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I am looking for the title or author of a atory I read back in the 90's, no idea when it was written. The plot goes something like this: Humanity has gained access to space travel and sends 9 or 12 survey ships towards galactic center, only 1 returns with stories of an enemy so rapacious that humanity starts preparing for war. After a long time, the enemy hasn't shown up and people begin to doubt the need to keep building for war. The government engineers a plan to turn the core systems against the fringe worlds and start warring amongst ourselves so that we may be prepared for when the real enemy shows up.

Written with the focus on one spaceship captain battling in our own internal war.

marked as duplicate by user14111 story-identification Feb 2 '17 at 1:27

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The story "In a Good Cause—" by Isaac Asimov features two friends, Richard "Dick" Altmayer and Geoffrey Stock, who hold opposing views regarding the war between different human factions. Stock enlists in the army, while Altmayer argues that humanity should unite against a common adversary, the Diaboli, an alien race.

In the end, humanity is united, but through Stock's manipulations, rather than Altmayer's idealism.
Altmayer admits Stock was right, but Stock notes

(...) when they build their statues, they will build none for me.

The story was collected in Nightfall and Other Stories.


While the central idea of this story — keeping humans in a perpetual state of war — matches your description, much of the details do not, so I was surprised to find that this is indeed the story you were looking for.

"In a Good Cause—" has no survey ships returning with stories of "a rapacious enemy", nor does it say much about when humanity's space age started — it's not something discovered recently.

Also, it's not clear to which degree this is a plan of the government, or just that of Geoffrey Stock, the antagonist.

Lastly, this story does not "focus on one spaceship captain battling in our own internal war"; rather, the protagonist is Richard Altmayer, who fights for unison against the aliens.

  • Well, it was a long shot, since you had the detail about the spaceship captain. So I'm glad I could be of help. – SQB Jul 19 '15 at 19:12
  • Good. +1 except I see I've already voted. – user14111 Feb 2 '17 at 12:20

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