Does Barclay belong in Starfleet?

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Re: Does Barclay belong in Starfleet?

Post by RogueIce » 2017-05-31 11:30pm

It's safe to say that Starfleet is indeed the Federation's military arm. It's who they call upon to fight their wars, and their ships are clearly capable of standing in battle against their foes, whether it be the Klingons, Romulans, Cardassians or whoever. So Starfleet is a military.

It is also other things in addition to being a military. This doesn't make it "not a military" though, or even without real world precedent. Consider the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which does the military things you'd expect from a military arm but also has plenty of civilian jobs and aspects to it as well - such as building and maintaining dams, and even running campgrounds for public recreation. There is also the U.S. Coast Guard, which is definitely an Armed Service of the United States, but they also have a lot of non-military roles like law enforcement, search and rescue, etc. I'm sure there are plenty of other examples in other countries as well, if I were to look.

The main difference is there where the USACE and USCG are components of the broader US Armed Forces, Starfleet is the entirety of the Federation's military. And while these real-world components do have plenty of 'civilian' tasks, they don't neglect or forget their military ones. Plus, there is plenty of 'pure military' in the US Armed Forces, so while Coast Guard cutters aren't the most badass warships afloat, they don't need to be - the U.S. Navy handles that.

Which is where Starfleet goes astray into the "not a military" thing, because they tend to resist or even refuse to acknowledge that yes, they are a military - right up until they're forced to do so. At least for a lot of the characters we actually see and interact with. Now, there's nothing inherently wrong with a Starfleet super-organization, in theory - we could bundle up all of the U.S. Armed Forces into something called the "United States Defense Forces" with identical uniforms and ranks and all that jazz if we really wanted to, and it would (probably) be just as effective so long as each subdivision maintained their core professional competencies. Whether that be 'military' or the various 'civilian' things they do, as noted above.

But Starfleet doesn't seem to like that, and it also muddies the waters between its military and non-military functions. Whether or not the U.S.S. Enterprise was acting as a scientific exploration ship, Federation diplomats or showing the UFP flag in a possible (or the occasional actual!) military conflict pretty much depended on the day of the week. That and their general attitudes toward not wanting to focus on the military roles they do in fact possess, and not unoften is an arguably dangerous dilution of skillset, professional competencies and responsibilities, but that's how the UFP likes to roll for some reason.

Bringing it back to Barclay, no he wouldn't make it in a Starfleet that was more military, but could certainly do good things in the non-military tracks of Starfleet. The thing is, Starfleet doesn't especially differentiate between these tracks all that well, which I think is where the genesis of this question lies. I mean shit, if we accept the 'alternate future' in "All Good Things" even their medical ships can get into tussles and fight back against peer enemy warships without dying instantly, though clearly the U.S.S. Pasteur wasn't on the level of the Big E. You couldn't really say the same for the U.S.N.S. Comfort for example, a medical ship clearly meant to be as far away from actual battle as it can be.

Also, I think it really says something about Starfleet Academy and more so his previous command - the one Riker theorized tried to "pawn off" the poor Lieutenant - that clearly, the man is capable and actually can get past his shortcomings if there are people willing to give him a chance and work with on it. So why did it take until the Enterprise for anyone to apparently even try and help the guy?
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Re: Does Barclay belong in Starfleet?

Post by Gandalf » 2017-05-31 11:55pm

I take Starfleet to be more like the floating government offices, with huge ships bringing the Federation and it representatives to wherever they need to be. Each large ship is a one stop shop for diplomatic relations, cartographic information, government sponsored research, etc. While some ships are more specialised, the bigger ships can do just about everything.

Then when needed, they use the big guns for civil defence.
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Re: Does Barclay belong in Starfleet?

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2017-06-01 01:25am

The closest parallel I can think of for Starfleet is probably the Coast Guard, being neither purely military nor non-military, and possessing search and rescue and law enforcement roles in addition to military roles (going off the Wikipedia page). With the Federation basically having no military, but a ridiculously up-gunned coast guard that serves de facto as a (primarily defensive) substitute for a navy. But even that doesn't really cover the science and VIP transport/diplomacy roles.
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Re: Does Barclay belong in Starfleet?

Post by Captain Seafort » 2017-06-01 05:20am

The Romulan Republic wrote:But even that doesn't really cover the science and VIP transport/diplomacy roles.
Exploration, historically, isn't the job of a coast guard - it's the job of a navy. Look at Cook's exploration of the Pacific, Darwin's voyage on the Beagle, the transplantation of breadfruit from Tahiti. All the sort of "non-military" thing you could easily see the E-D doing, and all conducted by the Royal Navy, using HM Ships.
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Re: Does Barclay belong in Starfleet?

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2017-06-01 03:42pm

Yes, it occurred to me that an 18th. Century navy might be a closer counterpart in terms of roles than a modern navy, although the culture/mindset would be very different from the Federation one.
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Re: Does Barclay belong in Starfleet?

