Highest Treason by Randall Garrett
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The story takes place in a 22nd century in which Earth has a society based on people being “equal”. They have equal incomes no matter what they do or don’t do, or how well or poorly they do it. There’s equal job promotions regardless of ability. It is considered anti-social to suggest you are more capable than anyone else in any way. The result is a society of with incompetent leaders and a self-satisfied population.
Somehow or other, Earth has ended up in an interstellar war with other humanoid race. The aliens have a militaristic society. The military run the government. Those citizens who are not part of the active military are considered to be in the reserves. Their society does not forbid citizens to consider themselves to be better than others. There is a privileged group that tends to control society. There are mechanisms available for the un-privileged to advance based on merit, but they tend to be biased to limiting those opportunities.
The aliens are slowly, but surely winning. An Earth officer, Sebastian, who reviews battles finds he can consistently devise better strategies than those being used by Earth’s fleets. However, when Sebastian suggests he could help Earth win this way, he is warned not to be anti-social and thinking he is better than others. He decides Earth will inevitably lose. Part of his job is periodically interviewing a captured alien officer. Sebastian arranges for the alien prisoner to escape, and Sebastian and the prisoner travel to the alien’s home. There, Sebastian tries to prove himself to the aliens. Eventually, they trust him and allow him to help plan their attacks on the Earth fleets. After a number of successes, Sebastian plans an attack on a human colony planet. But things don’t continue to progress so smoothly. And Earth wants Sebastian (“the Butcher”).dead or alive.
It’s interesting to see an SF war story in which neither society is presented in a very appealing way. And it presents the reader with questions to consider.