'Watchers on the Walls of Paradise'
Well-established military wisdom suggests that if you know your enemy as you know yourself, you will always be victorious. But the good commander understands that he must first know himself - and admit to all of the good and ill that knowledge implies. And by this I do not refer merely to the commander as a singular, sentient being. I refer to the commander as the embodiment of a ship, a crew, a mission. And in this context, I refer to myself first - for if I cannot submit to my own introspection, I cannot expect the officers under my command and the officers who follow them to do the same.
There is much that is good about the High Guard and much that must be preserved. We have the best people, the best equipment and the best training. We are the finest military force ever assembled and by far the most powerful. The thought of our might in the hands of malcontents or a potential enemy should induce a shudder, at the very least. The power of any military must be viewed in the context of the values it upholds - and in the case of the High Guard, we are good, kind, gentle people. And we are good, kind and gentle in everything we do, even on those rare occasions when we must unsheathe our swords, climb down from the walls and do battle in the name of Paradise.
That said, there is also much about the High Guard that is broken and must be repaired. We have the best people, but fewer of them enter the Home Guard forces every year. We have the best equipment, but our development process has become ossified by centuries of slavish devotion to a small coterie of resource providers. We have the best training, but shrinking budgets have forced more students into smaller classrooms, straining our instructional staff and jeopardizing the effectiveness of our people in the field. In short, we have the best and worst of all possible worlds, and we walk the razor's edge of readiness. It is a source of widespread frustration within the ranks, but today's frustration can easily become tomorrow's catastrophe. Those who oppose the very existence of the High Guard would rebut my warnings by claiming that there is no threat to justify our existence. We are the victims of our own myopia, expending valuable blood and treasure in order to preserve a way of life that has lost its foundation. The universe has changed, they tell us, and the day when mighty fleets of High Guard ships brought peace and order to the local cluster are long since over.
And they are absolutely right.
The universe has changed, and we must change with it. The High Guard must become leaner and meaner, taking advantage of technology to fill in the gaps left by our diminished numbers. We must embrace new, non-traditional missions that are ideally suited to our superior organization and resources. We must apply our knowledge, our capabilities, our traditions of service and sacrifice to operations other than war. And while we must maintain our readiness to fight when the need arises, we should pour equal energy into offering a hand to those in need and those who seek to push the frontiers of science and technology for the betterment of sentient species everywhere. We must become more than what we are - not just soldiers, but diplomats. Not just engineers, but scientists. We must do more than patrol the wastes between the stars; we must explore them and share what we learn so that we may grow wiser and more humble in the face of Creation.
But I caution you, the classic mistake of every hegemon has been to rest on an assumption of invulnerability. We must resist with all our strength and reason any supposition that we have pacified the universe, that we are so large, so smart or so inevitable that no force of nature can topple us from our seat at the mountaintop. Rome will always have her Visigoths and the Vedran Empire her Kaldera. And though we cannot yet give a name to its cause, even the Systems Commonwealth may pass from history - another dimly remembered empire who grew too fat, too lazy, too secure in its assumptions.
And so, we must remain in our battlements, ever vigilant for the nameless shadow over the next hill. We must remain the watchers on the wall, at peace with the knowledge that we may be asked to let our sweat, our blood, our tears rain down on Paradise in a torrent of war. We must remain strong - physically, mentally, spiritually. We must remain the High Guard, the foundation upon which our precious freedoms are built and maintained.
Gentlebeings, I bid you welcome. Welcome to the sweat, to the blood, to the tears. Welcome to your places on the wall.