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The Prime Directive is a Federation concept that some others do not follow (I’m thinking Romulan, Klingon, Cardassian, possibly Ferengi).

Whenever a Federation ship discovers a new pre-warp society they are prevented from establishing contact under the Prime Directive:

The Prime Directive prohibits Starfleet personnel and spacecraft from interfering in the normal development of any society

Now, that’s all fine but leaving that society open to be discovered by any of the other warp capable species out there, especially the most aggressive ones, feels like a little dodgy from the ethical point of view, since you may argue that the main spirit of the Prime Directive is void if you allow others to interfere with that development even if you don’t do it yourself.

Are there any references (in canon preferably) about whether the Federation also protects those societies from intervention in addition to just not interfering. And would a violation of that be considered an act of war?

marked as duplicate by Paul D. Waite, TheLethalCarrot, Alith, Jenayah, Edlothiad Mar 5 at 11:17

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    "possibly Ferengi" -> definitely the Ferengi. Fixed it for you! – Rebel-Scum Mar 4 at 20:12
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    I think this question depends on how the Federation views the concept of "Federation Space", which to me was always kind of nebulous. Is a pre-warp culture surrounded by Federation Space in Federation Space, and thus off-limits to the other polities in the quadrant? What about private actors? If Khan had reached a pre-warp society rather than dying at the end of Wrath of Khan, does he just win? – tbrookside Mar 4 at 20:28
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    I'm not sure exactly how it applies here but it's worth noting that in TNG "Homeward", it's made very clear that the Federation isn't supposed to interfere even if the planet is facing annihilation from a natural disaster. – TheIronCheek Mar 4 at 22:31
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    Possible duplicate of Who is bound to the Prime Directive?. See also scifi.stackexchange.com/a/14574/440 – Paul D. Waite Mar 5 at 10:12
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    @MissouriSpartan: it isn't a hole at all. This is a common concept in law. In the UK, there's a law against killing people, but there's no obligation to prevent people from dying, because that's entirely impractical. (“Someone died on the street in Glasgow last night! Arrest the entire country for not stopping it!”) Preventing a society from encountering any other warp-capable species is interference itself. No-one elected the Federation to be in charge of all non-warp-capable species. The Prime Directive is there to keep Starfleet from playing god, not to keep warp and non-warp species apart. – Paul D. Waite Mar 5 at 10:18
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In the TOS episode "Errand of Mercy" Enterprise traveled to Organia, a planet inhabited by an apparently pre-warp and quite primitive civilization. The objective was to prevent the Klingons from establishing a forward operating base on Organia, war with the Federation having been initiated mere hours before. Enterprise's mission was also to protect the Organians, though the Organians insisted that they did not need protection. So if cultural contamination by others seems inevitable the Federation has no problem initiating contact themselves for their own advantage and to protect innocents.

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While not referenced in the shows, the book "Star Charts" did show some pre-warp planets referred to as "Federation Protectorates". (Notably the planet Magna Roma", the planet where the episode "Bread and Circuses" was set.) Presumably this meant that not only did the Federation leave them alone, but they made sure others did as well.

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