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One of the many geniuses in Gene Rodenberry's Star Trek is the Prime Directive:  not to interfere with the development of other races or cultures.  This directive is often broken or bent in all the story lines, but that's because the Prime Directive is hard.  

Not to interfere in a civil war.  Not to interfere in apartheid.  Not to interfere in genocide.  Not to interfere in holocaust.  Not to interfere in ethnic cleansing.  Not to interfere in slavery....  it is desperately hard for people of good will to sit by and do nothing when these inhumane events occur.  And in fact, we have not yet learned to do so.

Mr. Obama has called for action - limited, targeted action - in Syria.  It was clear to me hearing him speak that he believes it to be the right thing to do both as leader of a country and as a man with children.  If he gets an authorization through congress, or the UN inspectors prove chemical weapons were used an authorizes action against Assad, then our historical response to atrocities will continue to be military action and intervention.  Whether it is a successful action or not will depend on your definition of success.  

If nothing happens though, if the people of the world sit back and allow this terrible situation to continue with nothing except humanitarian aid for the refugee and displaced we will have taken a first step toward Rodenberry's Prime Directive and the painful choice of watching misery and allowing people to make their own mistakes, solve their own problems, and end their own wars.

I do not know if this would be better or worse.  I do know that it would be different.

Originally posted to seetreeme on Thu Sep 05, 2013 at 01:39 PM PDT.

Also republished by Star Trek fans.

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Comment Preferences

  •  This scenario: (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Brown Thrasher, roycej, Chi
    If nothing happens though, if the people of the world sit back and allow this terrible situation to continue with nothing except humanitarian aid for the refugee and displaced we will have taken a first step toward Rodenberry's Prime Directive and the painful choice of watching misery and allowing people to make their own mistakes, solve their own problems, and end their own wars.
    is being promoted by whom exactly?  

    Because I just don't see it.

    Most everyone opposed to a US military attack supports action at many levels, including diplomacy, economic pressure, etc., in addition to humanitarian aid.  

    "Trust me... I've been right before." ~ Tea party patriot

    by Calvino Partigiani on Thu Sep 05, 2013 at 01:51:26 PM PDT

  •  More musings.... (3+ / 0-)

    Thank you for this diary.  I have been thinking about this also.

    As I see it, if it was very clear that Obama's plan would have humanitarian benefits, with a minimum danger of complications, then I think breaking the Prime Directive could be justified.  Also, we are all humans, we would not be interfering with another race.

    Yet, I do not see this situation as being as simple and clear cut as you frame it.  MB has posted several dairies here that have raised very credible questions, for me, about the source of the gas attacks.

    In Star Trek the choices that were made mostly seemed to work out.  I cannot remember a show where they had to go back and clean up the blow back from a mistake.  Yet, the risks in this move are very real.

    Picard and Riker would often put all the facts aside and trust their gut instincts and things would work out.  My own gut instinct on this one is a big NO.  Real life can be more complicated than fiction.  

  •  The prime directive wasn't genius (0+ / 0-)

    it was a contrived rationalization for Fermi's paradox. Not genius at all. Probably not even original.

    Reasonable suspicion? How can being wrong 98.6% of the time ever be reasonable?

    by happymisanthropy on Thu Sep 05, 2013 at 02:52:52 PM PDT

  •  The Prime Directive was a worthy idea in the era (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Inflatable Yak, Aspe4, Chi

    of "The Iron Curtain",  the Cuban Missile Crisis, proxy wars in Africa and the escalating conflict in Vietnam. It still is today. But as I recall, the episodes that featured the PD were always about the moral dilemmas that it created.

    "The Klingons/Romulans have already interfered on this planet... what do we do?"

    "The rights of individuals are being violated by the laws/customs of this planet... what do we do?"

    "This population of this planet is doomed if we do not intervene... what do we do?"{

    I think that Roddenberry and the writers believed that the PD was fundamentally virtuous. But they also created a lot of conflict and drama by planting it rigidly at the center of official policy.

    It was up to the cast to show us when exceptions should be made, and when it was necessary to endure one tragedy to prevent another.

    What bothers me about the debate over Syria is that so few are willing to really explore the moral dilemma of the situation there.

    “It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing
    he was never reasoned into” - Jonathan Swift

    by jjohnjj on Thu Sep 05, 2013 at 03:09:48 PM PDT

  •  Doctors Without Borders is inside Syria (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Aspe4, Chi

    operating five field hospitals and a number of clinics, and supplying atropine (antidote) to other medical personnel, even though they are also under fire.

    A donation to them is never wasted.  They go right in and treat people where it is needed, and they have logistics and supply down to a science.

    Missile strikes could hit them, too.

  •  The Prime Directive Was to Control Superior (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BruceCA, Aspe4, Chi

    societies that had the power to improve primitive practices and situations in a local civilization.

    It doesn't really apply here. Looking at Iraq and Afghanistan, we haven't shown we are superior at anything other than firepower, but even when using it, we haven't demonstrated an ability to make things better.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Thu Sep 05, 2013 at 03:55:48 PM PDT

    •  I Recall and Episode of Star Trek: TNG (0+ / 0-)

      It was when the show first introduced Ensign Ro and the Bajorans, whom the Cardassians conquered and forced many Bajorans to flee to refugee camps on another planet. The camp leader chided Capt. Picard for the Federation allowing such to happen because of the Prime Directive. Not  using this example to say I support attacking Syria but it was an interesting comment on the Prime Directive.

      "The problem with posting quotes off the Internet is you never know if they're genuine."--Gen. George Washington at the Battle of Gettysburg, February 30, 1908

      by Aspe4 on Thu Sep 05, 2013 at 06:30:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The Prime Directive (0+ / 0-)

    was meant for non-space faring cultures who were not part of the Federation. It was to prevent colonial imperialism.

    I'm not sure it applies to our situation.  However, the spirit of the Prime Directive might point to something that would be usable for us:  What if everyone involved in foreign policy/international affairs--presidents, prime ministers, senators, ambassadors, etc.--had to adhere to the first principle of medical ethics, "First, Do No Harm." One may or may not be able to help, but, make sure one DOES NOT MAKE THE  SITUATION WORSE!

    Such a principle wouldn't rule out every instance of intervention, even military intervention, but it would put the burden of proof on the one wanting to intervene. It would  make for a CAUTIOUS  foreign policy.

    I think Roddenberry would approve--and that it would be a workable principle for our context that would serve us well. It would be truly transformative.

    "I was not born for myself alone, but for my neighbor as well as myself."--Richard Overton, leader of the Levellers, a17th C. movement for democracy and equality during the English Civil War. for healthcare coverage in Kentucky

    by SouthernLeveller on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 02:49:01 AM PST

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