Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Politics of Trek: “A Private Little War”

Would it surprise you to know Star Trek did a pro- Vietnam War episode? Prepare to be amazed as we continue our journey through the conservative world that is Star Trek the original series with Episode 48: “A Private Little War.”
The Plot
This week, the Enterprise visits the planet Neural in the Zeta Bootis System, a veritable treasure trove of medicinal plants and specimens. Kirk surveyed this planet thirteen years before when he was a lieutenant on the USS Farragut. What he found was a primitive but peaceful planet where villagers and Hill People lived happily side by side, hunting food with bows and arrows. But when he beams down this time, he discovers a group of villagers setting an ambush for a Hill People hunting party. Moreover, the villagers are carrying flintlock muskets, something they shouldn’t be able to manufacture at this phase of their development.

Kirk disrupts the ambush and reunites with a friend he made during his prior survey -- Tyree, who has risen to become leader of the Hill People. Kirk learns that the Klingons are arming the villagers with the flintlocks. Some of the Hill People want Kirk to give them superior weapons, but Kirk will only offer flintlocks to maintain the balance of power. Tyree resists even this offer because he’s a pacifist and thinks the villagers will return to their peaceful ways. But when the villagers kill Tyree’s wife, he finally accepts Kirk’s offer.
Why It’s Conservative
“A Private Little War” involves primitive people who find themselves in a nasty arms race as each is backed by a galactic superpower, i.e. the Klingons and the Federation. This is a metaphor for Vietnam, which was raging at the time. In fact, the original script referenced Vietnam and described the villagers as wearing “Ho Chi Mihn type” clothes. Even the revised script refers to “twentieth century brush wars on the Asian continent.”

To call this story “pro-Vietnam War” is perhaps a bit of a stretch, because the story definitely laments the loss of innocence of the Hill People and the villagers, which can be seen as an anti-war statement. However, that interpretation doesn’t mesh with the deeper philosophical points made. To the contrary, the moral of this story is that you cannot back down in the face of aggression. And if the other side is arming their allies, then you need to arm yours. That is a very conservative point.

We see this moral in the argument between Kirk and McCoy over what to do about the Klingon Empire’s interference. McCoy, who is the show’s emotional factor and who often took on the role of advocating the liberal bleeding-heart position, was aghast that Kirk would even think about arming the Hill People. Presumably, he would have Kirk abandon the Hill People to the mercy of the villagers so they could live in peace as slaves under the villagers and by proxy the Klingon Empire. In this, McCoy is echoing the peace movement which rioted at the 1968 Democratic convention a few months after this episode was first shown (ironically, it was repeated 3 days before the convention began).

Kirk rejects this, noting that the only solution to aggression is to stand up to the aggressor. And if they fight through a proxy by arming that proxy, then you must provide your allies with identical weapons to maintain the balance of power. Here’s the script:
MCCOY: Do I have to say it? It's not bad enough there's one serpent in Eden teaching one side about gun powder. You want to make sure they all know about it!
KIRK: Exactly. Each side receives the same knowledge and the same type of firearm.
MCCOY: Have you gone out of your mind? Yes, maybe you have. Tyree's wife, she said there was something in that root. She said now you can refuse her nothing.
KIRK: Superstition.
MCCOY: Is it a coincidence this is exactly what she wants?
KIRK: Is it? She wants superior weapons. That's the one thing neither side can have. Bones. Bones, the normal development of this planet was the status quo between the hill people and the villagers. The Klingons changed that with the flintlocks. If this planet is to develop the way it should, we must equalize both sides again.
MCCOY: Jim, that means you're condemning this whole planet to a war that may never end. It could go on for year after year, massacre after massacre.
KIRK: All right, Doctor! All right. Say I'm wrong. Say I'm drugged. Say the woman drugged me. What is your sober, sensible solution to all this?
MCCOY: I don't have a solution. But furnishing them firearms is certainly not the answer.
KIRK: Bones, do you remember the twentieth century brush wars on the Asian continent? Two giant powers involved, much like the Klingons and ourselves. Neither side felt they could pull out.
MCCOY: Yes, I remember. It went on bloody year after bloody year.
KIRK: What would you have suggested, that one side arm its friends with an overpowering weapon? Mankind would never have lived to travel space if they had. No. The only solution is what happened back then. Balance of power.
MCCOY: And if the Klingons give their side even more?
KIRK: Then we arm our side with exactly that much more. A balance of power. The trickiest, most difficult, dirtiest game of them all, but the only one that preserves both sides.
This is solid conservatism. Liberalism believes aggression is the result of fear, by the aggressor, that others intend to do them harm. Thus, the aggressor turns to aggression as a means of self-defense. This was why liberalism advocated disarmament in the face of Soviet aggression, to show the Russians we meant them no harm. Conservatism knows better. Conservatives understand that aggression is the result of desire: a desire to take something which does not rightly belong to the aggressor, combined with the power to take it. Conservatives also understand that we cannot eliminate desire as a human trait. Thus, the only way to prevent aggression is by making it impossible for the would-be aggressor to achieve their goals through aggression, i.e. to stand up to them.

