Greg Cox wrote:
As the ep begins, Kirk receives word that negotiations have broken down and a state of war now exists. Presumably the diplomats have been working overtime to avert this situation, but to no avail. The decision to go to war has been made at level far above Kirk's pay scale--and not just concerning Organia.
Was he supposed to try to negotiate a separate peace with the Klingons on Organia after the Federation's top leaders and diplomats failed? That would be like an individual submarine commander deciding to take it upon himself to negotiate a peace treaty with the Japanese during World War II or whatever . . . .
Exactly, in the episode the Organia situation starts out as a minor sidebar to what is apparently a much larger... "urano-political"? conflict. Presumably, Kirk has orders on what to do in the event of war and probably has very little leeway about what he can do on his own authority.
As to the larger questions of how Kirk and Starfleet are presented, you have to keep in mind that, in the '50s and '60s especially, big fictional enemies like the Klingons were seen through the Cold War perspective. From that perspective, they could be seen not as just some other people you had some disagreements with, but a completely ruthless and implacable foe whose values are utterly opposed to your own and who want not just to win in war, but to wipe out your whole way of life. Opposing that kind of threat with any and all means would be a very popular message with a good portion of the audience of that day.
Indeed, and the ultimate message of the ep, that the "inevitable" war can
be avoided (thanks, okay, to some god-like aliens) and that someday the Federation and the Klingon Empire would be allies was pretty optimistic in its time.
Imagine a comparable story in which well-meaning aliens tell the USA and the Russians to play nice and make friends--or else! (Which, come to think of it, is basically THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL.)
But, yeah, this wasn't one of those eps where Kirk encounters some strange new alien beings and has to decide on his own
whether diplomacy or force is the appropriate response. This was Kirk as a Starfleet captain following orders during a time of war--and seeing himself as the only person standing between the defenseless Organians and a brutal Klingon invasion.
I mean, it wasn't like the Klingons' intentions for Organia were ever in doubt . . . .