Syrian Foreign Policy: The Alliances of a Regional Power-A Book Review

Zarrhedine Boddhisatva

Sorry to disappoint you, but my illustration of General Issam Zahreddine becoming a wrathful Boddhisatva in Ba’athist-and Allied Heaven is not included in the book. But here it is anyway.

Dr. Francesco Belcastro’s recent survey of Cold War era Syrian foreign policy released this year by Routledge is a necessary historical and theoretical tour of a decisive time in Middle Eastern foreign policy history. ‘Syrian Foreign Policy: The Alliances of a Regional Power‘ not only show the extreme utility of Neoclassical Realism as an analytical theory, but also the past events that led to Syria’s extremely dangerous present situation.

Full disclosure: Belcastro is a personal friend of mine and a former academic colleague as well. We once shared a work office right next to the toilets in St Andrew’s oldest still used building and our attempts at work were accompanied by the periodic sounds of flushing broadcast through the paper-thin walls. Despite that, we ended up both successfully completing our dissertations. And now its time to welcome him to the published authors club.

With a special focus on the years of 1963-1989, this book charts the tensions between a popular ideological conception of foreign policy and a stark self-interested realism. The main focus of this is the first incarnation of Ba’athist foreign policy under Salah Jadid in the 1960s. Pan-Arabism had popular support both at home and abroad and until the brutal wake-up call of the Six Day War Syria was clearly committed to leveraging its weak frontline position as the keystone of an anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian alliance. Such a network, it was thought, would give Syria a stronger international position. Such hopes were dashed with massive Israeli victories against Syria and Egypt in 1967.

This would lead to the downfall of Jadid and the rise of Hafez al-Assad, he who founded the present dynasty still in power in Damascus. Assad too was a Ba’athist but of a more cautious nationalist bent. Syria’s position was now weaker than ever before and clearly needed a new path. Prioritizing regime survival over regime legitimacy, Assad’s goal was to reorient the inherited failed strategy.

Though Egypt would make gains in the Yom Kippur War, Syria would not. This coupled with the break of Egypt into the United States’ camp of the Cold War and the continual deterioration of Syria-Iraq relations left a relatively weak country in a dangerous region in need of some bold risky strategic interventions. This was when the relationship between Syria and both Iran and Russia-so relevant today-started to grow. Pan-Arab ideology had given way towards an axis of resistance against the US-Israeli push into the region…and eventually in modern times to the Gulf monarchies as well. The Iranian Revolution heightened and accelerated this already process by making tentative diplomatic feelers turn into an overt alliance against common foes. It would soon meet with measurable successes as Syria alone in the Aran world stood up for Iran against a brutal Iraqi invasion and Iran assisted Syria in checking Israeli attempts at expansion into Lebanon.  As it was, an asymmetric battle in Lebanon would finally give Damascus the victory over Israel it long craved, something impossible in prior pan-Arab coalitions that revolved around taking on massively superior Israeli conventional forces in set-piece battles.

Belcastro uses this and many other case studies to show how while the prior more ideologically driven foreign policy once gave the state a meaning (both internally and internationally) the realities of a divided Arab world and intrusive Cold War politics eventually meant these trends had to be reigned in for the state merely to survive without becoming the puppet of a neighbor or a universal pariah. A succession of chapters shows various bilateral relations between Syria and other countries (Jordan, Iran, Iraq, etc) and how each of these examples supports this evolution. The point is clear: foreign policy may have to tilt towards ideology for a variety of reasons-but the greater the crisis faced the more likely realpolitik is to assert itself over time. All states are implicitly realist in nature when the chips are down, but its the speed of them coming to terms with prioritizing realism over professed international purpose that determines their ability to successfully adapt to dangerous changing circumstances. Idealism may often be a necessary domestic component of policy and regime legitimation, but such is a temporary arrangement that begins to present dangers if rigidly adhered to.

(I immediately thought of a similar example in later Roman Empire, when the adoption of a single monotheistic religion was viewed as a way to bring the decaying state together-but the very universality of any such theological claims led in fact to greater alienation and division than ever before. So too, it seems, was the case with the Pan-Arab nationalism. The fact that Ba’athists were in charge of Syria and Iraq at much of the same time and positively loathed each other for much of that time being the most blatant example).