This episode encapsulates that. First, note that the villagers’ aggression is not the result of fear. The villagers have nothing to fear from the Hill People, as shown by their prior peaceful coexistence. And the only reason they are aggressors now is they now have the power to take what they want. This is confirmed when Tyree’s wife tries to cut a deal with the villagers. If they were aggressive because they were fearful, they would have listened to her when she came to them. But they don’t listen. Instead, they try to rape her the moment they see her, before killing her, because their power over the Hill People has corrupted them.

Secondly, Kirk correctly calculates the conservative position and arms his allies. He knows aggression can’t be stopped with words or hoping the villagers suddenly become pacifists. He knows it can only be stopped if the villagers realize they can’t achieve their goals through force. He also knows that giving the Hill People superior weapons would only shift the aggression. Hence, the only solution to the Klingons’ interference is to maintain the balance of power. (This was the initial Vietnam strategy.)

Finally, as a kicker, Tyree rejects pacifism and his belief the villagers will return to their peaceful ways when his wife is killed because he realizes the villagers will always be aggressive unless they have reason to fear the consequences -- that’s human nature and how it responds to an imbalance of power. Conservatives understand this, liberals don’t. Liberalism believes human nature can be changed and they would have hoped to find a way to change the villager’s “violent natures,” e.g. address the “root causes” of the violence. Conservatives understand that human nature can merely be contained.

That’s why this episode is conservative. Because it applies a conservative understanding of the nature of aggression.


Tennessee Jed said...

It has been said that this series was not about 22nd century people in space, but late 20th century people tackling issues of the day. If we view the series in the light of Kirk being faced with a delimma and having to make difficult choices, this is a classic example of that as well.

"damn it Jim, I'm a liberal, not an armouror"

DUQ said...

Jed, I see that throughout the series that they were dealing with modern social issues and I think the one Andrew mentions is a great example of this. This is totally a metaphor for Vietnam. Isn't it interesting how much liberalism has changed?

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I think that's true. Episode after episode dealt with the issues of the time, not the issues we might encounter in the 22nd century. But that's where science fiction is strongest, when it deals with the modern world.

LOL! Nice McCoy "quote". :)

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ, It is a metaphor for Vietnam and it was meant as such. And interestingly, it comes down on the "pro" side. I find that fascinating from a group of liberal writers. I can guarantee you they would not have written this episode the same way today.

tryanmax said...

I have to admit, I was skeptical before I read the article. "A pro-Vietnam message?" I thought, "Impossible!" And yet, you've done it again!

I barely remember this episode from years ago, so I'll have to see if I can somehow watch this particular one. It's stunning how drastically the culture must've changed in the '60s.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Interesting isn't it? It's amazing to think that these were people who considered themselves liberals and probably do today as well.

Look at how much their grasp of reality has changed from recognizing that you have to stand up to a bully in 1968 to thinking today that you should cry and fall to the floor in the face of bullies. It's startling to see the difference between liberalism then and now and it makes you wonder how these people could have gone so wrong?

It would be interesting to see how they would re-write this episode today. I can't imagine it would end the same way.

rlaWTX said...

I think my comment last week is till accurate. The liberals weren't as radical as they are now - or even as they would become in the next 5 years after this episode. The Establishment(The "Man" lol) still had a conservative bent, and this shows itself regardless of the political perspective of H'wood.

I think it is more telling that we are SOOOOO surprised that this message could come from H'wood than the fact that it came from them to begin with.
We've come a long way, baby - and most of it ain't good!

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, That's a really good point that it's very telling how surprised we are that Hollywood could ever have produced a message like this. What does that say about how much Hollywood has changed?!

I think you're right that they weren't as radical at this point. At this point, liberalism was still rationally based only a little touchy-feely. But over the next few years after this episode and then every year since, they've drifted off into a very angry, radical world of tribalism and oppression theory and anti-humanism.

ScyFyterry said...

This has always been an interesting episode to me. On the surface it feels like it's anti-war because it has this whole "we've brought evil to the Garden of Eden" feeling. But then Kirk says they need to fight.

Nice analysis!

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Terry. This is an interesting episode and I get the sense it's one of the more conflicted ones, at least from the perspective that McCoy really is angry in this episode. And Kirk admits this is not a great situation and there is no "win" to be had here. So in that regard, this episode is a bit of a downer, but it's very true that life doesn't always give you a perfect solution. What matters is that Kirk made the right call.

Ed said...

Excellent analysis as always. I honestly never realized how conservative this show was? I just took it as a cool science fiction show and I never stopped to think about how much I agreed with it. This was a great series!

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, I think there was a lot of this at the time, meaning that many other shows were much more conservative than you realize. I think this was because liberalism hadn't lost its mind yet.

Ed said...

Andrew, I have given this some thought and I think you make a very fascinating point about it being conservative to argue for the balance of power.

