The politics of the Prime Directive

Discussion in 'General Trek Discussion' started by Daybreaker, Feb 18, 2013.

  1. Daybreaker

    Daybreaker Cadet Newbie

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    Couple of questions regarding the Prime Directive:

    1) Is it the Prime Directive that requires the Federation to only offer membership to worlds that have unified under a government that can represent the entire planet? 'Cause if there were still factions, then dealing with one faction or another could constitute unacceptable interference. Am I even right that there is such a rule, or does it only seem that way?

    2) Isn't it a bit convenient that the Prime Directive allows the Federation to trade with worlds regardless of what kind atrocities might be happening on those worlds?
     
  2. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    On one, I don't think that a part of the PD, but rather a admissions rule instead. A planet probably could still have factions, political parties, opposing viewpoints, what have you, as long as the majority of the planet isn't being torn by civil war. The Bajorians certainly didn't alway get along with each other.

    On two, there has to be a practical side of the things in the real world/universe. If the Federation needs a resource, and a unpleasnt group is the best provider of tha resource, well it's their world, isn't it?

    :)
     
  3. The Wormhole

    The Wormhole Admiral Admiral

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    Neither of these are Prime Directive related. The Prime Directive is a first contact protocol, forbidding Starfleet officers from interfering in the natural development of pre-warp societies and forbidding Starfleet officers from making contact with them. Also, the Prime Directive is a Starfleet regulation, the rest of the Federation isn't required to follow it (as stated in TNG's Angel One).

    But, in answer to your questions, yes generally a world does need a unified governemnt to be permitted Federation membership. We do know that Kesprytt was considered for membership despite having a territory that wasn't part of the unified global government, but likely due to the events of the episode their membership was rejected.

    And so what if the Federation trades with less than pleasant planets? They need exotic mineral 47, and only providers of exotic mineral 47 are the Space Nazis, who obtain EM 47 through concentration camps on a world they annexed and force the native inhabitants to labour in harsh condtions. Since Annexed World is outside Federation territory and fits the legal definition of a Space Nazi world as established in the treaty, there isn't anything the Federation can do. These kind of politics go on in the real world, why won't they continue in the interstellar community of the future?
     
  4. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    The Prime Directive restricts Starfleet's options in first contact situations, yes. But it also restricts Starfleet's options in later dealings: it was explicitly quoted as the reason Starfleet couldn't interfere with Bajor's civil war at the start of the second season of DS9, and as the reason Starfleet couldn't interfere with the internal politics of Angel One, a well-known world, in the titular TNG episode. It was also associated with Starfleet's staying out of the Klingon civil war.

    It should be pointed out, though, that the PD only restricts Starfleet. It has never been explicated as a limiter of Federation policy except when it comes to executing that policy through Starfleet. Indeed, the only time it has been applied to an apparent civilian (in the sense of limiting the options of that civilian, not in the sense of protecting the civilian from Starfleet action) is in "Bread and Circuses", where the commanding officer of SS Beagle was to be dragged away in chains for violating it. But the status of said officer as a "civilian" might be disputed...

    So the UFP government may practice all sorts of realpolitik regardless of the PD. Indeed, the UFP government is the one organization empowered to alter the PD to meet the requirements of the day. The PD just keeps the soldiers of the Federation from meddling in politics.

    So in theory, split planets are quite eligible; in practice, it's just not done, especially if the first serious attempt at it ends badly.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  5. The Wormhole

    The Wormhole Admiral Admiral

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    Honestly, I suspect he would have been in more trouble for manipulating himself into a postion of luxury while his crew were condemned to gladiator fights, and then trying the exact same thing on the crew of a Starfleet ship than he would doing actions Starfleet considers against the Prime Directive.

    I doubt a planet with a fractured political landscape like Earth of today would be considered for Federation membership and indeed usually 100% unity is required. Though since Kesprytt was something like 97% percent unified the Federation decided it was worth further review and in the end rejected it anyway.
     
  6. Dale Sams

    Dale Sams Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    The thing about the PD that doesn't make sense is....if it's Starfleet only...there would be tons of Greenpeace-like orgs going around doing the work Starfleet won't. And even if SF turns a blind eye towards groups that save planets or rescue endangered species...how can they ignore soemone who sets himself up as king of a planet?
     
  7. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    With the existence of the Prime Directive, it might make sense that there is a reciprocal civilian verison. But we've never heard of such.
     
