The Minbari surrendered at the battle of the line, but what were their plans if they hadn't surrendered and won?

Up to this point the war itself resulted in relatively few casualties – about 250,000 – so most people are still alive.

Would they simply leave? Establish a colony? Enslavement? Genocide? Something else?

  • 8
    Yes, genocide. To kill everyone.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 5, 2023 at 17:23
  • 1
    Morann: "We are almost within range of the homeworld of the humans. The Grey Council should be assembled to see the end of our great campaign." Delenn: "What glory is there in eliminating an entire race, Morann?" Morann: "Glory? Not as much as in the beginning. It has been a long road, Delenn. But we are nearly at the end of our holy war."
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 5, 2023 at 17:35
  • 1
    One definitely gets the sense that if it wasn't complete genocide it would have been sending humanity back to stone age. Trying to find an actual JMS answer I found this interesting first draft of B5 Earth Minbari war. The tiny details changed ultimately - note Delenn is a male here. jmsnews.com/messages/message?id=21369 Commented Jun 5, 2023 at 18:13
  • 1
    Not canon, but I can only guess little bottles of liquor in hotels would be even more ridiculously overpriced. Commented Jun 5, 2023 at 18:28
  • That was also my impression @lucasbachmann, but re-watching Babylon 5 last month I found it's actually very unclear, and also a little bit contradictory to the general attitude of the Minbari (even the warrior caste). Commented Jun 5, 2023 at 20:32

4 Answers 4


Delenn gives us a fairly unambiguous clue in s2e12 "Acts of Sacrifice" (just over 7 mins in), when she tells G'Kar that the Minbari "nearly exterminated an entire species" (meaning humanity). Since the Minbari killed only a small proportion of the human race, it seems to me that the only feasible interpretation of "nearly" is that they brought a weapon capable of destroying human civilisation to the Battle of the Line and, having breached the Line, were close to the point of using it. It could have been a mass driver (as used against the Narn homeworld by the Centauri a few years later), or something more sophisticated. Either way, it was lucky for both sides that the Minbari encountered Sinclair.

  • 1
    I really can't support a speculative mass driver. I can picture the Minbari fleet firing nonstop to the surface much like how the rogue Interstellar Alliance Fleet did against Centauri Prime. Though of course all answers are speculative. Commented Jun 6, 2023 at 0:36
  • 2
    @lucasbachmann --- I did include the clause 'or something more sophisticated'. In the end it doesn't matter what it was; the Minbari came close to pressing the red button on something. Their plan was genocide. Commented Jun 6, 2023 at 8:27
  • One thing that show wasn't short on was ways to effectively destroy a planet for the purposes of use by a thriving civilization. Shadows and Vorlons both had their own methods. The Centauri did it to the Narn via the simple expedient of mass drivers (throwing a large amount of asteroids at the planet).
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jun 7, 2023 at 13:54

The indication given to the viewer (even if not directly stated) is that the Minbari were going to utterly destroy the Human race, or at least render it into a stone-age community with no space travel.

There are a few things which suggest this, some of which I have put here:

Earth President (from a speech inspiring troops at the Battle of the Line): "We have continued to broadcast our surrender and a plea for mercy, and they have not responded. We therefore can only conclude that we stand at the twilight of the Human race.[...] We do not believe survival is a possibility. We believe that anyone who joins this battle, will never come home again.[...] Though Earth may fall, the Human race must have a chance to continue elsewhere."

Londo: "The humans, I think, knew they were doomed. But where another race would surrender to despair, the humans fought back with even greater strength. They made the Minbari fight for every inch of space."

Sinclair: "We never had a chance. You say we could have won, but you weren't there, you didn't see them! When I looked at those ships, I...I didn't just see my death -- I saw the death of the whole damn human race!"

Delenn (essentially giving the order to start the war in the first place after the death of Dukhat): "Follow them back to their bases and kill them, all of them. All of them! No mercy!"

In particular, the final quote there, from Delenn, is most indicative of what the Minbari intended: the council was divided on action (talk, and find out what went wrong; or assume malice, and return the same), and Delenn had the final say, so her command to "kill them all" can be interpreted as a command to the Warrior caste to end the war by death of the Human race.

Also, while not canon, there is a fan-fiction story of Babylon 5 (Alternate Universe) in which the Minbari did not surrender. The story, titled "A Dark Distorted Mirror" (5 parts, somewhere over a million words in all) can be found here

  • 1
    Currently offline, the web site for A Dark Distorted Mirror is on the Wayback machine: web.archive.org/web/20180811222042/http://…
    – mike
    Commented Jun 6, 2023 at 9:34
  • 1
    "Follow them back to their bases and kill them, all of them.": the reference to "their bases" implies that the "them" may have been in reference to the human military, what the Minbari saw as the human warrior caste. This would be consistent with them wiping out military targets but leaving colonies otherwise intact. Commented Jun 6, 2023 at 15:30

It's not detailed anywhere.

You can apply some educated guessing based on the one enemy we do see that the Minbari had previously faced - the Streib, who in the episode All Alone in the Night, end up capturing Captain Sheridan and subjecting him to multiple experiments. They had previously captured and experimented with Minbari, and per Delenn, were "taught the depths of their mistake". They are not seen actively monitoring, or controlling, the actions of the Streib afterwards.

