What’s happened to the United Federation of Planets in the real world?
This month marks the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. The original series was created by Gene Roddenberry. Although it lasted only three seasons (1966-1969), the series created a legion of fans that demanded more.
In the last 50 years, Star Trek has produced 13 movies and 726 episodes from the six television series. Next year, Star Trek will produce a seventh television series on CBS. Many of the episodes could be entertaining, but the show’s main appeal was Gene Roddenberry’s positive vision for the future.
In the turbulent sixties, with the war in Vietnam, race riots in all of our major cities, Roddenberry believed that all humans would live in free society where everyone was equal. He believed that humans, and aliens, would put aside their differences and create a United Federation of Planets.
There were hostile aliens in the show, but Earth was a paradise. There was no poverty, no wars, no crime, and even no need for money. Humanity was united under one government.
In the turbulent sixties, the show had Captain Kirk lead a diverse crew, including Mr. Spock (half human/half Vulcan), Dr. McCoy (a Southerner), Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott (Scottish), Helmsman Lt. Hikaru Sulu (Asian), and Lt. Uhura (African-American). By the second season, the series added a Russian, Ensign Pavel Chekov, to remind people that the Cold War would end in the future.
It wasn’t a surprise that one of the biggest fans of the original series was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We know this through Nichelle Nichols who played Lt. Uhura.
After the first season, Nichols told Gene Roddenberry that she wanted to leave the show. Gene asked her to take the weekend to think about it.
During that weekend, Nichelle Nichols met Dr. King at a fundraiser. He told her that his entire family loved the show.
When she told him that she was leaving, Dr. King said, “You cannot.” He begged her not to leave because it was the first show on television to portray blacks as equals.
When Nichols returned to work on Monday, she told Roddenberry that she wanted to stay. When she told Gene about her conversation with Dr. King, he was overjoyed. Gene told her that he was glad that at least someone understands what he was trying to do.
The show produced a lot of great episodes, but there was one episode on my mind today. It was an episode about a planet that destroyed itself because of racial violence. It entitled “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield.”
In the episode, the Enterprise crew encounters two aliens, Bele and Lokai, from the planet Cheron. Both of them are half-black and half-white. The difference between them is the Bele is black on the right side of his body and white on the left side. Lokai is the opposite. Bele’s people enslaved Lokai’s people.
Bele believed Lokai was inferior to him because, “Lokai is white on the right side. All of his people are white on the right side.” Lokai led a slave rebellion and Bele chased him across the galaxy until the Enterprise caught both of them.
At the end of the episode, Bele and Lokai see that there was no one left on their planet. The slave rebellion resulted in both sides being destroyed. Their entire civilization was destroyed because they couldn’t overcome their hate for each other. With everyone dead on the planet, Bele and Lokai beam down to the surface to finish each other off.
Nichelle Nichols’ character, Lt. Uhura, says, “But their planet’s dead. Does it matter now which one of them was right? The problem today is that the world is full of countries whose people are killing each other.
The genocide in Rwanda happened relatively quickly. Over 800,000 people in a country of 7 million were killed in about 100 days in 1994. The majority of Rwanda were people from the Hutu tribe. For some reasons, the Hutus in the government couldn’t live with the Tutsi tribe.
The genocide in Darfur resulted in 400,000 dead and over 2 million people displaced. It was caused because the Arab Janjaweed militias in the Sudan couldn’t accept living with the black Muslims in Darfur.
The conflict in Syria exists because President Bashar al-Assad is an Alawite, which is an offshoot of Shia Islam. Since 1970, the minority Alawites have ruled Syria even though the majority of the population are Sunni Muslims.
Since 2011, over 300,000 people have been killed and millions have been displaced in Syria because these two peoples practice Islam differently. This phenomenon is not limited to Syria.
Lebanon nearly destroyed itself with in a similar Civil War (1975-1990). Lebanon lost 250,000 people in that war because this country was also divided on sectarian lines. Based on the 1932 census of Lebanon, the seats between Christians and Muslims are allocated by a ratio of 6 to 5. After the civil war, the number of seats in its parliament was divided evenly between Christians and Muslims.
