Robert Maxwell wrote:
It's Federation space. Not necessarily a Federation planet over which they have jurisdiction to do as they please. You can understand the distinction between a planet and the space around it, yes?
I can see two problems with this argument:
1) The actual radiation that they plan on collecting is in space. So the radiation does belong to the Federation if the space belongs to the Federation.
2) The Federation "space" argument gives the Federation an incredible amount of power over evolving cultures and who they choose to deal with when they begin exploring the stars.
On point 1, the Federation apparently could not collect the radiation without rendering the planet uninhabitable. If they could find a way to collect it without killing the Ba'ku, that might be acceptable. But they certainly couldn't go through with the So'na plan, since that would kill 600 innocent people on the planet.
On point 2, it seems that the Federation routinely protected pre-warp planets within its territory. Once a planet met the criteria for first contact, that would open up the opportunity to discuss the planet's future relationship with the Federation. I suspect if a given species told the Federation to get fucked, the Feds would withdraw from that system and respect their wishes. If the planet was later attacked by a hostile force and asked for help, the Federation would probably come to their rescue.
Basically, the Federation is supposed to be the "good guys." If people want to be left alone, they respect that. If people need help, the Feds are there. If the Federation would like to harvest a resource from a planet within its territory, and it happens to be inhabited, they have to ask. And if those people say "no," the Federation should respect it. Self-determination is supposed to be a big deal to the Federation. It would be pretty crummy of them to simply spit on that concept the moment it becomes inconvenient.