Party of me says that wrong, that conservatives would say "overpower the bad guys and be done with it." But then I realize there aren't really "bad guys" here so much as people acting according to human nature. And if we do beleive that, and I do, then arming our side would be no better because it would ultimately result in our guys becoming the bad guys. The best conservative result truly is to make it impossible for either side to succeed, so that neither side tries.

That is truly fascinating and run counter to my initial impulses. Well done!

Ed said...

oops, "over-arming our side."

I don't mean it's wrong to arm our side, I mean it's wrong to give our side overpowering weapons. I agree with you and Jim Kirk.

tryanmax said...

Ed, I had the same initial knee-jerk reaction because so many on the right's answer to aggression is to obliterate it. In addition to the realization you outline, I also noted that most times the conservative approach is one of restraint. The obliteration approach is unrestrained and therefore cannot be conservative.

I'm not saying conservatism is restrained for restraint's sake, only that it is a marker which can provide clues as to whether you are on the right or the wrong path.

Y'know, it is frequently remarked that liberalism is the easy/lazy way and that conservatism is the more difficult. And while that is essentially true, in a way conservatism is the easier route once you give yourself over to it. It is built upon the tried and true, and it applies uniformly to all situations. So even if one doesn't fully understand the conservative approach to a particular situation, one can look to other situations as a template for sorting out the right path.

It must be truly frustrating to be a liberal: they want to live like there is no tomorrow, but instead they live like there was no yesterday.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Ed! It took a moment to realize that Kirk is being conservative here because my instinct too is that wars should be won and ended quickly.

But this wasn't a war in that sense. This wasn't an attack on the Federation. And unless the Federation wanted to adopt the Hill People and become the universe's policeman, then it needed to find another solution. That's where the questions comes up about how much help you offer and what your goals really are? Are the goals to let the Hill People conquer the villagers and enslave them? That's not really conservative. But that's what would happen if you over-arm them. Instead, the conservative solution is to separate the sides and let them go about their lives without fear of the other.

To achieve that, Kirk picks the right solution, by re-establishing the balance of power.

And I am just amazed the writers grasped this lesson and were able to encapsulate it in so few words. This is pretty high level conservative thought.

Ed said...

tryanmax, Well said. I agree completely. I think there in a general sense, conservatives say that when faced with an aggressor, you obliterate it. But this isn't quite that situation and here it is restraint which is called for. And you're right about conservatism being about restraint. Conservatives don't jump to conclusions or grab whatever policy sounds like it might work. They are willing to let problems fix themselves when that is the best solution. They don't try to control everything.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I think the conservative approach is obliteration when faced with an attack on you. The idea is to guarantee your own freedom and to let all aggressors know in advance that there will be a heavy price to pay for aggression so that they won't ever start in the first place.

But when you aren't faced with direct aggression the question becomes how do you fix this situation. I don't think over-arming one side would fix anything, it would just make the good guys into the aggressors. That's why the better approach is what Kirk offers -- to return the balance of power so that neither side is capable of defeating the other, and therefore both are unwilling to try.

You make a good point about restraint. Conservatism is all about restraint. It is about not interfering in other people's lives, businesses or countries. It also requires a look at the long term. In other words, just because you could stop something bad at the moment doesn't mean that's the best overall solution. So conservatives need the restraint to look at the big picture. Liberalism, on the other hand, deals only with the now. It sees a problem and demands a quick fix and it only worries about the collateral problems the fix causes when they happen.

In terms of being easier, I think there are two ways to look at this. Conservatism is easier in the sense that you are guided by principles which tell you when you are acting correctly. Liberalism, on the other hand, has no such guiding principles which mean it's never easy to know if you are right or if you made the right decisions throughout your life.

That said, liberalism is much easier to implement because it doesn't worry about right and wrong or good and bad, it just acts according to the emotional needs of the moment and it has adopted a policy of denial for all of its own past wrongs.

I guess we should also add that liberalism ultimately leads to chaos, oppression and ruin, whereas conservatism leads to an orderly, functioning society.

AndrewPrice said...

Ed and tryanmax, One of the reasons I'm doing this series is so that people get a chance to explore the meaning of conservatism through their understanding of Kirk's actions. So thanks for contributing to that! :)

AndrewPrice said...

By the way, I'm planning to start posting this series at BH too. I'm HOPING people over there take it as an opportunity to discuss conservatism. But we'll see.

tryanmax said...

I would argue that there is a place for restraint even when under direct attack--but you'll have to forgive the semantic nature of my defense. Restraint simply means holding back that which isn't necessary. When peril is imminent, any and all defensive efforts become necessary to survive, thus there is nothing to restrain. My, that's nerdy.

I wish you success over at BH with these articles. If I had to lay a wager, though, I'd put odds on a lot of sniping and typical "How cain yoo cawl that-thar commie-leftist BOWL-SHEET cuhn-serv-a-teev? Yoo muhst be wunna dem-der qweer-o-seckshuals. I don' ne'er watch nunnuh dat CRAIP an' I don' even GOTS a tee-vee 'cuz an' I ain't seen no Star Tracks 'cuz e'rybody no's space is a con-speer-o-see an' a LIE OF SAY-TAN!"

