Back on November 28, in Resurgence, I devoted a good bit of space to what the Against All Authorities come-back meant to IT Alliance.
The prospect of a potentially hostile -A- parked on the borders of Querious and Delve may move IT Alliance to take a substantive role in the defense of The Initiative's holdings in Catch.I went on to say that, since the failed invasion of the North earlier this year, IT Alliance had, in effect, dabbled about the edges of the nullsec meta-game, apparently content to mind its borders, rest on its laurels and attend the odd barbecue. However, I said, the public perception and strategic fallout of -A-'s return from the grave might force IT Alliance out of inaction.
With more to lose than to win in most engagements, SirMolle's actions of late seem hesitant - chosen with an eye to protecting the BOB/IT Alliance brand and legacy rather than taking the storied alliance someplace new.A week later SirMolle announced IT Alliance was going "all in" in their defense of Catch and The Initiative; that every pilot, dog, cat and dormouse in the alliance would be dedicated to propping up their allies and putting -A- down for good. A few days thereafter, to signal their intentions, a capital fleet including thirty Titan-class ships and fifty Motherships was moved into Catch.
An invasion of Catch by the Southern Russian Coalition will test that hesitancy and put IT Alliance's leadership in the position where passive, low-risk choices are no longer an option.
It appears SirMolle does not like being called a risk dodging has-been. Who knew he was a reader?
With all that hardware rolling in the Southern Russians' direction, one might be excused for assuming the fight is over before it's really begun. However, a parade is not combat.
IT Alliance has a very large fleet of Supercapitals at its disposal. However, the number of Supercapitals they've employed in fleet fights this year has not been terribly high given the size of their fleet. One must conclude that a large portion of the IT Alliance Supercap pilots have little actual combat experience in those ships. Much will depend on whether the IT Alliance fleet is piloted by veteran fleet PvPers who've recently stepped up to Supercapitals, or SirMolle is dressing the ranks with Delve ISK farmers who normally use their Titans or Motherships to run Sanctums. Flying in combat against seasoned nullsec PvPers is a very different proposition than flying in formation from Delve to Catch. Mind, with that many Supercaps at your disposal, you can afford a lot of mistakes. However it only takes a few losses on that scale to sow doubt among the faithful.
Further, it's going to take more than a show of strength or a short campaign to knock down the Southern Russians. -A- showed remarkable cohesion during and after The Initiative's invasion of Catch. The Initiative learned, to their pain, that -A- will not go gently into that good night. For IT Alliance to win this fight they must hang in the fight until the fight is done - and this fight won't be over until -A- is no longer a coherent nullsec power. It's one thing to go "all in" for a few weeks, or a month. It remains to be seen whether IT Alliance can deploy at that level for the long slog this fracas is likely to end up being. And IT Alliance has a few structural issues that call their ability to endure a long campaign into question.
First of all, IT Alliance's greatest perceived strength is likely its greatest weakness. IT Alliance is big. Really, really big. 6,000 members is a lot of members. All those members and member corporations have their own wants, desires and agendas. Never forget Mord's Rule: In New Eden you have vassals only so long as they choose to serve you. IT Alliance can only go "all in" in the Catch war as long as their member corporations are acting in their own interest, or IT Alliance leadership can persuade them to put their interests aside for the good of IT Alliance. The more component organizations and factions an alliance has, the harder balancing all those wants, desires and agendas gets. And IT Alliance has a lot of component factions and organizations.
Secondly, to go "all in" in Catch, IT Alliance must put their interests elsewhere on the back burner. Pouring veteran troops into Catch means those forces are not readily available elsewhere. The Deklein Coalition is already taking advantage of this by stepping up attacks in Fountain. -A- has begun making raids against IT Alliance on their home ground of Delve (recently reinforcing a CSAA), a disruptive incursion rarely seen in the heyday of BOB of old. Pressure on the IT Alliance frontiers and home resources will cause internal factions to resist an extended campaign in Catch. That same pressure, unanswered, will act like blood in the water, bringing more sharks to the gathering feast.
Finally, there are reports of discontent within IT Alliance's leadership. Given the size of the organization, I'd be surprised if that weren't the case. There seems to be a critical mass beyond which an alliance becomes too unwieldy to manage - a coalition trapped within the relatively inflexible alliance management structure. Getting such an organization to move quickly and assertively, and stay a difficult course, requires a shared larger purpose, or a leader who can galvanize the organization to common action.
SirMolle has built an organization that casts a broad shadow over nullsec. There are few capsuleers in New Eden who can remember a time when BoB/IT Alliance was not. Regardless of one's opinion of BOB/IT Alliance, there's no denying its place in the Eve zeitgeist.
However, the luster that once surrounded BOB has faded somewhat with time. All organizations are like living things - they move forward or they die. BOB/IT cannot remain what it was and it cannot seem to decide what it wants to be. So it hovers in indecision; a victim of its own reputation.
Then there are the rumors of SirMolle's desire to take a less active role in the day-to-day management of his interstellar empire. This would be understandable given how long he's been at the helm of BOB/IT, his accomplishments over that time and the amount of time and effort that goes into managing a large in-game organization. Sooner or later, one wants to kick back and have a little laurel-resting time.
Alas, Eve alliances so closely centered around a single personality do not often survive the departure, or even the lessened involvement of that guiding spirit. As King Lear discovered, living monarchs rarely rest easily in their retirement.
Nor do their empires.