When two hostile parties are at the edge of a direct conflict that would undermine the series or make it unacceptably violent for the premise, a higher power (ranging from parents or school officials up to god-like beings
) will often intervene to maintain the status quo
This can have the effect of forcing two groups of enemies into regular contact with each other, while preventing the fight from escalating, driving the plot into other forms of conflict (e.g., school contests, supporting opposing factions of minor groups, etc.) and not coincidentally mimicking the sort of uneasy peace that typified the Cold War
between the US and the USSR during the late 20th century (where the threat of total nuclear annihilation was the higher power keeping the peace between the US and Russia).
Often allows the Bad Guys to taunt the heroes with impunity. If so, there will almost certainly be at least one scene where one of the heroes has to be held back by their teammates, usually while they shout something like "Let me at em!"
It's common for there to be a pair of Star-Crossed Lovers
separated from each other by being on different sides of the fight.
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Anime & Manga
- In To Love-Ru, Rito is forced to go to school with Yami, the infamous alien assassin known throughout the galaxy who wants to kill Rito, but doesn't because she's best friends with his sister. She will however try if he does anything ecchi towards her which has Rito narrowly escaping death on a daily basis
- In Last Exile, the countries of Anatoray and Disith are engaged in a long and bloody war under the supervision of the mysterious Guild, which directs the official battles which take place in the air between the country's respective air forces. The enforcement comes into play when one side gains too much of an advantage and is stopped forcefully by the forces of the Guild, in order to maintain the status quo.
- In the Ah! My Goddess universe, actual battle between the gods and demons is prevented by the Doublet System. Kill someone from either side and someone else from the opposite side would literally drop dead on the spot. As no one (save one notable exception) knows who their doublet is, this prevents the saner ones from simply starting Ragnarok early. For the insane ones there's always the direct intervention of the Daimakaichou or the Almighty.
- One Piece: The Whitebeard War ends this way, as Shanks intervenes and threatens to take on any side if they don't stop the senseless violence. In this case, this is likely a short-term solution, as Shanks and his crew are about equal in power to the other factions. The only reason Shanks' threat held weight is because all the factions (Luffy's allies, The Whitebeard Pirates, the Blackbeard Pirates, and the World Government) were too weakened from the fighting up till that point. On a wider scale, the men in charge of the World Government spend most of their screen time worrying about the balance of power between the Marines, the Shichibukai, and the Yonkou.
- Parallel Trouble Adventure Dual utilized a very literal example of this trope. The two warring mecha factions in the show only fought at pre-scheduled places and times, and the pilots were allowed to tap out when it looked like were going to lose. As in the real life Cold War, the point of this was to keep the world from being wrecked by the weapons of mass destruction possessed by both sides.
- The planets Apokalips and New Genesis in The DCU. The explanation was given in New Gods #7 in the story "The Pact", which resulted in the characters of Orion and Mister Miracle.
- In fandoms where Ship-to-Ship Combat is prevalent, many of the major message boards have rules against flaming other members or ships, preventing the ship wars from becoming too terribly violent. The major Avatar: The Last Airbender boards in particular are known to clamp down heavily hard on flame wars between Kataang and Zutara shippers.
- The Great Joel vs Mike Flamewar that broke out in MST3K fandom when the latter took over hosting duties for the former in 1994 pitted MSTie against MSTie and very nearly wiped out all life as we know it. These days on MST3K message boards, it's generally a topic discussed in only the most coldly logical, unemotional terms lest ancient hatreds come to the fore. Flaming people over it is swiftly and brutally punished by moderators.
- Papa Midnight's bar in Constantine is a friendly little watering hole where demons and angels hang out with one very enforced rule: No fighting.
- The Gryffindor/Slytherin conflict in Harry Potter.
- Including one specific scene in Chamber of Secrets with the "Let me at 'em!" mentality, in which three of the Gryffindor boys have to physically restrain Ron from hitting Draco Malfoy. (To be fair to Ron, Draco has just said he was sorry Hermione didn't get killed by the Basilisk.)
- Comes out in full force around Quidditch matches, where Gryffindors and Slytherins usually end up in the hospital wing with antlers and leeks in their body. During the fifth book Harry had to walk with a protective guard of Gryffindors because the Slytherins kept trying to sabotage him.