Anonymous said...

^tryanmax - Ha!! And I thought I was hard on those people.

Andrew -

I saw this episode recently but of course, I was well aware of the allegory before I watched it. I don't think there's anything "anti-war" about simply expressing one's reservations but I suppose, like anything else, it's a matter of degrees.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I fear you may be right. Indeed, I expect several those, plus the inevitable "why can't we just accept that this isn't political and let it go at that? Why do we need to read politics into everything." I can actually name the two sympathy-trolls who make that remark in almost every thread over there.

All that said, I think of it this way -- I write what I think should be written about and people who want to read it can and those who want to hate it are free to hate it and remain stupid. But hopefully, those who are interested will think about it and discuss it.

I think you are right that there is restraint even when you are under attack. For example, you always judge how much force is needed. If a toddler punches you, you don't go nuclear. And if you can stop the other guy without killing him, that's good too because of other conservative values such as the respect for life, etc. The caricature by many (both left and right) of conservatism as ultra-violent is simply not correct.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Did you know that Kirk was being pro-Vietnam and conservative or did that not come across when you watched it?

I know that a lot of people see this as "the Vietnam espisode" and they actually think it's opposed to Vietnam because of all the talk about how the great powers are adding snakes to the garden. But that's a total misreading.

On being anti-war, as you and I have discussed, there is nothing anti-conservative about being anti-war. Indeed, conservatism views war as a last resort and the idea that conservatism is "butt kicking" is for the stupid. Indeed, the anti-war aspect of conservatism stems from three deeply conservative ideas (1) we don't want to impose ourselves on others, (2) we respect life, particularly innocent life, and (3) we respect property rights.

That said, conservatives also understand that war is sometimes necessary. That doesn't mean we like it, but we get that it must be fought. And when fought, must be won.

And you're right, simply saying that war is rotten is not being anti-war, it is actually just human nature to realize that war is not a good thing. Anti-war would be refusing to fight when it is necessary, and Kirk is not saying that, though McCoy implies it.

Anonymous said...

I may not have known that Kirk was being explicitly pro-Vietnam but I knew the show's treatment of the material was, shall we say, more nuanced than it might've been today.

Re: your comment to tryanmax above, I actually find myself sympathizing with the "Why do we need to read politics into everything?" crowd. After all, BH has an annoying tendency to make mountains out of the tiniest mole hills* and not everything needs to have half a dozen articles written about it (the latest example being the Clint Eastwood Super Bowl spot).

(*BH certainly isn't the first news website or organization to do this but I think it does more damage to the cause.)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, It is a highly nuanced episode and I have little doubt that the same episode done today would be very different. For one thing, modern writers really overdo it on making sure that right and wrong are patently obvious. So I think you would see a lot more brutality from the villagers to make it clear that Capt. Obama has no choice but to act.

Also, the villagers would be led by an evil dictator who is forcing them to be violent, because we know that people wouldn't be violent to their neighbors voluntarily.

There would also be a UN to get permission from to smack this guy.

Then Capt. Obama would kill the dictator "in self defense" and end the evil tyrant's reign, causing the villagers to throw down their weapons in disgust.


In terms of seeing the politics, we are talking about two different things here. I agree that not every word uttered in a commercial is political and it doesn't do a lot of good to turn it into a policy speech and spend a lot of thought attacking it.

That said, politics is inseparable from entertainment and when you get a show like this one, which delved into politics in the guise of science fiction, it's absolutely valid to discuss those points.

Individualist said...


I agree with your assessment of this show and I do think that it promotes a conservative message over a weaker liberal argument. I think you are spot on with your analysis.

I will state that this is “a conservative” message and not “the conservative” message. One that I think in the end is inferior. I think the show correctly showcased a metaphor for the corresponding positions that were being argued at the time. In the end though, even the conservative position highlighted by Kirk in the show is in my estimation not the best answer.

The reason for this is that the problem is not the Villagers. It is the Klingons. Kirk wants to arm the Hill People with equivalent weapons in order to maintain a balance of power. Fair enough, but the goal of the Klingons is not to promote war. The goal of the Klingons is to gain the resources, the ultimate reason why anyone goes to war to begin with, either to obtain resources or protect the resources that you have. So, let us assume Kirk arms the Hill people and is successful. The Klingons will just introduce repeating rifles and son on and so on and so on.

The answer that I think is more appropriate is to first get rid of the Klingons. They are the problem and the problem does not go away until they do. This however is a much greater problem as the Klingons are equally matched to the Federation and it may require a galactic war. So the decision is made to simply arm the proxies and keep the Klingons at bay with a balance of power which will just inevitably post pone the final conflict that is coming. The Klingons will either be stopped or the Federation will be overrun.

