June 25, 2024
Let's be honest - the study of strategy can, at times, be a tedious thing. For those of us who haven't dedicated their lives and/or careers to understanding the detailed workings, intricate interplay and parlance of the strategic realm it can be a downright drag. But what if you could comprehend it all via an amazing space opera? What if the Empire, the Rebellion, the Romulans, the Klingons, the Federation, the Spice Trade and the Apes of a futuristic Earth all had something to teach you about strategy? What if the Federation could make conversations about discrimination and diversity much easier to discuss in a learning situation? Jon Klug and Steve Leonard so firmly believed that science fiction offers both a mirror and a possible guidebook for students of strategy and leadership that they gathered up a bunch of friends and colleagues and they put a book together on the topic. Jon and Steve join podcast editor Ron Granieri to discuss To Boldly Go: Leadership, Strategy, and Conflict in the 21st Century and Beyond. The three of them examine the genesis of the project, what they've learned along the way and they set out to answer the age old questions Kirk or Picard? Khan or Q? Buck or Flash? The Empire or The First Order? FACT CHECK - Jon Klug mentions that Dino De Laurentiis owned the rights to Star Wars. What Jon was trying to convey was that De Laurentiis owned the rights to Flash Gordon, and he refused to sell them to George Lucas who had hopes to create a new Flash Gordon movie. Instead Lucas was forced to create a little project he eventually called Star Wars.

Let’s be honest – the study of strategy can, at times, be a tedious thing. For those of us who haven’t dedicated their lives and/or careers to understanding the detailed workings, intricate interplay and parlance of the strategic realm it can be a downright drag. But what if you could comprehend it all via an amazing space opera? What if the Empire, the Rebellion, the Romulans, the Klingons, the Federation, the Spice Trade and the Apes of a futuristic Earth all had something to teach you about strategy? What if the Federation could make conversations about discrimination and diversity much easier to discuss in a learning situation? Jon Klug and Steve Leonard so firmly believed that science fiction offers both a mirror and a possible guidebook for students of strategy and leadership that they gathered up a bunch of friends and colleagues and they put a book together on the topic. Jon and Steve join podcast editor Ron Granieri to discuss To Boldly Go: Leadership, Strategy, and Conflict in the 21st Century and Beyond. The three of them examine the genesis of the project, what they’ve learned along the way and they set out to answer the age old questions Kirk or Picard? Khan or Q? Buck or Flash? The Empire or The First Order?

FACT CHECK – Jon Klug mentions that Dino De Laurentiis owned the rights to Star Wars. What Jon was trying to convey was that De Laurentiis owned the rights to Flash Gordon, and he refused to sell them to George Lucas who had hopes to create a new Flash Gordon movie. Instead Lucas was forced to create a little project he eventually called Star Wars.

When asked why he often tackled serious social and political issues in the fantastical stories of his series, The Twilight Zone, Rod Serling, who struggles with sponsors over political content became legendary, famously said he could have aliens say things that Democrats and Republicans couldn’t.

Jonathan Klug is a Colonel in the U.S. Army, a faculty member in the Department of Military Strategy, Planning, and Operations at the U.S. Army War College and an Associate Editor with WAR ROOM.

Steve Leonard is Senior Assistant Dean at the University Of Kansas School Of Business, as well as a senior fellow at the Modern War Institute He is the author, co-author or editor of 5 books and also a prolific military cartoonist.

Ron Granieri is an Associate Professor of History at the U.S. Army War College and the Editor of A BETTER PEACE.

The views expressed in this presentation are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Army War College, U.S. Army, or Department of Defense.

Photo Description: Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon, Charles Middleton as Emperor Ming from the serial movie Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe. Interestingly this is one of the few pieces of Flash Gordon media that is in the public domain. When Dino DeLaurentiss refused to sell the rights to Flash Gordon to George Lucas it sent Lucas on the path that would become the Star Wars universe. Additionally Buster Crabbe played both Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers in the ’30s and 40’s serials and movies.

Photo Credit: Screen capture from Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe. Watch the full serial here.

