• Editorial: Equestria's Defenses

    With no new comic this week, I'd like to instead talk about a topic that's been prominent in both the show and comics. Equestria is no stranger to threats, both internal and external, but how has it adapted?

    What are the pros and cons to this seeming innocence, and what are the costs?

    Check out the full editorial after the break.

    Equestria's greatest power:
    Spontaneous dance numbers!

    In so many ways, Equestria represents an ideal society. There appears to be minimal crime beyond opportunistic swindlers. I don't recall witnessing homeless ponies. There's a tremendous emphasis on art, expression, and individual development. They are not warlike even with all the magical power inherent to the land.

    "All this power, wasted on parties."
    If not parties, then what? Conquest?

    Yet all this beauty carries a hint of dread. How many beautiful things have been lost because they could not protect themselves? Going by what we witnessed in My Little Pony: The Movie, Equestria seems a beacon of peace while the world outside is embroiled in turmoil. Magic is much more rare and thus a prize for sale or competition. I imagine the Storm King would not be the only one looking to Equestria with hungry eyes.

    The deal with the pony devil.

    If we are to believe the prequel comics, the only reason the Storm King didn't invade sooner is because he wasn't aware. It was Tempest who told him about Equestria's magical resources. It may be that Equestria has been outside the world's notice, but that will change. This is the country that defeated the Storm King. Word of his fall will spread to any land he conquered and Equestria may find itself more a target.

    Any one of these guys would buy a pony or a pony's parts.
    Talk about a bad first impression.

    There are two primary critics of Equestria's defenses in both animated and comic form. The recent Return of Tempest Shadow arc showed the former conqueror still doubting Equestria's priorities and its limitations. Within the show, Chancellor Neighsay represents a darker view as he regards anything outside the pony race with suspicion and disdain. Both these characters emphasize the need for defense, and it's not hard to see why.

    The Royal Punching Bags
    Once upon a time I wondered why we never saw a female royal guard. Now I have an answer. The mares of Equestria are too smart to join the guard. This is not a happy revelation, but it's the only way I can reconcile the Guards' incompetence.

    One of these guards might be Shining Armors friend from
    "A Flurry of Emotions". Probably good he retired.

    Here's the oddity. Against individual threats like Nightmare Moon, Discord, and Tirek, I understand that even the mightiest guards wouldn't be able to hold them off. These are beings on an entirely different level and it matches with the trope of unique individuals stepping up to meet their rival. But what about when the Changelings invaded? In this case it's still a battle against Chrysalis, but the Guards could have at least have fought the swarm. Instead, they lost off-screen.

    I won't say these guys had one job.
    But they did have an important responsibility.

    Since then, we've seen guards abandon their posts for cake breaks, leading to security breaches. And they were completely absent during the Storm King's invasion. I thought that after the Changeling attack there would be greater motivation to be vigilant, but I swear that the royal guard has only gotten worse.

    Poor Shining Armor. He's never had a chance to shine
    as Captain of the Guard.

    The most meta argument I've heard for this is that if the guard were good at their jobs, there'd be nothing for the lead cast. I do not agree with this. The Royal Guard need not solve the problem. They need only mitigate the damage. If they are a shield holding back whatever threatens Equestria, even for a moment, then that gives Twilight and friends the mobility to act as the sword. Which brings us to the idea of individual saviors.

    The Hidden Army
    I had a realization watching the season 5 finale again. This was a kind of victory lap for "Twilight and Friends Save the Day". Since then, how often have they solved a problem using only the core group? Sunburst was the saving power for The Crystalling. Starlight's Irregulars were the fallback champions in To Where and Back Again. Double the cast for Shadow Play. Looking ahead, it's very likely the Student Six will have a large role in Season 8's finale.

    Don't let this adorable image deceive you.
    They will mess you up!

    In the past I've said that having so many champions makes Equestria look like a powerhouse, and I stand by that. However, each of these champions is likewise vulnerable to manipulation, abduction, or any other scheme if the antagonist is patient and meticulous. Take away key figures or set them against one another, and what is the next layer of defense?

    This is the first line of defense.
    So adorable!

    Of all the villains, Chrysalis seems to have come closest to total victory. Her only failings were her need to monologue, and her dismissal of ponies outside the more popular protectors. Perhaps that's Equestria's greatest strength. Because of the emphasis on personal growth and Twilight's efforts to spread friendship, we're in a phase where unlikely champions emerge when needed. Villains know to target the princesses and perhaps the Mane Six, but they can't catch every single pony in Equestria by surprise. 

    You know you're having a bad day when you become
    part of the room's feng shui.

