Thread: Section 31...
View Single Post
Old February 17 2013, 05:48 PM   #117
Sci
Admiral
 
Sci's Avatar
 
Location: "We hold these truths to be self-evident..."
Re: Section 31...

Dale Sams wrote: View Post
I'm not going to dig through the whole thread...but that 'OMGGENOCIDE thing' is just moralistic claptrap.
I'm sorry to hear that you think attempted genocide is an appropriate response to attempted genocide.

And it's not like there are civilan Founders.
But there are. After all, we know that the Founders sent out the "Hundred" -- one hundred infants of their own kind, without knowledge of their origins or of the great link. Odo was one of that hundred.

So there are very clearly civilian Founders -- innocent child Founders -- who would be killed in such a genocide attempt. Not even the Founders are a monolithic enemy all deserving of death.

Dale Sams wrote: View Post
How does one keep a cabal larger than three secret for centuries? It's not possible.
Bashir said it would take some 76 people to create the Founder Virus. He even said something along the lines of, "Can you imagine the level of consipricy to keep that silent"

The only way Section 31 works is if you think of them as Masons. That's how their secrets are kept.
JoeZhang wrote: View Post
Why did a super-secret covert organisation have a uniform - one that lasted for over two hundreds years? Nobody noticed that in lots of hot political situations, people in the same uniforms kept turning up?
I tend to assume that Section 31 has either mostly been inactive or mostly been based outside of Federation space in its history. To assume it has been active within Federation territory for most of its history is, I agree, to stretch an implausibility to absurd extremes.

RPJOB wrote: View Post
Sci wrote: View Post
It didn't need to attempt genocide. The Dominion War was won by conventional military forces, and by Odo's decision to offer the Founders mercy rather than certain death at Section 31's hands. Section 31, by driving the Female Shapeshifter mad with grief, had in fact nearly caused a Pyrrhic victory at the Battle of Cardassia due to her irrational order that Dominion forces fight to the last soldier rather than surrender -- and Section 31's genocide attempt did cause millions of civilian as a result of the Shapeshifter's grief moving her to order the extermination of the Cardassian people.
It was the sabotage caused by Damar that led to the Founder ordering the attacks on Cardassia. She wasn't mad with grief over the disease, she was PO'd about the betrayal by the Cardassians.
No, the final episodes make it clear that she's mad with grief and come unhinged. "It's not my death, it's my people's." Damar's resistance movement would not have inspired that level of reprisal were the Female Shapeshifter in her normal mental state.

T'Girl wrote: View Post
EnterpriseClass wrote: View Post
They believe, in the interest of their security, that they are justified in doing whatever it takes to safeguard themselves.
Correction, the Federation's security, and safeguard the Federation.
So they say. I for one see no reason to take Section 31's statements about their purported loyalties at face value, and don't know why you trust them to be honest.

But either way -- irrelevant. The idea that national security means you are justified in doing whatever you do is just authoritarian claptrap.

Sci wrote: View Post
By that logic, a nation that seeks to ensure that none of their citizens will ever die as a result of foreign aggression by committing genocide against all foreign nation is doing the "correct" thing.
But only if that foreign aggressor is actually going to be (or currently is) killing the nation's people, enslaving them, or is physically destroying the nation itself. Only if that foreign aggressor has credibly the mean to be that level of threat.
So you're saying that Great Britain would have been morally justified in killing every single German during World War II?

stj wrote: View Post
Section 31 was portrayed as having extraordinary powers so that its methods could be portrayed as being a genuine choice between life and death.
Side note: When you look at the canon, Section 31 actually isn't portrayed as possessing particularly extraordinary powers.

We know of seven canonical operations Section 31 has undertaken:

- Kidnapping and torturing Julian Bashir in 2374 in order to determine whether or not he is sufficiently "loyal" to the Federation to warrant recruiting him ("Inquisition")

- Using Bashir in 2375 to manipulate Romulan Senator Cretak into discrediting herself to the Romulan Continuing Committee, leading to the ascension to said committee of Section 31 mole and Tal Shiar Chairman Koval ("Inter Arma Enim...")

