Nasa / Space

Why 'Star Trek's Prime Directive is stupid'


Over at Sentient Developements, George P. Dvorsky offers up the following indictment of Star Trek's vaunted Prime Directive:

"The [Prime Directive] is a science fictional projection of the naturalistic fallacy and injunctions against playing God. It's also a disturbing application of social Darwinism. The underlying assumption of the PD is that a civilization must attain space faring capabilities and advanced technologies through their own means (civilizational uplift is not an option, I suppose). It's survival of the fittest as decreed by the Federation, and those who cannot progress to an advanced developmental stage or who destroy themselves first simply didn't deserve to be in the Federation in the first place." 

Mr. Dvorsky goes on to support his argument by citing the example of the Enterprise episode Dear Doctor. I'm going to overlook this fact, both because he's citing a point in Star Trek continuity before the Prime Directive came about and because using any Enterprise episode to judge the whole of Star Trek is like judging the merits of the whole of television based on the works of Aaron Spelling. Also, I agree with him, the Prime Directive is stupid.

The Prime Directive is a plot device cooked up by a patently optimistic TV writer (either Trek producer Gene L. Coon or writer Theodore Sturgeon, depending on who you ask) in the mid-1960s. It's a freshmen-year philosophy student's reaction to the Cold War, when America and the Soviets were playing out their hostilities by proxy third-world conflicts. Effectively, they were interfering in the "development" of underprivileged countries to further their own ends with some awful immediate and long-term results. In Roddenberry's vision, humanity had evolved beyond such puppeteering and become an 'advanced' race.

Besides, if you've got all this advanced knowledge and tech, how do you make episodes where the crew encounters less-developed alien societies interesting, when the Trekkers could simply overmatch them? Simple: You put a plot device in place that forces Starfleet not to use their technical advantages in the presence of beings that have not achieved such levels of advancement--effectively forcing the characters to fight with one arm tied behind their backs and think their way out of problems. That kind of thing is fun to watch (and fun to write), but that doesn't make it the basis for a defensible ethical philosophy.

It is possible to openly interact with a primitive culture (primitive being a fairly condescending and relative term) without doing harm. There's a difference between handing out first aid kits versus handing out blueprints to nuclear weapons. Ask any contemporary third-world country how upset they are at the World Health Organization providing free vaccinations, or at Peace Corps volunteers that teach modern sanitation techniques in those same countries. The day somebody explains to me how not dying of cholera or small pox is a bad thing is the day I consider the Prime Directive a cornerstone of ethical inter-cultural relations.

Care to disagree? 

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Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

170 comments
LarryD4
LarryD4

The whole idea behind fictional TV is to tell a story. You can't deny the hope for the future, the concept stands for. Stop analyzing and just start enjoying for what it is, a TV Show. None of it is real, well not yet...

landen99
landen99

The first assumption in the Prime Directive (PD) is that less developed cultures are not ready to integrate technology that is beyond their ability to discover for themselves. Imagine Russia during her first few years of freedom. Also, when club bearing cavemen see bow and arrow firing archers, they are bound to get some ideas and invent or reverse engineer the technology. North Korean cavemen did that with US nuclear weapons when they clearly can't even handle feeding themselves, let alone handling nuclear weapons. A large increase in power is bound to cause a lot of chaos, confusion, and difficulty understanding the proper way to use the new found power. A large enough increase in power could rip a society completely apart in self-destruction. The nuclear MAD doctrine illustrates how the advent of nuclear weapons nearly threw mankind back into the stone ages with a nuclear fallout twist. Of course, a controlled introduction to the technology with proper preparation of the friendly culture for the technology prior to introducing it resolves this issue. PD stands good with provision for proper preparation of the receiving culture and controlled introduction of the technology. The second assumption (that I make, anyhow) is that technology is really intellectual property, in the same sense as all property. Like physical property, it must be earned to be rightfully owned, and thus also to be appreciated. Giving away technology is no different than giving away money or weapons. Many would point to the US relationship with Israel as a prime example. Also, the use of technology both alters a civilization's development and tempts those who use the technology to use it to their advantage by forcing less technologically-advanced civilizations to do what they want in exchange for some benefit of that technology. Providing a way to earn the technology through pre-considered, objectively-determined payment options without holding bias toward any friendly culture serves as a way out of both of these points. So again the PD still stands with objective payment options (completely neglected in the show, I know). Some may argue that medical technology is somehow exempt be we must remember that whether for good or evil, all technology is the same. There is no good/peaceful technology which cannot easily be used for evil and warfare. On a medical/humanitarian note, the side which loses the fewest soldiers will win. So in conclusion, I agree with the PD for the most part, but see room for carefully considered exceptions following a few points of consideration about the potential risk for both cultures.

