"World War Bee", as the enormous conflict in the northern regions of null security space has come to be called, even by CCP Games, rages on. The vast array of forces opposing the Imperium has adopted the moniker of Money Badger Coalition (MBC), though this is somewhat of an overstatement, as the MBC is really a temporarily assembled cooperative of alliances, drawn together by a sole mutual interest: bringing the Imperium's hegemony to an end.
At the beginning of the conflict, funding from the I Want ISK (IWI) gambling site fueled the initial fires of war. For that reason, some pundits call this "The Casino War". But most MBC members are motivated to fight by a more personal reason: revenge and retribution against the heavy-handed methods of the Imperium coalition - and to put an even finer point on it, by the Imperium's main and most important entity: Goonswarm Federation.
The War's Momentum
So far, the war has gone well for the MBC. The Nosy Gamer has done an excellent job in tracking events - his reports show how the MBC continues to persistently and systematically displace the various Imperium alliances from their space. Thus far, LAWN and Bastion have withdrawn from Vale of the Silent, and MBC forces are leisurely contesting ownership of systems there. TNT is under increasing pressure in Tribute. SMA is being forced out of Fade and is under attack in Pure Blind. In Tenal, The Initiative has lost most of their holdings, and some of RAZOR's systems are now being contested. In Branch, FCON is seeing MBC invaders starting to attack some of their systems as well.
Perhaps because of the diversity of MBC forces involved, the momentum of the war has been methodical and deliberate. Generally, each MBC organization has focused on an assigned zone of operations, moving progressively from one system to the next. So far, this war shows no sign of any concentrated and rapid thrust into the heart of Imperium's holdings. Rather, it is being conducted across a broad front, with over 100 timers running at all times from contested TCUs, I-Hubs and stations in all Imperium-held regions.
All except one: Deklein.
Into the Heartland
Deklein is the homeland of Goonswarm Federation, the MBC's ultimate target of this conflict. The question is: will the MBC bring the war to the Goons' turf, or will it fizzle out on the borders of Deklein?
Even with the MBC's momentum so far, fizzling out remains a distinct possibility. A blog post by The Ancient Gaming Noob, a combatant with the Imperium, describes how quiet and peaceful Deklein remains. Only one system has been contested there, so far, and it is not owned by Goonswarm, but by TNT. In his post, he criticizes the MBC for attacking all of Goonswarm's allies, but not Goonswarm itself.
Assuming the MBC can continue to remain a motivated and intact fighting group, their superior numbers should continue to drive Imperium forces back. The Mittani has declared that retreating Imperium forces shall regroup in Saranen - a low-sec system in Lonetrek just south of the northern null-sec regions - to conduct guerrilla campaigns and harass the MBC invaders. But I wonder: if the MBC does eventually threaten Deklein, might the Imperium instead concentrate all its resources there in a final showdown?
Will Deklein fall?
It really depends on how well the MBC holds together, and whether the numbers of MBC combatants remains high. If the number of contested structure timers declines, and the volumes of MBC attacks and participating pilots starts to fall off, the Imperium will detect the shift in momentum, and this may motivate them to launch a massive counter-attack from Deklein.
However, if the MBC keeps up its current volume of attacks, and maintains the current momentum of battle, I suspect that the Imperium leadership will wisely withdraw, and play a patient waiting game in low-sec. The Imperium has one significant advantage over the MBC - a strong culture. It isn't a culture that a lot of other EVE Online players like, but within the Imperium, it undeniably defines the membership.
The Imperium leadership knows that the MBC is a loosely bound group of confederates, at best. The MBC allies are happy to fight to take Imperium space, but are much less motivated to hold it. Once the bulk of Imperium space is taken, the MBC will almost assuredly break up, and start fighting among themselves, as they did before the war.
If Deklein falls, it will do so not only because of the MBC's collective might, but also because the Imperium decides it should. The Imperium will not make a final defensive stand on the borders of the homeland, unless they believe they can win. In this regard, who ultimately has possession of Deklein is not that important. The more interesting question is: what happens after it falls?
Who can really defeat the Imperium?
If the MBC wants to win this war, and truly defeat the Imperium, then conquering territory cannot be the only goal. Sovereignty can very easily trade hands. Ultimately, World War Bee will be won by the organization with the most will to live and fight another day.
There is little doubt that the Imperium will be significantly weakened by World War Bee. But can it be completely defeated, never to be seen again? I think this could happen only if the Mittani and the Imperium leadership mismanage their organization's culture so badly that they alienate their own people, thereby defeating themselves.
So far, despite the incredibly heightened rhetoric and hubris coming from The Mittani and his cohorts lately, that does not yet seem to be happening. The MBC may indeed win the war, but the Imperium can still prevail.
Fly safe! o7