My husband and I recently watched a re-run of Star Trek: Voyager. The story-line revolved around the application and importance of the “Prime Directive.”
For those of you unfamiliar with Star Trek (is that even possible??), the Prime Directive is the guiding rule developed by the future’s Federation of Planets: officers of Starfleet are expressly forbidden from interfering with the internal affairs of other planets and civilizations, no matter how well-meaning that interference or how potentially disastrous the results of non-intervention. The difficulty of complying with the Prime Directive has obvious dramatic possibilities, most of which have been mined extensively by the various Star Trek spin-offs.
On rare occasions, where the provocation was overwhelming, interference with other civilizations worked out, but usually in episodes where the Prime Directive was ignored, things ended badly.
Americans could learn a few things from Star Trek. At this stage of planetary development, we are the “big kahuna’s,” the analogs of the sheriffs in the old westerns, or the Federation forces in Star Trek. We are all too easily seduced by the temptations–and delusions–that come with power.
A Prime Directive might have kept us out of Viet Nam and Iraq. It might have kept us from confusing self-interest with self-defense.
At the very least, the existence of a Prime Directive would require serious public consideration of the reasons being offered to justify a proposed intervention, the adequacy of those reasons, and the validity and reliability of the facts offered to support such justification.
When I hear Santorum, Gingrich and Romney rattling sabers at Iran and spouting nationalistic bromides in an effort to pander to the least thoughtful elements of the electorate, I can’t help marveling that an old science-fiction series displays more substance, more gravitas, more maturity, than the Republicans who are currently competing for their party’s nomination for President.
I can’t imagine Santorum, for example, a man who feels no compunction telling other people and other nations how (his) God wants them to live, and who promises to impose (his version of) “morality” on the rest of us should he be elected, embracing–or even understanding–a Prime Directive.