Strategic Evaluation of
There is a high level of ideological commonality between the Empire and many of our neighbouring governments with which we have traditionally maintained arms-length diplomatic relations. While we do not often acknowledge this fact publicly, the Federation is the only major democratic military power in the Alpha Quadrant. The Klingons, the Romulans, the Cardassians, and numerous other military powers are either military juntas or absolute dictatorships. Therefore, we cannot expect any of our neighbours to share our ideological antipathy for the Empire. This may hamper our efforts to build a defensive coalition.
Moreover, the Empire appears to be dominated by homo sapiens, although we have no explanation as yet for how this is possible. It is likely that this will generate a perception among racially homogeneous empires such as the Romulans, Klingons, and Cardassians that this is an internal matter of the homo sapiens civilization, which could further hamper coalition-building efforts. There are distinct possibilities for coalition-building despite these difficulties, but they will be insufficient to rectify our strategic deficiencies with respect to the Empire.
The Klingon empire
Ever since the Khitomer accord, the Klingons have largely maintained an amicable but distinctly "arms-length" relationship with the Federation. It has been tempting at times to overestimate the strength of our relationship with them, but an observer who is truly familiar with the diplomatic situation will realize that it has been a delicate peace at best. There were times when the actions of just one starship commander could have plunged us into a full-scale war1, and more recently, there was the DS9 incident, where Klingon warships fired on USS Defiant and attacked Deep Space Nine in force2. They allied with us to fight the Dominion, but it was an alliance of convenience which should not be counted upon in future.
Klingon belligerence and unpredictability represents the failure of Federation foreign policy. The Klingons were driven to economic ruin by the Cold War, in which we opposed Klingon expansionism at every turn, denied them the use of external resources, and engaged in a massive campaign of military spending and propaganda designed to force the Klingons into military expenditures beyond their economic means. It is widely thought that the Praxis explosion was the cause of their eventual capitulation, but in reality, it was the result of our long-term strategies. Their paranoia and their inability to sustain the arms race drove them to recklessly disregard prudent safety measures in the Praxis mines, thus leading to the explosion which damaged their homeworld environment and hastened their inevitable economic collapse3.
Unfortunately, this had the unexpected side-effect of reviving a religious fundamentalist movement within Klingon society. With hindsight, we can see that this should not have come as a surprise. Rapid change or social upheaval tends to promote religious fundamentalism, as reactionaries search for "traditional" answers to the inevitable uncertainties of such change. Religious fundamentalism provides easy answers to such uncertainties, and those who are inclined to seek such easy, albeit unrealistic answers inevitably gravitate to it. This phenomenon was demonstrated numerous times on Earth, and it was repeated on Quo'nos.
The Klingon empire had been making rapid progress in many areas; interbreeding and exposure to foreign culture (including Earth culture) was transforming their society, and a more sophisticated, secular society was forming4. However, part of our Cold War efforts to destabilize the Klingon empire had included arming and training certain fanatical religious fundamentalist elements within their society. After the Cold War ended, we withdrew our support for their activities but they continued nonetheless, claiming that the Klingon empire was defeated because they were unfaithful to the traditional values of an ancient Klingon religion based upon the myth of Kahless. This idea took hold among the general populace, and a religious revival followed, during which the religion of Kahless was made a state religion. A race war followed, during which the race which claimed to be descended from Kahless (characterized by bony skull ridges and darker skin) proceeded to "ethnically cleanse" the Empire of all other races5.
Despite our position of superior power, we did nothing at the time. It was an internal Klingon matter, and the Prime Directive forbade interference. The end result of our inaction was a revival of Klingon militarism and religious theocracy, a crackdown on intellectuals, and the re-establishment of ancient doctrines of patriarchy and "racial purity". Within a few short decades, women were barred from political leadership, and it became "dishonourable" for a male Klingon to be anything but a warrior. In time, this led to the current state of affairs, where they look upon humans as "cowards" and Klingon leaders are under enormous political pressure to "return to the old ways" of warfare6.