sharrison
sharrison

Wow, Star Trek to Somalia! On that note, it seems like a strange form of global sadism where we go to underdeveloped countries and provide just enough relief to sustain the lowest quality of life possible. These people are in a prepetual state of dieing. And to reference something like that in a Star Trek article just goes to show how superficial we really are. I give little 'click' 'click' a dollar a day so that he wont die from small pox, and now he has the joy of possibly getting and spreading some other disease, or joining a militant group that hates westerners and kills his own people

amado.puentes
amado.puentes

I agree. Humans prime directive is mandated from GOD, help those that are less fortunate. Terrific web site, I have added it to my most favorites!!!!!!! Amado Puentes BCC

jardinier
jardinier

Although this particular thread is specifically about the prime directive, many posts refer to other aspects of the series. I will not state the following as just my personal opinion, but as an obvious fact. The primary theme of the series -- and especially NG (as I have seen only isolated episodes of the first series) is how humans respond to previously unencountered situations. Far from being unrealistically idealistic, the series is a warts-and-all study of human nature. It shows strengths, weaknesses and idiosyncrasies of the crew of the starship, focusing on particular members in different episodes. It shows the best and worst of human behavior, as some given member of the crew succumbs to his/her nemesis or vulnerability. It shows the BEST of human nature as all members combine to support the weaker member in his/her time of crisis. I have been known to suggest that "Star Trek is my religion." There is always the ideal to which each and all aspire, but very realistically the impossibility of any human to retain this state for more than a few brief moments. My favorite character is Mr Data as he struggles to comprehend and emulate human behavior. In so doing, and in various episodes, our attention is brought to focus on some character trait, whether strength or weakness, that makes humanity unique.

j-mart
j-mart

As since fiction, stupid mindless and rubbish, would be the first words anyone with average or better intelligence would use to describe anything concerning this poorly written and acted rubbish.

deck.hazen
deck.hazen

When you consider the impact of America's "help" on other nations, wouldn't you mandate a "hands-off" policy as well?

roxanne
roxanne

And it shames me to know that I was an inch away for writing a rebuttal...sad that this is what gets me fired up. I will say, however, that I have in fact kissed a girl and I don't live in my parents' basement.

QC8S8sTK
QC8S8sTK

...why all the aliens in space around us aren't selling us 3-D holographic xeno-porn channels right now. If a story has a premise that includes abundant intelligent lifeforms (a new species every other week for a spacecraft with a range of only a few thousand light years implies a very densely populated universe) located near to Earth and evolving concurrently with mankind, it helps with continuity and suspension of disbelief to explain why such life hasn't been detected by or made contact with us. Star Wars denies both concurrency ("A long time ago") and proximity ("in a galaxy far, far away"), so it doesn't have to explain the lack of alien spacecraft filling our skies--they're all gone now or they're too far away to see. Ditto Battlestar Galactica (no alien races, just humans, robots, occasional balls of lichen, and one or two really implausible aliens, maybe, and set in the distant past). Andromeda is set in the distant future and has relatively few alien races. Babylon 5 had us discovering one of only a few hundred species of aliens (implying a much lower population density for the universe than Star Trek) and opening the porn and arms trades right away. Doctor Who uses a different excuse for every episode (although there's no plausible explanation why so many evil alien races seem to want to invade Earth via Wales and London). The X-Files had aliens running around on the surface of present-day Earth, but blames the government for a massive cover-up. And so on. Star Trek uses the Prime Directive this way: the aliens are out there, but they communicate via as yet undiscovered technology, and they stay hidden behind their space duck-blinds when they get near our star, because...well, it doesn't really matter why they do it, any reason at all would be consistent with real-world facts known to the audience. I can see a writer brainstorming a line in a script somewhere, thinking "Blah blah non-interference blah primitive blah blah species blah, fill in the blanks later." "Primitive" seems to be a really popular word in 1950's and 1960's pulp sci-fi. You can almost date when something was written by how "primitive" the society of Earth is in the story.

