Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Site Traffic and the Real Section 31

As some of you may know, I have been less than prolific in posting recently, due to real life issues. Imagine my surprise then, when over the past week my daily site traffic has doubled. I have been getting a whole slew of Google refers from searches for "Section 31," enough to where this blog is now the number 2 Google site referred by those search terms. I suspect that this may have something to do with the recent cancellation of UPN's Enterprise, the most recent series in the Star Trek franchise. Unfortunately, I haven't followed the series as closely as I would have liked, due to the lack of a local UPN station, but apparently the series in its waning episodes is going to establish the very beginnings of Section 31 in the Star Trek timeline. A detailed history of Section 31 can be found here.

The concept of Section 31 has intrigued me ever since it was introduced. There is a fascinating dichotomy at work here; an organization that exists to protect a set of noble ideals does so by means that at times violate those same ideals. For some in the Star Trek universe, the idea is unacceptable. For them, the existence of Section 31 is repugnant to the most basic principles of Federation culture.

But the members of Section 31 see things a little differently. They are committed to the same noble principles as the rest of the Federation. However, they realize that against some dangers more extreme measures must be taken than their principles would normally allow. In effect, Section 31 sacrifices the thing it is sworn to protect, in order to safeguard it for others.

Will the United States ever find itself in a similar situation? Are there dangers in this world great enough to require the bending, or even the breaking of our ideals in the short term, to ensure that those ideals survive in the long term? I have asked variations of this question previously regarding the issue of torturing terrorists. The North Korean declaration of its nuclear capabilities, the Iranian rush to nuclear status, and the recent assassination plot against President Bush have all caused me to ponder once again the dangers facing our country, and the lengths to which our people are prepared to go in order to defend against them.

It may be that the dangers we face will in fact require action that many will condemn, perhaps action that even I will condemn. If that day comes, I may not be able to disagree with those who cry out against the violation of sacred national principles. But even if I join in the outcry against "extreme measures," I suspect that deep inside, there will be a part of me that is thankful that someone else has sacrificed to keep me safe while I condemn them for their methods. Could it be that our culture needs both groups of people, one to protect against external threats, the other to protect against the first group itself? Food for thought.