Post by Gandalf » 2017-06-01 09:05pm

The Romulan Republic wrote:Yes, it occurred to me that an 18th. Century navy might be a closer counterpart in terms of roles than a modern navy, although the culture/mindset would be very different from the Federation one.
Indeed. Maybe for the Vulcans/Andorians/other, exploration is a distinctly non-military thing, since 99% of what they would find is empty space and various forms of dust.
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Re: Does Barclay belong in Starfleet?

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2017-06-02 09:59pm

So if you were to use real-world maritime parallels (though I maintain that real-world maritime parallels will likely always be tenuous at best for a space fleet), Starfleet is either like an 18th. Century Navy with a much more progressive culture, or an up-gunned Coast Guard that also does oceanographic research and ferries VIPs.

Yeah, I don't think it has a good real world counterpart.

Though if you use real-world space organizations, then it would be like if you rolled a very under-funded Air Force and NASA into one agency, I guess. Or got rid of the Air Force and started arming NASA ships and astronauts instead.
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Re: Does Barclay belong in Starfleet?

Post by Prometheus Unbound » 2017-06-03 07:28am

In day to day life, Starfleet is a cross between NASA (the science, exploration bit), armed coast guard (patrolling borders, performing rescues, stopping pirates etc) and a diplomatic envoy (VIPs, ferrying people, First Contact stuff).

In times of war, Starfleet becomes the de facto military and all that entails. Although for PR purposes, not really.

Essentially Starfleet is like a GSV from the Culture series.
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Re: Does Barclay belong in Starfleet?

Post by FaxModem1 » 2017-06-03 11:02am

Let's look at some other square pegs. The guest cast from "Good Shepherd", all of whom admit that they wouldn't have made it in Starfleet if they hadn't been stranded out in the Delta Quadrant. Telfer being a hypochondriac, and Mortimer Harren only joining because he wanted the experience under his belt.

Tal Celes notes that she got in due to Starfleet due to Federation politics:
CELES: I had to cram for every exam.
JANEWAY: At the Academy, I was infamous for my all-nighters.
CELES: Every night? Because that's what it took. That's the only way I made it through. Not to mention the sympathy votes. The conflict on Bajor worked in my favour. The Federation was so eager to have Bajorans in Starfleet that my instructors gave me the benefit of the doubt. So did you, when you accepted my application.
Or Torres, someone who is a great engineer, but quit the Academy due to her personal issues. After a bit of straightening out, she was a great Chief of engineering for Voyager. She had both Janeway and Chakotay looking out for her though.

Ro Laren was someone who got drummed out, due to her actions getting other people killed. Having someone like Picard as a mentor seemed to straighten her up and pass elite training courses.

Maybe it's just that Torres and Celes don't do well in a classroom environment, while the others did? Skeptically, you could say this is affirmative action working against an organization.

Maybe it's an inverse to the Klingons, who are very much about taking all shapes of pegs, and fitting them into the round hole of 'warrior', whereas Starfleet/the Federation views having different personalities and skill sets isn't a bug, but a feature? So much so, that they make allowances for the more eccentric joining, on the premise that they will grow into benefits?

Maybe these are just the oddballs, a half dozen out of thousands?
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Re: Does Barclay belong in Starfleet?

Post by Simon_Jester » 2017-06-03 11:35am

RogueIce wrote:Also, I think it really says something about Starfleet Academy and more so his previous command - the one Riker theorized tried to "pawn off" the poor Lieutenant - that clearly, the man is capable and actually can get past his shortcomings if there are people willing to give him a chance and work with on it. So why did it take until the Enterprise for anyone to apparently even try and help the guy?
Maybe Starfleet has a culture of chronic overachiever-ism. As demonstrated by how many of its officers pulled constant all-nighters in the Academy? Because as noted, it really is like a paramilitary version of an astronaut corps. Astronauts are a very self-consciously elite organization, and justifiably so. So maybe in Starfleet, there's a tacit expectation that if you can't pull eighteen and twenty hour days studying your head off and still be functional and socialize with your brother/sister officers, something's wrong with you and your'e sort of... to use a very informal term, icky.

When you encounter an officer who seems promising but is otherwise awkward and problematic, it becomes psychologically 'easy' to try and remove them from oyour command and otherwise make them awkward.

In this model, Deanna Troi actually becomes a bit unusual and special by being the kind of ship's counselor willing to reach out and engage with someone who's having trouble functioning in that high-powered environment
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Re: Does Barclay belong in Starfleet?

Post by Lonestar » 2017-07-21 07:25pm

The Romulan Republic wrote:
2017-06-02 09:59pm
So if you were to use real-world maritime parallels (though I maintain that real-world maritime parallels will likely always be tenuous at best for a space fleet), Starfleet is either like an 18th. Century Navy with a much more progressive culture, or an up-gunned Coast Guard that also does oceanographic research and ferries VIPs.
It's much like the RN of the 19th Century, that essentially mapped the world with detailed hydrographic charts and tidal tables and made them open source.
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