What is the canon UFP foreign affairs organization?

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What is the canon UFP foreign affairs organization?

Postby Platonian » Fri Apr 24, 2015 9:12 pm

I've seen all kinds of speculation on the UFP foreign affairs organization (what might be called a "Ministry of Foreign Affairs"), but canon sources are, to me at least, unclear.

Any help on this would be most appreciated. :) Please do cite your source(s), if you would be so kind.

Thanks!
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Re: What is the canon UFP foreign affairs organization?

Postby Mikey » Sat Apr 25, 2015 1:49 am

In all honestly, I cannot recall ever hearing such a department named specifically in canon. In TUC as in DS9, the UFP president seemed to deal with affairs of state directly.
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Re: What is the canon UFP foreign affairs organization?

Postby Platonian » Sat Apr 25, 2015 2:17 am

Mikey wrote:In all honestly, I cannot recall ever hearing such a department named specifically in canon. In TUC as in DS9, the UFP president seemed to deal with affairs of state directly.


Thanks, Mikey. :) That's a useful reference.

Memory Alpha talks about an "executive agency" called the Bureau of Planetary Treaties that seems to function like a Foreign Ministry. It is, though, far too limited in scope to be a Foreign Ministry in the sense we know such an entity in the real world.

It is bewildering to me that an organization of such importance in the real world as a Foreign Ministry is almost an afterthought in the Trek universe. It's even stranger given the importance and number of ambassadors and other diplomats featured throughout Trek. I know that diplomats in the United States (in both the State & Commerce Departments) are part of very rigid and extensive hierarchies. (I know because I have to deal with them in my work occasionally.) Are Trek ambassadors plenipotentiaries, operating directly under the authority of the UFP president? :shock:
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Re: What is the canon UFP foreign affairs organization?

Postby Mikey » Sat Apr 25, 2015 10:58 am

You're right, it seems mind-boggling that there isn't a more obvious overseeing agency - considering the number of envoys/ambassadors we see and the staggering number of species/races involved in the life of a "nation" in 'Trek. Sarek, at least, seemed to have been accorded a huge degree of latitude and authority, though that is likely due as much to his experience and reputation as it is due to his technical position. Part of the issue may be that a great deal of ambassadorial duties are overseen through Starfleet, as they fall on the shoulders of starship captains. Certainly, in addition to this we've seen starships throughout 'Trek being assigned to cart around diplomats, mediators, and the like - though again while it seems that such assignations come from Starfleet, there is no clear concrete answer of how these assignments are made or by whom.

The Efrosian president in TUC definitely "got his hands dirty" with the "international" situation, as did the cow-faced guy in DS9 - though to argue against myself, both of these situations may have been atypical because of the degree of the issue involved. In the final analysis, if I had to guess at an overseeing agency based on the fragments of circumstantial canon evidence, I'd say Starfleet as much as anyone.
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Re: What is the canon UFP foreign affairs organization?

Postby Mikey » Sat Apr 25, 2015 10:58 am

You're right, it seems mind-boggling that there isn't a more obvious overseeing agency - considering the number of envoys/ambassadors we see and the staggering number of species/races involved in the life of a "nation" in 'Trek. Sarek, at least, seemed to have been accorded a huge degree of latitude and authority, though that is likely due as much to his experience and reputation as it is due to his technical position. Part of the issue may be that a great deal of ambassadorial duties are overseen through Starfleet, as they fall on the shoulders of starship captains. Certainly, in addition to this we've seen starships throughout 'Trek being assigned to cart around diplomats, mediators, and the like - though again while it seems that such assignations come from Starfleet, there is no clear concrete answer of how these assignments are made or by whom.

The Efrosian president in TUC definitely "got his hands dirty" with the "international" situation, as did the cow-faced guy in DS9 - though to argue against myself, both of these situations may have been atypical because of the degree of the issue involved. In the final analysis, if I had to guess at an overseeing agency based on the fragments of circumstantial canon evidence, I'd say Starfleet as much as anyone.
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Re: What is the canon UFP foreign affairs organization?

Postby Graham Kennedy » Sat Apr 25, 2015 11:17 am

There were episodes of TOS where we met various Federation functionaries. For example in A Taste Of Armageddon there was Ambassador Robert Fox. In The Galileo Seven there was Galactic High Commissioner Ferris. Starfleet is often ordered to lend these people any assistance they ask for. So there must be some kind of foreign affairs department in the Federation.
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Re: What is the canon UFP foreign affairs organization?