- The treaty between Watches in the Night Watch 'verse, which is openly inspired (bordering on the Anvilicious actually) by the actual Cold War. Add two millennia-old Chessmasters with magic powers enough to make the most absurd Gambit Roulette seem timid. The Inquisition is the higher power here. Technically, the Inquisition doesn't have a lot of magical power, most of which comes from artifacts and amulets anyway. The idea is that, should either of the sides break the Treaty, the Inquisition would throw their support behind the other side, tipping the balance. Thus, their power is mostly political.
- In The Dresden Files, the White Council and the vampire Courts start the series in an uneasy peace, enforced by the terms of the Unseelie Accords. Eventually Dresden is forced to choose between letting his lover die and starting the magical equivalent of World War III; this is of course a classic setup for Take a Third Option. Only not in this case. Dresden chooses World War III, with enormous repercussions in later books. He later says that the vamps were probably just looking for an excuse anyway and all he did was set it off a little earlier.
- Inverted in the Isaac Asimov story, "The Gentle Vultures". In it, pacifist, herbivorous aliens go from world to world to help the survivors of the nuclear war that inevitably breaks out in every intelligent species except them. This help is given in return for tribute in the form of resources, creating a form of economic imperialism. When the aliens get to Earth, though, they discover that the Cold War situation is keeping nuclear war from occurring, and may do so indefinitely. They then decide to force things by causing a nuclear war themselves. However, when a human that they abduct for information castigates them and compares them to carrion-eaters, they become horrified at the idea of what they're about to do and leave Earth to its own devices.
- In the Star Trek: New Frontier novel Cold Wars, the Aeron and the Markanians had a long drawn-out war over the Holy Site on their world. The Thallonian Empire forcibly relocated them to separate planets with no space travel. Unfortunately for everyone, Sufficiently Advanced Aliens decide to supply them with portal devices.
Live Action TV
- Star Trek:
- The Organian Peace Treaty, forced on the Federation and the Klingons by Sufficiently Advanced Aliens who found war in their backyard distasteful. This lead to a series of more direct Cold War metaphors, such as both sides intervening in a border planet's war.
- Deep Space Nine also had the sixth season opening arc in which the Dominion was in control of the station. To avoid collateral damage, Bajor did not ally with the Federation, so the main characters affiliated with the Bajoran government stayed on-board and worked side by side with the occupation forces. (Then again, they did eventually form an active resistance cell.)
- Though in general, Deep Space Nine subverted this, as the Dominion and the Federation, who were hostile toward each other since they met in season 2, eventually did go to war at the end of season 5.
- In the 1970s Battlestar Galactica, the fleet encounters a planet named Terra, occupied by two factions on the brink of nuclear war with one another. In this instance, the Galactica plays the role of the sufficiently advanced being, shooting down both factions' missiles as they attempt to launch and intimidating them into pursuing peaceful negotiation.
- Dungeons & Dragons:
- Most drow live like that, in the framework of Lolth theocracy: otherwise infighting turns into Ax-Crazy all-out war and then genocide — and she needs them alive.
- In Forgotten Realms setting: enforced in the House wars of Menzoberranzan: espionage, conspiracy and secret raids against rival houses are permitted, even encouraged, but woe be to those who get caught. Failures to enforce it caused whole cities to be utterly destroyed (Golothaer, Bhaerynden aka Telantiwar aka Great Rift), ruined and taken by external force (Ched Nasad) or weakened and massacred by neighbours (Maerimydra). Menzoberranzan barely escaped the same fate twice during Silence of Lolth (seven months) alone. And Baenre rule Menzoberranzan because it was their matron who said "stop the madness" when all-out fight began, Menzoberra was killed and the cavern itself seriously reshaped. They are that aggressive.
- In the Eberron setting, the Last War dragged on for around 100 years and only fizzled out because one of the five major nations involved was wiped out overnight and no one knows how or why. The source material makes it pretty clear that if one of the other nations involved ever became sure what happened and specifically that it wouldn't happen to them, the Last War would need a new name ... perhaps the Next-to-Last War.