Klingon unpredictability makes forecasting difficult at best. It is possible that they will eagerly ally themselves with us against the Empire, but it is also possible that they will take this opportunity to attack us, seize territory, and perhaps avenge the humiliation of the Cold War. Klingon racial attitudes and Imperial human lineage may also fuel Klingon speculation that we will capitulate to our "brothers" too easily, thus giving the Empire a foothold in the Alpha Quadrant. They attacked the Cardassian Empire7 despite a peace treaty for the same reason: suspicion that they would soon become a foothold for an aggressor state. Chancellor Martok has publicly shown strong support for the Federation in the recent past, but it should not be forgotten that he participated in the DS9 incident8. Moreover, he is known to subscribe to the pervasive religious and racial attitudes of present-day Klingon culture, and so it remains to be seen how he (and perhaps more importantly, the rest of the Klingon leadership) will respond to this situation.
The Romulan Empire
The Romulan Empire has been openly hostile toward the Federation ever since we first encountered them9. It has also been extremely isolationist; even when the Dominion had attacked us and openly stated its intentions to annex territory in the Alpha Quadrant, the Romulan Empire refused to enter the war until they were tricked into believing that the Dominion was about to attack them directly.
The Romulans are also the source of the Federation's greatest tactical weakness: the Treaty of Algeron10 forbids the deployment or even the development of cloaking technology. They did not suspend or revoke this treaty even when they were our allies during the Dominion war, and it is still in force. Any attempt to develop cloaking technology now would violate the Treaty of Algeron and nullify any possibility of securing their aid against the Empire (or worse yet, incite them to take hostile action against us). However, given the speed at which an Imperial attack is likely to unfold, and our lack of detailed familiarity with Imperial sensor technology, it would be difficult if not impossible to design a cloak to defeat their sensors within the limited timeframe afforded us, thus arguably making the entire issue a moot point.
However, the situation is not entirely negative; Romulans are more predictable than Klingons. Their foreign policy has always been dictated by their supreme confidence in their own genetic superiority over both humans and Klingons, and we feel that this sense of intrinsic superiority will lead them to undertake some kind of pre-emptive action against the Empire, most likely without asking for our assistance or even informing us. Their traditional paranoia and contempt for humans would likely lead them to regard such action as necessary, and it might also lead them to underestimate the effectiveness, resolve, and ruthlessness of Imperial forces. This strike could take the form of a massive first strike11, or it could take the form of a "probing" action, reminiscent of the Galorndon Core incident12, and its planning would probably be based on the racist Romulan assumption that the Imperial response will be similar to what our response would be.
In either case, the Romulans are likely to receive an unpleasant shock at the probable Imperial response to their aggressive posture. This would effectively force them into an alliance with us, but as with the Klingons, Romulan politics are characterized by overt racism, and such an alliance would be an uneasy one at best. It is highly unlikely that they would trust us not to switch sides "as soon as the going gets tough", given that we are fighting against fellow homo sapiens. Nevertheless, if the old adage is true that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend", then there is a high probability of receiving some form of relief from the Romulans.
The Cardassian Empire
Because of its losses in the Dominion War, the Cardassian empire would be a non-factor in any war against the Empire. With the bulk of its outer colonies annexed by the Romulan and Klingon empires and its homeworld devastated by Jem'Hadar aggression13, the Cardassian Empire has effectively ceased to exist as a military power. Moreover, the destruction to its assets and military-industrial base was so extensive that they will be unable to recover for decades, if ever. We cannot expect any aid from the Cardassians.
Dominion assets in the Alpha Quadrant were virtually destroyed during the Dominion War, and they suffered the catastrophic loss of 2800 warships in the Bajoran wormhole incident14, which crippled their homefront forces as well. They are currently rebuilding their military forces, but we consider it highly unlikely that they would be willing to divert some of their remaining military assets to aid us against the Empire.
While it has been tempting to think of the Borg as a virtually invincible opponent for us and now, the Empire, there are relatively tiny civilizations in the Delta Quadrant which have been successfully resisting Borg assimilation for decades, and in some cases, centuries15. The myth of Borg invincibility has been very useful as a motivating factor for public acceptance of increased military spending in recent years, but in reality, all of our initial estimates of Borg capabilities were later proven wrong. Many civilians continue to believe initial reports leaked from our first two encounters16 about how one would have to destroy more than 70% of a Borg cube to keep it from regenerating itself (untrue)17, or about how all drones are equal, with no hierarchical command structure and therefore no possibility of "decapitation" strategies (untrue on both counts)18. Rumours persist about how their adaptive abilities can make them completely immune to any weapon (grossly exaggerated)19, but subsequent encounters have borne out more conservative interpretations of their capabilities.
