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Jun. 2021 Cabinet Election #2 - Minister of Defence Debate


Year 18 | 10 June 2021

Moderator: James D. Halpert | Participants: HumanSanity and Quebecshire

Welcome to the June 2021 Minister of Defence Debate!

I am James Halpert and I will be the moderator of this debate with HumanSanity and Quebecshire, candidates for Minister of Defence. This debate is sponsored by the South Pacific Independent News Network.

The format of this debate will consist of three sections:

The first section will feature questions for all candidates on their qualifications, intended policies and their visions for the coming term.
The second section will feature specific questions for each candidate.
The third section will allow each candidate to ask one question to their opponent(s), after which a few minutes for discussion will be allowed.

Candidates are asked to clearly mark the end of their answers so that I may know when to invite the other candidate to answer or to move on to the next question and to answer no later than 3 minutes after a question has been asked. If any candidate wishes to respond to their opponent at any time, they should first ask for the floor; the goal of this is to keep an orderly flow of discussion and avoid excessive interruptions.

Opening Remarks

[HumanSanity] Hi, I'm HumanSanity and I'm running for Minister of Defense because I believe I bring the organization-building focus that the SPSF needs right now.

W&S' term has seen a huge boost in SPSF activity and we've acquired a handful of new members from other organizations. This speaks well to the reputation the SPSF already has within established defender circles, something we should continue to grow on. My campaign is about taking this flurry of growth and attempting to fully utilize the resources available to us to grow the SPSF. My campaign is focused on recruiting, retention, positive community, and infrastructure building to ensure the SPSF can become a more significant contributor to defending. I've laid out an ambitious but specific plan for how to expand the reach of SPSF recruiting, how to train and integrate new personnel, an approach and mindset for the creation of positive community, and the building of key infrastructure. I look forward to being able to discuss these ideas in the debate and thank SPINN for hosting today.

My ultimate goal is an SPSF by TSPers, for TSPers, and serving TSP's values of democratic self-determination abroad. I believe I have the experience, determination, and regional focus to execute on these ideas.

[Quebecshire] I'm looking forward to debating and discussing the issues with HumanSanity. We both have written very large campaign platforms, and it will be nice to now be able to talk one on one with the public audience.

Recently, the SPSF has seen an increase in activity with new core members and the beginning of the summer. I believe that moving forward we should focus on building internal infrastructure for activity among both our active updaters and the Tidal Force and increase off-update training for newer members. As one of the largest defender militaries globally, it is important we maintain a strong fighting force to defend ourselves, our allies, and the innocent regions throughout the world.

I believe the Ministry will be in great hands regardless of the result of the election, but I believe I have the experience and leadership focus to make a strong Minister of Defense.

What do you think is the current state of the Special Forces (SPSF) in overall terms? Is the SPSF better off today than it was four months ago?

[HumanSanity] The SPSF is self-evidently better off today than it was four months ago. Four months ago, we were lucky to pull 2 updaters at any given update. Today, getting 5 is pretty standard. That's huge improvement we should continue to build on.

W&S' term also saw the launching of the Tidal Force program, which is both an opportunity for us to get more good defending work done by harnessing the piler power of a feeder region to conduct detags and support passwording/refound operations and can serve as a long-term pathway to getting on-site users integrated with our updating force.

The area where I believe we're weak is infrastructure as it relates to recruiting, training, and retention, which is the focus of my campaign.

[Quebecshire] I concur that the SPSF is definitely better off than it was four months ago. We've had a strong increase in both membership and skill, notably with HS and Luca joining in March. Regular updating has made many of our chasers very skill-full, being able to move in 2s or less at times. The growth in a core updater group is a huge step forward which has happened recently. Additionally, the summer has allowed others who were otherwise busy to be able to update.

Like HS mentioned, the Tidal Force has done quite well. Unfortunately, the TF was held up in The Global Union Consortium for nearly a month, but since then has resumed detagging operations under its coorindators. I believe this is crucial to keeping pilers and emergency liberators active, and I hope to see this continue.