- Warhammer 40,000: Oddly enough, given that in the forty-first millennium there is only war, this occurs for varying stretches of time between the Imperium of Man and various alien empires simply due to the fact that while the Imperium or said alien empire is tied up elsewhere a hostile peace exists between them. This occurs mostly with races such as the Tau Empire, which has on-off peaces with the Imperium on its border, rather than Ax-Crazy races like the Orks or all-devouring galactic munchers like the Tyranids.
- The Kryptmann gambit: an Inquisitor successfully diverted a tyranid Hive Fleet directly into the massive ork empire of Octavius where both forces are equally matched. Now orks are flocking to join the Forever War (and their dead release spores that grow into more orks) while the Tyranids are continuously replenishing their strength from all the biomatter. The problem, of course, is that whichever side wins will be near unstoppable...
- In Magic: The Gathering's Ravnica Block, the different guilds keep the peace using the Guildpact. It sets statutes and ordinances for each guild so that each of the ten guilds has its own place. Of course, this doesn't stop the various guild leaders from trying to find as many loopholes as possible.
- In the Star Fleet Universe, which is based on Star Trek: The Original Series (and veers sharply from the canon Star Trek universe from there) had the Organian Peace Treaty, that is until they up and vanish right as Federation-Klingon tensions are at their highest, leading the Second Four Powers War to evolve into The General War. After the General War, the Interstellar Concordium tried to do this by forcibly separating the exhausted former combatants.
- An interesting variant shows up in Knights of the Old Republic: the Republic and the Sith are very much openly at war with each other, but both sides are dependent on trade with the neutral planet of Manaan, which supplies a unique and very valuable organic compound used in medical supplies that neither army can do without. Thus, both the Republic and the Sith maintain a military presence and an embassy on Manaan, but have to avoid direct conflict lest the government cut off trade with the aggressor, and many of the quests on the planet are outright illegal acts of espionage against the Sith. Low level conflicts sometimes occur (such as a "Let me at them!" type Bar Brawl) which do not go condoned, but punishment is usually limited to minor trade sanctions as long as the conflict does not escalate.
- Kolto (the compound supplied by Manaan) is eventually pushed out by the much more effective and widely-available bacta. Say good-bye to neutrality.
- In Star Wars: The Old Republic, the Republic and the Sith Empire are this state due to the Treaty of Coruscant. While neither side is willing to openly break the treaty, border skirmishes are common and both sides support proxy rebellions to seize control over various worlds. To a small degree, this also has lead to both sides employing Smugglers and Bounty Hunters so they can claim deniability that they weren't doing anything officially sanctioned. Over the course of the game, the peace eventually dissolves into open war.
- Not all Sith were happy with the Treaty. In fact, the original diplomatic mission was merely a diversion while a Sith fleet assaulted Coruscant itself. It was expected that the planet would undergo orbital bombardment, crippling the Republic. The Emperor then suddenly decides to make the fake diplomatic mission a real one and offers a trade: Coruscant for a number of Republic worlds.
- Seeing as one walkthrough of the capital planets of both factions proves that the Empire's manpower, infrastructure, industrial capability, and scientific development is miles behind the Republic (their capitol city is the size of a Republic core world military base, they don't have a paved road to their spaceport, meaning anything coming from the spaceport to their capitol is marching through mud trails through beast-infested jungle), coupled with boneheaded Fantastic Racism, an untenable reliance on slave labor that wastes at least half of their manpower (they have the slaves building monuments to the Darths' egos, not roads or outposts), constant infighting, and Klingon Promotion being not only acceptable but accepted practice (leaving them with even fewer experienced Force Users, officers, and administrators while their replacement's only real qualification is being quicker on the draw), one could argue that the Treaty of Coruscant saved the Empire's bacon. Unfortunately, it plays right into the Emperor's hands, since he doesn't care about his own Empire and just wants to kill off everything in the universe except himself.
- Heavily implied to be the sole purpose of Ravens' NEST in Armored Core (and its later incarnations: Nerves Concord, Global Cortex and Raven's Ark). When Companies are strong enough to wield walker mechs, floating battleships and everything in-between, only skilled, non-affiliated Ravens can keep or even enforce a level playing field between feuding Companies. This is subverted in later incarnations of Armored Core 3 timeline, where the then Raven organization, Ravens' Ark, was, in essence, "bought" by Companies, triggering the conflict in Last Raven.
