Friday, June 14, 2013

Ethical Analysis of “The Maquis” in Star Trek The Next Generation

The background is that after the peace treaty between Cardassia and the Federation. They end up exchanging a few planets and a few Federation colonies became part of Cardassia and vice versa.

As establish in “Journey's End”, the colonist refused to evacuate and therefore they decided to leave the Federation and agree to live under Cardassian rule.

In terms of the treaty with Cardassia, I actually believe that although it is unfortunate and understandable that the colonist would be outrage by them having to give up their lands. I think the decision is defendable. Even in modern democracies today, if the government wants to create a nation building project such as an airport etc. They can compulsory acquire property out of private owners, although they have to compensated by market value that is determined by an independent evaluator. Unfortunately since the Federation abandoned market economics, the colonist don't get compensated at all in terms of monetary compensation. I believe it's within the Federation right to compulsory acquire the planets and kick out the tenants then decide to give it up to the Cardassians to ensure that there is peace.

The complaints by the colonist seems a little bit of NIMBY (not in my backyard), they agree that peace is important as long as they are the ones that don't lose out due to it.

Personally if I was in Picard situation, I would have no moral qualms in forcibly evicting the colonist and the whole marquis issue would have died out there.

In any case, Picard decided to compromised and allow them to leave the Federation and live under Cardassian rules and the Cardassian agrees to not persecute them and to accept them as permanent resident.

Now that may be good compromise in theory if the Cardassians lived up to their bargain. Since the Cardassians are a racist totalitarian state that are known to commit genocide. I believe that the colonist were downright naive to think this could work.

Unfortunately the Cardassian didn't live up to the bargain and they treat them like second class citizens and try to pressure them to leave the colonies which caused the ex-Federation members to take up arms and start up conflict again and formed the marquis. Soon sympathetic Starfleet officers decide to leave the Federation and join the Marquis and the conflict escalate.

So what are the options for the Federation?

1) The Prime Directive
Those colonist are no longer Federation citizen. In fact they are permanent residence of Cardassia who decided to take up arms against the government. So either this is a civil war or an independent state combating the Cardassian and hence is a purely an internal affair.

So just stay out of the conflict and let them fight each out. The Colonist knew when they accepted the agreement that the Federation are not going to help them out and will not protect them. There is no legal obligation for the Federation to intervene.

Now a few things could result from this
a) The Cardassians could wipe out the marquis and Federation would be guilty of standing by as innocent people get wiped out (like what eventually happen with the dominion)
b) War could result as Cardassian will not make the same distinction between Federation and the Maquis
c) The maquis manage to successfully fight a war of attrition and manage to negotiate a peace with the Cardassians after the Cardassian realised it would be less expensive that way (similarly with the withdrawal from bajor).

Whatever the result, the federation will be bystanders in this conflict until the Cardassian or the Maquis decides to involve them.

2) War

One of things I hate about TNG was how there was a shift in message from TOS.

In TOS, freedom was the main message of the show. That even a benevolent dictator who supplies all the needs to the population is not enough and that Kirk and the crew were willing to fight for freedom for other sentient life form.

In TNG, the message changed from freedom to peace. That peace was the ultimate goal and if that means murderous regime continue oppressing people (Cardassian/Bajor/Maquis) or continue to spy on your citizens (Romulans with their cloaking device) then so be it.

As Ivanova from B5 said "Because sometimes peace is another word for surrender".  In this case surrender of values that you hold dear.

Now I understand the need to be pragmatic, that you can't save everyone and that you can't change political regime with every nation you meet and that sometimes it too costly to involve yourself in a war especially if that side is stronger or evenly match to you. Sometimes you just got to let the villains get away with the crime.

However, what sort of annoyed me was that the issue wasn't even discussed. That war wasn't even an option.

Here we are Cardassian who are killing and murdering the ex-Federation colonist and there wasn't the option that this peace treaty isn't working and that we should go in and fight the Cardassians who are not living up to their end of the bargain in allowing them settling on the planet.

I would think that it would be a just war even if it wasn't that practical at that time.

3) Proxy war

Essentially the Federation secretly armed the colonist similar to Kirk's action in "A Private Little War". This could easily escalated to full-scale war if they get caught but if they are clever and disguised the weaponry given to them as from a non-Federation source they could "helped" out the colonist without actually actively fighting the Cardassian. This probably be an ideal situation as the Cardassians themselves are secretly arming the colonist as well (geez, the Federation are letting the Cardassians just walk over them) so even if they are caught, the Cardassians can hardly get the moral high ground.

However the Federation didn't take any of the above options. Instead they decide to help the Cardassians apprehend the Marquis.

This is an independent state fighting a just war against the Cardassian and the Federation are aiding the Cardassian. This is shear political bastardry and an absolute betrayal of the "spirit of Star Trek" and it shows that the Federation completely sold out. The "Preemptive Strike" episode is the best example of TNG replacing "freedom" which was what TOS was advocating with "peace at all cost" when we see the Federation actively trying to suppress the Marquis movement.

Now I understand why the Federation did this. The Cardassian would not discriminate the difference between the ex-Federation colonist and the Federation and if the colonists make too much trouble and the Federation doesn't help the Cardassian out they may decide to go to war with the Federation.

Hence this is an act of pragmatic/selfish political self-preservation to avoid getting in the war. Instead of doing the right thing, they are doing the pragmatic thing and therefore the colonist loses out and they will let the Cardassians mistreat the colonist.

This is essentially a policy of appeasement of letting aggressive dictators commit atrocities to avoid conflict. It all reminiscent of "I believe it is peace for our time" from Neville Chamberlain. However we saw that the Federation eventually went into war with Cardassia on DS9 so the only thing this peace done was delayed the inevitable.

To put this in perspective of science fiction, if we look at Babylon 5 when Earth started a non-aggressive pact with the aggressive Centauri who just subjugated the Narns. Sheridan commented that he felt dirty wearing the uniform and felt that the uniform was just a piece of cloth rather than something special as he believed that Earth just sold out the Narn for self-preservation.

However this was even worst then that as not only are they innocent bystanders, the Federation are actively helping disarming the Maquis population. Out of all the ruthless pragmatic decision in Star Trek history, this one takes the cake. I feel this is even more ruthless then Sisko involvement in "In The Pale Moonlight as Sisko was doing all those criminal things to preserve freedom and win a war against an oppressive regime who committed mass genocide. Whilst in "Preemptive Strike" and then "The Maquis" they were actively oppressing people and supporting genocidal regime to preserve peace. One ruthless decision was based out of "idealism" the other one was based on selfish preservation.

Now there may be people out there who would still agree with the decision and may feel I'm being too idealistic about the issue and that is completely fine. However I do wish that the story actually acknowledge that this was a purely selfish decision.

I guess people will then have to admit that the whole "idealistic Trek" where humans behaved 'evolved' is all a myth. For people who complained about DS9 betraying the idealism of Trek, well I think that TNG betrayed it far more often and the episode "Preemptive Strike" was an example of that.

I believe that the Federation should have just evacuated the colonies but once they allowed the colonist to stay there under Cardassian jurisdiction. They should have stayed neutral in the conflict or if they had the resources, actively help the marquis.


A Curious note
Picard explicitly told them the colonist they are no longer Federation citizen after “Journey's End” and that they will receive no protection from the Federation and yet In “Pre-Emptive Strike”, he suddenly refer to them as Federation citizen and somehow bound to Federation treaty.

So hence these people are "Federation citizen" and bound to Federation laws and treaty despite the fact that the Federation refuse to protect them like they do to other citizens.

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