The reason I point this out is that I see this as the ultimate mistake made in the Iraq war. You may already know this as I am repeating myself but the mistake of Iraq was not W going back as I think this was at that time inevitable. No the mistake was not going in and getting rid of Sadaam to begin with after Gulf I. We left him in power because we were worried about “stability” in the region. So instead we set up no fly zones to control him and maintain a “balance of power”. This led to deception on his part resulting in the deaths of innocents as he force America to use its cruise missiles and stealth fighter to take out radar installations in schools and hospitals. I believe this is what fueled the intensity of Al Qaeda and directed their focus from the “little Satans” of Saudi Arabia and the Middle Eastern dictatorships to the “great Satan” of America that was backing them with arms and money. The truth of this does not matter as it was the perception of the Arab street. Had we realized at the end of Gulf One that the problem was the Klingon (Sadaam and his Republican guard) and eliminated them we in my humble opinion would have avoided Gulf II and possibly 9/11.

In the end you have to use Force to eliminate those who would take from you by Force. You can put it off by liberal appeasement or conservative “balancing of power” but that fight will still come because the Klingon wants to take from you. The problem is that you have to use this force without becoming a Klingon yourself. Once you go in, you have to build and not take. This is much easier said than done.

There is a movie I would recommend. A B film that has an interesting metaphor. It is about an Alien sent to earth to fight “Great Evil”. He runs afoul of a pimp and gang lord and asks him “Are you great evil” . The Ganglord laughs and says yes. The alien learns everything he sees and wouldn’t you know it there are Kung Fu movies showing in the department store window. He gets into fights with the gang members but afterward experiences every blow he landed. In the end he kills the Pinp Ganglord and dies being sent back to his home planet. I liked the film for the message. That when confronting evil you may eventually have to perform acts of evil yourself. Even if these are justified you will no longer be innocent.

Just my thoughts

As always great analysis.

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, Thanks! And thanks for the insightful comment. :)

I think the problem with attacking the Klingons is twofold. First, it doesn't really solve the problem on this planet, where the balance of power has been forever tipped unless Kirk intervenes. So while it may stop the problem from getting worse, it doesn't actually fix the underlying problem -- i.e. at the end of the day, the villagers can still bully the Hill People.

Secondly, as history has shown, we actually never had to fight the Soviets to beat them, we just exhausted them and let their own corrupt system collapse from the inside. So in that case, attacking the Klingons would have brought millions of unneeded deaths.

I think Iraq actually is a different situation than the one in this episode because Iraq was a straight up war between us and Iraq and then we got stupid (as you point out) and tried to set up proxies to finish the job for us. So it's really a different situation than Kirk faces because we aren't facing of question of how to deal with two proxies, we are facing a situation of how we finish the war. And in that, we chose very poorly. We should have won the war and put an end to it, not tried to hand off the war to a proxy. And I agree with you, that's caused us all kinds of problems thereafter.

So I both agree and disagree.

Excellent comment! :)

T-Rav said...

I really have nothing to add to this, except to say that thank goodness the docs from M*A*S*H weren't resolving this situation. Goodbye, Hill People. (Probably goodbye, M*A*S*H docs when you think about it.)

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, You have no thoughts on the nature of conservatism?

//shakes head

/// wonders if T-Rav isn't really a liberal trying to trick us?

Yeah, good point M*A*S*H. That would be the end for the Hill People.

Individualist said...


Thanks for the compliment.

In the end I think we can both agree on this...

When in doubt .. Kill the Klingon

Sorry Warf .. just kidding

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, You're welcome. You always bring an interesting and thoughtful perspective to these discussions and I like hearing your take on the matters.

And I think we do agree, we just said it differently.

Also I totally agree, when in doubt, kill the Klingons! Words to live by! :)

Tennessee Jed said...

This episode also featured one of the format devices that eventually became a millstone in many plots; General Order #1 a.k.a. "The prime directive."

In his book about Star Trek, David Gerrold talks about this as an example of "hardening of the arteries" a situation that will impact and ultimately limit all future writers turning format into formula. Eventually, writers had to resort to tired cliche to get around the limitations imposed by the prime directive.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, Isn't it interesting how one decision like that can change the whole course of a series (or several series)?

At some point, I do want to focus on the prime directive, by the way. I think it was written as a response to colonialism -- with the idea being that we should not be out there trying to develop other countries. But by the time of the Next Generation it was more like modern environmentalism -- "humans are evil", "take only pictures, leave only footprints" (which then became "humans are prohibited").

It became very strangely dogmatic as if human culture was a plague rather than how it had seemed before, which was more about "leave people alone."

T-Rav said...

Andrew, I. Am. Busy. (arrgghhh)

Of course there are things I could say, but everyone seems to have covered every angle of it so well I can't think of anything worth contributing just now. Besides, you know I'm not a Trekker! (Trekkie?)

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, You don't have to be a Trekkie to discuss the political aspects of what is conservatism!

// pounds table

Go do your work. :)

And for the record, I prefer Trekkie. I don't know where Trekker came from, but it always sounded kind of dumb to me... though I know that is the kind of statement which starts Trek-Nerd-Wars. Mwoo ha ha ha!

tryanmax said...

