A debate broke out over at Foreign Policy magazine when John Arquilla, a professor of defense analysis, argued that the Prime Directive should be our model for non-intervention in Syria. Now Foreign Policy writer Michael Peck has a snappy rejoinder, arguing that Kirk would join the revolutionaries.

Peck explains that even if the Prime Directive could be interpreted to mean that non-intervention was the best policy in Syria, Kirk would ignore it:

It is true that the Prime Directive does lay out strict instructions for Starfleet personnel: "No identification of self or mission. No interference with the social development of said planet. No references to space or the fact that there are other worlds or civilizations." It is also true that Kirk violated it on a routine basis. In the class warfare allegory "The Cloud Minders," Kirk backed oppressed miners in their struggle against the Cloud City that exploited them. In "The Apple," he destroyed a god-computer ruled by a primitive tribe. In "A Taste of Armageddon," Kirk stops a centuries-old suicidal war between two planets.

In other episodes, he intervenes in response to previous interventions, such as the painfully absurd "Patterns of Force," where a Gestapo-garbed Kirk overthrows a Nazi regime that was inspired by a Federation scientist. Perhaps the best example is "A Private Little War," where he supplies guns to a peaceful people after the Klingons supplied their rivals with firearms. Indeed, a strict interpretation of the Prime Directive would have seen the captain of the Enterprise hauled before a Starfleet court-martial in half the episodes.


Peck goes on to argue eloquently that Kirk would also side with the rebels against Assad in Syria, for a variety of reasons.

While I agree wholeheartedly with Peck, I would add that there is something weird about Arquilla's original assertion that the Prime Directive would apply in this situation. The Prime Directive is designed to prevent a civilization with warp drive from intervening in a civilization without it. Since neither the US nor Syria has warp drive, nor anything remotely equivalent to it, the Prime Directive is totally irrelevant. We are all on the same planet, with the same level of technology.


Read Peck's full essay over at HuffPo.

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