From a post to DAVIDWEBER.NET forums on 10/14/2011

Honor's reactions to Denver Summervale vs. the Zilwicki & Cachet revelations

tourist wrote:

    I have been rereading the Honor Harrington series, and I can't help feeling that Honor's response to Victor and Anton's revelation with Tomas Ramirez's. In the former she shares her opinion with Willie Alexander and briefly considers resigning and caves to political expediency, despite there being literally millions of innocent lives on the line.

    Compare this to her reaction to Paul's death. Based on information hardly more substantive than Victor and Anton's, she gets herself fired, defies the orders of her superiors, makes unbelievable statements to the press, throws grenades into the delicate works of Cromarty's vital political machine, embarrasses the queen, drives a wedge between Manticore and Grayson, flouts the rules and traditions of the Lords to kill a man, ignores appeals to her patriotism, and generally pisses everyone off, all over one, count 'em, one dead guy.

    I know this is all water under the bridge, and might have beens are useless at this point, but I would really like to see someone get in Honor's face over this and start asking things like has aristocracy eroded her moral spine, or has she always been intrinsically selfish and just hid it well (e.g. killing Young over Paul, killing Burdett over Hanks, initial treatment of Tourville over Alister and co., etc).


    The situations are totally different.

    In the case of Pavel Young all of the political problems were strictly internal to the Star Kingdom of Manticore. That is, while they had implications for the Star Kingdom's foreign policy and ability to fight the war, they were all focused in the machinations of the internal political calculus. Moreover, Pavel had been (in many ways) allowed to "walk" by the court-martial which refused to sentence him to death or even to prison time, which significantly reduced her "debt" to the political system which had resulted in that miscarriage of justice. The Queen herself had admitted as much to Honor. And, finally, there was the direct, savage emotional damage of Paul Tankersley's death… and ( especially) of the fashion in which he had died, who had procured that death, and why.

    Honor, as an individual, could shoot and kill Pavel without disturbing the domestic political calculus in the least as long as neither Queen Elizabeth nor Duke Cromarty or the Navy endorsed her actions in any way. She was simply a "loose warhead," striking out — in a perfectly legal fashion — and not, in any way, a representative of the political establishment. Moreover, despite her reputation coming out of the Battle of Hancock Station, she was not yet the iconic figure that she later became, at least in Manticore. She was "only" a countess with some "foreign" title attached, and she was also only a captain, not the commander of the Manticoran alliance's primary striking force, a prominent supporter of the Centrists in the House of Lords, a confidant of the Queen, a full admiral, the wife of the First Lord of Admiralty, the sister-in-law of the prime minister of the Star Empire of Manticore, and the general all round avatar of the war goddess which she had become by the time of At All Costs. The menu of options available to her within the scope of her duty was hugely different in Field of Dishonor, and her forced retirement at that point — which she fully anticipated, expected, and (in fact) received — would have had very little effect (if any) on the Manticoran Alliance, its members, or its strategy.

    In short, when Paul was killed and it was obvious that the individual who had bought and paid for his death — and also for Honor's death upon her return from Grayson, if you will recall, since Summervale was also supposed to kill her — would never be brought to justice for it, she chose to take that justice into her own hands. She could do that without consequences for anyone beyond herself (and, of course, the two men she intended to kill), and she knowingly and deliberately, with careful forethought chose to throw away her career to accomplish it. She fully expected for her career to end right there, permanently, and she accepted that as the price of avenging Paul's death.

    As far as the "deaths of millions" hanging on her decision in the later book, if you go back and look, her resignation wouldn't have prevented anything that was about to happen. That was abundantly clear from Grantville's response in their meeting and from her own intimate, personal knowledge of Queen Elizabeth's thinking. Since her resignation would accomplish nothing — beyond, perhaps, oh, bringing down the Grantville government, forcing Hamish's resignation as first Lord of the Admiralty, threatening the stability of the Alliance, etc. — and since she had the problem that even while she knew Victor and Anton were telling her the truth insofar as they knew the truth she had no way of knowing for certain that the information they had was either accurate or complete, she was in the position of someone who'd taken her best shot at averting what she saw as a potential disaster and discovered that that shot wasn't going to be good enough. She literally could not change what was going to happen by resigning; if she didn't command the operation, someone else would, and all she would accomplish would be to disarrange command relationships on the brink of the operation. Well, she would also probably manage to shake the confidence and morale of her own personnel (who she knew, whether she wanted to dwell on it or not, idolized her) while sending them into battle with new and un-battle tested hardware. Her sense of loyalty to her personnel and of duty to her Star Kingdom overrode her personal doubts ( doubts, not certainty) about the wisdom of the Star Kingdom's foreign policy and military strategy, although it is possible that if her resignation could have stopped the operation and somehow forced Elizabeth to return to the peace talks, she might — might, I say — have gone ahead and resigned anyway.

    To me, the situations are apples and oranges at best.