Question on the scope of Prime Directive

Discussion in 'General Trek Discussion' started by Cpt. Kyle Amasov, Oct 18, 2017.

  1. Cpt. Kyle Amasov

    Cpt. Kyle Amasov Commodore Commodore

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    Hi all, I was doing a little research on the scope of the Prime Directive for a project. Most instances of PD violations or preservation were related to direct actions: Starfleet interfering with the developmentof a civilization. I was wondering how the PD handles indirect violations, that is, someone else messing with things who is not a member of Starfleet and/or the Federation.
    So first question: At what level does the PD work? Does it bind every Federation citizen or just Starfleet or does it even extend to other non-members as some sort of multi-lateral commitment?
    Second question: How would Starfleet handle indirect violations? Example: You have a planet with a famine. They have not yet invented the replicator and any other means of helping them would not suffice (e.g., transporting food to the planet). Starfleet would deny them access to replicator tech as per the PD. A non-federation civilization shows up, like Ferengi or Klingons. They offer to supply the technology. Would Starfleet intervene?
    There are few examples of the scope of the PD. TOS did 'A Private Little War', as damage to the normal evolution has already been caused by Klingon interference before Enterprise showed up. I was specifically thinking of a situation where the violation can still be prevented. Can you think of other situations of third-party involvement?
     
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  2. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    In TNG "Angel One", castaway freighter crew who very much are UFP members are allowed to mess with a planet "because they are not starship crew", while the Starfleet heroes are forbidden from messing back, with the castaway actions in turn protected by the Prime Directive. That's a good starting point to thinking that the PD is a regulation existing only to rein in the powers of Starfleet, and having little or nothing to do with the "victims" of interference as such.

    We have never heard of it extending beyond the Federation, and the only time it extended beyond Starfleet was in TOS "Bread and Circuses" where Kirk claimed to a native that he was entitled to pursue a civilian Fed on that primitive planet because said civilian had violated "one of our most important laws" by interfering with the planet. However, this is not explicated to be the same as the Prime Directive.

    They never have. But when Klingons and Feds wrestle for the control of a primitive planet during a time when they don't want to directly fight each other, in "A Private Little War", the Feds clandestinely undermine the efforts of the Klingons to introduce advanced weapons to the planet, and then less clandestinely provide similar weapons to their favorite faction on the planet. The Prime Directive here is applied as long as convenient, and then considered secondary to the important issue.

    As outlined in the first response, Starfleet is sometimes outright forbidden from stopping fellow Feds from interfering, explicitly as per the PD. One would suppose this would go double for the Ferengi or other non-Feds. But again only up to a certain point where military-political concerns free the hands of Starfleet to do their thing.

    The castaways in "Angel One" were clearly preparing for what would amount to civil war. This was no grounds for letting Starfleet stop them. Yet proof of Cardassian interference in a Bajoran civil war allowed Sisko to counter-interfere in "The Siege" when the PD had previously been quoted as a showstopper.

    The PD doesn't appear to be a particularly strong rule in itself, even if it holds great power over Starfleet. It can be waived by Starfleet's superiors, as should be - irrewriteable laws have no place in modern society. And it gets applied indiscriminately, that is, without concern of the circumstance of the "victims" of interference: primitive and advanced societies alike get protected from Starfleet, but not from themselves.

    It really seems as if the PD is just a "Don't play God too often or at least tone it down when daddy wants to sleep" rule for otherwise dangerously powerful starship commanders. A bit like the honor rules of warrior classes, a wise precaution against those who carry weapons.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  3. MacLeod

    MacLeod Admiral Admiral

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    It seems as if Starfleet/UFP of the 23rd Century and of the 24th Century had a different interpertation of how/when to invoke of the PD.

    Now as to who the PD applies to, it might just apply to Starfleet personnel and those acting on behalf of the UFP. Be they Ambassadors, Councillors etc..
     