I believe our weakest points are training (hence my campaign's note of encouraging more off-update and diverse training) and outreach (such as advertising what the SPSF is up to regularly in the hopes of keeping people informed and gaining new interested members).

You both mention the importance of recruitment and training. What issues is the SPSF facing today, in terms of recruitment and retention? Stemming from that, do you think any such issues have an effect on the Special Forces' ability to be a leading defender force across NationStates?

[Quebecshire] I believe that it's quite difficult to retain a lot of people at first advertisement. Only so many people want to commit, and fewer want to be up every day at midnight and noon (or their respective times) to chase and detag, as is the case for normal updates. So you have a pool of people willing to join, and fewer who will be interested in active involvement.

I think the Tidal Force is our best bet at integrating people over time, as it gives a more viable option for involvement and growth in the military. Additionally, more public updates on SPSF occurrences such as with Cabinet Twitter on the Forum and active reporting would enhance public awareness.

As far as leading a defender force, that lies on our leaders in the faction, primarily in Libcord. The SPSF is in a good position to continue to have a vocal role in Libcord leadership, and that can be backed effectively with our recent increase in updaters. However, stagnation or inactivity can threaten that position of notice-ability and it's important that we continue to maintain and grow the SPSF to ensure it can have a leading role moving forward.

[HumanSanity] The SPSF is facing an issue with getting new South Pacificans in the doors of the SPSF, getting them trained and ready to participate in update operations, and with keeping them interested and their activity focused on the SPSF. I remarked in #leg-lounge the other day that we have relatively little TSP-originating and TSP-dedicated talent right now, instead largely relying on members moving from other organizations (obviously, it's a bit hypocritical for me to say such a thing, but I speak to the trend I wish to create).

In terms of recruiting, we are simply not doing enough cooperation with the Ministries of Media and Engagement to get our message out there. I have elaborated on this at length in my campaign, but we need to be doing more regular promotion through the Ministry of Media which uses multiple different strategies to promote the image of the SPSF to potential new members, we need to work with the Ministry of Engagement to organize, update, and consolidate our on-site promotional materials, and we need to do Q&As on-site (in conjunction with the LC) and on Discord about the experiences of our updaters.

In terms of retention, I believe this is two fold. First is training: we need to actually have this in a structured fashion. My campaign talks about how to use our existing rank structure, especially for the transition from Trainee to Soldier, to train new members. I want to raise specific umbrage with Quebecshire's post in his campaign thread that we should be relying on our allies in Libcord for this type of training. We should attempt to do the initial stages of training in SPSF barracks. The reason being that Libcord is a large server with a lot of big egos and where people rarely take dedicated time to work with newer members unless they explicitly ask for it, which many are uncomfortable doing. Even as a fairly experienced defender, having been on and off the battlefield for over a decade, I found this environment intimidating at first. Carving out space for initial training in SPSF areas will allow new members to become comfortable working with smaller groups.

Lastly, for retention, our goal is not just daily updaters but our deeper bench we can call on for liberations.

Second, we need to focus on positive community, which I spoke about elsewhere at length and I won't delve into here as much.

Some militaries have a "one organisation policy" where their members cannot be simultaneously be members of other military organisations. Do you believe that such a policy is something that the SPSF should explore? What potential upsides or downsides do you see from this?

[HumanSanity] I personally believe "one organization policies" are beneficial in the long term for an organization. While they somewhat restrict the liberty of updaters (although they retain the ability to act as mercenaries as long as it does not go against the organization's prerogatives), it minimizes issues with the siphoning of personnel to focus on other organizations, which I think is a significant concern. We see how other organizations with such a policy - namely NPA and TITO - do an excellent job at retaining the focus of their members in line with their objectives.

At the same time, the SPSF is not currently in a position for such a shift as it would substantially restrict our personnel and I would not push for one. Many of our updaters are members of other organizations, and I have to respect that. It would also not be within my discretion as MoD to change because the Military Code explicitly permits it.

