Author Topic: Is the GTA/GTVA Fascist?  (Read 1264 times)

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Offline Snarks

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Is the GTA/GTVA Fascist?
Something that really caught me when playing the original Freespace games was that it felt right to kill for the GTA. You are put into a pilot's seat, given strict military orders, and are told these are you enemies: go kill them. The Terran-Vasudan War doesn't have any meaningful reason other than a conflict over hegemony of resources. Why not simply explore more systems and expand away from each other? Why not trade? Because allowing your rivals to live means giving up absolute power. The game does a great job of having motives fall in line with that of a soldier under a fascist regime. The minimalism and emphasis on military procedures all build this feeling that it's ok to go and kill for the sake of resources.

As a thought experiment, I once argued that a soldier from a liberal democracy has greater moral responsibilities than those of an oppressive regime. If you refuse to follow orders in an oppressive regime, not only are you likely to be put up against a wall and shot but likely your family too. If you refuse to follow orders in a liberal democracy, you are likely to be reprimanded and court martialed, with likely prison time, but it's unlikely you will ever be executed for it. Thus, a soldier from a liberal democracy, because he is less likely to be subject to unreasonable punishment, ought to exercise his duty to morals, rejecting orders that would constitute crimes against humanity.

While I don't believe any of the mission failures outright has the player be put up against the wall for a firing squad, you are treated rather harshly for failures. If you retreat before the mission is completed, no matter how absurd or seeming impossible a situation is, you are likely given a mission debriefing where you are court martialed or stripped of your rank. We don't punish soldiers for fearing for their lives, surrendering, or fleeing when the situation is bleak. The states that punish their soldiers under such conditions are typically authoritarian states, like Nazi Germany's policy of no retreat or Imperial Japan's expectation that their soldiers die before surrendering. As a pilot of the GTA, you aren't allowed to break orders. You retreat when Command deem it necessary.

So I did post this in the Blue Planet forum for a reason. In Blue Planet, the GTVA is in fact seemingly very fascist in nature, especially when compared to the Ubuntu government. The UEF honor the lives of their fallen enemies, value the lives of its citizenry and soldiers, and refuse actions that it deem foul. When you fly with the Fedayeen, you are acknowledged to be in a unit that's not quite alleged to be part of the federation, even possibly disapproved by many of the elders and kept back until the situation became truly dire. The GTVA's equivalent, the SOC, are kept secret for purposes of information blackout, but they are acknowledged as being part of the GTVA are readily a part of the military service.

Did the GTVA become more militant because of the Shivans? Probably yes, but they were already a fascist society beforehand.

Young me played Freespace and loved it. I killed Vasudans because I was told to do so and with a undertone that it's fine because they weren't Terrans. Whether or not this was intentional, it likely wasn't, Freespace really did feel like a game where you roleplayed being a soldier under a fascist regime.

 

Offline Colonol Dekker

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Re: Is the GTA/GTVA Fascist?
Refusal to follow orders in theatre will often jeapordise your team, people you train with for years.   

I would think very carefully before any sort of deviation.
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Offline Snarks

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Re: Is the GTA/GTVA Fascist?
Refusal to follow orders in theatre will often jeapordise your team, people you train with for years.   

I would think very carefully before any sort of deviation.

Definitely, but I argue that we probably, rightfully criticize soldiers in modern democracies committing war crimes under the pretense of orders. I'm not saying it should be an easy decision, but the expectations for moral duties are higher when the punishment is lower. German soldiers refusing orders and fleeing to surrender to the western allies in WW2 were most definitely jeopardizing the defense of other German units, but the only people who really shame them would be the extreme members of the Nazi party.

I suppose you could argue that you jumping out when all of your wing members are dead is still jeopardizing the broader "team" in other presumed areas of space, but the way the player is treated is not in line with what modern countries do. We treat survivors from a battle or operation gone wrong as war heroes, not court martial them and then put them on janitorial duties.