Under an agreement, the president of Lebanon would always be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister would always be a Sunni Muslim, and the Speaker of the parliament would be a Shia Muslim. The main problem with this type of quota system is that demographics change.
Even without the 450,000 Palestinian refugees, and the recent arrival of 1.1 million Syrian refugees, the Muslims are a majority of the 4 million people in Lebanon. Do they not have a right to elect a Muslim president? Can the Christians in Lebanon afford it? Will the rights of the minority be respected by the majority?
It is inevitable that Lebanon will face a similar war in the future if the Lebanese don’t find a way to live together. Prior to 9/11, Hezbollah killed more Americans than any terrorist organization. To permanently defeat Hezbollah will require each group (Christians, Sunnis, and Shia) to build a legitimate democracy in Lebanon.
Max Weber wrote that a necessary condition for a functioning state requires a monopoly of legitimate use of physical force. Right now Hezbollah controls South Lebanon. It functions as a state within a state.
Even before the fall of Saddam Hussein, Sunni Iraqis have been fighting Shia and Kurdish Iraqis for dominance. The Kurds had been fighting for their independence against first the Ottoman Empire and later the Iraqi government.
In March 1970, Kurdish leader Mustapha Barzani and then Iraqi Vice President Saddam Hussein reached an agreement on Kurdish autonomy. By 1974, Barzani concluded that the leadership in Baghdad would not carry out their promises. When he decided to take up arms, Barzani had the open support of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi of Iran and he thought the United States would secretly support his actions as well.
While Mustafa was able to secure some aide from the Shah, Israel, and the United States, the Kurds were no match for Iraq’s military of Soviet made artillery, tanks, and aircraft. Barzani force of 100,000 of brave Kurds was simply outmanned and outgunned.
The war ended quickly in part because Saddam did some behind the scenes maneuvering by securing a deal with the Shah at the annual OPEC Conference in March of 1975. Eventually the borders were closed and Barzani’s forces were doomed. Since 2005, Mustafa’s son, Massoud has been the leader of Iraqi Kurdistan. The Kurds also failed to achieve independence in a 1991 uprising.
In 2006, when the violence among Iraqis was at its peak, the country was in chaos. To call it a civil war would be imply that the violence was organized along sectarian lines. Not only were Sunnis killing Shia, but Sunnis were killing Sunnis and Shi’ites were killing Shi’ites.
According to the Baker-Hamilton Commission Report, the Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr was known to have had multiple clashes with their fellow Shia militia the Badr Brigade of Ayatollah Mohammed al-Bakr al-Hakim. The Sunnis were also fighting each other.
The 2007 Surge in Iraq worked in part because of the Sunni Awakening Councils. These councils consisted of Sunni tribes who helped American forces drive Sunni al-Qaeda out of al-Anbar province.
Once the United States withdrew in 2011, it was clear that Maliki could not overcome decades of distrust toward the Sunnis. Maliki was part of the Dawa Party.
The al-Dawa Party dates back to the 1950s. It was founded by Muhammad Baqr al-Sadr, who is the uncle of Muqtada al-Sadr. He was executed by Saddam’s regime in 1980. Its philosophy was to combat communism, Baathism, and secular ideas.
This party supported Ayatollah Khomeini’s rise to power in Iran. In return, al-Dawa received support from the Iranians during the Iran-Iraq War. The al-Dawa had a history of terrorism against Saddam Hussein, who they tried to execute in 1982 and 1987, as well as the United States when they bombed the American and French embassies in Kuwait in 1983.
While they are both Shi’ites, Khomeini believed that the power should rest in the ulema, which is a class of Muslim scholars such as a mullah. The al-Dawa believes that power should rest in the ummah, which translates to the entire community of Muslims.
It is an important difference, but not to Saddam Hussein. In 1980, Maliki fled Iraq to escape a death sentence from Saddam Hussein. Maliki only returned after 2003.