Finally, I want to note that my sole focus as MoD would be on the SPSF. I am a member of only one organization and see no reason that will change. My ire about regionalism is not just a political tactic, it is something I adhere to in my interactions, and the SPSF would have my full attention as its Minister.

[Quebecshire] I do not believe that policy would be beneficial for the SPSF, at least at this time. First, let's be open about the fact that I'm a member of another organization, The League's Defense Forces. I was largely the driving force behind its re-establishment/re-introduction to defending and growth, and I am still one of its higher up members - just so we're all clear on that as I discuss this issue.

Now moving on to the crux of the policy itself. I believe everyone in the SPSF should without a doubt have to disclose what other organizations they are in and keep the Ministry up to date on any non-SPSF operations either with another military or as a mercenary. That said, let's look at some of our active updaters in the Tsunami Force. Moonfungus, myself, and W&S (if you consider the FRA to be a standing organization, if not, then not him) are all in a second organization.

Two of our Generals, Roavin and Nakari, also hold membership in a second organization. While I have faith that they are loyal to TSP first, I do not believe that the impacts of pursuing this policy would be beneficial to the SPSF at this time. In the future, I might be open to it, but to put it simply, it would cause a distraction and strain from more important goals if pursued in this term.

My joint-membership is not a decision I came to lightly and is the result of my desire to be involved with and contribute to TSP after my decision to hand over the reigns of civilian government in The League. If elected, the Coalition would be my foremost priority.

A cursory review of forum threads and gameside dispatches shows missing information and out of date rosters. What role does record-keeping and, more broadly, transparency and accountability, play in your view on how to manage the Special Forces?

[Quebecshire] I think we should realign our recordkeeping. As I explained in my campaign, I think nightly reports should be logged in a channel on this Discord server in the Ministry's category in a format displaying SPSF members, operations conducted, and then which allied forces/groups the operations are conducted alongside (if any).

I'm aware there is a forum thread designed to do this, but it has not been updated recently and I do not think it keeps strong public interest in its information. I would much rather a monthly compilation of all data logged in Discord-held reports to show the full operations of the month, the operations by member, and so on. For rosters, I think we need a complete re-do and audit/review/inventory (couldn't think of a perfect word for it, apologies) of our membership to confirm members and post a full roster of leadership, Tsunami Force, and Tidal Force membership.

I think this change would improve public understand of what we do, keep us on our toes, and furthermore improve the record-keeping system overall. Beyond this, it keeps us transparent and accountable as we would include the types of operations, notes on them if necessary, and other information that is deeply relevant to the Assembly and citizenry.

[HumanSanity] I have explicitly addressed how I would rectify these problems in my campaign, as well as when in the course of my term I would turn myself to these tasks. On a theoretical level, these are very important to me as the SPSF is unique among major defender militaries because it is subject to public civilian oversight from the Assembly, which I believe is essential to the democratic character of the South Pacific.

Getting the forum records thread up to date would be a quick piece of manual labor early on in my term. A bit more intensive but very "worth it" would be a private check in with all SPSF members currently on the roster which would result in a public and updated roster being available. I've also identified that keeping the thread updated would be a weekly to do list item for me during the term and that I will allow Officers to be active in this process as well. I have also identified a record-keeping system using Spreadsheets with periodic public updates on member-specific statistics to be a late-term priority for my term. I believe this approach is both more democratic/transparent and more sustainable than the approach favored by my opponent.

Getting on-site Dispatches up to date will be more laborious, but is perhaps the most significant part of my strategy working with the Ministry of Defense. That's an early term priority, and hopefully we'd have something public on it after a month in office.

As to transparency and accountability more broadly, I've explained how I would use my Office thread to cultivate accountability by both digesting and explaining major trends in our update reports and providing periodic updates on progress for ongoing Ministry projects.