wrlang
wrlang

The take on the PD is overly simplistic. Not only does it deal with sentient beings, societies, but also has to do with temporal issues. Let?s forget the temporal for now. They?re confusing ?advanced race? with physical evolution when ST is about social evolution. Teaching a society basic sanitation is nothing like teaching a society that there are more advanced extraterrestrial races capable of great technological power. At least half of today?s world population couldn?t handle a socially and technically advanced race making contact with us right now. The fear and defensive posturing would be overwhelming. The application of the naturalistic fallacy to the PD is absurd. While individual dialog during the series may allude to the PD being good, it is simply a neutral policy that has basis in fact within our own society. Letting nature take its course is neither good nor bad, it?s simply a way of handling things. Civilizations don?t have to prove themselves worthy of the federation. Once they attain warp drive, then they need to be introduced to all the other warp capable societies because they will quickly encounter them in space. Can you imagine a teenager being taught to drive on empty roads and then being let loose on roads with hundreds of others? All intelligent species have cultures and social interactions that help them create a future that is necessary to maintain their existence. Taking the Earth as an example, as humans populate in different societies eventually they consolidate into groups of like minded people. They initially avoid or war with other societies of unlike minded people. Once the societies determine how they can coexist peacefully, they form friendlier relations and eventually form a society like the one on Earth in Star Trek. Everyone is proud of their heritage but also proud to be human and that makes them socially advanced. That social advancement allows technological advancement to aid all societies instead of destroying them. The next step is to take that concept and apply it to multiple civilizations. There is a big difference between societies merging voluntarily and an advanced society forcing everyone to fit a mould they may not be able to. I wouldn?t dream of giving the Crusaders phasers or disrupters even though their mental abilities are no different than ours will be 200 years from now. The Crusaders were socially backwards and would no doubt use the weaponry to their complete advantage laying waste to many peoples and cultures that have since provided a natural social evolution of our species helping us all to grow. I feel that the US was heading in the direction of a ST type society until our religious sects got involved in politics. The US has many different types of people that for the most part coexist peacefully and engage in technological advancements that aid us all. We are not socially advanced enough at present to tolerate other alien species and it would be disastrous for us to find any. Take Iraq as an example. The US gives them democracy expecting them to be more like the US and they choose to bring to power sects that are not able to coexist as a social unit with other sects. That?s why I always laugh at the socially backwards people who denigrate tolerance and promote intolerance. Same with the Taliban and the same with the religious conservatives in America. All are socially immature, caught up in the idea that their ways are the only ways. The PD is not a philosophy, it is a way of allowing cultures and societies to mature to the point where they can actually coexist with others.

josir
josir

Prime Directive was indeed a key part on all Star Trek mythology and it's a great philosofic idea. I believe that originally, it was created intentionally to discuss the Cold War. On some episodes, PD was not followed by Capt. Kirk because the Klingons and others species was trying to dominate a planet (like Russia was trying to do in the 50?s and 60?s). It was a clear analogy - the Federation was NATO and the Klingons was Varsovia Pact - even with Mr.Checkov on the bridge :) After the fall of Berlim wall, the TNG series became more friendly and treats more ethics questions and Prime Directive was treated more inteligently on several episodes. I agree that UN and western nations have the right to protect democracy and ocidental values but when a sole country (USA) tries to be the world sheriff and take unilateral decisions, it creates dictators, terrorists and other aberrations like Osama Bin Laden (Bush partner), Saddam Hussein, Noriega, Medici, Pinochet and some many others... A ammendment near Prime Directive should be created to protect american people from crazy and beligerant presidents...

gwcarter
gwcarter

This thread has spawned a large number of thoughtful, incisive posts. One can only hope that Echelon is listening.