  4. Bad Thoughts

    Bad Thoughts Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    In the third season of TNG, Hans Beimler and Rick Manning developed a story about the Enterprise coming across an active genocide and having to face the consequences of violating the Prime Directive. According to RDM, the whole writing staff was excited about this story, seeing it as a return to the moral discussion of the original series. However, Roddenberry quashed the story, saying that "if the Enterprise came to a planet where they were shoving Jews into ovens, the Enterprise would have to leave. " It was not the kind of story that Roddenberry was willing to let the writers explore, that the Prime Directive was fundamentally and wholly good. That's why often actions that contradicted the Prime Directive were often taken depicted as the rash actions of secondary, perhaps non-human, characters, or else technological work-arounds were used. Roddenberry was not wiling to let his ideas be challenged, and stories had to conform to his ethos.
     
  5. Blamo

    Blamo Commodore Commodore

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    I wish they made that story, I really do.

    Homeward, one of those stories that underline how unthinkingly dogmatic the prime directive had become, seems to imply Federation citizens were expected to uphold the prime directive.

    From what it sounds like, in the TNG era the punishment may be as light as a slap on the wrist.
     
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  6. Kor

    Kor Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    More evidence that Roddenberry had really lost it by the time of TNG. :wtf:

    Kirk would have stepped right in and found some bold and brilliant way to stop the genocide.

    Kor
     
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  7. The Wormhole

    The Wormhole Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Well, I would imagine civilians who conduct surveys on pre-warp cultures are probably obligated to the Prime Directive, but otherwise the typical Federation citizen who has nothing to do with Starfleet or exploration/research is in no way required to follow it.
     
  8. Cpt. Kyle Amasov

    Cpt. Kyle Amasov Commodore Commodore

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    Even though the PD was depicted as a law, a 'directive' could be any kind of instruction from the Federation council. It does make sense when you truly explore unknown parts of the galaxy, but assuming we talk planets within the Federation that fall under the PD, I suppose there a measures in place to make sure civilians don't just wander around on those worlds.

    Pragmatically, one would have to wonder whether Kirk's 'softer' approach doesn't make more sense on a galactic scale than strict non-interference. Basically, everyone else is don't whatever they want anyway, so giving Starfleet some leeway when it comes to the PD and let captains judge within the boundaries of their own interpretation of the situation and moral principles may ultimately lead to better results. (By the way, I would have loved to see an episode where the Enterprise comes across a planet that has been subjugated by another species. Bajor was 'just' occupied, and we only ever learned about its existence after the Cardassian retreat. The only situation I can think of is the Son'a having subjugated those other two species and integrated them into their culture.)

    It is interesting to see the development here. In a way, TOS was never ment to be an utopian ideal. With TNG; this escalated to a point where early seasons become nearly unwatchable. I like the idea that he tried to infuse those idea into Star Trek's DNA, but in some cases it escalated to a point of ridiculousness.
     
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  9. Bad Thoughts

    Bad Thoughts Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Ridiculous is a generous way of putting it. The Prime Directive in those TNG seasons mixed apathy and condescension. Imagine if our approach to charity were to judge how deserving someone was by their level of technology! Sorry, flood victims, you don't own a car, so no clean, dry clothes for you!
     
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  10. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Which is why charity sucks. Just pay taxes and get a proper majority vote on who gets your dough.

    But it's a fallacy anyway - tech level never played a role in the PD. Oh, we might speculate it did, but only back in TOS where the PD was quoted in connection with relatively primitive cultures, up to 20th century Earth level. But from TNG on, PD concerns arise with fellow starfaring cultures as well.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  11. Kor

    Kor Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Yes, there was talk of not interfering in the internal affairs of sovereign space-faring powers such as the Klingon Empire. But was that the same as the Prime Directive? The PD seemed more explicitly concerned with not contaminating pre-warp civilizations.

    Kor
     
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  12. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    In "The Circle", the rule preventing Sisko from interfering with Bajoran affairs was very specifically called the Prime Directive, for the first time in such a context. The rule stopping Picard from interfering with Klingons was not identified by a name, say.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  13. Longinus

    Longinus Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I think it is absolutely clear that 24th century Prime Directive is way more restrictive than 23rd century one. Laws can change in hundred years.
     