With the loss of the Soviet patron and Russia’s withdrawal from the region after the collapse of the USSR (if temporarily as Russia would return after the Arab Spring), the Syria-Iran alliance became all the more strong. First against Iraq and then against the United States once Iraq fell to it in 2003. Syria’s position in the 21rst Century was quite different than it was in the Cold War but one decisive factor remained the same: That of a small country with hard to defend borders surrounded by stronger neighbors trying to hold on as a frontline state. But while the primary frontline used to be that with Israel, it now seems to be one of the Saudi-Iranian rivalry.  As a country with massive sectarian divides and with Iraq having been opened to this clash of regional powers since the failure of the American occupation, Syria occupied a uniquely vulnerable position between spheres of influence: something than explains the immense amount of foreign interference that flooded the country-particularly the rebels-upon the outbreak of the Civil War. To really understand the context of this going back pre-Arab Spring and pre-Iraq, you cannot do better than Dr. Belcastro’s book.

As a personal observation, it appears that Syria’s realist turn was a success that enabled the state and its regime to survive past many others in the region. However, this has come at a price. Iran has certainly increased its influence over its junior partner and Russia went from helpful pals with a naval base to the de facto dictator of Syrian affairs with other countries (especially Turkey). Considering the weakness of Syria right now and its relative diplomatic isolation, one cannot help but wonder what prospects in diplomacy it actually has anymore. However, having survived attempted sectarian dismemberment by its international foes, one could be excused for allowing themselves some sliver of optimism regarding the internal cohesion of this country. Its cultural diversity was often seen as a liability by others, but having weathered the ultimate storm it has defied the worst-case fate that once seemed likely. Such are the events that build up greater levels of solidarity for the future.

 

Axis of Evil II: The Revenge

 

koreatiger

Much as the obvious partisanship of American foreign policy continues, with conservatives who would likely be deriding alternative universe Clintonian hawkishness on North Korea now singing Trump’s praises as he threatens ‘fire and fury’ on Pyongyang while liberals in the media currently panicking about nuclear war but which would probably have been applauding ‘strong leadership’ as Hillary prepares in an alternative universe to once again ‘run up the gut’, I think there is a thorough bi-partisan criticism that can be made right now involving weapons of mass destruction and our perception of their proliferation.

In other words, the party leader here is not a significant factor in a country’s likelihood to use weapons of mass destruction as a bargaining chip, but rather the overall mainstream trend of recent US foreign policy. This is a process that began a long time ago, when George W Bush gave his now infamous ‘Axis of Evil’ speech in which, using the militarism of the immediate post-9/11 world, he justified a singling out of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea as major threats to world stability and the proliferation of WMD’s to non-state actors. This speech was likely intended to assist paving the way on the many causes belli being constructed for Iraq’s transparently imminent invasion as well as to use as a talking point against the other two states. In the end, it would fail spectacularly on all of these fronts.

First, Iraq had no WMD’s of note. Delusional fantasies of certain tortured conservative nerds aside, Iraq had been effectively neutered by Gulf War I and the subsequent No-Fly Zone. Having wisely been left by the first Bush administration as a rump buffer against Iranian influence, the invasion by US and Coalition forces only succeeded in removing this buffer and giving Iran a free hand in the region. The inevitable chaos that followed, and Iran’s newfound ability to directly strike at US forces using its own proxies and spec  ops meant that the US would also be too bogged down to do anything effectual against the Iranians. Additionally, they temporarily ratcheted up their nuclear power program as a bargaining chip which would serve them well later. North Korea, which had been previously working on getting nuclear materials from Pakistan then decided to speed up their own weapons program and loudly proclaim its successes (something which was quite debatable at the time). They saw it as actually because Iraq had no WMD’s that it was subject to a regime change invasion. Against the immense power of the United States on a rampage, only such weapons could provide the necessary deterrence. North Korea, wisely and rationally, became a nuclear power for the same reason anyone would-it becomes a guarantee of regime survival and sovereignty. It was either that or keep their existence by sacrificing autonomy to Beijing in exchange for more overt protection.

So in the end it was USA vs Axis of Evil, 1-2. Axis victory. Iran gained significant power in the Middle East, and North Korea got a ticket out of the threat of imminent invasion. Given this track record, it was no wonder that many small countries that felt threatened by the US gave their moral support to Iran and North Korea in the early and mid Oughts. Zimbabwe and Cuba jumped on the bandwagon overtly, and Pakistan started accelerating its dangerous double-game in Afghanistan. The problem was that none of these countries really posed a direct threat to core US security interests, yet the many in the media, think tank world, and foreign policy establishment who can think little outside of a certain framework of reference in strategy built them up to be gigantic threats. All of this was done by ignoring that much of the increased saber rattling on behalf of these countries was given a boost in the wake of the Iraq War and the subsequent bogging down of US effort in the Middle East. This was a process that would only accelerate after the Arab Spring, which was made doubly noteworthy due to the fact that no policy maker talked seriously of regime change in Libya before they gave up their chemical weapons stockpiles, but the Arab spring happened after. In that instance the two issues may not have been connected, but to many observers it would certainly not seem so. And another country whose present predicaments make we wonder how much of its population wish it had not disarmed its stockpiles is Ukraine, for obvious reasons.

