The Intergalactic Umpire

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June 29, 2015 by JImbo

I wonder if George Bush was a science fiction fan. Or many Donald Rumsfeld. Seriously, I’m not kidding.

You can insert all the jokes you want there, but maybe there is something to that saying that “art imitates life.” Or, in this case the opposite can also be true.

I’ve been rewatching old TV shows on Netflix lately. I noticed a couple things I hadn’t at the time.

Number One, there are WAY too many Simpsons episodes for any sane human to ever watch them all.

Number Two, the shows “Star Trek: Deep Space 9” and “Babylon 5” are far too similar for coincidence. Not only that, looking back they were much more relevant than I ever game them credit for.

In a nutshell, both shows are about a mostly Earth-based military trying to keep the peace in between warring races on the edge of the galaxy. To do this they occupy an old star base and turn it into a commercial hub where all the people can come and trade freely. The obvious conclusion is that “Free Trade brings peace.”

Now look when the shows were on television. From 1993 to 1999. What was happening back then?

We had US-led “peacekeeper” forces in real life doing JUST that in Somalia, Bosnia, Rwanda, Haiti, East Timor and a half dozen other places. How did those turn out? Well it’s a mixed bag. Most of them are still a mess but the massacres are… less frequent.

Was it just something in the water? American pride and hubris? This HAS been basically our foreign policy since…well… since the country was founded. We sent Admiral Perry to Japan to open up trade. We were in China to open up trade. We rebuilt Europe and Japan after the World Wars.

None of this is new.

Why then did it surprise us when the Bush administration sought to do the same thing in Afghanistan and Iraq? Surely we should be used to that being the norm by now. The Americans storm in, break the two sides up, set up some trade between the parties and peace ensues!

Free Trade saves the day!

We even have a term for it “McWorld.” It is the idea that once everyone learns to just trade with one another, they stop fighting over petty stuff. The term comes from a study done that showed no country with a McDonald’s attacks another country with a McDonald’s.

Apparently once you reach the “civilization level” of having a McDonald’s you no longer need to go to war. You can talk it out over a Happy Meal.


Isn’t that exactly what we’re told over and over on television? Isn’t Apple bringing the world together with the iPhone? Isn’t Google bringing us all together with the Internet?

The world has seen lots of empire before. The Babylonians. The Romans. The British.

However, the American “Hegemony” is no empire in the traditional sense. There’s no official control. In fact it is more of a trading block than a traditional empire.

What’s the difference?



We don’t grab things by force. We get people to trade. We don’t dictate. We buy.

Don’t believe it? Well, I’m STILL waiting on all those gems and gold in Afghanistan to come rolling in. How about all that oil in Iraq? Not a drop of that either. We must be pretty AWFUL imperialists if we forget to pillage a country we just conquered.

“Did you get the oil?”

“What oil?…OHHHHH THAT oil! D’oh! I forgot!”

Even the whole idea of everyone speaking English on the shows actually makes sense when you think about it. English is the International Language of Trade. It’s also the global military language as well as the official language of transportation.

Look it up!

Voluntarily the countries around the world have repeatedly chosen English as the language that every pilot, ship captain and general should know to communicate in an emergency. Trade is often in the US dollar, even in many countries that don’t like us much. It’s just easier.

So why not in space? We’re the relative newcomers on the world stage, not weighed down by millennium of warfare. We’re often chosen to broker trade and peace agreements between countries because we don’t have a stake in the result.

Why would that be difference in space? If aliens are anything like people, they will have long-standing feuds and want an independent outside force to arrange negotiations. Assuming we will remain a very free trade race, then it’s likely we’ll have humans all over the galaxy fairly quickly.

Honestly I find this the easiest thing on the show to believe. Call it ethno-centric, but it makes sense. (And on the show it’s not “American” but “Earth” so I guess race-centric would be more accurate.)

What I do find hard to believe is that this guy isn’t an alien. C’mon now. He’s the “Ancient Aliens” guy… and he looks just like a Centauri!

We’re onto you, alien!

Seriously though, we’re more like Umpires than Imperialists. As the Federation/Earth Alliance folks keep telling the suspicious aliens… “we’re just here to make sure everyone plays nice. We want to trade with you but it’s bad business if everyone is killing each other.”

And like every critic of what we try to do to help… they are always suspicious of our ulterior motives.

Why would we expect space to be any different?




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