First: in the sci-fi TV series Babylon 5(1), a plot element of the first season revolves around the "Earth-Minbari war", which had concluded ten years before the television series begins. In that war, the Minbari had the combined forces of Earth on the run, driven back from Earth's colonies right to the home planet itself... and then -- with victory practically in hand -- the Minbari surrendered. The reasons for the surrender were a major mystery around which several episodes of the first season revolved.
Second: a few weeks ago on this blog, I mentioned the book 1984. One of the main themes of that book was the notion of "perpetual war". The main character lives in one of three totalitarian super-powers, which is perpetually at war with one or both of the two other super-powers. In the book, we are told that perpetual war provided four benefits for the masters of these super-powers:
- it formed a bedrock of the economy, as war materiel was always necessary; and,
- the production of these goods prevented the production of goods that would actually better the standard of living of the population; which,
- kept the expectations of the inhabitants of these super-states low; and,
- provided external targets for the hate and fear of the populations of the super-states (rather than their own governments).
What do these three paragraphs have to do with each other? Well, let's explore them a little.
Off in the east, DRF forces are slowly grinding their way south. Currently, the major fights are happening in Catch (V-3YG7 fell just a few hours ago as I'm writing this). I say "slowly" not because Catch-Provi isn't a swamp -- it surely is -- but because the tempo of Red Alliance and other DRF operations has slowed way down. A few weeks ago, it looked like the remaining AAA territory would be falling in a matter of days and AAA itself seemed on the brink of failure cascade. Don't get me wrong: AAA is still losing the war, and badly. But the headlong rush that seemed inevitable a few weeks ago has turned into a leisurely stroll.
Some would call that rather surprising, given that "Winter is coming". Aren't the DRF forces worried that their super-caps will be nerfed before they can use them to finish the job?
In the west, Goonswarm and its allies are pushing hard on the northern borders of Delve. Coincidentally, S-6HHN -- a station system on the Delve border with Fountain -- fell the same moment that V-3 in Catch did. The Goons have stated an intent to push through all of Delve to create a "Thunderdome" there: a region of space that anyone who is not a -10 enemy of Goonswarm can freely dock in, with the idea that hopefully a lot of non-sov-holding alliances will move there and it will become a paradise of worry-free PvP, similar to Catch-Provi in its pre-Dominion hey-day.
What the difference is between a Delve Thunderdome that is difficult and annoying to reach and a Syndicate Thunderdome that is easy to reach isn't made completely clear, but whatever.
Goonswarm had the opportunity to take Delve before, you'll recall, months ago when they drove IT out of Fountain. IT abandoned Delve, and invited GSF to grind through it. The Goons declined the invitation and headed back to Deklein. A motley collection of players from around EVE then moved in and that's who holds it now. But even assuming the Goons are successful in conquering Delve in its entirety this time, they're not going to move this time, either.
Why should they? Between the vast numbers of Tech moons and its true-sec, they already own the single richest region in EVE.
And I can't see the DRF having any interest in living in Catch, either. Why should they? They already own several of the second richest regions in EVE.
But both groups are motivated to create buffer zones away from their home systems, because both groups are highly motivated to keep null-sec exactly as it is. The cute furry troll graphic is true enough: both groups between them control a vast swaths of null's economic capabilities, both in terms of pure ISK value and in terms of the raw materials that can be pulled out of those regions. Why should they want to give that up? Would you give that up if you had it?
But neither group wants null-sec to become completely stagnant, either. Were that to happen, CCP might be willing to take more direct, less cautious steps in rebalancing null. Whatever you believe that the Goons and DRF are doing with their vast null-sec riches, whether building super-caps or paying their RL rents, the fact remains that both groups want to keep doing those things for as long as possible with as little interference as possible, both from other EVE Online players and from CCP.
As a result, don't look for the DRF to completely crush their enemies on their southern border. I'm not saying we're going to see a Minbari-style surrender out there, but the DRF aren't going to put their best effort into the conquest if they don't have to. (P.S. This is why Pandemic Legion are bored out of their collective skulls right now.) The DRF has what they want for now, and pushing any harder on their southern border risks complete collapse, something I don't think the DRF leadership particularly wants.
The Goons meanwhile should have no problem creating their Delve Thunderdome if that's what they want to do, and that will help create just enough sound and fury signifying nothing that their true holdings up north won't be bothered either.
Meanwhile, until CCP decides to wake up and do something drastic with null, perpetual war will roll on and on in the southern reaches of New Eden. And while it does, the flood of ISK will flow into the coffers of "the DCF" for months to come, and I think that suits the leadership of both groups juuuuuust fine.
(1) And if you haven't seen B5, then stop reading this blog, go rent it, and watch Seasons 1 through 4, at least. It is, IMO, the finest sci-fi television series that has been made to date.