This is not to say that North Korea’s upping the ante to this extreme is good or wise. Far from it. By firing missiles into Japanese sovereign waters they have been tempting pan-regional fate with a cavalier attitude which deserves some response and castigation. But their actions are no more irrational than anyone else’s in this current standoff.

In my time as an academic I engaged with many theories of International Relations from a variety of directions. On base, the one I found generally most useful for explaining what was going on in state-state interactions was Neoclassical Realism-a theory that postulates that regime survival by the governing elites is the key to understanding decisions made in foreign policy. Usually this requires an understanding of the history of a country, the issues its people consider vital to the security and integrity of the state, and how the ruling class legitimizes itself. In this case, North Korea’s governing elite holds the stalwart battle against American hegemony on the Korean peninsula as well as resistance to Japanese regional power to be part of its core justification with the masses. In Pyongyang’s eyes, they are what stands against attempts to bring the North under the same ‘puppet’ regime as the south is under. It is important to keep this in mind. It is also important to keep in mind that sometimes the way Washington behaves acts as a catalyst for nations seeking sovereignty guarantees in the form of nuclear weapons. Regime survival drives most actors, and the more unstable or comparatively weak the country, the more it will drive them.

The problem comes up when a country’s key legitimacy policies start to conflict with its actual interest. I would say that North Korea’s blatant testing affecting waters not their own is truly a dangerous catalyst which once day they may not be able to contain. But I would also point out that as the reining hegemonic power, the United States has very little to gain from picking these fights with countries whose weight on the geopolitical scale is almost nil. There is a Lanyard Class that reaches for military solutions to everything first, but why court such risk when diplomacy from a position of strength can do more with less danger? The military in such a hegemonic position should be reserved as a conventional deterrent and not a first option.

Personally, though I see little desire in either Beijing or Washington to deal with this issue in the long term as it might mean sacrificing their influence on each half of Korea, but it is my hope that one day both powers can come to a far-sighted agreement regarding the Korean peninsula. I believe this would entail a reunification under the South but with the North’s political party left as a legal entity and a declaration that Korea would be unified as a neutral power, securing China’s landward Pacific border by the withdrawal of US military presence and also ending the threat of a PLA invasion from the north. The unified Korea would have a painful development and integration process, so the space of neutrality between powers would be welcome for them. This neutrality would have to allow in foreign investment and trade as that would be the pay off for both powers giving up more direct forms of influence. A Switzerland of sorts in th East Asian Littoral.

I think this could be done, given the political will. But its that, on all sides, I find lacking.

In the meanwhile, try not to get caught up in the…Crossfire.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is the Ultimate International Relations Saga

Previously, I weighed in on just how terrible I find most explicitly International Relations focused film media (P.S. as predicted ‘Good Kill’ seems to be making chump change and being seen by perhaps a few hundred people). This leads to being asked, ‘well what is a good IR movie?’ The obvious answers to this question is ‘Team America: World Police’ ‘Nixon’ and ‘Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.’ But that is just film. In actuality I think the best visual medium treatment of IR comes from a television show-that of Star Trek: Deep Space 9.

Deep_space_9

Now before we get to into this subject I want to make a disclaimer. I am not a person who has encyclopedic knowledge of Trek canon, especially regarding the two series I gave up on early in their runs (Voyager and Enterprise) or any non-show or film lore. Before my 11th birthday I probably could have competed with the biggest of nerds on this topic but I fell out of caring about Trek for a decade and only came back to it in college-and even then only came back to the things I knew I liked (some TOS, TNG, and much more recently DS9 thanks to Netflix, plus the handful of good movies like II, VI, and maybe First Contact). When it comes to science fiction franchises, Star Wars and Battletech defeated Star Trek in my latter childhood and then Alien/Aliens and eventually the rebooted Battlestar Galactica defeated that in turn in my early teens and my late teens respectively. I am probably not the most qualified person to write this in the world-but thanks to a few months recently completed of gorging on DS9 I feel this is something I can indeed talk about.