 

Offline Hjolnai

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Re: Is the GTA/GTVA Fascist?
I don't think you can reasonably say that the GTA was fascist in Freespace 1. Firstly, the treatment of deserters is fairly consistent with how the Allies treated deserters in WWI and WWII (many deserters were sentenced to death, even if few were actually executed). It's not fair to consider modern treatment of deserters, because a total war footing demands much greater sacrifice than the limited wars of our time - at least, from the perspective of modern democracies who aren't on the losing side. Much the same argument applies for war crimes - it's much easier to avoid them when the war isn't an existential threat to your nation.

If we use the Axis as the primary example of fascism, then the GTA looks even less like a fascist state - the Axis betrayed their pact with the Soviet Union, whereas the GTA formed a long-term alliance with their former enemies.

In Freespace 2, of course, the NTF was rather fascist/Nazi-like, since nationalism and anti-Vasudan sentiment was at the core of their ideology - and they didn't shy away from genocide. That doesn't hold for the GTVA, though, and Alpha One's mission briefings do seem to mention the protection of civilians as a frequent justification IIRC.

In Blue Planet there's perhaps a better argument for it, but to me it looks like the GTVA invasion is a calculated act of desperation - recognition that they can't beat the Shivans alone, and that allying with the Federation still isn't enough because the Federation focuses its economy on living standards rather than military production (and Ubuntu threatens to destabilize the human side of the GTVA, making matters even worse). Diplomacy won't change that - only war, followed by a puppet government, can. The GTVA also tries to maintain reasonable standards of conduct during the war, as evidenced by the fact that they have to have some justification (traveling with armed escort, being a military target because of industry, etc) before being willing to shoot at civilians. Considering the devastation inflicted on civilians by allied strategic bombing in WWII, this is still consistent with desperate democratic states. The GTVA also shows significant concern for public opinion back home.

I wouldn't say that democracy is particularly healthy in the GTVA in Blue Planet, but it's not dead yet. Even if it fails, the human-side successor government is likely to be a fairly ordinary military dictatorship without the genocidal rhetoric and actions of fascist states, while the Vasudans may be headed for absolute monarchy. Not exactly a great place to live, but any universe with the Shivans is a bad place to live in.

  

Offline General Battuta

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Re: Is the GTA/GTVA Fascist?
Huh, it’s an interesting point that the GT(V)A seems so fascist in FS1. And they really do! There’s a lot of dark hints that strategic bombing of Vasudan colonies has been planned or carried out. By the time of FS2 they feel a little more like NATO, but we still never hear anything from civilian governments or local authorities.

I think one vote against the GTA as truly fascist is their lack of state ideology. We don’t see a lot of pageantry, we don’t get exhortations to remember the Power of Man or to give up our lives for the state. They’re really not very good at soft power or rhetoric! Maybe that’s why the GTA fell apart so fast after FS1.

Maybe the closest we get is the FS2 intro monologue...but that’s hardly a stirring appeal to the strength of the military state.

 

Offline The E

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Re: Is the GTA/GTVA Fascist?
Something that really caught me when playing the original Freespace games was that it felt right to kill for the GTA. You are put into a pilot's seat, given strict military orders, and are told these are you enemies: go kill them. The Terran-Vasudan War doesn't have any meaningful reason other than a conflict over hegemony of resources. Why not simply explore more systems and expand away from each other? Why not trade? Because allowing your rivals to live means giving up absolute power. The game does a great job of having motives fall in line with that of a soldier under a fascist regime. The minimalism and emphasis on military procedures all build this feeling that it's ok to go and kill for the sake of resources.

We do not know nearly enough about the internal structure and politics of the GTVA to tell whether or not they're fascist. The games offer only a very limited perspective on life in the GTVA (that of a combat pilot on deployment in an active war zone); Any military will, by its very nature, seem fascist when compared to civilian life (That is not to say that soldiers are fascists, far from it; life in the military just is very much oriented towards working together for the greater good while under strict authority).

