Romulan Star Empire/Diplomatic Guide
A Diplomat's Guide to Romulans
Treacherous. Conniving. Self-serving. Ruthless. All of these descriptors have been used to describe the Romulan Star Empire. But how accurate are they in point of fact? As with any generalization, they tend to paint with a very broad brush. Tonight, with your indulgence, I'd like to attempt to peel back some of the mystery that surrounds some of our oldest foes and recent allies.
It's often useful when attempting to formulate a profile of another species to draw on perceived similarities that are familiar to us. The correlation between Romulan politics and those of Terran ancient Rome are not without merit as a jumping off point, but I would submit that leaving our analysis there does both ourselves and the Romulans a great disservice.
Instead let me draw upon another parallel that we may find useful. The Terran writer Anthony Burgess gives us a frightening look at what (from a Romulan perspective) the Empire has had to deal with over its history. In A Clockwork Orange, Burgess describes a dystopian future where the government, overrun with disaffected youth and violent crime, has taken steps to eliminate that disorder at its roots. Through experimental procedures, the government places blocks on the protagonist’s mind so that even the inclination to violence causes him to become nauseous. It's a simple allegory for free will, of course... But how different from the teachings of Surak?
Here we have an entire race of people, an ENTIRE RACE mind you, that was enjoined to follow a philosophy of peace and logic. Sounds good on the surface, doesn’t it? Wouldn't we ALL like to be so enlightened? But think of the ramifications of such an act. Not to mention the quasi-religious trappings it took on. I'll leave aside the ethics of such a drastic and government mandated change for another time but... Oh what's that you say? The Vulcan’s didn't FORCE anyone to convert? A fair point, I suppose, as far as it goes...
I ask only that we place ourselves in the Romulan position during the ascendance of Surak. No... The Vulcan hierarchy didn't coerce anyone overtly... But imagine that you're one of those Vulcans who treasures the depths of his emotion? The Vulcans would have us believe that uncontrolled emotion led their people to the brink of extinction. Indeed they had a long history of internal strife before Surak came along to teach them the error of their ways. But are there not countless examples of species who managed to overcome base instinct and become productive members of the interstellar community without resorting to government sanctioned, religious re-programming? What of those Vulcans who saw emotion not simply as a disease to be wiped out... But as the font of creativity, activism, and love? Looking at it from that perspective, it's not hard to imagine the schism that occurred. I would submit that a tremendous pressure was exerted for conformity even if no formalized laws were in place to enforce it. Imagine yourself faced with such a drastic choice. Now imagine the stigma associated with disagreement with your culture's new norms. At best you would be considered an irrational child and at worst a bloodthirsty war-monger. Given those parameters, who wouldn't be inclined to rebellion?
Which leads us logically to where the Star Empire sits now in terms of political thought. A very basic tenant of Romulan culture is predicated on one simple fact. We often mistake Romulan action for pride... Which is true up to a point... But isn't it more reasonable to surmise that Romulans care far less in proving themselves right than they do in proving Vulcans wrong? Their entire history of conquest and xenophobia becomes clear when viewed through that lens. If we begin to think of Romulans as a fundamentally reactionary society, we can begin to understand them more clearly. Generations later, they still harbor a deep distrust of “the outsider.” Not hard to believe when you take into account their belief that their own people tried to betray them...
We need only look at the Romulan system of governance to give us our first clue. They have adopted a political philosophy so Byzantine and convoluted that it has repeatedly cost their own people dearly both in times of war and peace. Why? Why would any civilized species hamstring themselves with layer upon layer of prestation and bureaucracy? I believe that in so doing they have made a government that cannot do to their people what Surak did in the past. A system so compartmentalized and corrupt that no one ideology has a chance to gain a foothold. In a strange way they have found stasis in chaos. Perfect? Not by a long shot... But it gets a lot closer to hitting the mark if we see gridlock as a possible subconscious GOAL.
What are the two things the Romulan Star Empire is known for on the astro-political stage (and no, ale doesn't count)? The Tal Shiar and cloaking tech. What do these things do? They obfuscate, they shield, they provide intelligence... But above all they give the means of premptive strike capability. The Romulans are obsessed as a culture with doing unto others before those others get a chance to do unto them. Isn't it only natural that they would cultivate that level of paranoia given their history? It is worth noting that the predilection for covert tactics actually served them fairly badly in the Dominion War. With no ability to use cloaks in a pitched battle and with their Intel being relatively moot in a fluid situation, the Empire suffered nearly 200,000 casualties and over a dozen fleets worth of losses in their short lived involvement. Again it speaks to a rigidity of thought that is often overlooked in our dealings with them.
So how best to approach our new comrades in arms? How do we solidify a peace? There are two schools of thought here:
First: We could show a measure of sympathy to the Empire. We could hold them to a measure of personal responsibility that their Vulcan brethren have eschewed in the past and recognize them as a valid culture in their own right. I realize this is not a popular stance and asks us to forgive (to a certain extent) the war-mongering and atrocities of the Romulan past. But it must be argued that it's certainly a new tactic for the UFP, and one that potentially could reap great reward both in terms of trade and mutual defense, but also inasmuch as it may lead to a reunification effort. Granted, none of this works without Vulcan involvement and a reasonable assertion that Surak may have gotten some things wrong... So take it as wishful thinking at this point. However on a personal scale, the average Romulan can be taken aback with a bit of empathy and a perceived desire to listen and take their opinions to heart.
Which leads us to the other, more nihilistic approach. Simply let them implode.
The Romulan Star Empire (like the Roman equivalent it so closely apes) is destined for failure. There are many within the UFP who would be content to let the Romulans sit behind their walls of secrecy and slowly erode from the inside. The hope is that one day we might sneak over the Neutral Zone to find a new Dark Age has descended on the Romulans. A callous if pragmatic thought. But imagine the power vacuum that would present? Who rushes in to pick up the pieces? Most likely it wont be the UFP. The Klingons, Cardassians, Tholians, or any other militaristic minded government would be far more likely to swoop in while we engaged in peace talks with the scattered remnants of Romulan power.
And so it seems we must give a square look to the first option. The more difficult road, to be sure. And it will take a measure of convincing to get our strongest allies, the Vulcans, to admit some fault. But it becomes hard to envision a star map without “Big Green” on the table...
…And a horrifying thought to imagine what things would look like if they weren't there.
|Federation Diplomatic Corps|