity to unite against the aliens, but also prevents one faction to become much more powerful due to alien technology use so that in the more or less near future none of them may be able to pose a threat to the aliens as they're too busy with themselves. $\endgroup$ – Otto Abnormalverbraucher Feb 8 '17 at 10:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Otto: sometimes, it isn’t possible to support a side unnoticed, hence, supporting both sides would reveal the actual intentions. So in that case, the aliens would support only one side, preferably the weakest one as that is most likely to lengthen the conflict and destroying the stronger factions of mankind. Weakening them does not necessarily imply making the survivor stronger. A viable strategy is to support a side until they are about to win, then induce a new conflict within that group, causing them to split again into fighting groups, then again, pick one to support… $\endgroup$ – Holger Feb 9 '17 at 13:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Holger I think it is possible. But even if it isn't, mankind is easily manipulated and if the aliens knew how, they could easily convince both factions their information is false. No matter how positive the evidences are. People believe what they want to believe. It has always been like that and it won't ever change. But your suggestion would be legit as well. $\endgroup$ – Otto Abnormalverbraucher Feb 9 '17 at 14:58
11
$\begingroup$
  • The side that the aliens side with has something that they want.

This could be anything. From a way station, to a vacation spot, to a larger population of cannon fodder to fight their own war, to labor, and so on. For all we know, they side with the U.S. because the beaches are better. A petty reason, yes, but possible.

  • This country, culturally, seems easier to work with and is not as prejudicial. It's even possible that one of the countries has blundered diplomatically and not shown them the respect this proud space race thinks they deserve.
  • The aliens are advanced enough that they've done calculations as to who will inevitably win. They are pragmatic and value life, and believe that by stepping in, even if they do have to kill, the number of people that will die will be less, or they are trying to forestall armageddon.

Because we know nothing about the aliens except that they are advanced, the reasons are myriad, but these three are a good jumping off point that you can narrow. In fact, it can be all three!

$\endgroup$
9
$\begingroup$

Ideology trumps Racism

Excuse me for bringing up a real-world example, but if you look at recent EU politics it is fascinating to watch how politicians switch from being national representatives to partisan representatives and back again. Has the French Conservative more in common with the French Socialist or with the German Conservative? Depends on the vote on the floor.

The same could apply to aliens and humans. What political similarity could overcome the racial differences?

  • Are the aliens perhaps monarchists? Does one of the human factions happen to be a (constitutional?) monarchy?
  • Do they believe in the separation of church and state, perhaps after hard and bitter wars? Does one of the human factions happen to have a state church?
  • Has your setting AI? How do humans and aliens think about that? "We organics must stand together against the AIs and their lackeys."
  • How did your setting solve the patent/copyright/open access problem? "We stand together for the right of an inventor to profit from intellectual property."
$\endgroup$
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ I knew it.... Open Source aliens help the Apache Alliance against the Closed Source Monarchy $\endgroup$ – Falco Feb 8 '17 at 13:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Falco, and the Closed Source Monarchy allies with the Neocon aliens ... $\endgroup$ – o.m. Feb 8 '17 at 16:22
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "We organics must stand together against the AIs and their lackeys." en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consider_Phlebas $\endgroup$ – mattdm Feb 9 '17 at 14:05
7
$\begingroup$

One Human Faction Represents a Threat to the Aliens

The schism between the human factions is based on ideological differences. The aliens (whether correctly or incorrectly) deem one ideology (which might have explicitly xenophobic attitudes) to threaten the aliens. They believe that if this faction is able to subjugate the other and consolidate their power over all of humanity, they'll eventually turn against the aliens.

The other major human faction's ideology suggests that they'll be friendly to the aliens, and to enact treaties that recognize the alien species members' rights within the human governments and vice versa. Allying with this faction now means the leadership of the united Human government is friendly to their species.

$\endgroup$
5
$\begingroup$

Why would I hire someone to do something instead of doing it myself?

1: Person I hire is better at it and will do a better job. 2: I could do it but don't want to. Maybe I have other things to do. Maybe I don't like that kind of work because it is too dirty or dangerous or laborious.

One of my favorite scifi moments is when the Asgardians in Stargate recruit the humans to help them fight the replicators.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9lEeKdbQ_w

Humans are really good at fighting other humans. There are lots of aliens in SF for whom fighting is scary or abhorrent or both, but who recognize it to be necessary. I am thinking of Niven's Pierson's Puppeteers. The Puppeteers could absolutely be the aliens in this scenario.

$\endgroup$
5
$\begingroup$

If aliens wanted to conquer whole Earth they have two options:

  • Force all earthlings to form monolithic resistance. Every single defender would have to be defeated by the alien force.
  • Make some earthlings temporary allies. Alied forces then conquer the Earth sharing the battle losses. Then they attack their former weakened allies.

Alien losses are smaller in the second scenario than in the first one.

If they wanted to use Earth as a strategic partner, maybe because of a larger campaign, they need to have good relations with the earthlings. And be sure there are alien-friendly groups and alien-go-homies and political groups with mostly friendly attitude and mostly hostile attitude.
If they set alliance with the mostly friendly part, their help against the now fully hostile groups would be significant to end the war shortly, setting win-win options for both sides. Alien have a now-friendly planet to use as a safe haven and earthlings have new technologies.

Or they just may want to play real Command and Conquer game :)

$\endgroup$
3
$\begingroup$

The main reason they wouldn't view humanity as a monolithic whole is that we aren't a monolithic whole, and we live very spread out over the planet. So wherever they first land, they'll meet whichever humans live there, and those humans will be only too happy to tell them how awful the other humans are.

The aliens will side with these humans if they can offer something the aliens want. The answer that first comes to my mind is that the humans offer to give the aliens the other humans' land, natural resources, or people (as slaves).