Postby Platonian » Sat Apr 25, 2015 8:21 pm

Mikey wrote:You're right, it seems mind-boggling that there isn't a more obvious overseeing agency - considering the number of envoys/ambassadors we see and the staggering number of species/races involved in the life of a "nation" in 'Trek. Sarek, at least, seemed to have been accorded a huge degree of latitude and authority, though that is likely due as much to his experience and reputation as it is due to his technical position. Part of the issue may be that a great deal of ambassadorial duties are overseen through Starfleet, as they fall on the shoulders of starship captains. Certainly, in addition to this we've seen starships throughout 'Trek being assigned to cart around diplomats, mediators, and the like - though again while it seems that such assignations come from Starfleet, there is no clear concrete answer of how these assignments are made or by whom.

The Efrosian president in TUC definitely "got his hands dirty" with the "international" situation, as did the cow-faced guy in DS9 - though to argue against myself, both of these situations may have been atypical because of the degree of the issue involved. In the final analysis, if I had to guess at an overseeing agency based on the fragments of circumstantial canon evidence, I'd say Starfleet as much as anyone. (emphasis added)


Great analysis, Mikey. Well, I agree with you -- so that makes it great! :wink:

Seriously, though, I think you've hit on something with the idea of Starfleet playing a huge role in the United Federation's (NB: I use the term "United Federation" because there is another Federation, the First Federation) foreign affairs -- even at the institutional level. Wow, that gives me moment for pause. I shudder at the idea of a real-world country allowing its military to play such a huge role in its foreign affairs. (Examples, current and historical, abound; hence my concern.)

Here's more food for thought: Has the role of Starfleet in the United Federation's foreign affairs always been at the level we see in the late 24th century, or has it become more (or less) pronounced over the centuries? Given the paucity of canon information on the United Federation's foreign affairs mechanisms, as we have discussed, this may not be possible to determine. Some of you with more extensive knowledge of the literature than I may be better able to address this question.

Thanks.
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Re: What is the canon UFP foreign affairs organization?

Postby Platonian » Sat Apr 25, 2015 8:25 pm

Graham Kennedy wrote:There were episodes of TOS where we met various Federation functionaries. For example in A Taste Of Armageddon there was Ambassador Robert Fox. In The Galileo Seven there was Galactic High Commissioner Ferris. Starfleet is often ordered to lend these people any assistance they ask for. So there must be some kind of foreign affairs department in the Federation.


Yes, I agree with you Graham. It's inconceivable that some kind of foreign affairs department doesn't exist.

I wonder if this is a case of the writers just not thinking this issue sufficiently important to "flesh out."
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Re: What is the canon UFP foreign affairs organization?

Postby Graham Kennedy » Sat Apr 25, 2015 9:15 pm

The writers have always been very wary of giving us details of just how the Federation works. For example, is the Federation a democracy? You'd think it obviously is... but IIRC, it wasn't until late in DS9 that there was anything to prove it. We know next to nothing about politics or government structure in the Federation, even now.
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Re: What is the canon UFP foreign affairs organization?

Postby Platonian » Sat Apr 25, 2015 9:25 pm

Graham Kennedy wrote:The writers have always been very wary of giving us details of just how the Federation works. For example, is the Federation a democracy? You'd think it obviously is... but IIRC, it wasn't until late in DS9 that there was anything to prove it. We know next to nothing about politics or government structure in the Federation, even now.


Indeed! "The Ba'ku Land Grab" comes to mind! :wink:
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Re: What is the canon UFP foreign affairs organization?

Postby Mikey » Sun Apr 26, 2015 2:18 pm

Platonian wrote:
Mikey wrote:You're right, it seems mind-boggling that there isn't a more obvious overseeing agency - considering the number of envoys/ambassadors we see and the staggering number of species/races involved in the life of a "nation" in 'Trek. Sarek, at least, seemed to have been accorded a huge degree of latitude and authority, though that is likely due as much to his experience and reputation as it is due to his technical position. Part of the issue may be that a great deal of ambassadorial duties are overseen through Starfleet, as they fall on the shoulders of starship captains. Certainly, in addition to this we've seen starships throughout 'Trek being assigned to cart around diplomats, mediators, and the like - though again while it seems that such assignations come from Starfleet, there is no clear concrete answer of how these assignments are made or by whom.

The Efrosian president in TUC definitely "got his hands dirty" with the "international" situation, as did the cow-faced guy in DS9 - though to argue against myself, both of these situations may have been atypical because of the degree of the issue involved. In the final analysis, if I had to guess at an overseeing agency based on the fragments of circumstantial canon evidence, I'd say Starfleet as much as anyone. (emphasis added)


Great analysis, Mikey. Well, I agree with you -- so that makes it great! :wink:

Seriously, though, I think you've hit on something with the idea of Starfleet playing a huge role in the United Federation's (NB: I use the term "United Federation" because there is another Federation, the First Federation) foreign affairs -- even at the institutional level. Wow, that gives me moment for pause. I shudder at the idea of a real-world country allowing its military to play such a huge role in its foreign affairs. (Examples, current and historical, abound; hence my concern.)

