The White Tower and International Politics
With over a dozen independent nations and city states in the Westlands alone, national and international politics in The Wheel of Time are fascinating and complex. Many of these nations have long been at peace with one or more of their neighbours: the Borderlands, for instance, eschew hostilities with other nations to better focus their attentions on the Blight, while Cairhien has peaceful relations with the bordering nations of Andor and Tear. Other nations, however, are known for their tense or outright hostile relationships with other nearby countries; the animosity between Illian and Tear, between Arad Doman and Tarabon, and between Andor and Murandy, amongst others, has been well-documented throughout the series. Still other nations experience extreme conflicts from within, such as Altara and Murandy, where the central control of a King or Queen is barely recognized.
Although Aes Sedai are disliked or even hated by nations such as Tear and Amadicia, the White Tower has frequently been involved in attempting to establish, manipulate, and/or maintain peace throughout the Westlands. Although nations are frequently reluctant to engage the White Tower in matters of politics out of fear of ceding power to Tar Valon, the Aes Sedai—and particularly the Gray Ajah—are considered to be superior negotiators and are thus often relied upon in formulating treaties.
While we of course see Aes Sedai negotiating treaties on multiple occasions, such as the Bargain between Rand and the Atha’an Miere, over the course of The Wheel of Time we also receive interesting (and sometimes all too brief!) references to several alliances, treaties, or plans that the White Tower has attempted to enact in the past. The following are a few that I, for one, would love to know more about. The fact that all three were ultimately unsuccessful shows the extent to which international politics in the Westlands are no easy thing.
The Grand Coalition
The Aiel War posed a conflict that brought all of the nations of the Westlands together to form the Grand Coalition; Moiraine notes, in New Spring, that even the Whitecloaks come to defend Tar Valon during the Battle of the Shining Walls (NS, Ch. 3). In the aftermath of the war, the Gray Ajah attempted to make this large-scale alliance permanent, but ultimately were unable to do so. Annoura was one of the Aes Sedai involved in the negotiations—and her involvement makes Merana think the better of her (ACoS, Ch. 19).
Thirty-eight years prior to the events of Lord of Chaos, Merana Ambrey of the Gray Ajah negotiated a treaty between Arad Doman and Tarabon, one which she hoped would “put an end to the squabbling over Almoth Plain.” Merana notes that the Domani and Taraboners almost begin “a war in the middle of the exchanges” on three occasions, and that by the time she had finished, “she felt as if she had been rolled over rough hills in a barrel full of splinters” (LoC, Ch. 43). Utlimately, the treaty did not end the hostilities, and the long-time conflict between the two nations continued.
Troubled by the disunity within Murandy, the White Tower at one point hoped to see this nation truly brought together under one leader. They believed they had found the right person in a young border lord named Dulain. Because Andor and Murandy frequently conducted border raids against one another, there was fear that Dulain might be accidentally killed. The Amyrlin Seat Siuan Sanche thus pressured Andor to withdraw their soldiers from the border—an act which angered the Andoran Captain-General, Gareth Bryne. Ultimately, the White Tower’s plans were unsuccessful, as Dulain was killed when “some Andoran farmer put an arrow through him on a sheep raid” (TFoH, Ch. 28).