Earlier this year there was an incident with the North Pacific regarding the practice of quorum raiding. What position do you personally have towards quorum raiding and how do you think the Special Forces should approach future instances of it, and particularly when it involves facing allies?

[HumanSanity] First off, I want to clarify something - we go against our allies in the field all the time. Just last night Quebec and I were both defending against NPA and EPSA, which are two treaty allies.

As a result, we should feel comfortable defending against quorum raids of any region which is not itself fascist. Anything else would betray the democratic ideals of self-determination which are the basis of our philosophy. If I had been in W&S' officer chair at that time, I absolutely would have ordered those defenses. This is an essential part of our identity, and respectful/good allies will segment this off as just another military engagement, just like we will.

As to how to approach it in the future, I have laid out a brief strategy in my campaign. Any time there is a potentially quorum raid-targeted resolution in queue, we should begin outreach to other defender militaries with an investment in defending quorum raids (and the democratic process of the WA more generally) as early as possible to prepare our defense party. These efforts would also include preparing to contact natives we are unable to successfully defend about their recourse (e.g. the need to restore their approvals after they regain the Delegate seat). As someone who is active in the SC drafting community, I am uniquely well positioned to do this. Early in my term I would also reach out to other defender militaries about general rules of the road as it relates to this, including shared operational spaces if Libcord is ruled a poor venue for that specific operation for any reason.

[Quebecshire] What made the issue the whole ordeal it was not the quorum defenses. Like HumanSanity said, just last night we chased the NPA and EPSA all around the world. Being on opposite sides of the battlefield is not something new, and the Aurora Alliance mentions that this does not constitute hostility. What created the issue was The North Pacific's conscious decision to attack, malign, and mischaracterize us. The SPSF did absolutely nothing wrong and I would have done nothing different were I presented with that decision.

If elected, and in any other military leadership capacities, I will order quorum defenses of any regions with are not themselves fascist or OOC problematic. Furthermore, it is the responsibility of the offensive military to inform us of these realities, as chasing is a fast paced environment in which we cannot often identity and evaluate targets.

On aftermath issues, I agree that we should contact the natives to inform them of the necessity to reinstate approvals if they are hit, and even if they are not, inform them of the situation (and perhaps encourage measure such as increasing endorsement gaps until after the resolution has passed or offering further support).

Perhaps on a more extreme note, I would seek to respond to quroum raiding with a higher priority than tag raiding if the two are happening concurrently. Tags can be undone the following update that does not have a necessity for chasing by a detagging squad, whereas well-timed quorum raiding can completely manipulate and override the democratic processes of the World Assembly.

HumanSanity, your campaign highlights the importance of culture. Could you expand on your ideas about the role of culture in growing and strengthening the role of the Special Forces in the South Pacific and in NationStates Gameplay?

[HumanSanity] I believe that culture, and positive community specifically, are an essential component of a defender moralist philosophy. e.g. why do we defend, we defend so people can have access to the communities that are important and which do good for them. I believe this focus on positive community should also appear in our approach to building a military. The culture of a military must be positive (meaning not defined by extreme negative antagonism/confrontation) and autonomous (meaning not dependent on outside influences or organizations) to be truly sustainable, otherwise it falls to operational headwinds as a few bad nights on the battlefield can lead to alienation from the project. The vision I articulate is somewhat utopian, but it is an ideal worth striving for, and the attitude I in my day to day presence attempt to reflect is one that I believe will help cultivate this community and culture, regardless of if I am elected or not. Additionally, my term would include explicit cultural events for the SPSF.

I believe having a strong culture is the single most important thing for a NS military. Without that, a military cannot retain its members, it cannot invite new ones, and they're all easily picked off either by other organizations or simply by disinterest in continuing in the organization.

Quebecshire, your campaign mentions the importance of general defending, operations against quorum raiding and antifascism. Do you envision a common theme or thread that would help convey the mission of the SPSF to all three of soldiers, citizens and the broader world?

