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Old October 17th 06, 14:24   #10
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 725
Re: EpDis: Learning Curve

Law is a funny thing. Some laws are definitely founded on sensible thoughts, but justice can be obtained without them. Notably, application of law (perhaps with the exception of contagious disease) has brought to people the greatest injustices in history.

Most institutions which try to enforce law, end up twisting it to their own practical ends. Sooner or later, law enforcement starts to mainly perpetuate the state and government writing law, everything else being a side effect.

Before it goes that far, multiple stages of decay can be observed, but that's where all known societies have always ended up. Unless another society cannibalized their state first, and imposed its own law... until it ran to ground.

At first glance, Rangers seem like a state agency. On closer observation however, they are peculiar. While they have a long history of being sponsored by the Minbari government, they have increasingly broken loose from the grasp of any particular state, and become a sovereign entity in their own right.

They have a fleet. They have a personnel department for crewing the fleet. They accept volunteers, and actually not everyone. What code of conduct they have, we the viewers learn preciously little about. Do they tolerate dissent? How far? Do they shape their policy by discussion? Do they consider their policy obligatory? In what extent? We don't know... but due to their military origin, we can assume as much: during battle, they do exhibit a chain of command, and expect their members to adhere to it. Mostly. Because we have seen some improvise a lot, and some retreat from battle, even if they got effectively demoted.

So in broad perspective, we don't know what code the Rangers adhere to (or pretend adhering to). Not even whether they are liberal or authoritarian. We do know they aren't totalitarian (so far good), but we also know they aren't anarchist either (well, that's not a big surprise).

They have an internal structure of control and feeback, presumably taking the form of a chain of command. It is doubtful if they have established customs for electing their leader. The current one (Delenn) was apparently nominated by the previous one (Sinclair), who was apparently nominated after consulting with the Minbari government by the previous one.

There has, however, been a pressure for development, and development responding to it. Rangers have been growing into a military arm of the Interstellar Alliance. That comes in handy for both (at least while the two organizations are headed by Delenn and Sheridan) since the Rangers, aside from a reluctant Minbari government, don't appear to have a predictable financing mechanism. They might take donations (reasonable), don't levy taxes (reasonable) but in environment where states do levy taxes, an organisation feeding from the leftovers of states' feast could arguably not play a similarly structured game in the same league for long.

While the Alliance has the necessary funding to sustain Rangers in their expanded role, it also has more sources of whim besides its leaders and Minbari traditions. The Alliance represents a whole bunch of species/planet/faction governments, and several pieces of paper. Most prominent among those, stands the declaration of principles, but while it's an eloquent statement of what is desired and held in regard, fishing clarifications out of it sounds like a difficult job. So perhaps one should say, that the Alliance is in the process of building up its formal operating principles from scratch, and doesn't have them yet?

Babylon 5 in turn, while being formally an Earth colony, effectively became an independent (partly) Human settlement during civil war. While it hasn't held serious debate regarding applicable customs ("laws", or perhaps switching over to anarchy ), it seems reasonable from the viewpoint of everyone onboard that pre-civil-war Earth laws would apply, mostly (except those enacted past the point when Earth government was considered to have been misappropriated, and those changes introduced on Babylon 5 which nobody challenged or protested). Or that someone might expect them to apply, even if no law really does.

Now, formal background being somewhat clearer, from the viewpoint of consistency between the Rangers' actions and pieces of paper (and traditions without a corresponding piece of paper), one might assume one of many viewpoints, including but not limited to:

- it could be quite consistent with the Minbari traditions and pieces of paper which Rangers used to follow
- it could contradict many of the Alliance worlds' laws, and almost certainly some
- whether it would contradict Earth laws, would be arguable depending on many details and technicalities
- the latter might include whether Security was summoned at ealiest opportunity after making the arrest, whether the arrested were explained what was going on, and whether they were given opportunity to peacefully wait for Security to arrive

Now, all that is interesting, but being of persuasions which treat law as merely an indicator of prevailing governmental attitudes, I'll prefer to additionally widen the range of questions by asking:

- whether reasonable selectivity was present, to ensure retribution would befall only those who provoked it
- whether reasonable care was taken, to avoid needless escalation of fighting beyond the level of harm which retribution was being carried out for
- whether bystanders who hadn't wronged the Ranger (if any) and expressed disinterest in waiting for (or rejected the authority of) Security were permitted to leave, if their claims of not being involved sounded credible (otherwise it might follow that they might produce weapons and use those) except if they were recognized as most definitely lying (in which case one would have to accept escalation and still stop them)
- whether the intent wasn't doing to anyone, what they hadn't previously done to others
- whether the outcome wasn't doing to anyone, what they hadn't previously done to others
- whether the outcome wasn't forcing anyone who hadn't intended so to fight
- whether the risk of the last two outcomes was low or high

Basing on those, I would say the response was fairly ill-adjusted, typical of what one might expect from Minbari traditions. However, ill-adjustedness taken account for, it wasn't totally stupid either.

To argue well about its exact level of stupidity, we'd have to possess detailed knowledge about how much the Rangers precisely knew. If they knew a lot and avoided risks, the tally of stupidity might come out shorter than foreseen. If they didn't know what the fuck they were starting, and hoped "they'll greet us with flowers, and hopefully there won't be any bystanders in the way", we'd have to open another page for the stupidity subtotals.
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