- A large part of the Escape Velocity Override galaxy is inhabited by a loose confederation of alien races called the Crescent. Three of them, the Adzgari, Zidagar, and Igadzra, are in a perpetual state of Mêlée à Trois managed by a group called the Council who intervene to make sure none of them grow too powerful. In the planned sequel (a Fan Sequel, but the project was started and the original design made by the developer of the original Override, even if he technically still counted as a fan), this would have been abandoned — the Council's primary (indeed, for most purposes sole — for the thing to work it was critically important that the Council's interference not be known to the Strands) method of keeping the war going and balanced was its extensive network of operatives amongst the three. The problem was that the Council had no human operatives, so when humans start showing up and taking sides, the Strand War is nearly fatally destabilized. Instead, the Council opts for something that's arguably closer to this trope — just directly taking control of the three Strands. The Strands still don't like each other, but under the Council and its agents they're forced to remain at peace and start assimilating into each-other.
- "The Baron's Peace" in Girl Genius is one of these, keeping most of Europe's factions and noble houses in line via the principle of "Don't make me come over there." Said Baron is an Unfettered Well-Intentioned Extremist who will do anything to maintain peace, and he controls an unequaled superpower that lets him do so. He is an old and very experienced mad scientist, in a setting where most of them tend to die quite young. He leads the continent's largest military force, overwhelming air superiority, and the most advanced military hardware/clockwork troops/mutant brigades. After a Zombie Apocalypse he was personally responsible for rebuilding European society through willpower and force, and for sectioning off the parts of it which are toxic or infested. He doesn't care how much the nobility squabble over land or ancestry, but if a battle ever breaks out, he shuts down both sides with complete overkill. That is The Baron's Peace.
- Red vs. Blue revolves around two ostensibly warring factions who rarely attack each other and never do it effectively, with the only medic blatantly working for both armies. This should have been a bigger tip-off that Red and Blue were in fact commanded by the same government, and the war was a construct. Of course, the teams are also idiots.
- In Worm, while supervillains and superheroes fight constantly, the existence of the Endbringers has precipitated the allowance of some basic rules, to avoid weakening humanity as a whole in the face of annihilation. Unless they get caught too many times or are truly monstrous, most supervillains are placed in weak custody from which they inevitably break out before their trials, and their identities are not revealed. By the same token, the villains refrain from targeting civilian identities and try to avoid killing superheroes.
- In X-Men: Evolution, the Xavier Institute students and the Brotherhood boys attend the same high school, at least keeping them civil on campus. Magneto also kept the latter party from accidentally exposing the existence of mutants (he wanted to do that on his terms, not theirs).
- In the late second season of W.I.T.C.H., the heroines are unable to defeat Big Bad Nerissa because she possesses the Heart of Meridian. Only two people can take it from her, and one of them is imprisoned inside of it. The other? Season one Big Bad Phobos, whom the girls must free from imprisonment so he can take the Heart from Nerissa. They disguise him as a student at their school, and for a brief time, Hilarity Ensues as Fish out of Water Phobos stumbles through the trials and tribulations of high-school life. However, the alliance lasts all of one and a half episodes, as Phobos decides to screw over the heroines once getting the Heart away from Nerissa.
- In the third season of The Venture Bros., The Guild of Calamitous Intent forces Affably Evil supervillain The Monarch to give up Dr. Venture as his arch-nemesis and find somebody else to antagonize. He doesn't take it well.
- Code Lyoko: The Supercomputer is the team's main resource, and Aelita's survival is dependent on it. It also happens to house their enemy XANA — until the end of Season 2.
- Arguably, the original Cold War was enforced as well, not by God or Sufficiently Advanced Aliens but by fear of the consequences - best-case scenario was a body count to rival the First World War, worst-case was the end of human civilisation - if it went hot.
- The American Civil War was pretty much the culmination of a cold war which the free states and slave states had been waging against each other since about the War of 1812. The Civil War wasn't even the first time this conflict turned hot (hello Bleeding Kansas). It was enforced by the federal government, which generally tried to maintain peace between the two sides without ever addressing the real issue.