Shaun.G
Shaun.G

Never looked at it or read it... but each country effectively has a PD. Its called Fundamental Human Rights. Its not quite PD, but that is the idea behind it.

deck.hazen
deck.hazen

The Prime Directive makes complete sense -- Stay the hell out of other countries affairs. It's a directive America would do well to adopt.

laird
laird

To start discusing the topic rationally, the Prime Directive must first be stated per batum. What are the chances that every single person has a photographic memory? I myself can't remember the Prime Directive word for word. Before we can rationally disagree, we must first agree on what we disagree about. Just a rational thought.

HomusOnline
HomusOnline

From the Temple of Holy Horsepower, Detroit, MI. It is hard to believe that we should look for real world examples of politics and motivations that only exist in fiction. Interesting to contrast occasionally, but an entire argument based off of it may be stretching. Although, attempting to undermine science fiction politics in a future that does not exist (and probably won't) sounds like fun to me. Firstly, the modern day society will not allow for the future Star Trek rationalizes. I can not possibly believe that unless something truly apocalyptic happens, this will even come close to how we will be. Tell me how 400 or so years into the future we are supposed to advance as a society, when society and structure of that society has not really changed in 2000-2500 years or so? The Roman Empire had all the gluttony, lust, child molestation, slavery, progress in building and tools, and arrogance that our modern America has. Even the political aspect holds a very close similarity, although hopefully the VP and Congress will NOT stab the Pres on the capital steps. Et tu Cheney? In Star Trek we have cured or have cures for most every disease. In what way do we expect a modern pharmaceutical company to ever allow a "cure" to interfere with the billions in profits they make each year. Drug companies will not make cures, it is a conflict of interest. You are are only as important as the amount of benefits you have left for the year. With billions to be made from "treatments", "cures" are not cost effective. Why don't we ask the Aztecs what they think about the prime directive? Wait, we can't. Cortes came in, abused the belief that the Aztecs prophesized his coming and that he was a God, then wiped them out with war and disease. Sound like a reason for that prime directive? Or how about those third world countries we sent aid to. He specifically mentioned those instances. He is right, we sent all that aid to those third world countries, and it really helped. Then after the cameras left, we just started shipping it over there. The warlords, dictators and guerillas cut off that aid to the people. Therefore, our interference, which seemed so good at first, degraded into furthering the problem. The path to hell is paved with good intentions, right? I guess the next thing we need to talk about is the Taoist and Wiccan influence on the Force from Star Wars. Or maybe this fictional ideology is placed because the writer had faith in humanity to evolve. Perhaps idealism like this is meant to tell us of our potential, not just be a metaphor for modern society. So maybe the glory part is with all this going on in reality, we can wax intellectual about some fictional belief of one of the greatest TV shows made (I am not a fan, but have to give cred where cred is due). The fictional prime directive seems no more stupid or idealistic than the Golden Rule, Rights of Chivalry, or Gojo (5 virtues of the samurai) of past socieities. In the article he even asks, Injunctions against playing God begs the question: if we don't play God, who will? How about if we leave that to whatever God you want to believe in, and start worrying more about what we do and do not do on Earth, in our own time. But actually measuring anything in society at large based off of someone's fictional thoughts of the future (tastefully translated into a television show, in technicolor no less) seems irrational. Hey, I say the next fiction we try to interpret should be "Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley. Might be a little more relevant to the modern world and, scary style, more feasible of an outcome. So, yes, I do believe in humane action. I also believe that interfering with societies, or people in general, that want to handle things on their own is wrong. I would love if we could save everyone and move on to a higher purpose like exploring space. But I learned a long time ago that you can not help those who do not want your help, and they will most likely turn on you if you attempt to influence that. Or worse, the help may cause the problem to worsen or evolve. Not to mention that nothing influences or brings people together quite as well as a common enemy. I think the argument about things like the prime directive (how much interference is help, and how to save people from themselves) will never truly end. So, we will raise our glasses and hope that our great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandchildren can learn from both our mistakes and accomplishments. Hopefully those same mistakes and accomplishments will not impair or destroy the possiblities of what they can achieve. Well, haven't had this much fun with one of these conversations in a while. Thanx, and I pass the soap box to the next in line.