Aside from Borg tactical limitations and their recent losses to Species 847220, there is also the fact that the Empire is thousands of times larger than the Borg civilization even at nominal strength. Borg civilization may seem vast to us, but while they have thousands of star systems under their control, the Empire has millions. Borg expansion may seem breathtaking to us, but while they have catalogued more than ten thousand species, the Empire incorporates more than 20 million. Borg transwarp drive may impress us, but while it can traverse our galaxy in months, the Empire can traverse it in hours or days. Transwarp conduits are faster than transwarp drive, but they must be built beforehand21. Moreover, we have learned that their transwarp conduit infrastructure is surprisingly fragile, with most of it centralized around just six "transwarp hubs". One was already destroyed by USS Voyager22, thus preventing Borg rapid deployment in the Alpha Quadrant until they can rebuild their conduit network. If the remaining five hubs posed a threat to the Empire, it seems likely that they would be targeted for destruction by the Death Star or some other strategic weapon, thus further limiting Borg movement. Worse yet, there is a distinct possibility that their entire Collective has been crippled or perhaps even destroyed by the neurolytic pathogen they assimilated from Admiral Janeway23. This depends on how quickly the pathogen spread, but since it was assimilated by the Queen herself, it is entirely possible that it propagated through the entire Collective, and the Borg no longer exist as a cohesive military power (this plan was first devised by the crew of the USS Enterprise24, but it was not implemented for years).
The final and most serious problem with the Borg is their political alignment. Their stated goal of assimilating all other species25 renders them completely unacceptable as a source of aid, despite the somewhat "optimistic" appraisals of certain civilians who would see them as saviours of the Milky Way galaxy. Even if they still had transwarp conduit access to the Alpha Quadrant, and even if we could assume that they were still at full strength despite the insertion of Janeway's neurolytic pathogen, and even if they were to successfully inflict enough casualties upon the Empire to make them re-evaluate their ratio of cost to political benefit for this venture, the cure would be worse than the proverbial disease: the Alpha Quadrant would be overrun with Borg ships! In the event that we even attempted to ask the Borg for help, all neighbouring governments would immediately turn on us for reasons of self-preservation, as they rush to ally themselves with the Empire as the only state which can credibly claim to be capable of stopping the Borg advance. Even within our own government and populace, there would undoubtedly be a substantial portion of the populace which would feel that life under the Empire would be preferable to life in the Borg Collective.
Ever since the Imperial presence was leaked to the public, there have been many among the civilian population who have openly asked why we have not asked the Q for help. However, while this has never been revealed to the public, we have asked for their help on numerous occasions26, and they invariably refused, even when our difficulties were caused by their own actions27. They did not help during the first and second Borg attacks28, and they did not help during the entire Dominion War. We cannot foresee them changing their policy now.
Coalition-building is potentially useful, but given the relative immaturity and numerical weakness of the major local military powers, even the most optimistic scenario (the full backing of the Klingons, the Romulans, the Cardassians, the Dominion, and the Borg) would be unlikely to stop an Imperial advance. Therefore, while coalition-building is a laudable goal, more creative strategies will be necessary.
1See the alternate timeline of "Yesterday's Enterprise", in which the Federation was plunged into a massive war with the Klingons when the Enterprise-C withdrew from a battle fought in defense of a Klingon starbase.
2"Way of the Warrior".
3These events were depicted in "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country".
4In the original series, including the films, not one Klingon ever mentioned Kahless or any other TNG-era Klingon religious beliefs. In "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country", after Chancellor Gorkon died, his daughter was named to succeed him despite being a female.
5Please note that this is speculation, based upon known changes in Klingon culture before and after the Khitomer accord. You may also note that the skull-ridged Klingon race was seen in "Enterprise" which predates TOS by many decades, so both races have definitely existed in the past. Some have suggested mutation rather than race ascendancy as the cause of the change, but it's hard to imagine why the entire species would collectively mutate to dump the skull ridges before TOS, and then collectively mutate again to regain them only 20 years later (by the time of ST:TMP). I find it much more likely that a race war took place, and that it had something to do with the observed resurgence of the highly militaristic Kahless religion. The skull-ridged race was presumably in control of the military and the government at the time of its failure, and as politicians, they would have naturally blamed their smooth-skulled predecessors for crippling their Empire, thus leaving them no choice but to capitulate. The key piece of evidence is Kor, who was seen both with skull ridges (in DS9) and without (in TOS). Barring the highly implausible explanation of massive simultaneous species mutations taking place twice within a few decades, the best explanation is that he deliberately changed his appearance through surgery or some kind of retrovirus, in order to fit in with the new order. We will never know the true answer with any certainty, because according to Worf, "we do not discuss it with outsiders!" We can surmise that their secrecy is due to shame, but that's all.