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As a thought experiment, I once argued that a soldier from a liberal democracy has greater moral responsibilities than those of an oppressive regime. If you refuse to follow orders in an oppressive regime, not only are you likely to be put up against a wall and shot but likely your family too. If you refuse to follow orders in a liberal democracy, you are likely to be reprimanded and court martialed, with likely prison time, but it's unlikely you will ever be executed for it. Thus, a soldier from a liberal democracy, because he is less likely to be subject to unreasonable punishment, ought to exercise his duty to morals, rejecting orders that would constitute crimes against humanity.

A soldier serving under an oppressive regime certainly has a better excuse to make moral compromises for the sake of survival, but I would argue that both have the same duty to refuse immoral orders (I dunno, I'm german; During basic training, I was taught that it is our duty as german soldiers, as "citizens in uniform", to look out for and actively refuse to follow orders that cannot be reconciled with the values of our society).

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While I don't believe any of the mission failures outright has the player be put up against the wall for a firing squad, you are treated rather harshly for failures. If you retreat before the mission is completed, no matter how absurd or seeming impossible a situation is, you are likely given a mission debriefing where you are court martialed or stripped of your rank. We don't punish soldiers for fearing for their lives, surrendering, or fleeing when the situation is bleak. The states that punish their soldiers under such conditions are typically authoritarian states, like Nazi Germany's policy of no retreat or Imperial Japan's expectation that their soldiers die before surrendering. As a pilot of the GTA, you aren't allowed to break orders. You retreat when Command deem it necessary.

"We" absolutely do. Desertion is a fairly serious crime, cowardice in the face of the enemy a pretty serious misstep in most militaries. This has nothing to do with how authoritarian a state is; It's a violation of the oath you swore when you decided to become a soldier, it jeopardizes the people next to you, and cannot be tolerated.

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So I did post this in the Blue Planet forum for a reason. In Blue Planet, the GTVA is in fact seemingly very fascist in nature, especially when compared to the Ubuntu government. The UEF honor the lives of their fallen enemies, value the lives of its citizenry and soldiers, and refuse actions that it deem foul. When you fly with the Fedayeen, you are acknowledged to be in a unit that's not quite alleged to be part of the federation, even possibly disapproved by many of the elders and kept back until the situation became truly dire. The GTVA's equivalent, the SOC, are kept secret for purposes of information blackout, but they are acknowledged as being part of the GTVA are readily a part of the military service.

Did the GTVA become more militant because of the Shivans? Probably yes, but they were already a fascist society beforehand.

Again, we do not know enough about civilian life in the GTVA or the GTA before it to make that statement.
IMHO, the harsher side of the GT(V)A has two points of origin: One, the GTA is an umbrella organization for a far-flung colonization effort. We do not know how much (if any) terraforming the GTA has been doing (although we do posit that in the BP universe, they didn't do a whole lot; Mars' terraforming process was effectively stalled when extrasolar colonies became a thing), but we can safely assume that life on these new colonies isn't going to be particularly easy, especially after the events of FS1 and the loss of the Sol system.
Two, the shivans, obviously. After FS2, it is clear that the threat of the Shivans is much larger than previously assumed; they are, from the perspective of the GTVA, weakly god-like. Combined with the research into Nagari phenomena in BP, the GTVA is faced with an impossible mission: Ensure human (and vasudan) survival in a universe that contains agencies like the shivans and vishnans, agencies that are practically omnisicient, highly inscrutable, and which seemingly do not particularly care about human and vasudan survival.
In BP, we have posited a few things that the GTVA might have done in reaction to this, some secret, some not (Here's a small hint: The Anemoi class is vastly overengineered for its current role). We have not, to the best of my knowledge anyway, talked about what life in the GTVA is like for the average colonist.
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Re: Is the GTA/GTVA Fascist?
By the time of FS2 they feel a little more like NATO, but we still never hear anything from civilian governments or local authorities.

I don't know, but maybe that's because the player is in the military and somewhat isolated from civillian news? There was some mention about negotiations with the NTF at the beginning of FS2. Of course the soldiers won't be completely isolated from what happens at home but in the end their job is to fight the enemy as good as they can, not to sit there and hope for a peace conference.