spam.spam1
spam.spam1

I kinda agree about the PD sci-fi part of the article, but comparing it to the "real world" didn't agree with me. What I don't agree with is the last paragraph that talks about medical aid to impoverished countries. After working two 2-year Peace Corps in West and SouthWest Africa my view is that the medical and infrastructure support did help in the short term, but the true problem remained...over-popuplation (meaning more people than the ecosystem/society could healthly support). All the "good work" my group did really just put a band-aid on things, and more often than not allowed even more child-births to occur. These births in return caused a feed-back effect. The PD doesn't want technology given to primative societies because of the harmful possiblilites that may occur....and of course that means the Federation would get sued (har har). I see providing water/food/shelter/medical assistance to many of these regions the exact same.... in the end, more harm than good is done. BUT.... if the society was hit by a disaster, genocide, war...that's different. Provide help and help the society get back on its feet..... This just a quick posting from my perspective, from someone who watched the Trek's growing up and has been to "primative" places. Now.... I wonder how much critisim this will bring about? :)

tpopoff
tpopoff

The Prime Directive? Give me a break, are you guys that bored? I'm sure there are lots of Star Trek and Star Wars and Lord of the Rings sites that you guys can post this garbage on. Leave it off IT sites. I roll a 16D20 and cast a spell of *Get a Life* on all of you. I'm also wearing a +5 Cloak of Anti-Flame. So don't even bother. Get back to work.

landen99
landen99

Much of the enjoyment lies in "analyzing" it. Many philosophers use fiction to showcase their ideas, and when they resonate with us, we like them and think about them. If it is hope for the future, then we must understand the path upon which we hope to someday walk (unless our hope is vain and does not carry with it a desire to actually achieve the goal). To understand the path is to analyze the goal and reference it with our current situation, and that is enjoyable for us. For you, just sit back and enjoy the special effects and tinkling platitudes; and ignore the analyzing before it starts to bother you.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

and it being a two edged sword - in your comment "Some may argue that medical technology is somehow exempt be we must remember that whether for good or evil, all technology is the same. There is no good/peaceful technology which cannot easily be used for evil and warfare. On a medical/humanitarian note, the side which loses the fewest soldiers will win." Some medical technology advancements of the past that were seen as great achievements in their day as they allowed doctors to save many lives - heroin and morphine - and think on how they are generally regarded today, for they way they get misused.

lucien86
lucien86

Looking at his profile j-mart must be pretty smart, maybe he just had his brain turned off - maybe he just hates Star Trek. Hell some people just hate science fiction, its just that most of them work in makeup or fashion, not tech.

ArnoldZiffle
ArnoldZiffle

Since it was brought up by another reply to @j-mart let me say that as someone with an IQ of 173 I have enjoyed some of all the various Star Treks. Having said that I believe my fav was from Next Gen. That would be "The Measure of a Man." I would suggest @j-mart search out that one and tell us about how stupid, mindless and trashy that episode is.

lucien86
lucien86

Interesting that someone would write such a thing on a geek site focused on people who work in IT and computing. Since this thread is about the prime directive I assume you are talking about The Next Generation - one of the most highly regarded and influential programs of its era. With an IQ of 135 I am in the top 0.01% of the population and I love Star Trek including TNG. Three things I observe about people of exceptional intelligence, - they tend towards liberalism (with a pinch of fascism), they tend to be anti religious, they tend to like more imaginative genres like science fiction if they watch TV at all. I suspect you get your intellectual satisfaction from things like sport or soap operas or game shows and think that these science or science fiction or 'culture' programs are only for 'stupid' people. Yes? I'd love to know what you think is great TV.

landen99
landen99

"hands-off" policy at least until we can get some ground rules for how to act smart and ethically in world affairs. See my little thing about adapting the PD to keep from blundering in international affairs all the time.

monicabower
monicabower

If your name really is Roxanne with a gender to match then different rules apply, but either way having kissed a girl means you're clearly on the wrong website entirely.