Star Trek’s strength was always its diplomatic episodes, in my opinion anyway, but the utopian and Wilsonian nature of the setting never accounted for how something like the Federation could thrive in a somewhat hostile environment and a lot of brilliant ideas were half-formed. As we will see, the crisis of the events of DS9 cause the mask the slip-illustrating a valuable lesson in how nations see themselves, and what they really are.

God-tier IR scholar Barry Buzan has written more than one article on the IR of Star Trek, but like many pan-franchise overviews it shafts the grungy sedentary base by the wormhole for the flashy ships of the series, at least proportionally speaking. This is a major problem, because it is DS9 which deals explicitly with the IR-themed oversights of the other more euphoric series. In particular, I wish to make the argument that, probably unintentionally, DS9 is a gateway to view IR through the framework of this blog’s favorite theory: Neoclassical Realism. To put it succinctly, Neoclassical realism, like other forms of realism, recognizes the centrality of states and power politics, but adds to it the dynamic domestic factors and internal cohesion of varying states to explain why some countries follow the policies they do. But at its most blunt, its about regime survival, and how different concepts of regime survival come to arise based on diverged geographic and historical factors which together create the political culture.

The Messy Frontier:

The concept of the show is to move more in a direction of serialization in a sedentary location where the visitors move but the protagonists usually do not. There is no escaping the consequences of the crew’s actions. The storm will be weathered here rather than escaped. In this way, the station itself is a microcosm of the bigger forces which are usually more abstract in other series-the state actors. Having defined territorial boundaries and political cultures, the United Federation of Planets and the other Alpha Quadrant powers do not have quite the episodic flexibility that some of their individual ships might have-and DS9 is in a similar position.

To emphasize this point the static location on international trade and diplomacy which is the station in question is located on what at first seems to be the most peripheral of frontiers. A former slave mining station and HQ of the Cardassian occupation of Bajor, the station is a joint Federation-Bajoran operation in a place only recently vacated by a hostile power. As it is, it represents a guarantee of security by a major power to a tiny and only recently liberated nation and a long term investment in the hopes that the Bajorans will one day join the Federation.

Everything changes with the near immediate discovery of the nearby wormhole. Inhabitants of powerful non-corporeal aliens who communicate with Commander Sisko and who once apparently inspired the Bajoran religion allow transit into a whole new quadrant of the galaxy which would be beyond reach of the Alpha Quadrant powers otherwise. Now, a postwar backwater has become the single most strategic location in the galaxy. This, however, does not change the remoteness of the posting. In fact, the rapid influx of intrigue from other powers mean this is one Star Trek series where the crew seeks to navigate the muddy waters of compromise and balance rather than principle or self-discovery to a previously unheard of degree. Sisko must guide these waters with minimal oversight and little prospect of immediate backup due to his location. Furthermore the nearest ally in the still unstable and completely weak Bajor. Both sides running the joint administration of the station would be familiar to the description in the introduction to Lobell, Ripsman, and Taliaferro’s edited work ‘Neoclassical Realism and Foreign Policy’:

‘Limitations on executive autonomy in different national contexts, however, may undermine their ability to respond as necessary to shifts in the balance of power. Neoclassical realists consequently view policy responses as a product of state-society coordination and, at time, struggle. Less autonomous actors must frequently build coalitions and make compromises to mobilize social and political actors in order to enact policy […] Most states must also frequently bargain with societal actors in order to secure the provision of national security goods to implement policy. […] Finally, neoclassical realism recognizes that many states or regimes do not necessarily function as ‘unitary’  actors. Elite consensus  or disagreement about the nature and extent of international threats, persistent internal divisions within the leadership, social cohesion, and the regime’s vulnerability to violent overthrow all inhibit the state’s ability to respond to systemic pressures.’

It is this kind of diplomatic grunt work that Sisko and his crew must deal with. Everyone can only be placated so far before it rubs up against someone else. All decisions must ensure the survival of the station and of Bajor’s new independence. And the setting further marks a break with what is usually seen in Star Trek by further adding the variable that humans as a species are not the star of this story. Human characters predominate, sure, but humanity is a background species. The real species whose culture is shown in nuance, detail, and variance in this show are the Bajorans, the Cardassians and their difficult and historically tragic relationship with each other. This has been written about before, and quite excellently too, so we I won’t dwell on it here, but it is part of what makes the show so great and also in some sense, very real. This is not a show about one culture interacting with others, but of many cultures continually interacting over a sustained period, and in turn influencing each other’s decision making process.