 

Offline General Battuta

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Re: Is the GTA/GTVA Fascist?
That’s not how being in the military works, though. You hear everything from CNN first.

 

Offline Colonol Dekker

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Re: Is the GTA/GTVA Fascist?
That's definitely true about big events.  But broad strategy has a habit of leaking through grapevines.
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Offline IronBeer

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Re: Is the GTA/GTVA Fascist?
We have not, to the best of my knowledge anyway, talked about what life in the GTVA is like for the average colonist.
IIRC no official sources really have. There's an unused image of a Terran newscaster, so we could extrapolate from there.... but plenty of societies have televised news.

Most of what we know about civilian life in the GTVA is inferred. I thiiiiink the general zeitgeist-consensus is that it's broadly similar to life in a modern democratic state, though obviously more militaristic, and the import of voting/representation is muddy at best.
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Offline General Battuta

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Re: Is the GTA/GTVA Fascist?
I like to think that the GTVA is about as relevant to daily life as NATO is to us - you hear about it and appreciate its importance, but unless there’s a war on, it’s several layers of organization and abstraction away from anything that matters to you, like your local and planetary governments.

This is part of why the GTVA sees Ubuntu as such a threat. They don’t really provide a cultural identity to go with the military aegis. Last time someone had the idea for a pan-Terran nationalist movement look what happened!

 
Re: Is the GTA/GTVA Fascist?
Just that the NATO is limited to international military politics, while the GTVA is the only political entity (aside the UEF).

Perhabs their ideals are less-selling than those of the UEF, but if they haven't been able to establish some sort of basic sense or ideology (like 'we protect you against the Shivans' or even just against NTF fans) in almost 40 years, GTVA propaganda would've done a pretty bad job.

 

Offline General Battuta

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Re: Is the GTA/GTVA Fascist?
This is covered pretty extensively in the BP discussions of post-Capella politics.

The General Assembly is the civilian side of the GTVA (well, so is the Security Council, but it’s not really a domestic political body on the level of civilian life). Representatives there presumably come from member worlds, which would have global and local governments (their populations are very small compared to Earth, smaller even than China today in most cases, but there’s still a need for lower organization). Those are the governments your average citizen would interact with, not the overarching GTVA.

 

Offline Colonol Dekker

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Re: Is the GTA/GTVA Fascist?
I wonder if the colonies cause as much trouble as Brexit does.
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Re: Is the GTA/GTVA Fascist?
@Battuta: Ah OK, didn't knew that. Does GTVA use a conscrition army or an employment one?

I wonder if the colonies cause as much trouble as Brexit does.

A few systems wanted to leave, but bloodthirsty EU GTVA wouldn't let them go. :D

 

Offline DefCynodont119

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Re: Is the GTA/GTVA Fascist?
Going back to the original question for a moment, There doesn't feel like there is any massive information control in either the GTA (outside of silent threat) or the GTVA, and the techroom mentions the "Titan accords" in FS1 and "BETAC" in FS2,  both of which outline and prohibit war crimes. I don't think those are something a full-on Fascist regime would condenser writing up and passing.

I would also like to add that the GTA and PVE were at war for over 14 years, over what the Techroom calls "the conversation" (some kind of diplomatic incident) So it could be that maybe the GTA was peaceful and democratic at first and slowly became more hard-line and militaristic as the war got worse.

But yeah I think the GTVA is more of a NATO type thing.
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Offline Snarks

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Re: Is the GTA/GTVA Fascist?
I don't think you can reasonably say that the GTA was fascist in Freespace 1. Firstly, the treatment of deserters is fairly consistent with how the Allies treated deserters in WWI and WWII (many deserters were sentenced to death, even if few were actually executed). It's not fair to consider modern treatment of deserters, because a total war footing demands much greater sacrifice than the limited wars of our time - at least, from the perspective of modern democracies who aren't on the losing side. Much the same argument applies for war crimes - it's much easier to avoid them when the war isn't an existential threat to your nation.