gwcarter
gwcarter

An important detail often overlooked is that American federal officials, including the President, are sworn to "...protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, domestic or foreign...". With this imperative, no other country can possibly have a status that renders them proof against manipulation. We must protect ourselves if we are to survive. America has not agreed to subjugate itself to the U.N. Charter, The Articles of Confederation, or any other manifesto issued by anyone else. We will defend ourselves against anyone, including potential enemies. If you don't like it, make your country the most powerful in the world and force us to stand down. Otherwise, lay back and enjoy it. Before protesting, one must first identify against what one is protesting.

stusiglain
stusiglain

about the validness of the Prime Directive. You also extrapolated (which I had hoped for) the present day involvement of the USA in the affairs of other countries. A great example is us trying to make a Democracy work in Iraq, one of many Middle-eastern countries who have never had such a form of government for 2000+ years. If the PD were alive today, we never would have attempted such a 'fool's mission' that is destined to failure. flashspeed

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

medical and health aid does cause issues down stream, but the way to deal with the long term issues is to provide the aid with a significant cultural redirection. The societies you refer to have had thousands of years of very high infant mortality rates due to health issues, so they've developed a culture of having many children to ensure the survival of the tribe and race. Improved health and reduction of the infant mortality rate means a yeast growth in population and leads to famine and over farming. When you reduce the infant mortality rate, you need to reduce the breeding rate to maintain, or only slightly increase, the overall population growth rate - or you can start killing off the older people earlier. When better health care hit the European societies and they started to have significant population growths, they dealt with it in two ways - increased warfare, and, later, shipping people out to other places. The only two ways that work on over population - kill them off or ship them off. It took the Western Europe societies many hundreds of years to develop cultural and societal changes that decreased the breeding rate, and not all are there yet, to reduce the population pressure. Any interaction or interference in another culture is sure to have a significant effect - a real life example is the Pacific Islander Cargo Cult that grew out of the mild contact with Allied forces during WW2.

lucien86
lucien86

I think I agree with everything you said... The poorer third world nations have been hurt hugely by interactions with cultures and tech they are not ready for. However the interaction has done almost as much damage to the old advanced nations. With things like civil rights how could we ever compete with people who would work FOR less than a dollar a week? In simple answer we didn't, at the moment we're the past and places like India and China are the future. Can you see them bringing the world a Star trek future? maybe the ferengi? ( ;) )

HomusOnline
HomusOnline

I think this is the exact reason it is labeled "off-topic." And no, I don't want to go back to work.

landen99
landen99

Exactly. Like Guns, technology is not intrinsically either good or bad. It is the person who pulls the trigger" that makes it good or bad, peaceful or combative, healing or destructive. The atomic bomb is as much helpful in power generation as it is harmful in global thermonuclear destruction. It is as ethical to send "peacekeepers" with food and medical supplies to a third world country as it is to send conventional weapons and ammo. Medical technology is no more good than military technology is bad. The only difference is how we tend to use each, but that confuses the actor with the technology. Soldiers tend to prefer destroying people things, while doctors tend to prefer healing people and workers tend to prefer building things. But none of these actions are either good or bad until we look at what they are destroying, healing or building. Are the soldiers destroying an inbound ICBM? Are the doctors healing a den of terrorists? Are the workers building bio-chemical warfare agent producing plant? Withholding technology is withholding power, and one must ask, If PD states to withhold technology, then why is the culture not ready for the technology? And how can they be prepared to be made ready to acquire the technology? Can slow introduction to technology prepare them and if so, how is their readiness gauged to receive more technology?

informatica
informatica

Decades of messing around with other countries have created todays terrorism. I will ask you why Switzerland was not attacked and has never been a victim of terrorism? They represent the capitalism in its worst way and they defend the pope but no threat has ever made against them. Wake up and smell the coffe, if you engage in buisiness where only one part is getting benefits that arraigment wont last and WILL create resentment on the other part and some day some one will decide that they dont need a super army, just commitment in order to make a dent in history. I believe that if a country is stupid enough to create a dictator or go comunist they have the right to be wrong, and if they want to pay it with their blood, they should be free to do it. Democracy cannot be prescribed, also new technologies. If we dont realize that Im afraid terrorism is here to stay.

