「友帝の同盟」 (Tomo mikado no Doumei)
“Alliance Against the Empire”
These past few weeks have really seen Altair find its stride. The visuals and animation might have been noticeably lacking in spots (especially the battles), but when it comes to material and the themes espoused there’s little competition. Every new event and engagement gives this show greater opportunities to shine, and by hell does it never waste the chance. Case in point being Mahmut this week who quickly proves why imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
I mentioned last week how most (if not all) battles are decided before the opposing sides even meet, and once again Altair hammered this point home. By simply knowing what your opponent will do you can easily choose the time and place to defeat him, with the only difficulty arising from actually setting up the attack. Mahmut of course applied this lesson in full, correctly anticipating Pineau would try a similar strategy as with Halil Pasha. There was no reason Pineau had to pull a similar stunt, but humans are stubborn creatures of habit, especially when presented with the unknown. Seizing supplies and reducing the enemy army’s starvation timer? Certainly one way of inducing a predictable response. Mahmut’s genius wasn’t so much setting up the final battle, but understanding how pushing Balt-Rhein off kilter would encourage rash moves that could be teased into a trap. Pineau himself didn’t have any immediate need to respond (he had some time to formulate a different plan of attack), but he (or Lily) probably anticipated that Mahmut would do like Halil had done before and should strike while the iron is hot. For Balt-Rhein’s preeminent general it was this lapse of thought which cost him and shows why you never—ever—underestimate what your opponent can do.
Underestimation, however, is not only limited to Balt-Rhein’s generalship. The empire has quickly found itself at war with half a continent as aggressive diplomacy and unreliable allies crumble in the face of stubborn bravery. Balt-Rhein’s overall strategy was always a one shot proposition, either they quickly bully their way into hegemony, or wind up with more enemies than they could know what to do with. Lily (and Louis) are not wrong that Turkiye is an aggravating obstacle for their plans, but Turkiye is simply the strongest candidate their enemies can rally around. The real source of Balt-Rhein’s problems is rather its dual failure to quickly capture Chielo (stalling their conquest of the south) and losing control of the Centro (limiting any influence had over remaining unaligned naval states). Much like Germany learned twice following Operation Michael and Stalingrad, once a militaristic state loses a strategic (i.e. war-defining) fight, it loses that which makes it powerful in the eyes of others. Balt-Rhein of course hasn’t experienced such a moment yet (although losing the Centro arguably comes close), but if Pineau winds up losing to an outnumbered Mahmut and friends, all bets are off. If (when) Balt-Rhein’s lauded land forces are shown to be vulnerable, it won’t take long before Louis and the empire discover what it’s like to play defense.
For a war with tangibly little to show for it so far, it’s not the sort of predicament Balt-Rhein wants to suddenly find itself in.