- Infecting Odo with a contagious Founder disease while he was on Earth in 2372 in the hopes that he would spread the illness to the rest of the Founders -- a pre-emptive genocide attempt ("Extreme Measures")

- Spying on the administration of Federation President Jaresh-Inyo through an agent in the Cabinet in the 2370s ("Extreme Measures")

- Operations of an unestablished nature on Qo'noS in the 2370s ("Extreme Measures")

- Facilitating the Klingon Empire's abduction of Dr. Phlox from Earth by Rigellian intermediaries in order to compel his assistance in stopping the spread of the Augment Virus in 2154 ("Affliction/Divergence")

- Providing intelligence to the crew of Enterprise NX-01 in thwarting the terrorist organization Terra Prime's hijacking of the Verteron Array on Mars in 2155 ("Terra Prime")

Of these operations, none are particularly magnificent demonstrations of power -- nor particularly competent, when one stops to think about it.

Recruiting agents through abduction, sleep deprivation, and psychological torture? I can't imagine that's an effective recruiting strategy. Unless they're targeting people who are not themselves particularly mentally healthy in the first place. It certainly backfired with Bashir.

Manipulating the downfall of Cretak and the ascension of Koval? Clever, but not particularly effective in the long run. Koval must not have been a very good mole, since he failed to prevent the rise of Shinzon four years later, and Shinzon damn near used a thalaron weapon against Earth itself. (Incidentally, this entire operation is essentially a variation on the plot of John le Carré's novel The Spy Who Came In from the Cold.)

The pre-emptive genocide attempt? Backfired spectacularly; it failed to prevent the Dominion War, and it led the Female Shapeshifter to become so mad with grief as to order the extermination of the Cardassian species and a Pyrrhic victory for the Allies at the Battle of Cardassia; only Odo's decision to thwart their operation by offering a cure saved thousands of Federation lives at that final battle.

Section 31 operations on Qo'noS in the 24th Century? Must not have been particularly effective, given that they failed to uncover the role of the House of Duras as Romulan puppets, to prevent the Klingon Civil War, or to uncover the Founder posing as then-General Martok who pushed Chancellor Gowron to go to war with the Federation.

The assisted abduction of Phlox? Very nearly led to the destruction of both of United Earth's NX-class ships, in spite of Klingon promises to the contrary, due to the treachery of Klingon Fleet Admiral Krell.

Of these known canonical operations, only two aren't known to have failed in some way. So far as we know, Section 31 successfully spied on the inner workings of the Jaresh-Inyo administration for so long as their agent was a member of the Cabinet -- though we don't know what his position was, nor how long he was in the Cabinet, nor is there any indication they did anything other than spy on the Cabinet. And the mission to stop Terra Prime in 2155 was obviously a success -- a success that is mostly notable because Section 31 didn't actually do anything.

Bottom line? Section 31 talks a good talk about how they're so useful and so powerful and how they use their power in the service of Federation security... but I don't see their actual operations as being particularly successful, or as being indicative of great power.

The retorts above emphasizing the awesome power of the Dominion and the essential identity of all Founders as a single (im)moral agent, the Great Link, merely replicate the same kind of distortion. <SNIP>

There is no eternal empire, no monolithic ruling class, no military threat so grave that genocide is both justified and possible. By the way, the importance and relevance of simple physical possibility is sadly underrated. In practice, any storyline playing with genocide is bascially arguing that there is some dreadful enemy in real life against whom "we" must exercise merciless violence, in self defense of course.
An excellent point -- this does fall into the tribalist trap of treating a foreign culture as one great, homogenous entity instead of a collection of unique individuals that people so often fall into. "The Other" as "they're all the same; they don't value life like we do." That kind of mindset is a function of great xenophobia and prejudice, of nationalism.

Though given that all of the "hero" characters were unambiguously opposed to the attempted genocide of the Founders, I suspect the writers didn't realize they had done this and that it was inadvertent. Particularly given that they had earlier established the presence of child Founders.

Mr. Laser Beam wrote: View Post
Edit_XYZ wrote: View Post
The best known example would be Hirohima/Nagasaki, and the moral justification for their atomic bombing is lacking
Perhaps. But at least in that case, the attacks were openly carried out by the military, with authorization from the President. The chain of command was followed. It wasn't a clandestine operation done by a secret organization answerable to no one. Unlike, of course, Section 31.