  14. JRTStarlight

    JRTStarlight Captain Captain

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    I've heard the Prime Directive applies to StarFleet personnel, and also the merchant marine - aka merchant services (Bread and Circuses), but I'm not convinced it applies to regular run-of-the-mill Federation citizens (unless on a Starfleet or merchant ship). Then again, I'm not sure how regular citizens would get to other planets that far out without a ride from StarFleet or the merchant marines.

    And the prime directive wouldn't apply at all to non-Federation citizens, of course.

    I don't think Starfleet would give the non warp capable starving planet Federation replicator technology, but they wouldn't prevent it, either, if the source were some third party not in StarFleet or the Merchant Services. The reason they would withhold it is not because the culture shock to them would be worse than their starving to death, but if they spared their lives and those people arose to maraud across the galaxy later, the Federation would be responsible. Or what if some faction abused replicator tech and subjugated 99% of the population in some clever way? The Feds would be responsible.

    Anyway, if the Ferengi or Klingons or others showed up to reveal spacefaring races and to give or sell them replicator technology, one could hardly blame the Federation for any consequences there.

    In A Private Little War, the revelation was already done – that damage was done – and Kirk balanced the equation to preserve both sides (not let one have superior weapons, or give the other superior weapons, but keep them equal and both cultures living like before). It was likely not a violation of the PD then since the Klingons had already interfered in that one regards – revelation of spacefaring cultures. To put that planet back on track and toward the most likely outcome it would have had before the interference – side-by-side competing cultures – the balance was restored.

    I mostly disagree with those who think Kirk violated the PD left and right, or was more relaxed than TNG captains and beyond. The PD has many clauses and exceptions, and the fact Kirk knows them doesn't mean he violated the PD or got away with it – it means the audience didn't understand the PD very well, or know all the rules. We still don't since the whole thing has never been written down where we can read it all.

    I also feel the non-interference directive to not get involved in the civil war of other cultures isn't part of the PD, but another directive. It's just a pretty good idea. StarFleet has many directives besides just that one, and more than one may be about non-interfering. Picard more or less explicitly said the PD was good and wise since every time we interfered in "lesser" civilizations, it's been disastrous. This implies it is mostly about those lesser civilizations (non warp capable). But the warp capable Klingons are not a lesser civilization, so not interfering with their civil war likely wasn't because of the PD, but another non-interference directive. And that, too, doesn't apply if a third party (like the Romulans) are involved since it is no longer purely civil.

    A religious war might also be part of the PD to keep our hands off, lest we violate other people's religious rights.

    One might not stop the killing of Jews since to reveal the spacefaring civilization might ignite a holy war killing billions, for example. You can't know the consequences of interfering, and it's arrogance to think you understand the alien culture after so short a time that you can predict the outcome. The Federation isn't responsible for Mother Nature's indifference, nor are they incumbent to impose their POV on anybody and everybody they come across, lest they be guilty of the crimes of others they could have stopped. You can't fairly compare them to other humans not helping more humans just because they don't have a car or better tech. As humans, we can be pretty sure feeding the masses who don't have cars isn't going to cause the next world war. An alien, however, cannot predict the outcome of many religious cultures who are convinced we are the pinnacle of God's creations suddenly discovering for a fact we probably aren't, and what some nut job might do to avoid dealing with the truth – like unleash a global pandemic and let God sort every one out later. Saves a few million Jews, sure, but killed billions (and most of those Jews, too, anyway). Who can really say?

    Every captain can judge the PD on their own standards and do whatever they want, but if StarFleet disagrees their actions were appropriate, that's it for them – busted or jailed – certainly never allowed to command a starship again. Starfleet command always agreed Kirk's actions were appropriate and within the letter and/or spirit of the directive.
     