FrankXchange
FrankXchange

You can grant yourself any 'right' you like. The USSR granted itself the right to protect itself by invading all of the countries surrounding it. The US has pushed the definition of 'protect and defend' to the point where it means anything Bush wants it to mean. The line between defend/protect and attack/invade has been erased. Thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis are dead, and there is no credible reason for it that has anything to do with defending America. The current fighting with the insurgents in Iraq is a classic example of an unforeseen complication of interference with another culture. It isn?t just their country you?re messing up. Now you've taught a bunch of religious fanatics that they can fight the biggest, most modern military in the world to a virtual stand-off using consumer-level technologies. Can you say Viet Nam? (In truth, I think the US military did learn from Viet Nam, but the politicians didn't. It's REALLY bad news when a President wants war more than his generals). I know you can't conceive of it, but America WON'T be the most powerful nation on Earth for much longer if it continues to burn through its cash, allies, and soldiers on such pointless conflicts. (See: Fall of the British Empire) No one will 'force you to stand down' - they won't have to. Empires usually die from within. Bush and the neocons have done more damage than an army of religious nutjobs ever could. Does America feel the same these days? It?s looking a lot more dystopic from the outside. America is great when it is forward-looking, like putting a man on the moon. It led by example, not intimidation. I think America bought into the Iraq war only partly because of 9/11. It has been ailing from a lack of vision ? uncertain of its role in a post-cold war world, and lacking a cohesive vision or goal. A war at least felt like something was being accomplished, until it became apparent that it was a side show designed to whip up emotions and hide the fact that nothing was getting done at home - nothing that mattered. Moving forward, I think there are two basic choices: either take the long view like the Europeans: Realise you and your descendants want to be around for a while and take action on the environment, develop the next generation of clean technologies, create a sustainable social/health net and reverse the erosion of the middle class. And/Or, find a new vision, like colonising the moon and/or Mars. Something constructive.

landen99
landen99

Parents must decide when their children are ready to learn more, and to receive more power, and more responsibilities. My basic methodology is to ask if they are interested in more power and ready to accept the responsibilities that come with it. Everything I ask my kids to do is with the mind that those tasks are specifically designed to help them prepare for and desire more power and responsibility. Now if only those principles could be solidified in writing, then the PD would be complete.

landen99
landen99

Non-interference also prevents the UN from imposing her ideological agendas like global warming, nuclear arms control, and world bank agendas upon the other nations. Giving money is equivalent to giving technology because the latter is simply purchased by the former, even if it is for a "good cause." Many human sorrows were justified by good causes; see the Crusades, Cambodia, Sadam Hussein, 9/11, and the Patriot Act for a few examples.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

and were very strong believers in the idea of 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend' without even thinking about if they should be friends with these people. They trained and armed the people involved in the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and many other organisations that practice terrorism today, and in the recent past. Add in that past US administrations have also negotiated with terrorist, when it suited their international policy of the day; is it any wonder that those organisations turn around and attack the US when that support is withdrawn. Also add in the fact that many major US arms dealers don't give a stuff about who gets their weapons, as long as they get paid, and their control systems are horrid, is it any wonder that the main weapons available on the black market for many decades have been from US arms companies. Hell, the Brits used to intercept shiploads of arms for the IRA that were all lawfully bought in the US and then shipped out. The biggest problem the US has with terrorist is they have a well established track record for the US Congress and Senate NOT being prepared to deal with them properly. Events over the last forty plus years have shown if you can drag out a military conflict with the US, the Congress and Senate and people will get disillusioned and force the removal of US involvement. Also, the US Congress and Senate have shown and idiotic desire to control the battlefront from the floor of the Congress and the Senate by issue stupid orders or placing idiotic restrictions on the field commanders. The only things these behaviours have done is push up the body count of US troops and civilians by not allowing the trained soldiers to do their jobs properly. The only thing I see that was really done wrong on that day back in September, was they hit the Pentagon and the World Trade Centre, instead of the Senate and Congress. If they'd hit the politicians, maybe some good would have come from it.

lucien86
lucien86

No America just trained them and armed them then gave them a reason to attack. Ever asked why 9/11? the terrorists actually say why- it was because of Israeli bombing of Lebanese cities and Palestinian refugee camps in the 1980's. In a word revenge. America supported and protected Israel from UN sanctions, and of course paid for the bombs. - Just compare how Saddam was treated after he invaded Kuwait to the multiple attacks by Israel on Lebanon. It doesn't help that both America and Israel achieve a constant kill ratio of around a 1000 to 1 - but then an American life is worth at least a thousand Arab lives yes? And you think we are not even slightly guilty here?

