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In the series Deep Space 9, it has been stated that the Dominion has absolute control over their part of the Gamma quadrant. Literally this would mean that they rule every planet and race inside their borders of the Gamma quadrant via totalitarian control.

To me, it sounds like the entire Dominion is at "forced peace" aside from some examples like the Teplan. The Teplan appeared in DS-9's episode "The Quickening". The people were infected by a disease in response to their resistance to the Dominion.

But then they say most Jem'Hadar die in battle and as such it was rare for them to live past fifteen years of age. How is this possible? Your entire army controls a vast region of space which is at peace, even if that peace is forced upon it. Without much resistance, battles, and wars, how does the greater part of that army still die in battle?

Considering this was true before they entered the Alpha quadrant, they had to have other enemies in the Gamma quadrant. Can we assume they were continuously under attack by neighbouring states outside of their borders?

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    Or continually expanding outwards. Or the Jem'Hadar are just fed a load of lies about their likely fate. I mean, it's not like most JH are sitting around looking at tactical readouts and casualty statistics, are they? – Valorum Mar 18 at 17:04
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    Or of course that the Dominion takes military readiness very seriously, and the Jem'Hadar don't feel the need to go non-lethal in their wargames... i.e., most Jem'Hadar do die in battle, practicing with other Jem'Hadar. – starpilotsix Mar 18 at 17:13
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    Back when I was watching the show during its original run, I had always been under the impression that the rapid maturation of the Jem'Hadar meant that their lifespans were naturally shorter as well. But as far as I can tell, this is just my headcanon. – Michael Seifert Mar 19 at 14:33
  • @starpilotsix - Modern soliders are oftenkilled or injred during routine training exercises. I remember an ancient writer, possibly Polybius, described the training drills of the Roman army as like bloodless battles, and Roman battles as like drills with blood. Perhaps the Jem'hadar training drills were supposed to be bloody and not bloodless, so going into battle wouldn't seem any more frightening than a routine drill. – M. A. Golding Mar 19 at 14:44
  • The Jem'Hadar are like Klingons on overdrive, and Klingons are ashamed to lose their fighting vitality with age. The Jem'Hadar might lie to themselves about this or take steps to ensure it doesn't happen. – Gaultheria May 8 at 18:25
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The Dominion does not, in fact, own the entire Gamma Quadrant. Source is Ronald D. Moore, cited in memory alpha:

"The Dominion does not own the entire Gamma Quadrant. We had explored the GQ for two years before encountering the Dominion, so it's not as though the wormhole opens up in their living room. There are other races in the GQ that are not part of the Dominion and the Ferengi at least have established trade with some of them. When the Dominion told us to stay out of the GQ, it was as if China told the US to stay out of the Yellow Sea. China is the big boy in this neck of the woods, and you better take their warning seriously, but at the same time we have trading partners and allies there and hey, freedom of the seas and all that." (AOL chat, 1997)

Answering your actual question,

  • the Dominion does have neighbors. Considering how hostile and aggressively the Dominion treats the Alpha Quadrant, we can safely assume some violence with those neighbors.
  • the Dominion faces recurring rebellious tendencies from all of its client species. Vorta occasionally betray, Jem'Hadar rebel, etc. Even if there's a .1% chance of a given planet rebelling, you're bound to have dozens of rebellions every year.
  • speculation, but the Dominion probably only keeps as many Jem'Hadar as it needs right now. They can grow a large army in days, so they don't have to keep soldiers around unless they're needed. Being in constant active combat leads us to the next point...
  • Dominion battle tactics are straight-up suicidal. We see numerous battles with total or near-total Jem'Hadar casualties.
  • Jem'Hadar never gain 'command' rank. No matter their experience, Jem'Hadar are always on the front lines, which means high casualty rates. Assuming an active-duty unit takes, on average, 10% casualties every month, a Jem'Hadar would have a 1 in ~170 million of surviving to the age of 15. A 5% monthly casualty rate would give you a 1 in ~10,000 chance of making it to 15 years old.
  • Jem'Hadar training is shown to be quite brutal. Speculatively, severely injured trainees are killed and a new one grown.
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    For the record, my survival rate numbers are pure guesses. I'm betting that the casualty rate is somewhere between 5-10%, but I have absolutely no backing for this – Jeutnarg Mar 18 at 18:02
  • The statistics need to be taken with a grain of salt, as multiplication only holds if the 10% is irrespective of age and experience. If they grow old/weak approaching the age of 15, there is a high chance that the lions-share of the 5% casualties are the oldest fighters. - On the other Hand battle-experience may offset this the other way... – Falco Mar 19 at 12:47
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    @Falco the numbers are intended to illustrate the effect of consistently facing a small chance of dying. I'm not trying to definitively state that Jem'Hadar 15-year survival rates are any particular percentage. – Jeutnarg Mar 19 at 13:35
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The Dominion was an aggressively expansionistic power, whose ultimate goal was to impose order over the galaxy by controlling whatever planets and species were possible to control and destroying those that were not. That level of expansionism necessitates constant warfare against any bordering systems not willing to submit to them peacefully. Over the course of Deep Space Nine multiple species are mentioned that had been conquered by the Dominion within the decades preceding the show, including the T-Rogorans who were conquered in 2370, and the Yaderans, whose homeworld was occupied in 2340.