[Quebecshire] I think those values all go hand in hand, relatively, especially the former two. Quorum defending is simply an extension of and specific type of defending. I included it specifically due to my strong personal beliefs on it as well as its relevance due to the TNP controversy. As I've said in contexts outside this campaign, I consider fascism to be an OOC issue and I do not recognize the sovereignty of any fascist region. Antifascist operations also provide good practice and morale to our soldiers while contributing to an important cause.

My vision for the SPSF is simple. We are a hardline defender organization and we will not be bullied by foreign militaries or shouted down by those acting in poor faith. Our duty is to defend the Coalition and its interests, and that is best advanced by being a defender military in all in-character cases in which we can. While we are the military of this region at the end of the day, the cause of defenderism is a crucial one which we cannot stray from.

Cross Questioning and Discussion

[Quebecshire] In your campaign your briefly mention placing sleepers as an off-update contribution to our interests and defending by our members, though on a volunteer basis. Would you be open to establishing an SPSF-specific sleeper program to encourage and/or direct members (specifically Officers and above) to each build and develop their own networks of sleepers, if they do not already have them?

[HumanSanity] Yes! I have had an idea for this for many months but I've never gotten to work on it, and I somewhat considered it a low enough priority to not make it into my campaign and I'll probably work on it only if I get some other stuff done first, either way -

Sleepers (nations in founderless regions which accumulate influence to complicate occupations) are important in two spots. They're important in a spot where a less-raided region is being targeted and we need an anchorpoint as our lead or we need to attempt a refound or passwording (with native consent). They're also important where a common/major target is being attacked (e.g. Japan, Belgium, Equestria, etc.) and we need to be able to get numbers into the region which are difficult for raiders to eject. For the former, I would (time permitting) create an SPSF-only sleeper registry. For the latter, I would (again, time permitting) encourage SPSF personnel, especially non-updater pilers, to place a set of sleepers in 8-12 core commonly raided regions. The reason being that if those regions are hit, having more nations who wouldn't even be able to jump on a liberation already "in" the region and at high influence to eject will substantially aid liberation efforts.

You are both active in and an active leader of another military (the LDF), including doing regular work on its activity, training personnel, etc. What guarantee can you provide the SPSF and its mission and rhetorical style (which varies from the LDF's) will be your priority during your term?

[Quebecshire] As background, for those unaware, the LDF's reintroduction to defending was largely at the direction of myself and was aided by The Order of the Grey Wardens in particular. I would characterize the ideology held by that organization to be that of a more moralistic/political version of TGW's ideology and inclination. While I remain involved in military affairs to ensure its members can stay competent and grow as defenders since I have mentored many of them, I am not the person directing Leaguer foreign policy (which I an interpreting to involve/include rhetorical style and mission ideology) beyond at most an advisory role on those matters. I resigned as Chief Consul at the conclusion of the last month for reasons which I explained in relative detail in my resignation dispatch/announcements. The ultimate deciders of Leaguer ideology, rhetoric, and policy are Terranihil and Creeperopolis. As I stated many times to The League, I was scaling my activity back in essentially all forms other than military-specific work. If any TL related affairs came to the cabinet during a hypothetical Ministry under my leadership, I would abstain from those discussions as an extra safeguard on that.

This is of course a fair question to ask, and I would not run for Minister of Defense if I did not intend to prioritize the Coalition as Minister. I was deeply humbled to receive several nominations for the position despite being so new, and whether I am elected or not I hope to continue to work for and contribute to the South Pacific. I expect the public to hold me accountable to this promise of prioritization and hope I can meet those expectations.

[HumanSanity] "I would characterize the ideology held by that organization to be that of a more moralistic/political version of TGW's ideology and inclination." What does that mean?