If we use the Axis as the primary example of fascism, then the GTA looks even less like a fascist state - the Axis betrayed their pact with the Soviet Union, whereas the GTA formed a long-term alliance with their former enemies.

The US executed a single individual, Eddie Slovik, for desertion in the entirety of WW2. Slovik was convinced that his country would not execute anyone for desertion. Slovik deserted multiple times, was given multiple chances to rejoin the armed forces, and was only executed following a drop in morale after the Battle of the Budge. Furthermore, Slovik did not refused any controversial orders. He did not surrender when his unit was overrun (as did many US units did during The Battle of the Budge).

Don't forget that the GTI did in fact essentially betrayed the Vasudans, sparking another potential conflict that could have easily resumed total war. There was a very realistic possibility that the alliance might not have materialized.

By comparison, likely because of gameplay reasons, you do sometimes find yourself forced into essentially suicidal scenarios. Just take the second mission of Freespace: if all 3 of your wingmen die, you are still expected to finish your patrol in the asteroid belt. If a fighter wing in our world gets gimped down to a man, we don't force the remaining survivor to finish his mission. We put a lot more effort in making sure our pilot's lives are safe, that we value them as individuals.

In Freespace 2, of course, the NTF was rather fascist/Nazi-like, since nationalism and anti-Vasudan sentiment was at the core of their ideology - and they didn't shy away from genocide. That doesn't hold for the GTVA, though, and Alpha One's mission briefings do seem to mention the protection of civilians as a frequent justification IIRC.

I agree, but the NTF was part of the GTA for over 20 years. A lot of the officers in the NTF were GTA officers, likely many veterans of the Great War. Many of them probably had a big influence on the Terran half of the GTVA. You can make the argument that some of the more extreme fascist elements of the GTA splintered off, just like the GTI did. The fact that the NTF was willing to continue some of the genocidal policies of the original GTA actually makes the alliance appear even more tenuous, as this would be the second Terran attack on the Vasudans, 20 years later.

Arguably, this mirrors the military cliques of Imperial Japan (who often attempted military coups) or the often unfriendly rivalry between the Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe, the SA, and the SS. The fact that power can be derived from the military is suggestive of a fascist state. The day the CIA or Marine Corp can stage a coup in the US is the day I seriously begin to doubt the democratic, civilian authority of the United States.

In Blue Planet there's perhaps a better argument for it, but to me it looks like the GTVA invasion is a calculated act of desperation - recognition that they can't beat the Shivans alone, and that allying with the Federation still isn't enough because the Federation focuses its economy on living standards rather than military production (and Ubuntu threatens to destabilize the human side of the GTVA, making matters even worse). Diplomacy won't change that - only war, followed by a puppet government, can. The GTVA also tries to maintain reasonable standards of conduct during the war, as evidenced by the fact that they have to have some justification (traveling with armed escort, being a military target because of industry, etc) before being willing to shoot at civilians. Considering the devastation inflicted on civilians by allied strategic bombing in WWII, this is still consistent with desperate democratic states. The GTVA also shows significant concern for public opinion back home.

I wouldn't say that democracy is particularly healthy in the GTVA in Blue Planet, but it's not dead yet. Even if it fails, the human-side successor government is likely to be a fairly ordinary military dictatorship without the genocidal rhetoric and actions of fascist states, while the Vasudans may be headed for absolute monarchy. Not exactly a great place to live, but any universe with the Shivans is a bad place to live in.

There were criticism of strategic bombing on civilian population. The fire bombing of Dresden is one of the most widely criticized affair of WW2. We often associate those decisions with the more right winged elements of the government/military. Is the GTVA as extreme as Nazi Germany? I can't really say, but by our modern liberal democracy standards, I think there is a case to be made. Again though, a lot of this stuff likely wasn't intended on the part of Volition, but plenty of art reveal things that the original creator did not intend. In retrospect, I actually find it a bit disturbing to replay the original Freespace campaign after having these thoughts. Why am I shooting down Vasudans on an offensive military operation, because 14 years ago we had a diplomatic falling out? We're not just fighting to claim a particular planet. We're willing to bomb the Vasudans into submission.