Scott, let's just say I've had some "encounters" over at BH. Now I comment much more sparingly.

Doc Whoa said...

Excellent breakdown. I had a similar reaction as the others did at first, the conservative position when faced with aggression is to fight back and overwhelm the other side. But I think you are right ultimately. If one were to go to war every time another country is attacked by a neighbor, then you basically become the world's policeman or a end up eventually trying to conquer the world and none of that is true conservatism.

Doc Whoa said...

Scott and tryanmax, I've had similar encounters over there. It's unfortunate because it's a good site.

Patriot said...

I liken these liberal screenwriters to the inadvertent conservative perspectives we sometimes get from the most mushy headed liberals like Meathead Rob Reiner in A Few Good Men, when Col. Jessup is on the stand explaining the US Marines view of the world compared to the liberal view.

"Words like duty, honor, courage....these are words WE live and die by. They are words YOU toss around at cocktail parties."

Without meaning to, idiots like Reiner encapsulate the conservative view better than most actual conservatives can themselves.

This Trek episode looks like the same result where liberals were trying to show the futility of the arms race, yet mistakenly proved the conservative point and approach to proxy wars.

...and did I miss the 3 security men dressed in red who always get killed when going down to a dangerous planet?

Unknown said...

I really know from up-front experience that liberals in the 60s were still anticommunist and anti-world domination. Since those were my radical days, I thought of the liberals as wishy-washy and conservatives as warmongers. As I matured, I saw the radical left taking over the formerly moderate-liberal Democratic party. But even into the mid-80s I considered myself to be a Kennedy Democrat (and I don't mean Teddy). But during my entire trip on the road to Damascus, I never saw weakness and surrender as virtues, nor did I think that we should cave in to the "inevitability" of communist conquest. I feel the same way today about Islamic conquest.

As for the final decision to arm the hill people with flintlocks, that was indeed a conservative concept. It's the civil version of an eye for an eye. Too many people see that as a gruesome depiction of primitive and barbaric practices. In fact, it's about proportionately. Kirk could simply have armed his hill people with laser pistols or even nukes if the goal was to decide a winner. But he chose the fair solution of defending the hill people by giving them equal weapons rather than giving them weapons which would wipe out the villagers.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Had we realized at the end of Gulf One that the problem was the Klingon (Sadaam and his Republican guard) and eliminated them we in my humble opinion would have avoided Gulf II and possibly 9/11."

Actually, Al Qaida was angry that we ever stopped Sadaam to begin with, or so they have said.

Regardless, the very nature of Al Qaida and every other terrorist organization or state makes the US their sworn enemies because their religion/ideology (same thing in their minds) is at odds with their ultimate goal: to force human in the world to submit to Islam.

They simply use Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, etc., as an excuse.
Even if we stopped being allies with Israel they would still come after us eventually.
Nothing we do other than converting to Islam would ever stop that.

In a sense the entire middle east is made up og Klingons and Romulans.
Or perhaps more accurate would be the Borg or Reavers.
We must assimilate (surrender) or die.

I think Andrew McCarthy at National Review said it well (Steyn, Spencer, and many other conservatives have also said this in different ways):

"[M]ost Americans still do not know that hurriya, Arabic for 'freedom,' connotes 'perfect slavery' or absolute submission to Allah, very nearly the opposite of the Western concept."

To be sure there are differences between the major sects of Islam and they have no problem blowing each other up, but in this they all agree.

Of course, there are exceptions (Sufi's) and individual Muslims that do embrace liberty, but they are never in power in predominantly Muslim countries.

If any of the radical Muslims had even a shred of rationality outside their fundamentalism I would tend to agree with your assessment but they don't, and they will never allow their people to experience true freedom.
To them it's heresy.

Great post Andrew! I concur.
It's ironic that JFK started the Vietnam War (for us) and that LBJ continued it.

Leftists like to lay the blame on Nixon.
Not that it wasn't a good idea to stop communism. It was and is.
Unfortunately, the war was managed badly which caused it to drag on for so long so it didn't end up like the Korean War, sadly.

The initial goal was clear but the politicians clouded that goal so much and drug it on so long most folks lost the stomach for it.

This always happens when idiots are in charge.

Kelly said...

I have seen this and I hate to admit this but I never noticed the Vietnam parallel. Of course, I saw it in the 1980s for the first time so I never really put the history together with it.

I agree with those above who say this seems like an unhappy solution, but I agree it's the best solution Kirk has short of fighting their war for them.

Individualist said...

Hi USS Ben

I appreciate your insight. Osama Bin Laden hated the fact that we were on Saudi soil. He compalined bittlery about it and thought the Saudis should go it alone against Iraq. He certainly did not want us there. The Suadis fed up with him banished him to the Sudan. I guess in comparison this would be like Gearge Bush Sr. banishing Ross Perot to Mexico as Osama was an extremely successful CEO.