It's in the aliens' best interest to take this deal because then they can get the land/resources/slaves with less effort and expense than if they had to take them on their own, and they don't have to worry about all of humanity banding together to fight them off.

$\endgroup$
3
$\begingroup$

If you want to look at why this happens in the real world, it's resource extraction. You see this in the European era of colonial (a lot), but even in modern times with powerful countries such as the United States backing regimes they don't necessarily like (such as Saudi Arabian Royal Family), against their rivals in the region because Saudi Arabia ensures them access to oil. Similar dynamics played out in Colonial India, in the "New World" with native tribes, in Africa (are playing out even today in Africa).

Why does this happen? I mean, if the Aliens are more powerful, why not just wipe out humans to get to their resources? Well the United States Armed Forces definitely have the capability to wipe out every country in the Middle East and "take the oil." There are several reasons we don't. The biggest is probably that public opinion just wouldn't support it. Nobody in an educated and open society (or at least very few people) want genocide and or national piracy openly committed in their name.

LONG SIDE NOTE: You could argue that in war time it would be accepted, or even in the wake of a 9/11 scale terrorist attack, but the world is too globalized now, too instant, too visible. What kind of support would the "moral bombings" of WWII had had if there videos in full color of charred bodies streaming live on youtube at the time. But anyway, unless humans attack your aliens, this whole side note is a mute point.

The next more cynical reason is that dead men make terrible laborers. It's just a more efficient use of resources coerce or pay people to work than kill them, and if they are trying to kill each other... well backing one side is an excellent way to get them to work for you under threat of annihilation without actually having to even threaten to annihilate anyone yourself.

The believability of this really depends on the aliens themselves. If they are James Cameron Alien type monsters or Invasion of the Body Snatchers single mind ends just means no regrets type aliens, it falls apart. However, if Alien society resembles our own with shifting political dynamics, value of individual life and limited resources: totally believable.

Becky Chamber's novel "The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet" (which I'd recommend as fun read) actually revolves around this very dynamic. A powerful Galactic inter-species Federation(? forget exact term she uses for governing body) admits a faction of a new race into the federation (which gives this faction a defensive treaty) even though they are at war with other factions of their own species to gain access to resources within this species' territory.

As far as which side the Aliens choose to back: it's either going to be which side the higher ups perceive as being in a better position to begin with (nobody wants to back a loser); which is more willing to work with the aliens, or aliens think would be more dependable to work with; which is percieved as the good side in the realm of alien public opinion... probably some combination of the three.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

There is a country/group/ planet/ group of plants/federation (Xeria) that uses a technology that the rest of humanity is not using because they haven't the means or knowledge. It is something like nuclear weapons (or whatever you like, depending on how feasible your science needs/wants to be). Xeria used those weapons to take slaves and resources from many other groups or countries over a long period of time. The situation is getting desperate. We (the good but oppressed guys) will use any means to stop the bad Xerians. Any means including allying with aliens.

The aliens are also at risk potentially.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

They want to uplift humanity to a member of their intergalactic federation, but in the process of doing that they want to steer the ideological development of humanity into whatever direction they consider more appropriate for that.

So they support whatever faction of humanity aligns most with their own values.

<tinfoilhat>The aliens are obviously democratic capitalists, which is why they crashed that flying saucer in Roswell and thus allowed the United States to reverse-engineer all their technology. It is also why they replaced Mikhail Gorbachev with an alien agent who then dissolved the Soviet Union.</tinfoilhat>

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

Building on the answer of humans have something they want, the inhabitants of the plant/region which the aliens side against may have certain resources which the other side don't have or need.

If the aliens go in and try to take out the one faction alone, all humanity might unite against them. By siding with one side, they get to appear friendly and helpful, whilst getting the humans to do what they do best. Kill each other.

Free supply of soldiers to liberate the resources you require.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

Humans can be Angels or Demons.

Hatred, love, deception, freedom, truth, goodness, evil, greed, compassion, fear. etc are universal ideals and apply to all sentient beings not just humans or animals. Aliens could support a faction of humans because it is in their best interest to do so.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ So, the "universal" idea is universal enough to unite humans with aliens (creatures with different biology and culture), but not universal enough to unite two human countries? $\endgroup$ – user8808 Feb 7 '17 at 17:50
  • $\begingroup$ @Roux exactly. I said "ideals" hence ideologies. Take fascism, pacifism, democracy, etc. Wouldn't you side with Aliens if they had the same believes as you or if they stood for the same as you? $\endgroup$ – user31264 Feb 7 '17 at 19:48
0
$\begingroup$

Because it's easier to get rid of human plague by making it fight each other than to waste time and your own "people" doing that.
Think of it like a cancer (humans), you inject some mutagen into it to make it fight itself (technology) and then just terminate the mutagen with the red switch.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

If one faction of humans has a preferable motive, resources or manpower an alien species could choose to accept an alliance with one faction or group over another.

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Hi, welcome to Worldbuilding! Would you be able to expand this so that it explains what motives, resources or manpower the humans would have that the aliens would like and why this causes the aliens to specifically side with that faction (as oppose to, say, wipe that faction out)? Thanks $\endgroup$ – Mithrandir24601 Feb 7 '17 at 18:53
0
$\begingroup$

They wouldn't

they'd come down, give us religion, make us worship them, teach us about money and government then they'd leave

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Hello an welcome to WorldBuilding.SE! Currently this is not an answer to this question. The OP stated that he wants the aliens to ally with the humans, which means an answer should use this as a baseline. Your answer on the other hand ignores the premise set by the OP. You might want to take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about this site. Furthermore you can look at the accepted answer here. If you have any questions don't hesitate to ask. Have fun! $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Feb 9 '17 at 9:03

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.