[Quebecshire] The LDF's main if not near-exclusive exposure to defending (outside of myself and maybe one or two other people) has been through wardens. Most of my knowledge and training has been given by Warden Commanders, for example, with the notable exception of working with W&S at minor updates and learning in that manner. I think the LDF and its other members are very TGW-adjacent in mindset, though The League's government also has interests beyond solely military affairs (which TGW does not for the most part) and is more inclined to accept "raiding is wrong" than some TGW leadership who may be more inclined to competitiveness and non-morality based rhetoric.

Sorry if that was unclear in my original answer.

[HumanSanity] This is fair, although this TGW-adjacentness has resulted in some bombastic rhetoric becoming a part of your personal and the LDF's generally forte. To be incredibly blunt: In the past, you have been incredibly abrasive towards other militaries, including in ways that I am concerned could present diplomatic issues if you were elected (for example, you have said repeatedly you wanted to print the Independent Manifesto on toilet paper and want to wipe feces with it, keeping in mind we have multiple allies who are Independent or unaligned and who we want to work with militarily) and go beyond ideological distinctions which are directly connected to the goals of the SPSF. Will this be walked back if you're elected?

Respectfully, you're an amazing organizer, but this is something that should be discussed if you're running for office.

[Quebecshire] My personal opinions about what is mostly known as capital-I independent ideology (and the jokes about it between myself and other individuals, in this case, Frenchy mainly) would not take any sort of priority over my responsibility as Minister. While I may be vocal in my commentary, I have built cooperative apparatuses with organizations that are independent and unaligned in my other leadership capacities (namely the JTF and Thaecia). I understand the concern of my personal rhetoric, but I do believe I have been able to build and maintain similar relationships and could continue to do so in an official capacity as Minister.

In a more general sense, I'm aware of the expectations of a cabinet member, which in many cases involve either silence/abstention from comment on an issue or rhetorical moderation. I intend to serve the Coalition as its government sees fit and appropriate whilst appropriately maintaining my personal values.

Closing Remarks

[HumanSanity] I close where I started. I'm running for Minister of Defense because I believe I have the correct skills, experience, and approach to lead the SPSF through its next stage. We need strong organization-building to help us capitalize on our current gains and my campaign represents a detailed strategy to get us there.

My approach will consistently be the development of positive community within the SPSF supplemented with strong recruiting and retention tactics. I have a proven track record of successful work on NS projects and in NS communities and my rhetoric and character consistently matches the purposes I state I wish to pursue in my campaign. Being a community-oriented, inwardly-focused moralist is not a new coat of paint for me.

Regardless of who you vote for, I thank everyone for taking the time to sort through the incredibly detail-oriented campaign both Quebec and I have run. Regardless of the result, I look forward to working with Quebec and the rest of the SPSF in the upcoming term to help advance the SPSF and its goals.

[Quebecshire] I hope that the audience has enjoyed this debate. I launched my campaign because I believe I could make an effective Minister in gaining new members and improving our infrastructure in updating, recordkeeping, and off-update training for new members.

I have thoroughly enjoyed this campaign process. I think a lot of important issues have come up, ranging from culture to day-to-day functions to rhetorical approach. I hope the voters feel we have given them sufficient information to make a decision during the election itself, and if not, I am of course still open to any questions that anyone wishes to direct to my campaign.

The SPSF is in a strong position right now, and it is my hope that I would be given the mandate as Minister to continue to build on this foundation and improve our standing both in the faction and in global military power. I have a strong history in building activity and getting new people involved in defending on active and impassioned levels. Whether I am elected or not I hope to put my skills and dedication towards continuing to work for our Coalition.

To everyone who has read the campaign threads and this debate, thank you for all of the time and attention you have provided us during this election cycle. I am quite excited to see how the SPSF is able to advance its own development as well as our region's interests in the upcoming term. Thank you.

The South Pacific Independent News Network (SPINN) is an independent news organisation established in 2003 with the goal of providing good, insightful and timely commentary on regional events for the citizens of the South Pacific. Opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editorial Board. Content is published via pseudonyms. The SPINN is not associated with the Government of the South Pacific.