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Old July 24 2013, 11:58 PM   #108
Crazy Eddie
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Re: Marines and Combat Personel?

Darkwing wrote: View Post
Which still does not demonstrate Starfleet as a non-military entity, just one written by people with no experience in what they're writing about.
Not saying it does. Just that Starfleet doesn't prioritize combat readiness enough to make it an order.

If you want to play the "writers don't know what they're talking about" card, there's a LONG list of things to take issue with, but that's a different kind of discussion.

Sometimes. But a civilian ship entering territoriali waters has the right of innocent passage. National warships do not. Unless passage is arranged between the warship's government and the government whose territorial waters are being entered, doing so is an act of war. It usually only gets to the level of diplomatic protest, relief of the CO, and some tense meetings, with some media coverage and saber-rattling talk, but it is still causus belli.
Which would be an important reason for Starfleet to maintain -- legally at least -- the nonmilitary nature of their ships. Any time someone protests about Starfleet violating their borders (usually accidentally by not knowing what their actual borders are) the Federation simply replies "Starfleet is our exploration service. No trespass was intended." They can say this with a straight face because this is what they tell EVERYONE, and anyone who searches their records will immediately determine that this really is the case.

This, IMO, part of what Balok was alluding to in Corbomite Maneuver. He had to determine whether or not Enterprise's records were a forgery or deception to hide the ship's true nature; seems to me it was the "we're not really a military" aspect of their charter he was trying to test.

The Kobayashi Maru could legally enter the Neutral Zone, as a civilian ship...
Not necessarily. In the STID version of the test, it's the USS Kobyashi Maru and Enterprise is ordered to go and rescue them by Starfleet command. Technically, neither vessel has any business being there in the first place.

TWOK scenario would also suggest the Klingons had also entered the zone illegally and that the Kobyashi Maru was originally just a ruse to lure the Enterprise into an ambush.


but the "Enterprise" could not, except when performing a rescue. But even then, messages need to be sent to our government, their government, and bridge-to-bridge transmissions to all ships in the area, and if challenged by sovereign units, they would have to turn back and leave the rescue to said sovereign craft.

But Starfleet does seem to be able to back up it's authority by law - if a captain negotiates a treaty, truce, or ceasefire, then, just like any age of sail navy captain, that document is valid and lawful, He can cede claims to a planet on behalf of the UFP, or assert them. Remember, we don't see that today because the world has been explored and claimed. Trek is set in a galaxy where so much is unclaimed and unexplored that they've gone back to that.
And yet it's been a VERY long time since captains and military officers actually had that legal power. The only reason they got it in the first place was because HISTORICALLY, they found themselves in a position of being the first people on the scene and their governments decided to honor their claims politically rather than risk ceding territory on grounds of "Our captain who discovered this land wasn't authorized to claim it."

The HISTORICAL progression is broken in Star Trek; the 22nd century Earth Starfleet -- from which the 23rd and 24th century fleets are derived -- was a non-military agency tasked with exploration and legally empowered to make and support such claims. They got this power for the same reason as their military counterparts 400 years earlier: because nobody else could do it.

And that single reality might simply sum up why the Federation never codified Starfleet's legal status as a military organization: they were already doing the exploring, the claiming and even the fighting, so the Federation simply preserved the status quo -- strange as it seems to us -- attached a few legislative strings (you must answer to the Federation, not strictly to United Earth) but otherwise let Starfleet to its own devices.

No? I certainly see it. Most folks don't really think about how society changes over time and assume that things have always been that way.
That's just it, though: we see ALOT of depictions of military organizations deeply engaged in exploration. It's something a lot of people expect the military to be doing in space because it's what the military use to do at sea. It doesn't seem to be a widely shared belief "the military doesn't do any exploring" because in science fiction that's ALOT of what the military does and nobody finds it all that strange.

Star Trek is actually the outlier in this concept: they seem to emulate pure exploration agencies (NASA, NOAA, etc) rather than inquisitive militaries, and they seem to be the ONLY fictional organization that makes any attempt to do so. Off the top of my head, the only other time in all of (modern) science fiction we ever see a non-military exploration vessel is the USS Palomino in The Black Hole... which, interestingly, is said to be armed with six nuclear warheads for defense against possible alien attack. Palomino compares rather favorably to the Enterprise IMO in terms of operating procedure and mission parameters.

Star Trek is actually unique among science fiction -- and particularly in space opera -- for depicting Starfleet as a very soft, non-military organization. The rest of the genre takes it as a foregone conclusion that Space Is an Ocean and Starships Belong To the Navy.
They have always depicted it as softer than the current, real-world version, but TOS never asserted starfleet was NOT the military. TNG+ did that, yet never thought about how that invalidates much of their background.
TOS never definitively established it either way; in "Tomorrow is Yesterday" Kirk tells Christopher "Our authority is the United Earth Space Probe Agency," which does not AT ALL sound like a military organization. We don't see much of UESPA after that reference, but it does pop up again in various forms, often enough that we can't simply retcon it out of existence. So either "Starfleet" is synonymous with "UESPA" (maybe the former term is just a colloquialism?) or UESPA is one of two (several?) Federation agencies that shares supervisory authority over Starfleet and the "combined service" Kirk refers to is actually the merger of UESPA and military personnel to make up the crew of the Enterprise, sort of like NASA used to do in the Shuttle Program.

OTOH, I have been thinking for a long time now that TOS and TNG take place in completely separate timelines and thus this might just be another of MANY contradictions between the two. Not that I could ever prove this one either...

Under present conditions, yes. Under the conditions that exist in the Federation... who knows?
As soft, urban, and legalistic as the UFP is shown to be (at least the core worlds), I can't see them allowing a non-military, armed civilian force to wield weapons capable of erasing all life on a planet.
Why not? Developed/urban societies have shown themselves to be relatively immune to those kinds of weapons except in highly concentrated bombardments from fleets of starships. Technology has reduced the impact of those weapons severely; a nuclear suitcase bomb isn't all that scary when every building in town has its own forcefields that can contain the blast to a ten-meter radius without hurting anyone else.

More to the point, civilians already HAVE those kinds of weapons. Captain Tracey, for example, claims to have killed "thousands" while trying to repel the Yang's triumphant zerg rush; assuming he isn't totally exaggerating, it at least stands to reason a couple of hand phasers could be swept through a crowd of rushing barbarians, vaporizing them dozens of a time. It's one thing to claim that Earth is the kind of place that no longer has Sandy Hook style massacres with hand phasers, but they MUST have a means to defend against it, just in case.

I'm thinking, therefore, that technology has again narrowed the performance gap between professional soldiers and the armed civilians who might oppose them and/or commit mayhem. The ability to lay waste to entire planets is sufficiently portable and accessible that the ability to PROTECT populated planets must be equally effective and the immense destructive power of Starfleet's weapons is fairly easily mitigated.

OTOH -- and I lean to this theory more heavily -- it's possible we've never actually seen the "big guns" of the Federation and Starfleet's ships are actually pretty lightly armed compared to what the Federation REALLY uses when they get pissed off. USS Vengeance might be the archetypical example of this.
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Last edited by Crazy Eddie; July 25 2013 at 05:36 AM.
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