Edit: Imagine if the UK conducted strategic bombing of civilian populations in Argentina during the Falklands War instead of simply enforcing its claim over the islands, or if they used that as a justification to take over the government. That would be crazy controversial.
« Last Edit: May 06, 2019, 04:15:16 pm by Snarks »

 

Offline Colonol Dekker

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Re: Is the GTA/GTVA Fascist?
They were our islands.  Argentina wasn't ours.
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Re: Is the GTA/GTVA Fascist?
Yeah, it's hard to judge GTA without seeing how it canonically interacts with civilians, but IMO they didn't really have "fascist" problems. Just as pointed out, a soldier makes an oath - one of its most important parts is the "sacrifice your life when the need comes" part. I can't really imagine a real military properly functioning when most of its soldiers are unlikely to take risks and would bail when facing possible death. There is the point of some orders from Command that end in death that can be easily prevented, of course, but I don't think that situation happens nearly often enough (in FS1, at least) to validate disobedience of orders.
Also note that canonically, every mission in Freespace games can be completed. Every objective (except these ones that are scripted to fail, of course) can be completed without the player dying. This means that if you leave the mission early, you've basically decided to bail out of a battle that is pretty much sure to be won by you. As bad as it is from the military perspective in early parts of the games, the consequences of you running away later on are much more than just breaking your oath. In late parts of the games, your actions decide (directly or not) over thousands, millions of lives - or even the existence of both human and vasudan races. So yeah, I wouldn't be that worried of AWOL debriefings suggesting something.

Also re: "What if all of my wingmen are dead" - I guess that there wasn't really a reason for Volition to think of this. Probably because if you screwed up that much it means that you've massively underperformed in relation to your rank and role and you should just replay the mission. The real outcome is the one where you survive and the objective is completed.
Also, I think that in some situations where you lost an important ship or lost a battle, Command actually ordered you to bail out of there, and the following debriefing basically means that you've massively underperformed or failed to follow your orders and that resulted in really big consequences.

There are some points I can make regarding the T-V conflict, too. For example, the sole fact that Harbringer warheads exist and their designed usage, as stated by the Tech Room entry, makes you think a bit ill of GTA. But on the other hand, it could only be the result of the escalation of the conflict, which forced both sides to try and make a bigger gun before the other side does. I don't think canon intelligence data states too much about Vasudan ways of fighting in this conflict.

Speaking of Vasudans. I think that they could be more guilty of "fascism" than GTA, to be honest. For example, there are some suggestions that Vasudan Imperium had much less care for their soldiers' lives than GTA did. Just look at the flying coffins that are the Amun and Osiris. You'd think that they would throw away the two subsequent bad bomber designs. There's no dedicated Vasudan heavy cruiser like the Leviathan at GTA's side. The flying coffin called Anubis, its very wide usage by the Imperium and the swarm tactics employed by them against superior GTA fighters. Not to mention some of the dedicated kamikaze fighter squadrons.
There's also the matter of Hammer of Light, I think that their rebellion can be considered relatively as large as the Neo-Terran Front in FS2. Just look at this, a force of religious extremists big enough to get a hold of at least a pair of Typhons and some other fleet assets from Vasudans in the middle of the fight against Shivans.

I personally think that Vasudans in FS1 can be compared to Japan during WW2. With Shivans delivering the nukes.
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Re: Is the GTA/GTVA Fascist?
Why am I shooting down Vasudans on an offensive military operation, because 14 years ago we had a diplomatic falling out? We're not just fighting to claim a particular planet. We're willing to bomb the Vasudans into submission.

Possibly because the goverment might find itself in heavy trouble if they fought a war for 14 years and they don't have anything to show that would justify the efforts.