I'm sure the Federation has had times when it had to order Starfleet to carry out military missions that might be questionable. But in all of those cases, the chain of command was followed, there was debate on it, and there was oversight. I don't care if Section 31 even saved one life - the mere fact that they don't answer to anyone, makes them automatically worthless and extremely dangerous.
Exactly!

Edit_XYZ wrote:
Mr. Laser Beam wrote:
Perhaps. But at least in that case, the attacks were openly carried out by the military, with authorization from the President. The chain of command was followed. It wasn't a clandestine operation done by a secret organization answerable to no one. Unlike, of course, Section 31.
Irrelevant.
Such acts are not inherently more moral just because they have the blessing of some president (or anyone else, for that matter).
Except that Beam's point was not that a given individual action is more or less moral. His point is in reference to the right of Section 31 to exist and to act at all as an institution in the first place.

To make a comparison: The massacre at Kent State University in 1970 was immoral and unjustified, but no one questions the right of the Ohio Army National Guard to exist. There is a difference between the legitimacy of the action and the legitimacy of the institution. Beam's argument goes to the legitimacy of the institution.

Throughout history, most truly great thinkers and revolutionaries did not answer to the state, but followed their ideals and ideas to build a better world, acting in utter illegality, indeed opposed, persecuted or hunted by the state/church/legal authority.
And yet those same great thinkers, like Dr. King, recognized that their civil disobedience required them to submit to the legal consequences of their actions, in order to create so much political tension as to force democratic reform. Dr. King in fact argued that such civil disobedience was itself showing a far greater respect for the rule of law than obedience to oppressive laws.

And while it's all well and good to talk about individual thinkers and revolutionaries, Section 31 is none of that. It is an institution that tries to seize the authorities that legitimately only belong to the state, yet does so without submitting to democratic control or to the legitimate government.

Dr. King may not have always obeyed the law, but he didn't try to claim the authorities of the state as his own, either.

Pavonis wrote: View Post
Section 31 is a vigilante organization, then, like the Justice League. They're powerful and not responsible to anyone in power.
Actually, the Justice League takes orders from the U.S. government.

Is being unanswerable really so terrible even if lives are saved by their actions?
Yes. Because why should I trust them not to move against us next?

And is it possible to commit genocide against the Founders? If they're in the Great Link, aren't they just one individual?
Nope.

Mr. Laser Beam wrote: View Post
Pavonis wrote: View Post
Is being unanswerable really so terrible even if lives are saved by their actions?
Yes, it is. There must always be accountability, and oversight, and the chain of command. There must be order.
More to the point, they must answer to the people, as all other institutions must. No institution has the right to operate without answering to the legitimately-elected democratic government, and, through it, to the people.

Hartzilla2007 wrote: View Post
Edit_XYZ wrote: View Post
Irrelevant.
Such acts are not inherently more moral just because they have the blessing of some president (or anyone else, for that matter).
But the president at least has to deal with any potential consequences of it. Who the hell deals with the consequences in Section 31's case? What's to stop them from abusing their power? Becuase all I'm getting is unprovable crap about how they would never ever do that for some reason or other.
Exactly!

Pavonis wrote: View Post
Well, not to get too far off topic, but the Justice League has similar standing with its government(s) as S31. No authorization for its existence, no chain of command related to government authority, and no responsibility to the populace or the government.
Most comics and TV stories depict the Justice League as submitting to the government in general (with the occasional defiance of the government when it is, for instance, taken over by Lex Luthor).

A better comparison would be to Batman -- but the difference there is that Batman operates within the context of a society where the state has utterly failed, where the government has become so corrupt and unaccountable to the people that it is no longer itself a real democracy and no longer legitimate. Batman only operates because of the illegitimacy of the government of the City of Gotham. Further, the Batman narrative acknowledges that tension -- Bruce's actions aren't depicted as being unambiguously good. It's a morally questionable thing.

(In the modern versions, of course. Back in the Silver Age, Batman was a deputized officer of the Gotham City Police Department!)
__________________
"Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic Socialism, as I understand it." - George Orwell, 1946
Sci is offline   Reply With Quote