THE FEDERATION CONSIDERS NEW FRONTS IN AN OLD WAR
Opinion/Editorial By Delani Taresh, Federation News Network
For those hoping the end of the Dominion War would herald a new period of peace and prosperity, I have news for you. The embers of that fire are still smoldering.
For the past three months since the war's conclusion Cardassian territory has been occupied by the heavily depleted forces of the victorious Triumvirate Alliance. However, it is still unclear whether the combined economic strength and industrial output of the Federation, supplemented by the Klingon and Romulan empires, will be sufficient to stop what remains of the Cardassian Union from descending into complete anarchy.
It is estimated that the combined loss of Cardassian life from the last thirty years of their military's expansion hovers around some eighteen million killed and another twenty-seven million wounded, captured by hostile powers, or still listed as missing.
These figures take into account the on-again off-again brush wars with the Federation, the recent Dominion-incited Klingon invasion, and the depredations of the Dominion War. Now add to that the eight-hundred million killed on Cardassia Prime during the last hours of the war as the Founder's payment for Cardassia's perceived treachery. That ghastly number is bolstered by the estimated nineteen point four million additional casualties suffered on various Cardassian colony planets and outposts, victims of Jem'Hadar and Breen reprisals in the final few hours of the conflict.
The Federation has been trying to stem the tide of starvation and misery that has engulfed the Cardassian Union, but with reconstruction efforts in full swing on dozens of Federation member worlds, resources and personnel available to assist in this planetary triage are few and far between.
In defiance of logic, a growing number of homegrown resistance groups have begun to spring up throughout Cardassian space. They are attacking not only Starfleet, but the Federation and non-aligned humanitarian relief groups that have come to try and assist those of them clinging to life amidst the rubble of their civilization.
Some of these militaristic holdouts represent the last vestiges of the hard line military whose bent for imperialistic misadventures have led to the almost total erasure of an entire generation of Cardassian youth. Others embody religious movements long suppressed by the Central Command, and groups espousing extreme xenophobia due to what they claim are the predations of non-Cardassians that have left their society in ruins
The most recent flashpoint in this combustible mix of poverty, despair, and nationalism is the colony world of Lakesh in the Crolsa system. Once home to the notable city of Glanisuur, a hotbed of political activism and free expression and one of the very few tolerated by the Central Command. Here the Cardassian version of peaceniks were allowed to flirt with otherwise verboten ideas such as democracy and freedom of the press.
A squadron of Breen ships forever silenced the youthful voices of Glanisuur on the orders of the Founders, obliterating it from orbit along with every other major city on the planet. A Federation relief convoy was dispatched to the system a month ago, comprised of three starships and a handful of civilian freighters carrying industrial replicators, foodstuffs, survival shelters and water purification equipment.
In short order, a new and previously unknown resistance group calling itself the Crimson Order effectively destroyed the USS Sojourner, crippling the vessel beyond repair and killing all but eight of its crew with orbital mines disguised as meteorites. Two days later, a follow-on attack by a small squadron of Cardassian vessels apparently co-opted by the insurgent movement destroyed the Starfleet flotilla's command ship, the same USS Phoenix made infamous by the actions of former Starfleet Captain Benjamin Maxwell over a decade ago. The combined loss of life to Starfleet, already spread ridiculously thin by an impossible list of critical missions, is estimated to be nearly four hundred dead, wounded, or missing.
The only starship to survive the attack was the outdated escort USS Gibraltar, a ship ill-suited to the necessary peacekeeping, humanitarian relief, and diplomatic operations needed to bring Lakesh some rudimentary level of stability and security.
Only scant days after this insurgent attack, the celebrated wartime Klingon General K'Vada arrived aboard the flagship of the Allied 8th Task Force. Starfleet Command then abruptly ceded control of the Crolsa system to the Klingon Defense Forces in a move that has elicited strong condemnation from Federation and non-aligned sentients rights groups.
Vara Vurdram, chair of the Exosociological Studies Department at the Johns Hopkins School of Government on Earth says that there can be little doubt that Lakesh's future recovery is now in jeopardy due to the changeover from Starfleet to Imperial Klingon supervision. "The Klingons know only one way to put down this sort of uprising," Vurdram says. "Where the KDF is concerned, there are no grey areas, no non-combatants, and no compromise. Expect a body count, a significant one."
Starfleet Command continues to refuse to divulge the exact details surrounding the handover of the Crolsa system to the Klingons, and has repeatedly stated that events on Lakesh are now an, "...internal affair of the Klingon Empire until such time as the Crolsa system is returned to the stewardship of the Cardassian Union."
Whatever the outcome on Lakesh in the coming months, one thing remains certain. The ill-fated colony now represents a confused microcosm of the larger challenge facing the Federation, Klingons and Romulans as the Triumvirate powers attempt to pacify and rebuild the shattered remains of the once powerful Cardassian Union.
And for Starfleet, this can only mean one thing. Expect a body count. A significant one.