RipVan
RipVan

America did not create terrorists. Think what you like, I see self flagellation as one of the biggest modern human problems.

josir
josir

If the US constitution had a Prime Directive, some terrible american administrations would not have created Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Noriega and many other dictators and terrorist. Read Noam Chomsky articles to get some insights.

gwcarter
gwcarter

If 9/11 had not happened there would have been no point around which to rally public support. Americans have institutionalized revolution such that every four years we give ourselves the chance to throw the b*ds out. Had we been left alone, the national actions committed since that time could not have occurred. Still, the issue is not Iraq itself but rather the larger community of will that wishes to impose itself upon us.

gwcarter
gwcarter

These are critical questions from someone who experiences the violation of the Prime Directive daily. If only outsiders would leave America alone the politicians would have no pretext to interfere in the rest of the world. The Prime Directive never was just a Trekkie issue.

gwcarter
gwcarter

I could not agree more. Frank and Iceman52 make points I believe are beyond refutation. Tell your Senator, Ice!. Congressmen (as is well known) care about little except re-election.

gwcarter
gwcarter

Frank, I am very pleased to have elicited this sort of thoughtful, well-considered reply. Though I disagree with your general thesis as I understand it, I find little to criticize about your post. There are certain points to which I wish to reply: You seem to vire "rights" as natural entitlements, guaranteed by Nature, God, or the Universe at large. Rights are privileges we grant ourselves and maintain through force of arms. America's documentation of such is called "The Constitution". Canada has something similar. I do admit that Canada does a better, less-public, and less spectacular job of maintaining them. Next, do not blame W. He is a former governor of The Republic of Texas, with all that implies. Blame instead the silent majority of Americans who only wish to be left alone to run up their credit-card balances and misunderstand the issues of the day presented on television. I thoroughly agre about Iraqui insugents. Yes, I can say Viet Nam, but that was different. The President was Lyndon Johnson. He was a Democrat, which is to say, Liberal. Not much else differs. I have said it many times in other contexts: Amerika Uber Alles! You are certainly correct about politicians, and the fact is that soon, America will be the fourth-largest economy, behind China, India, and the European Commons. Bush and the neocons (What magazines are you reading?) ARE nutjobs. Still, we defend The Constitution, not politicians. Nothing need be done at home except to keep the politicians occupied. Why do you thing we re-elected W? Lastly, Europeans take the long view of nothing except the past. Issues like "The Environment" are just red herrings to distract the media. It's all about obtaining and maintaining power. The American at home cares little about it, as long as our comfortable lives are not disrupted. That is the real perception of the terrorist threat. Indeed, the entire concept of "nation" is irrelevant to all except a very few of us. We just want to indulge our pursuit of gratification, with no interference from the outside world. Rather like hobbits in Hobbiton, before Frodo et. al. returned. I am forced by conscience to concude that your reply states a case for reality, but middle-american farmers just don't want to be disturbed.

informatica
informatica

it should say: "fallen us soldier mother"

informatica
informatica

i just post something similar but you said it well. I just remembered a superavit that Clinton left been turned into a huge deficit by Bush, but the question I heard a fallen US soldier said is crucial: Was it worth it? do we need iraqi to vote? do we need them to be like us? do we need them to change? and is in this current examples that the Prime Directive doesnt seem like a trekie issue anymore.

iceman52
iceman52

This is one of the most cogent comments I've heard that focuses on the effects of violating the 'prime directive.' Can you say Iraq? This fourth surge will fail. Not because I just blew the wind out of our military's sails, but because the culture of Iraq society has many more opportunists than it has patriots. Patriots in Iraq have been endangered for more than 30 years. Our violation of the prime directive can't help but beget a redux of the '1974 Viet Nam Embassy - or worse - and the ascendancy of a new generation of cynical Iraqi despots. This society is no more ready to manage democracy than American society is equipped to manage a monarchy. ...its interesting that this Canadian author sees us more clearly than most Americans.