Sunday, January 22, 2012

Battlestar Galactica: leadership

The two episodes that were on last night were "Razor". They chronicled Apollo's first mission on the Battlestar Pegasus. And while doing that they did a lot of flashbacks in order to give some of the characters from Pegasus some backstory. We see a lot of Admiral Cain, who was killed by cylon #6, played by Tricia Helfrer. When Pegasus first arrived we got a pretty good sense that Cain was a hard ass and a bit out there, at least compared to Adama. Now we get a really clear sense just how crazy she was.

For starters, she executes her XO because he refuses to follow her orders, orders which pitted her very outnumbered squad against the cylons despite previously saying she wouldn't do something of the sort. Then she orders civilians to be killed because they won't give up their resources, which would basically leave them for dead if the cylons find them. She also authorizes the torture of #6, which is why it eventually kills Cain. And aside from being homicidal and sadistic, Cain is just a very angry and authoritative person.

Contrast Cain with Adama and you see a big difference. I was thinking it throughout the whole episode and Adama himself addresses it at the end. He says that given similar circumstances he would have turned out to be Cain. But he had Lee, Roslin, and Tai to keep him accountable and stable. Indeed, if we think back all the way to the beginning of the series, right after the cylons attack, Adama wants to strike back. But Roslin overrides his decision and gets him to save as many people as they can and escape to safety. Col Tai disagrees with orders sometimes. But Adama has so much respect for him that it doesn't undermine his command. And as Adama says, he looks at his son as a moral standard-bearer. He always feels like he has to explain his actions to Lee. And Lee is always willing to hold his father accountable.

The leadership Adama, Cain, and our own military leaders provide is important. In times of war we have to heavily rely on their expertise in order to get us through it. But what "Razor" and issues like Bradley Manning, Abu-Grahib, and torture in general, demonstrate is the importance of leadership alongside that of military leaders. We make the president the commander in chief so that the military is held accountable by the people. When the president is deferential or compliant to the military we get torture or the gross mistreatment of Bradley Manning. When you get strong leadership like Laura Roslin provides you get a fair trial for Baltar and generally good decisions from Adama. Even in the drastic circumstances the fleet faces in BSG they are able to use checks and balances more effectively than we do currently in the US. And it's in part because we lack strong, moral, and effective leadership.

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