Thoughts on Sela and "Reunification"

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by rfmcdpei, May 3, 2011.

  1. rfmcdpei

    rfmcdpei Captain Captain

    Aug 19, 2008
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    Sela's appearances in Trek literature, first in Rough Beasts of Empire then in Indistinguishable from Magic have made me think about the character and her past exploits.

    On the whole, I think I like the character. There's some cheese yes, but there's also something compelling in the character of that young girl whose confused scream in the middle of the night killed her mother and who went on to become a powerfully driven and capable servant of Romulus, whatever it thought of her.

    Sela has grand complicated plans that fail? Yes, but the Romulan modus operandi is for grand complicated schemes involving remarkable innovations and their ruthless deployments, so Sela cannot be properly faulted for that. And hey, some of her schemes very nearly did pay off spectacularly. A sockpuppeted Klingon Empire would have worked out well for the Romulans.

    But what about the Romulan protectorate of Vulcan? Surely, only two thousand Romulan soldiers pitted against one of the core worlds of the Federation any Romulan invasion force would impossible, right? No matter how well-trained these soldiers were, it would be impossible for them to take over a highly-developed planet, to be "entrenched" and "very difficult" to get out as Sela said, never mind to support a new Vulcan government that would "embrace their Romulan cousins." One might as well have expected the terrorists who attacked Mumbai in 2008 to have taken over control of that city from India. It would be a great way to start a Federation-Romulan war, sure, but that's it.

    Sela's not stupid: I'm certain she'd know the problems with that plan as presented alone. I'm even more certain that the rest of the Romulan government would have known that the numbers would be impossible: warmongering militarists many Romulan politicians might be, I don't see the entire Star Empire as that unhinged.

    So. How could the plan to establish a Romulan protectorate over Vulcan in "Unification" without triggering a general war have worked?

    My solution is simple. It seems to be established convention to call Vulcans and Romulans separate species, but that's a simple case of a cultural distinction being overdefined as a biological distinction. The ancestors of the Romulans left Vulcan almost exactly two thousand years before Sela's efforts, and notwithstanding the non-representativeness of the proto-Romulan colonists of the wider Vulcan population and whatever later drift and engineering occurred on and around Romulus, Vulcans and Romulans still constitute a single species with a shared cultural heritage.

    I'd also argue that the way of Surak is a minority faith among Vulcans. I'd guess that the number of Romulan Vulcans is far greater than the number of Federation Vulcans, if only because the Romulans have been aggressively expanding their territories and population for centuries while Vulcan has been a much more conservative pocket empire. Even within Vulcan territory, Syrranite doctrines only took off after the formation of the Federation, and prominent Vulcans like head of state Administrator V'Las were acting on behalf of Romulus. Stereotypically Romulan ethics and mores seem to be much more common on Vulcan than people thought. And on Taking Wing, the two Vulcan political experts on Romulus are icily polite to each other on Vulcan's 50:50 division between supporters and opponents of reunification.

    How did Sela and the Romulan Star Empire think that they could pull off a Romulan protectorate of Vulcan? They thought that they could draw on the support of large pre-existing segments of pro-Romulan sentiment within Vulcan. The two thousand Romulan soldiers may have been intended for use only in critical areas, to secure facilities of particular importance or to help pro-Romulans repress pro-Federation dissent. The Romulan protectorate over Vulcan still would have been risky, but if--if--it seemed that Romulan protectorate might be desired ...

  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Mar 15, 2001
    Intriguing idea. I think maybe you're understating the prominence of Surakism on Vulcan, but every society has its dissidents and minority beliefs. We have seen Vulcan schismatists before (in "Gambit" and multiple novels). And it is indeed possible that some groups sharing V'Las's sympathies would've lived on.

    So you might be onto something. Historically, successful conquest has almost always relied on co-opting indigenous talent to manage their own territory on your behalf. You go in, identify existing political rivalries, and help one group get the power/control/freedom from the current dictator/whatever that they crave, in exchange for which they send you tribute and follow your instructions. So they do the work of ruling the territory for you. It makes an empire far more manageable than if the metropolis had to stretch itself thin by directly regulating all its territories.
  3. JoeZhang

    JoeZhang Vice Admiral Admiral

    Jan 9, 2008
    Sure but you need the Conquest first and/or some sign that you are a winner or will be a winner. 2000 troops with no air or logistic support landing on Vulcan would likely be wiped out in hours. Even if there was some support from people on Vulcan, such elements would have to be fairly stupid to reveal themselves when that was the sort of "backing" that the romulans were providing for them.

    (You know I thought this has come up before... some earlier thoughts on this matter plus a bonus red pepper soup recipe from me: )
  4. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    That might also mean the operation is intended to be more political than military; it's not truly (or primarily) a grab for territory or a desire to take Federation land, it's mostly calculated precisely to politically undermine, or at least politically agitate, the Federation (if the choice of targets didn't show that already). Or maybe it's all to put on a show for the other nations and undermine the Federation that way. Not actually from within - undermining it from within by taking Vulcan is a means to another end, that of causing political enmity for the Federation from without. Instead of the galactic community seeing an unprovoked invasion of the Federation by Romulans, it puts the Federation in the position of having to prove its own good intentions. They respect the wishes of the member worlds - if the Romulans can demonstrate (or at least seem to demonstrate) that there's widespread popular support for their presence on Vulcan, then they can paint any Federation counterstrike as hypocrisy and self-serving desire to hold onto territory. "See! The Federation claims to be non-imperialistic, yet as soon as we reclaim our ancestral homeland with full cooperation of local interests, they seek to uproot us. So, Tholian and Cardassian ambassadors, I think we can agree that the Federation is showing us its true colours today, yes? Even Ambassador Spock has made an address supporting reunification, but in typical fashion the self-serving and hypocritical Federation interferes to protect its interests. So much for their supposed high moral values".

    Or something. In the long run, maybe Sela and co didn't care if they got a permanent grip on Vulcan or not. Either way they could have twisted things to paint the UFP in a bad light on the interstellar stage, perhaps?

    The 2000 soldiers are there to make a demonstrative political conquest not a military one. I like it. It makes more sense than saying 2000 people are going to crush a planet beneath their invading boots.
    Last edited: May 3, 2011
  5. rfmcdpei

    rfmcdpei Captain Captain

    Aug 19, 2008
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    Some sort of coup may have been planned, or, well, who knows about Vulcan internal politics? If Spock's World is grandfathered into the novelverse, there was even a sizable secessionist movement characterized by xenophobia a century before Sela's scheme.


    Oh, I like this.

    Certainly the political fallout on Vulcan after this would be well-nigh catastrophic. Way to paralyze one of the key worlds of the Federation, eh! And after Ambassador Spock killed himself in grief at the failure of his efforts, well.