  • Yes, constant warfare is one thing. And putting soldiers at the frontlines is another. But still it sounds like their wars are similar to... well ... the battle of Stalingrad during WW2, from a Russian perspective. Send 1 batch of JH to the frontline, wait for either victory or defeat. When it's defeat send in batch 2 and so on. – Kasper Mar 18 at 17:46
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I want to push back on:

this would mean that they rule every planet and race inside their borders of the Gamma quadrant via totalitarian control.

When we first encounter the Dominion in DS9, it's through species that have economic relationships with them -- I think Quark is actually the first character to really make incidental contact with Dominion interests. This suggests to me that many Dominion "worlds" are probably ruled indirectly as client states, rather than a "totalitarian" governance, where everyone must worship the Founders and a Jem'Hadar on every corner keeping the peace. Such worlds are likely kept in a state of economic and military dependency. Pay up, cooperate, do as we say, and all you have to do is negotiate with the Vorta from time to time. Otherwise, the Jem'Hadar show up. So there's probably a totalitarian mode they use when necessary, and otherwise, it may well be relatively hands-off.

I don't think we ever get a real sense of what this looks like for the common citizen in the Dominion, except in Cardassia. However, I don't think we should expect governance in Cardassia to resemble governance in the Dominion interior, because Cardassia acts as a forward outpost as part of a massive inter-quadrant war, and (later) is cut off from the bulk of the Dominion. In such a scenario I would expect the Dominion's totalitarian mode to be deployed more heavily.

Why does this matter for Jem'Hadar life expectancy? Because it means that the "battles" the Jem'Hadar get into could just be largely enforcement actions -- against local governments that get uppity, against labor movements that resist the exploitation, or to settle internal political disputes that distract a planet from their true purpose of serving the Dominion. "Peace" is enforced, sure, but that doesn't mean that no conflicts arise, just that they're very swiftly dealt with.

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    Interesting, but I disagree. The worlds Quark made contact with, where in the periphery of the Dominion, so this explains why they where more like client states than occupied territory, ie the Dominion didn't have a firm foothold there yet. In other cases, it was clearly stated the Dominion ruled with an Iron fist. – Rebel-Scum Mar 19 at 16:00
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    @Loki I'm only midway through my first rewatch in a long time, so perhaps you are right. I think this can be a little of both, however. If there is a iron-rule Dominion interior of "enforced peace" and then a wide periphery where Jem'Hadar end conflicts but aren't able to pre-empt all of them, this could account for them being "spent" early on that periphery. It becomes a question of how large each zone is. – zeldredge Mar 19 at 17:24
  • Yeah, this is probably the case. Something similar happened with the Roman empire as well, so it's probably realistic. – Rebel-Scum Mar 19 at 17:45
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    @Loki It seems pretty obvious that the Dominion doesn't rule with a very heavy hand, for the most part. When the Cardassians join up, they still govern themselves and go about their own business. But if the Dominion calls, they are expected to respond with alacrity. It seems more like vassalage than conquest or imperial organization, though (for a lot of reasons) I wouldn't expect the Cardassian experience to necessarily be typical. – Upper_Case Mar 19 at 19:30
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Not mentioned is that some insubordination is dealt with by killing the insubordinate. In DS9 4x23 "To The Death", where DS9 crew team up with Jem'Hadar to take out a portal from rebel Jem'Hadar, while training, the First kills his Second for starting a fight and expects Sisko to kill Worf.

  • This is a nice partial answer! Of course it would be greatly improved if you remember what episode this occurred in and edited it in to provide evidence for this. – TheLethalCarrot Mar 19 at 17:20

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