In 2014, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki resigned. Maliki helped ISIS emerge because the Sunnis felt marginalized by the Shia-majority. With the help of over 6,000 American airstrikes, the new Iraqi government, led by Maliki’s successor, Haider al-Abadi, and the Kurdish Peshmerga slowly pushed ISIS back.
The amount of territory in Iraq controlled by ISIS peaked in December 2014. In the last two years, ISIS has lost 25,000 square kilometers of territory in Iraq and Syria. This is almost half of the territory they controlled in Iraq and 20 percent of what they once controlled in Syria.
Defeating terrorists is not as easy as delegitimizing their cause. As long the minority is too afraid to lose to the majority, the minority will continue to fight.
Even if ISIS is defeated in Iraq by the end of 2016, the Shia majority in Iraq will have to show the Sunnis that they will be treated fairly under the law or another terrorist group will emerge in the future.
The eastern tribes of Libya rebelled from the rule of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. By October 2011, Gaddafi was dead. Despite elections, the country has been in a renewed of civil war since 2014. This conflict is both tribal and religious. Among the Islamists factions, Ansar al-Sharia, ISIS, and the Muslim Brotherhood are involved.
Part of the reason Egypt fell apart in 2011 was because of bread prices. During the bread riots of 1977, it was clear that Egyptians wouldn’t tolerate high bread prices. The Egyptian government could no longer afford these subsidies. Almost 25 percent of the Egyptian budget is spent on subsidies for food and energy. This is more than they spend on healthcare and education.
This is unsustainable. When Mubarak fell, over a third of Egyptian men and a majority of Egyptian women were illiterate. This is a problem for not just Egypt but the entire Arab world that could lead to more failing states.
The population of the 22 Arab States increased from 128 million in 1970 to 359 million in 2010. It is projected to reach 600 million by 2050. The population of Arabs 15-29 years of age, increased from 30.8 million in 1970 to 102 million in 2010. It is projected to reach over 133 million by 2050. It will be increasingly challenging for competent governments to provide enough opportunity for young people to find jobs. Currently, the population
According the United Nations, the unemployment in the 22 Arab states is over 10 percent while unemployment of young Arabs in the labor force (ages 15-24) almost 30 percent.
Not all Arab countries are the same in terms of economic development. According to the 2015 Global Human Development Index of 188 nations, the highest ranking country was Qatar (32) while the lowest was Djibouti (168). One of the least developed Arab countries is Yemen.
Since reunification in 1990, Yemen has had only two presidents (Ali Abdullah Saleh and Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi). In 2015, the Houthis took over Yemen’s capital Sana’a. The Houthis in the northern part of Yemen are Zaydis, a branch of Shia Islam. The southern part of Yemen is predominately Sunni. This southern part also has a strong presence of al-Qaeda. Remarkably, so many countries are engulfed in civil wars because they can’t tolerate other religious views.
Countries can also fall apart due to economic issues as well. Mexico is in crisis because most drugs entering the United States come through Mexico. Since 2006, over 100,000 Mexicans have been killed in a war between the Mexican government and the drug cartels. In Colombia, over 200,000 people have been killed since 1960. In 2016, the Colombian government and the FARC rebels signed an agreement to try to end this war, but there are still millions of displaced people in that country.
Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia are among the leading producers of cocaine while Mexico and Central America provide the transit routes for those drugs to enter the United States.
Building a wall on our southern border is necessary, but it is not sufficient in dealing with the drug war in Mexico. We need a wall to secure the border, but we also need to help the Mexicans win their drug war by reducing the demand for these illegal drugs. We need to help Americans end their addiction to these illegal drugs. These drug cartels can’t prosper without customers.
The number of failed states is going up in the world. Failure of governance is one of the biggest issues in the 2016 campaign. It can increase hostility among different ethnic and religious groups. It can lead to humanitarian disasters. To make matters worse, some the most likely candidates for failed states, like North Korea and Pakistan, have nuclear weapons.
In 50 years, we are closer to Gene Roddenberry’s positive vision of the future, but not close enough. Things could get worse before they get better.