So no I am not saying that Al Qaeda would like us or not be angry with us had we got rid of Sadaam. It was my understading that Osama hated Sadaam as an apostate anyways.

What I mean is that I beleive the no fly zone which we established worked to fuel the hatred that allowed Osama and his number 2 the dentist I believe Al Zawarhi (sp) to recruit and gain the abiltiy to focus on the US.

Sadaam would place radar installations in schools and hospitals and light them up forcing us to react. For the years from Bush to Clinton where we maintain this No Fly Zone wer were constatly bombing.

The deaths of these innocent people worked I think to galvanize Al Qaeda to switch the focus of the terrorists from overturning the apostates in power (in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, etc.) and consolidating an Islamic caliphate to a focus on the "great" satan which was America.

As the middle easterners saw the full extent of our military power in the region it became apparent that our funding and protecting of the regimes there in the nam e of world peace would derail any effort they had of freeing themselves. As a sidenote this anger may have been understandable. If I had to live under Mubarick, Sadaam, Nasser, the Saudi Princes because the US funded them I might not be ahppy about it either. It would not matter to me that the Russians, Chinese and others were equally responsible because it is the American Air Craft carriers in the gulf.

My belief (and I really can't support this with other than my conjecture so I could be wrong but I beleive it anyways) is that had we made quick work of Sadaam and accepted the adoration of the people in Iraq and Kuwait who at that time were naming their children after George Bush (or so I heard on the TV) and set up a democracy and got out as quick as possible Al Qaeda would not have had the gravitas to enforce their argument.

I really do feel that not following through and getting rid of Sadaam made us look very bad and helped to infuriate the Arab street against us. The facts I am discussing here are based on a book I read "Sacred Terror". This book explained the argument about the "little Satan" and Great Satan.

Just my opinion.

Individualist said...


I agree with you that it woujld not solve the problem of the Hill people. However, the solution Kirk employed could be implemented as he desired had the federation first kicked the Klingons out. As long as Klingons send ships to arm the villagers the escalatioon wont end.

I do agree that Iraq is very different from the scenario detailed here. I was speakng to the idea of the "balance of power" and trying to explain how I beleive the tendency to follow that paradigm in the middle east was actually a mistake.

We never took out Sadaam on the premise that we would have serious problems trying to run Iraq. This I believe was a very accurate assumption. The problem was that we did not foresee the results of this "balance of power". The enemy countries would continually test each other and the aggressor we are trying to control would eventually resume their attack should they think they have an upper hand.

Trying to control the enemy in this fashion is costly and in the case of the Middle East created a diplomatic problem because it put us on the radar of Islamists.

To my mind the balance of power with the Soviets lasted as long as it did because we had leaders that would appease the Soviets. Ronald Reagan had a different philosophy. He went in to the Presidency looking to take the Soviets on. He called them the evil empire and developed Star Wars and Stealth technology in defiance of the MADD philosophy. He did not want to be equal to the Soviets in order to be able to maintain a balance of power. Reagan wanted to exceed them so that America could wipe the floor with them any time we wanted. The Sovietts fell because they could not keep up financially.

As Sun Tsu says the best generals win without ever having to fire an arrow. Reagan proved his book right through action.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hi Indi, thanks for clarifying.

I concur that it made things worse not deposing of Sadaam immediately, although the fact we are allies with Israel was/is certainly enough for Bin laden and company to recruit more terrorists.

You are right, Bin Laden hated Sadaam, however, ironically, once we did move to depose Sadaam and set up a democracy in Iraq (a very fragile one that doesn't respect the rights of anyone not a Muslim since it allows sharia law) Al Qaida was against that.

Most likely because we wanted to set up a democracy but also, I think, because Sadaam had been helping the families of Palestinian homicide bombers, encouraging more of it against Israel.
He had also harbored Al Qaida terrorists before the second war started.

Be that as it may, I do believe we are seeing worse things (and will see more of it) than Libya's and Egypt's last dictators.

Mycroft said...

As USS Ben pointed out, JFK started US involvement in Vietnam while LBJ was responsible for the major escalation. And both presidents were Democrats.

Remember, most of the war protesters were young people motivated by fear/anger over the draft. They opposed the Democrats. Hence, the 1968 Democratic Convention riots.

By supporting US strategy in Vietnam, the writers were just following the Party Line.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax and Doc, I've run into those folks too. I guess the best thing to do is ignore those folks? That's from the easier said than done department.

AndrewPrice said...

Doc, It's an interesting issue, that's for sure. Because the conservative instinct is "fight to win." But then you have to realize that you're not talking about your down defense here, and that complicates things. If you simply take the fight to win approach, then you eventually end up fighting everyone's wars everywhere, and that is not at all conservative.

AndrewPrice said...

Patriot, Red-shirts are always expendable! ;)

You raise a very interesting point. It's amazing how often some liberal hack does a really good job of outlining conservatism while they are actually trying to smear it... and how bad so many conservatives are at explaining it themselves.