5 thoughts on “SCI-FI AND STRATEGY: A MATCH MADE AMONG THE STARS

  1. Re: Starfleet’s “Prime Directive” (which looks to be addressed at “Part III: The Prime Directive” of our book referenced above, to wit: “To Boldly Go: Leadership, Strategy, and Conflict in the 21st Century and Beyond”);

    As to this such Starfleet “Prime Directive,” which “prohibits Starfleet personnel and spacecraft from interfering in the normal development of any society, and mandates that any Starfleet vessel or crew member is expendable to prevent violation of this rule.” (Wikipedia says this quote can be found at “The Star Trek Encyclopedia,” 1999, by Michael and Denise Okuda.);

    As to this such Starfleet “Prime Directive, compare (a) the following “Prime Directive” of international law and (b) our violations of same; these, as discussed by Sir Adam Roberts in the first two paragraphs of his “Transformative Military Occupations: Applying the Laws of War and Human Rights” below:

    “Within the existing framework of international law, is it legitimate for an occupying power, in the name of creating the conditions for a more democratic and peaceful state, to introduce fundamental changes in the constitutional, social, economic, and legal order within an occupied territory? …

    These questions have arisen in various conflicts and occupations since 1945 — including the tragic situation in Iraq since the United States–led invasion of March–April 2003. They have arisen because of the cautious, even restrictive assumption in the laws of war (also called international humanitarian law or, traditionally, jus in bello) that occupying powers should respect the existing laws and economic arrangements within the occupied territory, and should therefore, by implication, make as few changes as possible.”

    1. With regard to the “prime directives” noted above — that is (a) the Star Trek prime directive and (b) the prime directive found in international humanitarian law — as to these such prime directives, might we say that they seem to be devised and adopted so as to prevent other states and societies from intervening so to “transform” — so as to politically, economically, socially and/or value-wise “change” — other states and societies? “Diversity” and “sovereignty”, thus from the perspective of both of these such prime directives, to be considered to be sacred and inviolable and something to be cherished?

      As relates to human rights law, however, this would seem to have been devised and adopted with the specific purpose of “transforming” — and/or of “changing” — (along modern western lines only) the political, economic, social and/or value orientation of all non-Western (and/or less-Western) states and societies of the world. From this such perspective, of course, such things as “diversity” and “sovereignty,” these are great hinderances and something to be abhorred and, thus, something that must be overcome — this, by one Western strategy or another?

      Question: Can we think of a science fiction program — and/or episode — that mirrors the problems relating to the human rights law suggestion that I make above?

      1. In an attempt to put an even finer point on my discussion immediately above (see B.C. March 30, 2022 at 3:20 pm), the following may prove useful:

        “We have seen that humanitarian law originated in notions of honourable and civilized behaviour that should be expected from professional armies. Human rights law, on the other hand, has less clearly-defined origins. There are a number of theories that have been used as a basis for human rights law, including those stemming from religion (i.e. the law of God which binds all humans), the law of nature which is permanent and which should be respected, positivist utilitarianism and socialist movements. However, most people would point to theories by influential writers, such as John Locke, Thomas Paine or Jean-Jacques Rousseau, as having prompted the major developments in human rights in revolutionary constitutions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. These theorists of the natural law school pondered on the relationship between the government and the individual in order to define the basis for a just society. They founded their theories on analysis of the nature of human beings and their relationships with each other and came to conclusions as to the best means of assuring mutual respect and protection. The most commonly cited ” classical ” natural lawyer is Locke, whose premise is that the state of nature is one of peace, goodwill, mutual assistance and preservation. In his opinion the protection of private rights assures the protection of the common good because people have the right to protect themselves and the obligation to respect the same right of others. However, as the state of nature lacks organization, he saw government as a ” social contract ” according to which people confer power on the understanding that the government will retain its justification only if it protects those natural rights. He generally referred to them as ” life, liberty and estate.” … ”

        (See “International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law,” Article 30-04-1993, in International Review of the Red Cross, No. 293, by Louise Doswald-Beck and Sylvain Vité.)

        Bottom Line Question — Based on the Above:

        Can we think of a science fiction novel, TV program and/or movie — or a section or an episode therein — wherein — the “prime directive” is one which addresses the right of other nations to intervene; this, so as to provide that the citizens of these intervening nations — and the citizens of the foreign lands being intervened in themselves — BOTH of these such citizen groups have the right to pursue and acquire “life, liberty and estate” therein?