But I want to fast forward to the story arc the dominates the latter sections of the show: the Dominion. The Dominion is the monster that lurks on the other side of the wormhole whose existence is only found out about once lots of exploration begins on the far side of that cosmic aperture. A type of almost anti-Federation, it is a state which exists as effectively a web of protection for a species of shapeshifters (the Founders) who uphold their hegemony of the quadrant with an intricate web of multiple genetically modified species to carry out their will. The details of how they govern are never fully explored, but one thing becomes immediately clear-because of their history as persecuted by ‘solids’ they will do whatever it takes to become hegemonic over other humanoid life.  Their brazen expansionism and plots to use their unique abilities to destabilize potential threats from the inside are actually for a psychologically defensive purpose, or so they claim. Most likely, they even believe their claim-as ridiculous as it clearly is to outsiders.

The Dominion is possibly a match for the entire Alpha Quadrant, but not being ones to take risks set on on an indirect campaign to destabilize that region before they launch their official invasion. Shapeshifters lure Romulan and Cardassian intelligence agencies and fleets into a devastating trap (and in so doing validating tragic literature as a concept in a sub-plot way far better than most story arcs I have seen), and then proceeding to use their shapeshifting abilities to infiltrate other powers from within, possibly causing a Klingon-Cardassian war and almost causing a major rift in even the utopian Federation where for the first time in centuries troops are deployed on the streets of the future crime and prejudice free Earth. All the while, the Alpha Quadrant remains as divided as ever. Alliances that should be formed are not, even in the face of knowing quite clearly what the intentions of this new and dangerous foe clearly are:

Cardassia, smarting from its instability and loss of standing decides to throw its weight in with the new power under Dukat’s new government-the kind of vindictive re-alignment in diplomacy which is guaranteed to upset the status quo. This is something on the scale of Sino-American rapprochement in the 70s or Japan joining the Axis Powers. It gives the enemy a foothold for free in the Alpha Quadrant and a large supply of allied ships. When the war finally does break out over Sisko’s mining of the wormhole to prevent further reinforcements to the Dominion, everything changes.

With even the ostensibly pacifist Starfleet forced to launch a pre-emptive strike you know things are going to a bit more hard core in this show. And to its credit, DS9 shows us the evolution of a country used to long periods of peace of security and how it changes over prolonged total warfare.

The loss of DS9 itself, and the awkward political situation which the Bajoran crewmen are put in (not to mention the planet itself) of knowing they will be destroyed if they resist, but also that they will be occupied if the war they are forced to declare neutrality in is lost speaks volumes to the struggles of small states in times of chaos. Major Kira struggles with her past as a freedom fighter and now worries about being a collaborator when a dramatic event makes her disavow her government’s stated neutrality-if not overtly.

The war has many back and forth shifts, as one would, and eventually with the re-taking of the station after some Not Your Father’s Star Trek battles settles into a kind of exhausting stalemate. It is here that the show really develops its spine of steel at looking at the anarchic world of foreign policy head on, and to an extend science fiction perhaps did not do before in this particular medium.

To understand the transformation that Starfleet is undergoing, I actually find the career trajectory of the character Nog the best way to see it in microcosm. He starts off exuberant to be the first Ferengi in Starfleet, becomes a prodigy in training, and then fights in the war with the crew and even falls in with some new cadets who the war has shaped into fanatics far removed from the ideals of the service they most likely joined for very different reasons.

Eventually, Nog is terribly wounded in a ground battle of dubious necessity and has a subsequent entire episode devoted to his recovery from PTSD by temporarily living in the fantasy world of a holodeck. He eventually overcomes the worst of it and when asked if he will is better responds with a frank, ‘No, but I will be.’ Here we see the terrible cost of the war, the tragedy that ensues when diplomacy breaks down or the paranoia of an enemy prevent negotiation. But yet in the end this tragedy must be burdened as the alternative is infinitely worse-enslavement for the entire Alpha Quandrant is something worth any sacrifice to stop. Through the microcosm of Nog’s experience we see what Starfleet itself goes through, a torturous realization that their civic mythology is not enough in a time of extreme danger. A crisis of conscious, self-doubt, but ultimately when faced with the reality, adaptation for survival. If some values must be sacrificed in the defense of others it still preferable to the sacrifice of all of them. The Federation must grapple with how to marshal its options and function in the trauma of wartime crisis situation. As M.R. Brawley states:

‘Neoclassical realists look to the state as the manager of the nation’s resources for competition in the anarchic international environment. The state’s position as mediator between the two realms of politics-domestic and international-gives it a unique role. It must coordinate diplomacy and domestic policies, harnessing economic capacity to generate military power in the defense of interests.’