Here's more food for thought: Has the role of Starfleet in the United Federation's foreign affairs always been at the level we see in the late 24th century, or has it become more (or less) pronounced over the centuries? Given the paucity of canon information on the United Federation's foreign affairs mechanisms, as we have discussed, this may not be possible to determine. Some of you with more extensive knowledge of the literature than I may be better able to address this question.

Thanks.


It has always been easy - because of what are basically cosmetic features - to equate Starfleet with our modern RL conception of a navy. Starfleet uses naval ranks, they use "ships" of a kind, they even have the word "fleet" in their name. However, the role of Starfleet has, from TOS on, only partially comprised that of a modern RL navy. Starfleet has also been the exploration/part-time ambassadorial arm of the UFP; the R&D department for both military and civilian projects; the prime mover in both colonization and colonial maintenance; for various periods of time, the internal watchdog/FBI of the UFP; the coast guard/erstwhile police force; etc., ad nauseum. Given (a) the widespread and often non-military role Starfleet has played in the UFP, combined with the (b) envoy duties and authorities entrusted to SF captains and the seemingly commonplace (c) constant orders for front-line Starfleet ships to be ambassadors'/mediators' bitches - and the lack of evidence of another diplomatic organization within the UFP - it seems natural to follow the admittedly circumstantial evidence that Starfleet is the oversight agency for affairs of state. Is there a particular branch or authority within Starfleet for such? I sure don't know, but it seems to follow as we see many ambassador types outside rank heirarchy, without uniforms, etc.

*EDIT* As another piece of once-again circumstantial evidence, Sarek seems to have been able to exert a great deal of influence on internal Starfleet decision makers. While this may have been due in part or whole to the general large degree of respect accorded Sarek's wisdom, it is hard to believe that the high brass-holes of Starfleet would accord an outsider that much influence within their own decision-making.
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Re: What is the canon UFP foreign affairs organization?

Postby Platonian » Sun Apr 26, 2015 4:05 pm

That may be it, Mikey, especially in light of Graham's observations about the writers' lack of information about the internal political and administrative mechanisms of the United Federation.

I wonder if this was indeed part of Gene Roddenberry's vision of the United Federation: Starfleet as an entity transcending the traditional role of a military, including what would normally be the purview of a Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A fascinating :wink: but, to me at least, disquieting idea.
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Re: What is the canon UFP foreign affairs organization?

Postby Mikey » Sun Apr 26, 2015 8:08 pm

I know, or at least believe, that Roddenberry was somewhat disheartened but what he observed about his contemporary military while he was a member of same. I of course have no way of knowing what his intentions were, but the idea that Starfleet was far greater than merely a military organization certainly fits with his ideals for the show.
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Re: What is the canon UFP foreign affairs organization?

Postby Platonian » Mon Apr 27, 2015 3:01 am

Mikey wrote:I know, or at least believe, that Roddenberry was somewhat disheartened but what he observed about his contemporary military while he was a member of same. I of course have no way of knowing what his intentions were, but the idea that Starfleet was far greater than merely a military organization certainly fits with his ideals for the show.


If that's the case -- and I agree with you that it seems that it could well be -- it would go a long way towards answering my initial question: What is the canon UFP foreign affairs organization? It is Starfleet, supported administratively by various civilian agencies within the United Federation government, such as the aforementioned Bureau of Planetary Treaties.

It seems, by the way, that these agencies don't always function very efficiently or effectively. Take this little exchange in "The Mark of Gideon":

SPOCK: Lieutenant Uhura, has Starfleet honored our request with a reply?
UHURA: There has been no response as yet, sir.
SPOCK: Did you advise them the captain's life is at stake?
UHURA: Yes, sir. They insist that the matter must be referred to the Federation.
SPOCK: What department?
UHURA: Bureau of Planetary Treaties.
SPOCK: Contact them directly.
UHURA: I did, Mister Spock. They insist that we must go through Starfleet channels.
SULU: With the captain lost, sir, that's the best they could come up with?
SPOCK: Diplomats and bureaucrats may function differently, but they achieve exactly the same results.


Aside from Mr. Spock's amusingly snide comments :) , this exchange suggests that there are some, let us say, tensions between Starfleet and the civilian entities supporting them in foreign affairs. Perhaps this, too, is a reflection of Gene's perceptions and possibly personal experiences, as you suggested.
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