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The Kahn that we see in 2013 looks more like a conniving bond villain than “the best of the tyrants.” Kahn is a terrorist, not a deposed dictator. He is also white, which can be read as either Abrams’ total disregard for the multicultural message of Star Trek, or as hesitancy to cast a person of color as a terrorist in a movie that echoes American interventionism a little too well. Kahn must be a terrorist and he must be white to the point of transparency because to do otherwise in one of the longest-running parables of western civilization would be too problematically formulaic for Abrams or the American movie-going public to accept.
That’s because tyrants don’t scare us anymore. They’re always the mustachioed men with weird obsessionsand dubious military support. We’ve toppled a dozen of them since the 2009 Abrams movie and what scares us now are rogue agents with confusing loyalties. People that we know are armed and dangerous because we made them that way. Kahn is blowing up Starfleet because they used him and manipulated him to built a war machine capable of defending against people like Kahn. Self-justifying, perpetual war machines are what we have come to expect from governments. Even if you are defending the war, you have to justify this “new kind of war” by describing and identifying an enemy that demands a war of ambiguous lines and endless horizons. Talk about policing, intelligence, boots on the ground, or peace-keeping missions but don’t question the need for constant intervention. J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek might not be the Star Trek you want, but it is definitely the Star Trek America deserves.