Crazy Eddie wrote:
And even Starfleet's shooting wars have historically been resolved through clever application of science and trickery. We like to forget that the entire Dominion war was rendered basically irrelevant by Section 31's Changeling Plague and that the Dominion only surrendered in the first place because Odo offered a cure in exchange for a truce; if he hadn't, the Changelings would have simply died and the leaderless Jem'hadar and Vorta would have committed mass suicide.
The Federation never actually goes to war with anyone unless Starfleet can't find a scientific solution to a problem; when the scientific solution suddenly presents itself, the war comes to an abrupt end.
And this, if you think about it, is the problem with the Cardassians and the Klingons: they never DID find a solution to those problems, so the diplomats had to step in and deescalate things so that the conflict could linger on for years as a cold war. The Klingon problem was resolved by Starfleet's help with the Praxis Event, the Cardassian problem was resolved by the fall of the Dominion.
The Federation does seem to be technologically superior on the whole to their opponents. Just look at the shock of Gul Macet in The Wounded when he discovered the Enterprise
could read the Cardassian ID codes! The Phoenix
in the same episode was able to move out of the weapons range of a Cardassian warship and destroy it easily with their own weapons, even after they had already taken a broadside with their shields down.
I would change your statements though, in the the Federation never goes to war with anyone, NOT because of scientific solutions, but simply because they never start a war - but in the words of John Sheridan always finish it!
Also I think there was a fear amongst Starfleet that with The Founders gone, rather than committing suicide, the Jem'Hadar may have just gone on a wild, galaxy-spanning psychotic killing spree a'la the rogue Jem'Hadar in To The Death!
Looking over the entire franchise, the Federation may have made diplomatic solutions, and had major setbacks such as the Borg incursions and the early years of the Dominion War. Have Starfleet ever been mentioned to have LOST a war though? I can't think of any examples!