First diplomacy failed, then military only options  could only go so far. Now we reach a point in the final two seasons where only special operations of the most delicate kind can turn the balance. This is, of course, the famous moment as well as the best episode of the series-when Sisko and Garak conspire to bring the so-far neutral Romulans into the war by an act so illegal, so dangerous, and so unethical it could cause war with the Romulans if ever found out. The sham is found out by its Romulan target (‘It’s a FAAAAAAAAKE!!!!’), but before he can relay this news Garak assassinates him in a way that covers up the false data and brings the Romulan Empire into the war against the Dominion. This is, to me, the star episode of the series and the peak of the show’s IR themes. Shadows of the Zimmerman Telegram coupled with who knows how many forged intelligence coups in history  tie this firmly into reality and strategy. In the ethics of Starfleet this is the most heinous thing imaginable, and so it took someone without a country and with a strong understanding of the inter-state system to do it for them. And of course, they can live with it:

Furthermore down the dark path of grand strategy, up until this point much has been made of the Cardassian and Romulan intelligence services, but what we find out, and which shatters the myth of Federation success  as values based as a sole explanation for their thriving for the past few centuries, is that Starfleet has an intelligence service so good no one even knows of it. Not only that, it has already used Odo as conduit for which to infect the entire Founder race with a deadly bioweapon before the war even began. This is Section 31, what I imagine to be the most controversial aspect of the show. An organization accountable to no one, filled with dangerous individuals whose very existence compromises the stated goals and intents of the Federation itself. It is precisely this which has enabled Starfleet to be so principled. Aside from that first point, this is Sun Tzu’s fantasy right here.

The main figures have after all never had to get their hands dirty, someone else did it for them-and possibly did so without anyone finding out. Who knows how many events Section 31 pulled off in the past which have never been exposed? A friend of mine postulated the theory that the relatively organized and potent Klingon of the original series seemed to give way to the brittle warrior feuding culture of later renditions precisely because of some kind of Section 31 operation that indirectly backed the most right wing and chauvinistic elements of a country in order to make it easy to manipulate and destabilize much like the United States with organizations like the Gray Wolves in Turkey or military regimes in Latin America in the Cold War. After all, near the end of the series the Federation basically has Worf kill Gowron to get a better strategist in the cockpit of the Klingon Empire-and that little change wasn’t even hidden from public view.

But here is the kicker, love it or hate it the most subversive part of DS9 is not just showing the Federation being a great power out of necessity when the chips are down-just like the others it does what is necessary and hence must forfeit the mantle of moral superiority-that is only part one of the real message. The real message is this: politics is lesser evils. the Federation was worth defending against the Dominion. All those events that showed it at its worse and most fanboy purist upsetting-these are the things that enabled its survival. Naturally with the war over, Section 31 becomes more a danger than a benefit, and the galaxy at the end of the war is left in an ambiguous position with quite possibly the Romulans in the driver’s seat of regional affairs. Political problems will never end, and allies and enemies always change, but in a crisis one doesn’t have the luxury of playing with all considerations in mind, only the most immediate ones. After all, who would have predicted Kira as the leader of the Cardassian resistance? That the ‘bad guy’ races advocating a pre-emptive attack on the Dominion who were portrayed as warmongers would be more than justified as events ensued? That the drive for regime legitimacy in the eyes of its own people would be enough to drive Cardassia entirely into ruin? Well, a world history major perhaps, but few others.

Given all the messy compromises of politics, something that only gets worse as the scales increase, one is never going to get a happy ending in IR, or even an ending barring sentient extinction. But ultimately the prevention of things getting worse must stand as the positive outcome. A rough lesson DS9 and human history alike tell in abundance. Whereas before DS9 Star Trek clearly dealt with power politics without *really* dealing with them, in DS9 we see the darker reality that makes even something like the Federation possible. Just as in real life Wilsonism or other ideals driven foreign policy views can be shown to be a superficial guise for what often really lurks beneath. DS9 brought the realism to Star Trek in more ways than one.

The only thing I felt the series was lacking, as a Jeffrey Combs fan, was a scene where Dr. Herbert West re-animates a Weyoun clone.

I would also like to nominate Garak to be one of the spirit animals of this blog.

Well the next few posts will probably be back to normal after that, but at some point in the future I would like to do something similar-ish for the Battletech Universe, we will see.

The book cited twice in this post can be found here.