6Based upon the dramatic differences between Klingon behaviour in the original series, and Klingon behaviour in "Star Trek: The Next Generation".
7See "Way of the Warrior".
8See "Way of the Warrior".
9See "Balance of Terror", taking particular note of dialogue regarding history of Federation/Romulan relations.
11See "The Die is Cast".
12See "The Enemy".
13See "What You Leave Behind".
14See "A Sacrifice of Angels".
15The Hirogen, not to mention Arturis' people, who held off the Borg for centuries despite having only one star system (see "Hope and Fear").
16See "Q Who" and "Best of Both Worlds".
17See "Star Trek: First Contact", in which a Borg cube exploded from damage that extended to nowhere near 70% of the ship's volume (it appeared to be less than 5%).
18The hierarchical command structure of the Borg was revealed in "Scorpion" in which it became clear that there is a Borg Queen, and that this Queen is integral to the functioning of independent Borg sub-groups, as demonstrated in "Star Trek: First Contact" when the drones all died when the Queen died.
19See "Scorpion" and "Star Trek: First Contact", in which Borg cubes and other vessels were repeatedly destroyed by weapons with which they should have already become familiar. Phasers, photon torpedoes, and quantum torpedoes were all highly effective on the Borg cube and its escape sphere even after a prolonged battle in "Star Trek: First Contact". Species 8472's weapons were still highly effective against Borg cubes after weeks of battle. On an individual combat level, Species 8472's simple claws were still effective against Borg drones even after enough drones had been killed to leave piles of drone bodies laying about the corridors of a Borg cube. Moreover, Borg drones have never been observed to develop any kind of forcefield system to ward off knives and other blunt-force physical attacks.
20See "Scorpion", in which the Borg were in such dire straits that they predicted total defeat in a matter of weeks.
21See "Descent". Once a transwarp conduit is built, anyone can use it if they know how to get inside. In "Descent", the Enterprise-D hitched a ride on one without difficulties or any transwarp drive of its own.
22See "End Game", in which we saw that each conduit was supported by a physical "ring" structure. One of the rings was destroyed by torpedoes from USS Voyager. This resulted in a chain reaction which destroyed the entire hub (typical of Borg technology, which is proving itself to be just as unstable as Federation technology).
23See "End Game". The Borg Queen assimilated Admiral Janeway herself, thus becoming infected with some kind of virus that Janeway had obviously implanted herself with in case of just such a catastrophe. It is known that it destroyed the Queen herself, as well as the entire unicomplex that effectively served as the "homeworld" of the Borg Collective. Normally, one would expect safeguards against such a virus propagating further than the point of infection, but the Borg Queen's assimilation of the virus was analogous to a root exploit on a modern computer; the virus had unfettered access to the entire Collective. It is therefore entirely possible that it affected the entire Collective, and virtually destroyed their civilization.
24See "I, Borg" in which the crew of the USS Enterprise designed a virus which they hoped would bring down the Collective, but Captain Picard stupidly decided not to try the idea. In the end, it turned out that the concept of individuality was more than enough for one drone to destabilize his entire cube, even though all new drones should presumably still retain some of their knowledge of individuality. This raised some unanswered questions about the nature of the Borg.
25See "Q Who", in which their basic political goals were outlined. This is one of the few discoveries in that episode which was not contradicted in subsequent episodes.
26Speculation based on their desperate straits during the Dominion War and the Borg attacks. To put it bluntly, if no one in all of Starfleet Command thought of asking Q for help during all of that, then they're morons.
27Q introduced the Borg to the Federation in "Q Who", which accelerated Borg assimilation plans and led directly to the attack shown in "Best of Both Worlds". Despite their direct complicity, the Q did nothing whatsoever to aid the Federation during that attack.
28"Best of Both Worlds", "Star Trek: First Contact"