In this instance, let me make sure to state that I don't think at all that these writers were conservatives. They weren't. They are liberals. It's just that at that particular moment in time, liberalism was very much aligned with conservatism because it had moved away from things like totalitarianism and eugenics because of WWII. Sadly, they would head right back into those areas. But for about two decades, liberalism actually largely overlapped with conservatism.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, Well said about an eye for an eye being a statement about proportionality rather than about revenge. I think that's absolutely true. And that's something conservatives do normally recognize. When someone throws a rock at your house, you don't blow up their country. And if Kirk decided to arm the Hill People so they could wipe out or enslave the villagers, then he wouldn't really be acting conservatively. The conservative solution here is to accept human nature for what it is and to re-establish the balance. Otherwise, you just switch one aggressor for another or you end up playing border guard.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Ben!

On al Qaeda, I think the reason we are so hated in the Middle East is simple: for the past 60 years, every regime has used us as the bad guy whenever they had problems and needed an excuse, every terrorist has used us as a pretext for their campaigns against their regimes, and every religious leader has used us as an example of bad living. That's a lot of hate aimed at us for generations.

On Vietnam, I have always been amazed that liberals blame Nixon for a war started by a liberal icon and waged by another liberal icon. It's stunning that somehow they end up calling Nixon the warmonger? Liberalism really does live in a strange world.

I think you're right that the strategy was ultimately to blame over there. I think the problem, quite frankly, was that once American troops took up the defense, the South Vietnamese became dependents and stopped caring for themselves. Basically, we did to the whole country what we've now down to inner cities in America -- we made them dependent and they responded accordingly.

We should have never sent troops, just weapons.

AndrewPrice said...

Kelly, That's the neat "layered" thing about science fiction. Sometimes it's obvious what they are talking about and sometimes you need more context.

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, I think your response to Ben is right. I read a book called "Looming Tower" and it lays out a very similar issue, particularly with Bin Laden being upset that the Saudis turned to us to save them from Saddam. He had (he claimed) 70,000 Mujahedin fresh from beating the Russians in Afghanistan who could fight Iraq and he offered that to the Saudis. But the Saudis feared him, so they called us. That got Bin Laden focused on us.

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, I agree. I think the idea of detente was foolish. It was premised on the idea that if we stayed even with the Soviets, then world peace would be maintained. The better strategy was, as Reagan showed, to challenge them at their weak spot -- economics. We basically went to industrial war with them and they couldn't keep up.

I agree that taking out the Klingons, if possible, would be the best solution to the problems in the galaxy and it's the only way to prevent continual escalation. But it still doesn't solve the problem with the Hill People. What Kirk did was basically what he would eventually need to do in any event and the episode just sidestepped the bigger Klingon issue.

That's not a criticism of Kirk either. Keep in mind, these are morality plays so they deal with single issues/scenarios. They don't allow for broader solutions like defeating the Klingons. And given the parameters of what his options are, he makes the right call here because anything else would just cause more problems.

And as you'll see in later episodes, the issue of balance of power comes up more directly in other episodes and the solution is more aggressive in those instances.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, I think that part of the world is toxic and the best thing we could do is work toward energy independence and get out and let them fester. The more we tinker, the worse it will be because we have been blamed for all their problems and that's not going to stop, and the longer we are over there, the longer we will keep getting the blame for everything they need a scapegoat for.

AndrewPrice said...

Mycroft, That is certainly true. And let me point out again that I am not claiming these writers were conservatives. I'm just saying that by accident or design, they ended up creating conservative works. I suspect that is mainly the result of liberalism dovetailing with conservatism for that brief moment in history, but some of it is also that storytelling by its very nature really requires the use of conservatism because liberalism is a hard sell to audiences.

Joel Farnham said...

Good Analysis Andrew.

On Nixon and Vietnam, Nixon stepped up strategic bombing. It was highly successful. Liberals wouldn't acknowledge that and started to refer to Nixon as that war-monger. Nixon in order to get re-elected for a second term, promised to end our involvement in Vietnam. Unfortunately for Vietnam, Nixon didn't renege on this campaign promise.

After we left, and the bone of contention was removed (I. E. The liberals couldn't complain about Vietnam anymore.)The liberals promptly forgot about their involvement in that war, especially since after the war, the Communists killed non-communists. It no longer mattered to them.

The revisionist history is so that future liberals don't have to contend with this failure legacy. That is, do what the liberals want and people die.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Joel, and I think you're absolutely right. Liberals go in for revisionist history a LOT.

Take the issue of MAD. MAD was an idea created by conservatives to fight the liberal idea that we should disarm our nuclear weapons to assure the Soviets. MAD worked and kept the piece. Liberals HATED it and films of that era are full of attacks on it. Now that it's worked, they claim it was their idea.

They were praising national socialism before WWII. They praised colonialism to "civilize the savages" before the colonials fought back, they praised Eugenics before the Nazis (and now do again), etc.

Liberals are very good at forgetting the things they advocated when those things are ultimately exposed. And even worse, they are good at pinning the blame for those onto conservatives.

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