  8. indolover

    indolover Fleet Captain

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    I think it makes good sense. it's not the Federation's place to act as galactic police officer.

    Also, how can species with different evolutionary tracts (and thus unique psychological traits) possess exact morals? Changelings, until Odo, had never hurt another. That's quite staggering, if this includes things such as basic assault and not only serious things as murder, rape, torture, etc. People in real life and in-universe view Klingons as brutal and bloodthirsty, well duh, it's how they evolved/are neurologically geared.
     
  9. Pavonis

    Pavonis Commodore Commodore

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    The existence of a civilian "Prime Directive" would depend on how often civilians have the opportunity to interfere with non-Federation cultures.

    Starfleet needs a general order regarding non-interference because it's out there on the frontier all the time, and the officers need to know that Starfleet Command would frown on one of them setting themselves up as a tin god on some backwater world of primitives.

    Civilians, though...how often do they end up on the frontier? As colonists, sure, they're on the frontier, but then again, they're busy setting up a colony, not flitting about in starships. And presumably they've set up shop on an uninhabited world, so no need to worry about Prime Directive problems for them.

    Perhaps there is a similar directive among the Merchant Marines? But wouldn't they spend most of their time shipping cargo between established worlds, and not so much on the frontier? Not much point in selling plasma phase converters to primitives that barely mastered indoor plumbing, is there? Though the Merchant Marine might operate survey ships, which could operate on the frontier, so maybe they're bound by the Prime Directive?
     
  10. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    Actually, we have. DS9's "Inter Arma Enim Silent leges" established that the Federation Charter bans the UFP government from interfering in the internal affairs of foreign cultures.
     
  11. Pavonis

    Pavonis Commodore Commodore

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    Yes, but what about civilians with ships, like Harry Mudd? What stops them? Is there some clause in a "master's license" that prevents them from setting up shop as gods on primitive backwoods planets?
     
  12. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    The most lucrative market might be at the far frontier, really. Not only would there be primitives who'd pay good alcohol or pergium for electric razors and other trinkets - there would be the potential for meeting advanced civilizations that might accidentally sell something of great value in the regular market. Neither of these deals would benefit from the careful official oversight one would encounter deeper inside the UFP.

    Transport vessels do operate in unexplored space, not just in the pathfinding days of ENT, but also in TOS: for some untold reason, the Antares visited Thasus in "Charlie X"...

    As for the one known indication of a civilian ban, the wording in "Inter Arma" remains a bit ambiguous:

    Forbidden from whom? If the Charter establishes organizations within the UFP (like the Franz Joseph version, derived from the UN Charter), such as Starfleet or the Interstellar Court of Justice, it may also contain specific regulations on what Starfleet (or, in this case, Section 31) is banned from doing - regulations unrelated to what the Interstellar Court of Justice, or the UFP government at large, might be banned from doing.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  13. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    There a Human from the Federation was going to manipulate the selection of one Romulan (over another) for a political position.

    The Federation Charter forbids interfering in the internal affairs of a sovereign state. Which isn't the same as forbidding all interaction. Trade, finance, tourism, education, social discourse could all be neither allowed nor disallowed by that portion of the Charter. Even a certain amount of external political advocacy could be completely kosher.

    What constitutes "internal affairs?" And does the prohibition specifically refer to steering clear of a foreign government's operation? But outside of that, most other things in that foreign "land" are fine ... up to a point (covered by different prohibitions).

    I don't believe that was mentioned.

    And who knows when some ultra low-tech culture is going to introduce you to the next chocolate, or maize, or tobacco?

    Even with a law against it in place, what would prevent them? Consider how low the odds are of being discovered.

    :)
     
  14. JirinPanthosa

    JirinPanthosa Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    To some degree yes, but I think there's a line in the sand with extreme violations, such as genocide and slavery. Moral relativitism should be applied in some cross-cultural cases but it's got limits.

    If there wasn't a civilian ban from interfering with prewarp planets, there'd be no prewarp planets left, because somebody would have traded warp technology to them for insane amounts of wealth the way Quark wanted to in Little Green Men.
     
  15. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Which might actual be the way the majority of species in the galaxy get a warp drive in the first place. How many of the Federation Membership invented their own, and how many simply purchased all of theirs on the interstellar open market? One of the criteria for Federation Membership would seem to be having warp technology, but who ever say the species had to of created theirs endogenously?

