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September 14, 2005

Nerd Draws Parallels Between Iraq and Star Trek

Daniel Riehs

      The guiding principle of the United Federation of Planets and the most important general order in the Star Trek universe is the Prime Directive. The directive bans interference with the natural development of any primitive civilization and means that the crew of the Enterprise cannot offer any assistance to a primitive people in need, regardless of how dire a situation might be. The theory behind such a policy relies on the belief that any interference will almost always leave each party worse off than they were before the intervention was taken.

      In other words, a seemingly barbaric civilization will not be helped in the long run if a more developed civilization steps in and tries to instill modern values and ways of life. The best way for people to mature and develop is to be left alone and work through their problems on their own.

      This policy, of course, becomes very interesting when examined in light of the current conflict in Iraq. There has been much suggestion lately that the world would have been better off if the United States had not tried to democratize Iraq. This is really a fascinating idea, because non-interference is usually not thought of as being good for all parties. Non-interference is frequently presented as a policy that protects only the group of people who do not wish to intervene. Such people might admit that democratizing a country is the best moral choice, but chose not to interfere because intervention would be too difficult or too dangerous.

      Star Trek's Prime Directive, however, states that non-intervention is the best moral choice. The Prime Directive suggests that the people of Iraq would have been better off if they had just been left to deal with their problems themselves, which would presumably eventually lead to overthrown dictators and the natural development of democracy.

      This theory is not perfect, though. While there might be agreement that cultures are best left to develop on their own, common sense dictates that some atrocities—such as genocide—really demand that an outside force steps in and fixes the situation.

      Maybe then the suggestion should not so much be that America copies the military policy of a fictional federation of planets, but rather that it puts into place a clearly written policy for dealing with the development of other countries, a policy that calls for America to do the best moral good but not necessarily actively interfere in the development of other nations.

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