  2. Given my discussions of “prime directives” above; that is, the prime directive of Star Trek and the (diametrically opposed?) prime directive of international human rights law — given my such discussion, the following may prove interesting:

    “WHAT IS TREKONOMICS?

    The world of Star Trek is an economic utopia.

    Economics is the art and science of managing, producing and exchanging resources as a society.

    Economics exists because goods and resources are never in infinite supply. As a result, both individuals and society as a whole must make choices regarding the allocation of said limited goods and resources. These choices can be made through multiple mechanisms such as prices, markets, or central planning. But form or system notwithstanding, the fateful fact remains that choices have to be made. This is precisely what the great British economist John Maynard Keynes called ‘the economic problem’ or, in the words of another famous Englishman: you can’t always get what you want.

    Trekonomics solves Keynes’s economic problem, if only fictionally. In Trek’s universe, most if not all of the real-world conditions that drive economic behaviors essentially disappear. In Star Trek, currency has become obsolete as a medium for exchange. Labor cannot be distinguished from leisure. Universal abundance of almost any goods has made the pursuit of wealth irrelevant. Superstition, crime, poverty, and ill health have been eradicated. For all intents and purposes, the United Federation of Planets is a paradise.

    Star Trek’s amazing world of carefree abundance appears on the screen as a byproduct of incredible technological progress. Faster-than-light starships, transporters, replicators, holographic projections and humanoid robots are Star Trek’s arsenal of prosperity. From the standpoint of economics, however, these do not matter one bit.

    What really matters, and what makes Star Trek uniquely utopian, is the social distribution of these impressive technologies. What distinguishes the United Federation of Planets is not so much that they invented the replicators, these magical machines that can produce almost anything on demand, but rather that these replicators are free and available to all as public goods. Think about it this way: if the benefits of replicators, monetary or otherwise, only accrued to those who own and operate them, then Star Trek would not be Star Trek.

    The other striking aspect of trekonomics is anthropological, for lack of a better word. Again, it goes back to Keynes’ economic problem. A world where evenly distributed cornucopia is both the norm and the policy profoundly changes its inhabitants. Just like money, the compulsion to work to ensure one’s survival has simply vanished. Thanks to the free availability of robotic helpers, human labor has been rendered obsolete. Star Trek explores at great length what happens to motivations and psyche under such conditions of post-scarcity.

    For one, competition among people is completely transformed. Reputation and honors, the esteem and recognition of one’s peers, replace economic wealth as public markers of status. But these are largely optional, as there are no material penalties or disincentives for those who do not seek nor attain higher status. We usually see the best and the brightest of Star Trek’s society on the show, the small elite of heroes and overachievers who boldly go where no one has gone before. Do not be fooled: Starfleet captains and their crack officers are the outliers. That is why they are so exciting and relevant for TV drama. In the background, however, the vast majority of the Federation’s citizens are not nearly as driven or exceptional. Or rather they are, but in a more pedestrian way. They all go about their daily lives without much concern or worry, safe in the knowledge that they shall never want in anything.

    The world Star Trek built raises multiple economic problems. For instance, what happens to innovation and scientific progress without the hope of financial rewards? Similarly, how can a society where all is freely available avoid the tragedy of the commons, the trap of resource depletion caused by unchecked over-consumption? Star Trek does not shy away from these questions. Several episodes of the show deal openly with the challenges of organizing and regulating its own utopia. …”

    https://www.bradford-delong.com/2016/06/weekend-reading-manu-saadia-introduction-trekonomics.html

  3. It is interesting to note that the Trek Utopia doesn’t eliminate all exchanges. The Trek society still uses trade as a means of exchange, such as replicators for dilithium crystals, especially between other systems without a monetary exchange value. There are those characters, such as the Ferengi, that still use gold pressed Latnium as an exchange value. The question begs to be answered, “What should we as a society do to advance a lesser society and should we?” What level of society can we give aid to? Must it be at our level? Should an alien race give us aid to stop our wars, but negates the lessons we learn from them? If we learn the lessons, will war between major powers cease? Should we sell arms to poorer societies, to allow them to carry out way against their neighbor? Doesn’t that involve us in foreign entanglements? We, as a society, have a long way to go before we can solve out problems.

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