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Chelgarian Allies of Look to Windward
- Was it ever revealed/implied who were the other Involveds behind the plot?
- No, it wasn't. The Masaq' Orbital Mind even suggested it might be a faction of the Culture, trying to prevent the Culture as a whole becoming complacent and decadent.
- Though the latter seems unlikely as insiders should have been aware of the limitations of the Culture's mind-scanning taboo.
- Which could have been the point. A faction of the Culture might not want another genocide but still want to make a threatening point about what The Culture had done.
- Seems far too costly. The message would have still been heard with a hundred times less civilian casualties.
Capital Punishment and Assassins
- How come The Culture spends so much time informing the reader how "capital punishment is bad, mkay?" — but are perfectly willing to send a nanotech assassin to gorily murder people who piss them off?
- Because the Minds who lead The Culture speak softly and prefer the use of a covert yet unilaterally psychotic branch of Contact to a big, war-starting stick?
- It's worth noting that the culture =/= equal SC. Special Circumstances does things that the rest of the Culture would be disgusted by.
- It's arguably implied in Surface Detail that the nanotech assassin was sent by the Geseptian-Fardesile Cultural Federacy as a way of sucking up to the Culture / making the Culture look bad / trying to establish itself as more majorly Involved.
- Although it's also quite possible that they were lying to impress Veppers. The Culture are reluctant to kill. One of the main themes of most of the books is exploring the (special) circumstances that cause them to overcome this reluctance. They are good (by most reasonable standards - although perhaps benevolent is a better term) but certainly not Stupid Good.
- Who's to say that the assassin wasn't dispatched by the instigators of the conspiracy to tie up loose ends?
- Hub does mention in its final conversation that a few Chel will pay with their lives for what was attempted, which seems to Joss that.
- Because there is a difference between domestic criminal justice and foreign policy involving war (and assassinating foreign politicians in retaliation for an attack on you is, basically, an act of war). We already knew the Culture is willing to fight wars when they feel they have to, from book one onwards, so they're not being inconsistent here — just ruthless.
- SC is essentially Section 31 from Star Trek if that makes it any clearer to you.
- All EU countries ban capital punishment, and in most cases have de facto banned it for decades. But some European secret services, notably MI6, can still, at least theoretically, assassinate people. This doesn't seem that outlandish a stance.