The Minbari refer to the Earth-Minbari War as "their holy war", as the killing of their leader carries great weight and caused great rage. It is not unthinkable, from a human perspective, to think that they may have planned to wipe out humans completely. It is very plausible that some factions on Minbar pushed for this (the ones who took in Jha'dur from Deathwalker specifically). It is unlikely the entire race thought so however, or would be apathetic to a genocide.

Delenn was already regretting giving her support to the war in the immediate aftermath of Dukhat's death. It is likely that the Grey Council would have been able to halt the war once the ... "honor", or bloodlust, of the Warriors had been sated. The next step, as Delenn herself noted, was invading their planet.

Clinically, this would probably mean the destruction of any military or space-faring capabilities humans had, along with the government that had been responsible for them.

Practically, this would probably have involved obliterating humans back to some kind of stone age, caused the deaths of billions, and while not practically genocide, would have served to wipe humanity off of anything resembling a star map.

How far the Minbari would have let it proceed is left as an opinion exercise for any given reader.

  • Implicitly invading or knowing their defenses for a final assault does also imply occupation and thus less than 100% genocide. We've seen the Centauri use mass drivers to 90% destroy a homeworld. While it breaks nearly every science fiction universe - if the Minbari wanted an extinction level event there's easier ways to do it than fleet battles - just ask the dinosaurs. Commented Jun 5, 2023 at 21:06
  • @lucasbachmann - Its possible that one needs to clear any pesky defending fleet out of the way before employing mass drivers. Sheridan's attack on the Black Star showed the humans weren't above asymmetric warfare, and kamakazi attacks were a real possibility.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jun 7, 2023 at 13:57

The movie In the Beginning openly states their end goal was eventual genocide, and that all sides understood that (transcript, all emphasis mine)

General Fontaine, in an early war briefing

FONTAINE: They are moving methodically through the outer colonies, wiping out our defense structures and leaving the colonies vulnerable. Civilian structures are being left alone for now. Now we know the Minbari use a caste system including a warrior caste. And we think they're fighting in a way consistent with that structure, taking out our warriors first, and coming back for the rest later. They intend to eliminate our defensive capability all the way to Earth. Then, with no one to stop them, they'll head back out again and finish the job of wiping out every last man woman and child of the Human race.

Later, Delenn realizes the warrior caste has been reinvigorated by the war against a power that poses no real threat to them. Morann, the leader of the warrior caste, openly confirms their goal is genocide

DELENN: What pleasure can be found in beating an enemy that never had the slightest chance of defeating us?
MORANN: Is that sympathy I hear in your voice, Delenn? I'm surprised. You were the chosen of Dukhat, after all.
DELENN: Dukhat would have never approved of this slaughter!
MORANN: This is simple retribution.
DELENN: This has gone beyond retribution, Morann. This is madness. It is genocide.
MORANN: Yes, it is. And you're quite right, Delenn. The Humans cannot oppose us.
DELENN: So, one can only wonder why the Warrior Caste has embraced this war so enthusiastically. Do you want to hear what I suspect?
MORANN: I'm breathless with anticipation.
DELENN: The Warrior Caste loves to win and hates to lose. It is easier to fight a weaker opponent and be guaranteed victory than to oppose a far more dangerous enemy.

General Lefcourt, speaking to Sheridan just before sending him to meet with Lenonn, Delenn's envoy to start peace talks

LEFCOURT: We've heard that elements of their government want a meeting to discuss a way of ending the war without the annihilation of Earth.

The Earth President, in her final broadcast before the Battle of the Line

PRESIDENT: Our military intelligence believes that the Minbari intend to bypass Mars and hit Earth directly and the attack may come at any time. We have continued to broadcast our surrender and a plea for mercy. And they have not responded. We therefore can only conclude that we stand at the twilight of the Human race.

Delenn, in her final meeting with Kosh before The Battle of the Line.

DELENN: In a little while the final slaughter will begin. I know the others do not want it. Even Morann is tired of war, tired of blood. But the war has taken on a life of its own. And it will continue to its bloody end no matter our feelings.

For a show with multiple pragmatic characters, not a single one disputes the end-game for the Minbari is genocide.

  • 4
    Note though that the human comments are in-universe speculation. Earthforce doesn't know what the Minbari are planning. Even Londo doesn't know. Earthforce arguably is panicking because they don't know. Not saying they are wrong. Commented Jun 6, 2023 at 15:00
  • While there is absolutely nothing to support this I'm aware of - it is kind of baffling that the Minbari are seemingly fighting by PREDATOR hunter rules - meaning they are limiting themselves to killing warriors mostly. (I mean I don't think that's an actual rule.) I'm not convinced the Minbari would fight all the way to Earth and then proceed to go back and wipe out the outer colonies. My hunch is they'd follow Batman rules and say I'm not going to kill you but I don't have to save you. And the Centauri and Narn and the rest would invade the scraps of territory formerly belonging to Earth. Commented Jun 6, 2023 at 18:24

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.