    And I imagine some of you saying, "Silver, you scripting Scolopaci, that only applies to recurring characters at season's start and end." I'd point towards Star Tracker as a counter. This small, timid pony found the courage to stand up to Iron Will after an honest talk with Twilight. Granted, Iron Will intimidated him back to silence, but it's impressive how the colt asserted himself in such a short time. Imagine what he could do if he built on that singular moment. I see Star Tracker as an example of the growth potential in any pony. 

    You stand tall, young stallion!

    Another example lies within The Return of Tempest Shadow.

    Tempest's Critiques
    Tempest brought Equestria's capital down with barely any resistance. So it seems very legitimate for her to point out all the flaws to Princess Cadance. All this emphasis on soft, loving roles without any symbols to represent strength. 

    Is there a princess of road tolls?
    I feel like that would be important.

    She's also quick to point out to Cadance that all her love magic couldn't save her from petrification. Tactful. 

    "Because if you did, I'd show you why
    they say, 'Love hurts'."

    Cadance did not focus on countering this argument. She admitted that there are some things love can't solve, and that her magic is not necessarily more powerful but that it comes from channeling her emotions. Her real counter-argument came from reuniting Tempest with her old friend Glitter Drops and letting Tempest witness that strength. Tempest got to experience a kind of power not immediately noticeable, especially if one only defines value by show of force. 

    Awesome moment.
    Awesome artwork.

    I don't think Tempest is proven completely wrong. The aforementioned incompetence of the Royal Guard is something that can and should be fixed. Since Shining Armor has his hooves full as a prince and father, I think it's time for a new Captain of the Guard. 

    Cheezedoodle96 did a great job with this rendition.

    Neighsay's Fears
    There's another reason why I think Tempest isn't totally wrong, and it ties in to Neighsay's paranoia. The Chancellor is bigoted, paranoid, and certainly egotistical to the point where he sabotages the very cause he champions. I say this because his approval of Friendship University seemed driven more by a desire to undermine Twilight that provide proper education, even for Equestria's defense. 

    Princess opens a school? Contempt.
    Las Pegasus owners open a school? Nothing.

    Yet Neighsay is an extreme example of the fear we've witnessed in ponies since season one. Be it running from Zecora, the Crusaders being unsure about griffons, or even Twilight's remarks that other cultures know nothing of friendship, there's clearly a bias in Equestrian culture. Ponies are not well versed in the surrounding world, and that ignorance causes fear. Dual invasions by the Changeling swarm and the Storm King's army don't help.

    How to become an international incident in 5 easy steps.

    I wonder what happened to Neighsay during that latter invasion. Is it possible he was directly hurt or did it ignite something long dormant within? Whatever happened, it made him fear the outside world even more, and I think Equestria's lack of visible safeguards only enhances that fear. 

    That pony in the foreground?
    Scarred for life.

    Going back to Star Tracker, he had a moment of courage but isn't yet at the point where he can stand up regularly. I think the same would be true for most of Equestria's populace. The potential for courage and action is present but untapped. Hence the need for the Mane Six, the Map, and the School of Friendship. These are the foundation to strengthen Equestria on a personal level, but I think the population would rest easier and be more open to the outside world if they knew there was a defensive force on standby. 

    This was one of my favorite moments for Twilight as a new princess.
    I think her leading the royal guard would make both look good.

    It's a razor's edge to demonstrate a strong defense without appearing as an aggressor, which is why I think Celestia and the other princesses do not hold military parades or demonstrations. Yet I think they've let the pendulum swing too far towards pacifism, creating an image of weakness. Equestria's citizens can be strengthened by Twilight's approach, but they can also draw hope from knowing there are defenders standing ready. It gives them an example to live up to and confidence in their leadership. 

    Equestria Still Stands
    As a closing thought, I want to point out that for all the invasions, upheavals, and near disasters, Equestria has not fallen. If anything, each conflict has made it stronger as former enemies join the champions' ranks and the country's sphere of influence extends. 

    So close, yet so far.
    Chrysalis actually did more to strength Equestria, unintentionally.

    Yet it would be a mistake to keep assuming this is the norm. Complacency can lead to neglect or overconfidence. Equestria would benefit from an evaluation of its defenses, fighting force, and personal image.  

    Sorry, Princess. Your most hardcore moment is
    in a different timeline.

    I doubt we'll see any of this implemented in the show, but that's not really important. This is more for the future writers out there. How would you present a world as idealistic as Equestria while still addressing the weaknesses we've witnessed? How would you represent a military force that stands at the ready, without threatening one's neighbors? Is that even possible? Most of all, how would you tap into the strength dwelling within an every day citizen? 

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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