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2017
  15. Longinus

    Longinus Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    One thing I really wish they had done on ENT, was an episode where the reason for establishing the Prime Directive was examined properly. It should have been an episode where the crew finds some planet with a primitive (compared to them) culture and there is some problem or issue going on. So the crew decides to interfere and offer their assistance, but by doing so they end up messing things up way more. It should have been portrayed so that the crew has genuinely good intentions, but they simply do not comprehend the magnitude of turmoil that a sudden contact with far more advanced extraterrestrials could cause (T'Pol would warn them of course, but no one would listen.)

    But instead we got 'Dear Doctor'... Damn, I'm still mad about that.
     
  16. JRTStarlight

    JRTStarlight Captain Captain

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    You didn't like Dear Doctor? I thought that was rather good as a basis for the PD. Is the fact they avoided the disaster not as pleasing a story as one where they royally messed up and were responsible for the death of thousands or more? Did you want a better example of how the road to hell is actually paved with good intentions?

    I mean, the story you're suggesting would have them go through the rest of their lives with some serious blood on their hands. How heroic is that?

    I'd rather our heroes relate the tale of how the Feds screwed the pooch elsewhere.
     
  17. Longinus

    Longinus Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    It was terrible. They come up with prime directivish idea out of thin air and come across as utter dicks.

    But at least their intentions would have been to help. In 'Dear Doctor' they just left the Valakians to die because... Because fuck Valakians, I guess?
     
  18. JRTStarlight

    JRTStarlight Captain Captain

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    No, they choose not to interfere since doing so would have left the sub race (Menk) in a condition of perpetual slavery, IIRC. The dominant race had no better right than the subordinate race to be the top race, and for the Federation to fix the Valakians' problem, the Federation would essentially be determining which race got to come out on top.

    Supposed an advanced race had come to Earth 75,000 years ago and they might have, for whatever reason, decided to help the Neanderthals and gave them what they needed to survive, but after they left, the Neanderthal not only survived, but turned the tables and wiped out Homo Sapiens? What reason could they have had to help the Neanderthals? Homo Sapiens were killing them, and that's just not right - in their opinion, so they gave Neanderthals better tech, thinking it would balance things since they were still out numbered, but the better tech was too good, and bing, bang, boom, Homo Sapiens never arise as the dominant species. In fact, they might have been killed off.

    Phlox felt, and eventually Archer agreed, Humans didn't go into space to play God and make those decisions, and letting Mother Nature take its course was not something for which they could reasonably be blamed. Guaranteeing the Menk would always be slaves/pets/subordinate could be something for which they could reasonably be blamed.

    It didn't seem to come out of thin air, either, since the Vulcans overseeing the Earthlings for the last 90 years and the Denobulans' experience suggested how unfair it would be to make that kind of decision to give them warp tech or give them the cure. The Menk would, after all, thrive quite nicely if the Valakians weren't deciding everything for them - where they could Iive, what they could do, pretty much like we might treat our pets - mostly for our benefit and not their own.

    It's not an easy decision, something like that, and later the PD reflects that it is not always so clear or easy to understand, and many will always assume their short term fix and good intentions will not, cannot, ever lead to anything bad. But they don't really know that. They can't know that.
     
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2017
  19. Longinus

    Longinus Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    This was a TNG plot done badly in Enterprise. Justification for letting Valakians to die was weak and callous, and the whole thing did what ENT often did, failed to do what a prequel should. But I think that's enough of that, we obviously disagree.
     
  20. Spot261

    Spot261 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Not a great analogy really, there's little evidence to suggest we wiped out neanderthals or enslaved them. In fact the best that can really be drawn from the evidence is we prospered where they failed. Theories have been put forward to suggest there would have been violent conflict on local scales but it's hard to extrapolate that to an extinction event given the number of other hominid species we would have been in competition with but survived to become the ancestors of many of the species we see today.

    More likely would be a combination of losing out in terms of resource competition, absorption into the homo erectus/sapiens gene pool or (the prevailing theory) being decimated by transcontinental drift of pathogens as we spread into Europe.

    Doubtless we contributed to their decline but it's hard to claim realistically we "wiped them out".