2. Sisko's Style of Command, Part II
In the previous part, I focused on some general aspects of Sisko's character and style of command. Now it is time to concentrate on several crucial episodes; crucial because they can show in a very direct way how Sisko acts under certain circumstances. This is of course a very incomplete selection; but that would hold true for any kind of choice. Spoiler warning for those who haven't yet seen the episodes discussed.
'For the Uniform' (5.13): Sisko is tracking down his former chief of Starfleet security, Michael Eddington, and doing all he can to get him, including bombarding a Maquis colony with an agent making human life on this planet impossible - as a retribution for a similar Maquis action against a Cardassian colony. Sisko's devotion to get Eddington might be explained from two perspectives, fistly, the personal one. Eddington has betrayed him, and Sisko didn't anticipate this. He trusted Eddington and made a mistake - that's quite a psychologically damaging situation. So he wants revenge, he wants Eddington brought before trial, and he wants to do it by himself. But secondly, he is going after Eddington because of his sense of duty: He's a Starfleet officer, defending the United Federation of Planets against their enemies. The Maquis acts against Federation politics, they are rebels, terrorists, raising the stakes in the conflict between the UFP and the Cardassians. In addition to that, Eddington also betrays the Maquis themselves by giving them hope, false hope, of victory: He is creating a revolutionary motivation where there is no place for that. Eddington sees himself as the noble Jean Valjean from Victor Hugo's "Les Misérables" and Sisko as the narrow-minded policeman Javert whose only interest would be to catch Valjean. Well, I've never thought of Javert being entirely the bad guy or Valjean entirely the good fellow - in "Les Misérables", there are no winners, there is no black and white, at the end, there is just pain and desperation. Hope remains though, but only concerning a life after death. On Earth, no piece or justice is to be found. - Sisko's decision to contaminate the Maquis colony was a logical one: The only way to get the Maquis out of the Demilitarized Zone is to eliminate their bases. And in the end, he proves right - during the following war, the Maquis is being destroyed. Terrorism doesn't pay - and it stays wrong, no matter how heroic their leader wants himself to be seen.
'The Sacrifice of Angels' (6.06): Sisko leads a combined Federation and Klingon fleet to reconquer Deep Space Nine. He succeeds and gets help from the Prophets, who destroy the Dominion fleet passing through the wormhole. Military historian John Keegan (Masks of Command. London: Jonathan Cape, 1987) writes about Alexander the Great that he used to attack always the strongest and best fortified enemy positions, by that using the element of surprise. In addition to that, the psychological victory would be much greater: For the winner, because a seemingly impossible aim had been reached, and for the defeated, because a seemingly safe position had been overrun with ease. War means to attack; defense means to carry the war into the area of the aggressor. As soon as one has no more options to attack, one has lost. Sisko, knowing that, attacks the strongest Domionion position, now DS9/Terok Nor, he bets it all - and wins. Where others see a trap, he sees an opportunity. He is not easily deterred, he's a warrior with the greatest tactical and strategical comprehension. His victory is completed by the acts of the Prophets. He doesn't care about the personal sacrifices it is going to take for him, he is responsible for the fate of the Federation - and of Bajor. He uses both his power as Emissary and as Starfleet officer to achieve what he wants. The same repeats in 'Tears of the Prophets' (6.26): Sisko leads the combined Federation / Klingon / Romulan fleet into Cardassian territory, taking down a new enemy defense grid and thus hurting the enemy hard. Meanwhile, Dukat 'melds' with a Pah entity, gets to DS9 (probably by using the same Dominion beaming technology as seen in 2.26 'The Jem'Hadar') to influence the orbs, accidentally killing Jadzia. Thus he causes the wormhole to disappear, the connection to the Celestial Temple is gone. At whatever costs and with whatever warnings by the prophets, Sisko does what his sense of duty commands: Attack, strike the enemy, move forward, advance into enemy territory. He has to pay a price, but I doubt that he could have decided otherwise. He could never have prevented the possessed Dukat from doing what he did, Jadzia was at the wrong place at the wrong time. And the Prophets will find a way to get through to him and to Bajor again.
'In the Pale Moonlight' (6.19): Sisko wants the Romulans to join Federation and Klingons in their war against the Dominion. He works together with Garak to decept the Romulan ambassador with a faked conversation showing Damar and Weyoun discussing an attack against Romulan territory, but the game doesn't work - until Garak causes the destruction of the Romulan ship, this way making it appear as if the Dominion had done it to prevent the delivery of a very delicate piece of intelligence. The Romulans join the war on the side of the Alpha Quadrant. Sisko pairing with Garak - well, the Captain has to be quite desperate, and indeed, he is. The Federation/Klingon alliance is losing the war, and it needs every ally it can get. Making the Romulans shift sides is an excellent idea, but the measures he takes to achieve that? Sisko is betraying himself when he thinks everything will work out just fine. He knows what Garak is capable of, but he just didn't want to realize that. And so fate will enfold the necessary consequences. Sisko's morality is at stake here, and he has made a mistake in that respect: He has encouraged Garak to act, he hasn't told him exactly what to do, but he knew what Garak was capable of doing. He had ignored the voice of reason, now his consciousness is damanding its tribute. This episode also shows the darkness of war in that there is no morality in war, there is just the aim to win, or at least, to survive. Morality and innocence, and most of it, as said so often, the truth - those are the first victims of war. Sisko's acts might have resulted in the Romulans joining the war on the right side - but he has also silently contributed to the death of the crew aboard the Romulan ship. There are no easy answers nor easy accusations nor solutions for that dilemma. How many people does it take to make this wrong?
Sisko has a very strong personality, a very richly portrayed character, one of the best Star Trek has ever seen. With all the confrontations and problems he is confronted with, he still stays a human being, making right decisions as well as problematic and wrong ones. He is mortal and can fail - but he has realized that, he is not blind but very aware of the things he does. And whatever mistakes he might make, he knows that he has to live with them. He is constantly questioning his own actions, trying to be a better man, his motivation always is to serve the Federation, Bajor and his crew - and family. He is not just a dumb puppy following orders blindly, he is not excusing his actions with hollow words like duty or custom, he is filling those empty constructs with personality, with his own morality. To that, failure ultimately belongs, but he always is a man making bold moves - in the end, he will succeed.
November 14th, 1998