I just watched an episode of DS9 called “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges,” which involved a complicated plot by Section 31 to secure the alliance between the Federation and the Romulans. Section 31 is the Federation’s unofficial, unacknowledged intelligence agency. This is the second episode they’ve appeared in. Now, the point of these episodes is that Section 31 is bad because they operate with no accountability and do unethical things for the sake of protecting the Federation. The title of the episode is a statement by Cicero that means, “In times of war, the law falls silent.” The unethical thing they were doing in this episode was setting up a Romulan Senator so they could get rid of her and keep their own operative in power, and they manipulated Dr. Bashir into helping them to boot.
But I don’t know … I wasn’t really convinced. I mean, sure, it’s wrong to ruin people’s lives and possibly get them executed, but the bad guys had a lot more to say about why it was necessary than Bashir had to say about why it’s necessary not to do that kind of thing. His argument more or less came down to his feeling of moral outrage. I suppose he was hoping it would be obvious to these people that doing bad things is wrong. But I would have preferred to see more detailed argumentation.
I’m a very nice person who almost literally wouldn’t hurt a fly, but there’s a part of me that likes Section 31. I like the idea of people who are so committed to a goal that they will do anything it takes to reach it. I like seeing people carry out their plans with such self-possession. I like hidden agendas, the sense of something large and mysterious happening just beneath the surface and going a lot farther down. I like that black leather uniform Sloan gets to wear. I want one for Christmas, please. And I like the idea of peace through superior firepower. It just keeps things so much tidier. If you control everything, you don’t have to worry about breakdowns in diplomacy.
And that’s why I support the Project for the New American Century. Well okay, not really. After spending a while in a fantasy world, I come down to reality and try to take a broader view of things. Having America rule the globe sounds like a nice idea, if you’re an American, but it doesn’t seem very fair to the rest of the world. The PNAC people aren’t exactly aiming to rule the world, of course, but it seems a little too close to that for comfort. And I would never really be able to join something like Section 31. I have too many scruples.
But still, there are things about intelligence that the less dark side of me likes too, such as the obviousâ€”information. If I worked in an intelligence organization, I probably wouldn’t want to be out in the field. I don’t like danger. I would rather be back at headquarters coordinating all the information the field agents were gathering. I would want to maintain their databases and have a high security clearance so I could freely look for new connections and meanings in the data and get a sense of the big pictureâ€”and that sense that big things are happening beneath the surface of the everyday.
But I will never work at an intelligence agency, alas. It isn’t useless to think about such things, though, because it gives you clues about what you’re after in life. Once you’ve found that out, you can look for more realistic and productive substitutes. I haven’t worked out specifically what that would be in this case yet.