Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Deep Space Nine: Dark Prophecy of the War on Terror

Over a year ago, reasonable conservative Jon Swift devoted a post to the then-current storyline of the revamped Battlestar Galactica called "On Battlestar Galactica Heroic Cylons Battle Vicious Terrorists". As the title indicates, Swift noted the parallels between the storyline in which the cybernetic Cylons attempted to deal with an insurgency on New Caprica and the ongoing effort by the United States to deal with a similar insurgency in Iraq.

What Swift did not mention was that Ronald D. Moore, co-producer of Battlestar Galactica, had dealt with a similar (and similarly relevant) theme in an earlier science fiction series which he also co-produced. Swift's failure to mention this earlier series is understandable given its obscurity; Star Trek: Deep Space Nine suffered the fate of being overshadowed by its better-known, more glamorous sibling, Star Trek: Voyager. Nevertheless, DS9's eerily prophetic theme of jihadist-fueled terrorism merits our attention.

Some necessary background follows. Back in 1991, the producers of Star Trek: The Next Generation were tasked with creating a spin-off series that would continue the Star Trek franchise after TNG went off the air. They then did what any creative team in Hollywood would do: they dug out a series proposal from Paramount's archives called Babylon 5, made a few cosmetic changes, and claimed the result as their own.

The series was set in the Bajoran system, which, like Iraq, was liberated by a major power (called the Cardassian Union in the show. The similarity in name to the United States is obvious). Since the series is set fifty years after the actual liberation of the Bajorans by the Cardassians, we don't know the exact circumstances surrounding that event. We do know that before the arrival of the Cardassians, Bajor was a caste-ridden theocracy, so the planet was in definite need of liberation. We know that, as has been the case in Iraq, the Cardassians sought to finance their liberation of Bajor by extracting and refining one of the planet's valuable natural resources (and that extremists claimed that it was the Cardassians' desire for that natural resource that was the real motive for the liberation). We also know that, as has been the case in Iraq, following the planet's liberation, an insurgency arose that was fueled by religious fanaticism.

The essentially benign nature of the Cardassian liberation of Bajor can be seen in the person of Gul Dukat, the Cardassian prefect (administrator) of Bajor. Upon being appointed prefect, Dukat ordered the abolition of child labor on Bajor, and reduced production quotas by fifty percent. Dukat is also known to have been in intimate relationships with at least two Bajoran women, which speaks volumes about his love for the Bajoran people.

The most remarkable thing about the parallels between the Cardassian liberation of Bajor and the American liberation of Iraq is the fact that the series was created ten years before the liberation of Iraq. This can doubtless be ascribed to the foresight of series creators Michael Berman and Michael Piller. At the time the series was being created in 1992, the first Iraq War had already been fought, leaving Saddam Hussein still in power. It was apparently already clear to Berman and Piller that it would be necessary for the United States to return to Iraq and depose Saddam, and that DS9 was their forecast of the upcoming war of liberation.

The most powerful aspect of DS9's prophetic storyline is its cautionary nature. As the series begins, defeatist elements within the Cardassian government have allowed the terrorists to win, and have chosen to cut and run from Bajor. The Bajoran system quickly falls under the control of the Cardassian Union's greatest enemy, the Federation (the similarity to the name of the recently-established Russian Federation cannot be coincidental). Over the course of the next seven years, the Cardassian Union is invaded by the Klingon Empire, betrayed by its erstwhile allies in the Dominion, and conquered and occupied by an alliance of enemy powers.

Those fainthearted so-called Americans who want us to withdraw our troops from Iraq would do well to heed the warning of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. There we can see depicted, in metaphorical form, the fate that awaits us if we lose our will and allow ourselves to be driven from Iraq before our mission there is complete.


Matthew said...

I can tell that you didn't watch DS.

slag said...

Geek factor 9, Scotty!

byron said...

You soooooo didn't get the message did you? DS9 is not about cutting and running, it's about NOT BEING THERE AT ALL. To think that one culture can tell another how to live is so fascist, it screams out. To stay in Iraq is to destroy ourselves, just like the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan allowed the US, when we were LOSING the Cold War, to come ahead. We will be there for fifty years, just like the Cardassians, and it will destroy us like it did them.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with the "assignment" of countries. I prefer to think of the various govs in WWII terms. However, the underlying themes are so applicable to the modern world.

My fave episode is "In the Pale Moonlight".That episode has enough rich political context to satisfy every political stripe.

Anonymous said...

You are either an idiot or a brilliant troll.

Anonymous said...

Ok. I have read more of your blog.
You are an idiot.

Brittany said...

yeah Cardassia never liberated Bejor, they invaded it. Thus your entire argument is flawed.

Anonymous said...


You are apparently from the alternate universe.

Kevin said...

ya, you totally don't watch ds9 dude. they're was no 'liberation'. nor is there is the resistance in the show fuelled by religious, but instead by an effort to eliminate an illegitimate occupation. you've really twisted the source material here, and you clearly lack and understanding of both the show and international politics.

Kevin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob Whatman said...

Hi Johnny,
I stumbled across this blog piece while looking for references to DS9 and the portrayal of warfare, and was stunned by the angry comments your post attracted, some by people who, if they had understood that your post had an ironic tone and was not actually advocating the occupation of Bajor, Iraq or other strange planets far from the United States, actually would have agreed with you!

At least you can rest assured that the average 'Niner', thanks to the show, does have an aversion to imperialism, even if you may have to explain what that is with phonetic words and simple pictures!