Speaking of political faith. Once More… and Siege... treat faith in heroes and governments in the same non-judgmental way as DS9 treats spiritual faith. They show how real people apply these faiths to their lives and struggles. The writers have Worf sum up this view at the beginning of Once More…:
“The only real questions is whether you believe in the legend of Davy Crocket or not. If you do, then there should be no doubt in your mind that he died a hero’s death. If you do not, then he was just a man, and it does not matter how he died.”
The Siege of AR-558 is the very next episode that aired. Despite being a “War is Hell” episode, it does not challenge blind faith in heroes or governments as misguided. It says something far more complex and useful. Siege says that blind faith in heroes and governments, especially in time of war, has its useful purposes for those caught up in the War.
A Starfleet unit has been holding a captured Dominion communications relay for five months. They’ve been living in caves, picked off by attacks and invisible mines. The point of their sacrifice is to keep the relay so that one day it might be used to eavesdrop on Dominion communications. The writers’ purposefully made the object of their mission ho-hum. AR-558 is not part of some ingenious plot to cripple the Founders. The place doesn’t have a glorious name. In the end, it might not even work. But no one in the episode challenges the wisdom of the orders to hold the relay. They have faith in the people who gave the orders. They believe that their sacrifice might make some small difference in the outcome of the war, that it might decrease the number of names of the oft-mentioned casualty reports (which bookend this and other episodes).
Nog is the faithful character in this episode, challenged by Quark, who doesn’t share his nephew’s faith in Starfleet or its officers. Quark says, “This isn’t the Starfleet you know.”
Nog: “Sure it is. It’s just that these people have been through a lot. They’ve been hold up here a long time. Seen two-thirds of their unit killed. But they haven’t surrendered. Do you know why? Because they are heroes.”
Quark argues with the facts of the situation. He says that Humans, “are a wonderful, friendly people as long as their bellies are full and their holosuites are working.” But if put into a dangerous, deprived environment without “food, sleep, sonic showers… those same friendly, intelligent, wonderful people will become as nasty and as violent as the most bloodthirsty Klingon.”
Nog doesn’t accept the truth of this statement. The officers who have been on this asteroid for five months, who Dr. Bashir diagnosed with PTSD and a host of other mental and psychological stresses, are more than weak and fragile humans to Nog. They are heroes. He chooses to believe this for the same reason Sisko and the others choose to have faith in their orders—it is the only way to get their job done without going insane or deserting.
At the end of the episode, Worf comforts Sisko with this Klingonism: “This was a great victory, one worthy of story and song.” This echoes what he said about Crocket (who has plenty of stories and songs about him), but the difference is striking. You can choose to worship Crocket, or even Kor, as a hero. Whether you do or don’t is a personal choice with little effect on your day-to-day life. But the officers in Siege have no choice but to cherish their battle as a great victory, even thought AR-558 can’t be easily put into verse. If AR-588 is a pointless sacrifice, then the entire war is—and no one in Starfleet believes that. While this episode, and many others, rightly teach that war is hell, none of the episodes take the view that fighting this particular war is a mistake. It must be done. And since we are going to fight, suffer and die, we had better armor our minds and hearts with faith in the rightness and glory of the task.