    How many nations on Earth today don't manufacture their own jet engines, computers, medicines?

    If a species had 24th century Earth equivalent technology in every way, minus the warp drive, what would be the problem with one of the companies from within the Federation selling the tech to them?

    But unless you knew the situation on the planet pretty well, could you identify genocide when you saw it?

    Two scenarios.

    Tribe/culture A is warring with B. A is going to eventually be kill one thousand people in B. Which is all the people B has ... this is genocide.

    On the other side of the planet tribe/culture C is warring with D. C is also in time going to be killing one thousand people from D, difference here is D is wide spread and number over a hundred thousand ... this is not genocide.

    While different cultures, they are all the same species. How do you tell from orbit which one to stop (and which one you don't)?

    :)
     
  16. Shawnster

    Shawnster Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Since this is the best recent Prime Directive discussion I could find, I wanted to share an observation.

    I'm rewatching TOS "The Apple." Interesting bit of dialog in the opening teaser:
    So, this planet had been previously surveyed. Surely such an initial survey would reveal the technological level of the natives. Due to the unusual readings, Starfleet wanted Kirk to contact the inhabitants. Now, the landing party beamed down in uniform with visible display of phasers, tricorders and communicators.

    Starfleet wanted the Enterprise crew to directly contact a pre-warp, technologically inferior culture.

    Wouldn't this order directly conflict with the Prime Directive? Even in the TOS depiction of the Prime Directive "No identification of self or mission, no interference with the social development of said planet, no references to space, or the fact that there are other worlds, or more advanced civilizations.
     
  17. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Admiral

    The original survey was likely done from a distance without ever landing on the planet (else Vaal likely wouldn't have allowed them to leave). The strange reading likely led Starfleet/the Enterprise to believe there was a more advanced culture than the one encountered by Kirk and Company.
     
  18. UssGlenn

    UssGlenn Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    When dealing with primitive cultures, you can always pull the "We're from far away" trick. They know there are other groups on the planet but have no way of knowing you aren't one of them.
     
  19. JessDD

    JessDD Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    It kind of begs the question about civilian oversight of Starfleet.

    If Starfleet command ordered a ship to make contact with a civilization which was in direct conflict with the PD, isn't there a civilian oversight board to stop them? Given the vastness of the Federation and Starfleet, the UFP President wouldn't have time to handle it him/herself.
     
  20. R. Star

    R. Star Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    The Prime Directive pretty much is two different things as it's applied rather liberally to any number of situations. One, it prohibits interference in the development of a pre-warp society. Though this doesn't include spying at all. Two, it prohibits interferences in the internal affairs of any society. Even if they're your biggest ally asking for help in a civil war that was instigated and supported by your biggest rival.

    Personally I think the PD is rather... stupid... at times. It's okay to let an entire people die when you can save them..... why? Because you don't know the consequences as Janeway said in Time and Again? Because there's a "cosmic plan" as Riker said in Pen Pals? Even Picard just says there are "ramifications" of the Prime Directive that dictate some lives cannot be saved in Homeward. Again.. why?

    Picard asks if a geological incident should make an exception, then a disease, then a war. When people hesitate about the war, then Picard just acts like he won a point. As if it's an all or none kind of deal. I don't get that. Janeway's you don't know the consequences? Come on... that's like saying if someone's beating a pregnant woman to death you should just keep walking because that kid might grow up to be Hitler. Comic plan? Circular argument. If there's a cosmic plan I'm part of it and interfering to save lives seems more moral than letting helpless people die because it might be inconvenient. Ramifications? These are all self-imposed.

    I never got upset when any captain broke the PD because... it's contradictory at times and morally bankrupt in others. Everyone acted like Worf's brother did something terribly evil by saving those alien sheep herders in Homeward. Heck Paris said it best "They're all going to die... anything's got to be better than that." Which Janeway just ordered him to shut up having lost that argument.

    Not interfering with internal affairs of other cultures. That even somehow applied to the Cardassian occupation of Bajor. Which makes no sense to me at all being the Federation was fighting a war with the Cardassians at the times. The first thing you do in any war, is give weapons to the partisans fighting against the other side.

    The PD is well intentioned, don't get me wrong. It's there to protect other cultures from exploitation and us from getting drug into matters that don't concern us. But in reality... you have to take things on a case by case basis. It can't be all or none, like the letter of the law says.