How do we determine what an alien civilization is really thinking when it makes First Contact? We will be dealing with a race we know nothing about. They will probably know plenty about us. They will, without a doubt, hold the upper hand in this introduction. That's a pretty scary thought. Would an alien civilization lie to us about their intentions? We assume that with greater technology comes greater wisdom and with it greater compassion, but who is to say that is correct? An alien civilization could just as easily be selfish and devious as helpful and compassionate.
It is clear that in a First Contact situation we don't have much choice about the introduction itself. If an alien civilization wants to say hello, there is not much we can do about it. Trying to keep it quiet through some sort of government cover-up would be a mistake. I for one do not think the government has the power to keep such a thing quiet. I simply don't believe that the many people who would have to be involved in such a project would be able to keep quiet for long.
So, the introduction happens. What then? We must make security one of the top priorities. This means setting ground rules early and keeping the military on high alert. This may sound like a rather unfriendly way to greet visitors, but it is reality, and one that I would imagine an alien civilization would understand.
The Ground Rules
-Not more than one space craft in our atmosphere, or Earth orbit, at any one time.
-Landing allowed only be permission and under strict guidelines.
-The United Nations will control all contact with Earth. Special U.N. groups will be set up to handle landing issues, contact with humans, science and technology knowledge transfer etc.
-Visitors will understand that while we put out a big welcome we also stand wary and prepared for any eventuality.
-Humans control how First Contact proceeds after the initial introduction.
-Humans have a right to self-determination and protection of society and culture.
This will be an incredibly tough line to walk. We must be on high alert and prepared for any aggressive actions on the part of alien visitors. However, this must all occur behind the scenes and out of the public eye. There will be a natural inclination for government to want the military to take over the scene and control First Contact. If an alien civilization says they are reaching out to us in a spirit of friendship, we must respect that declaration. First Contact needs to be open to the entire public and not subject to military or government control. This will not be easy. City, State and Federal leaders will need to practice restraint. They must leave the communication lines open, while also preparing behind the scenes for any changes in action by the visitors. There is no reason why military alert levels cannot be raised in the background, while the First Contact continues in a positive public arena.
It will be important to let the public know that governments are prepared to act if the safety or well being of humans is at stake. It will be equally important to let people know that this is only a safety net of sorts, and not the first hand that we extend in welcome. We must balance a friendly smile and welcoming demeanor with a careful behind the scenes examination of every issue and every action. Ultimately this means the United Nations needs to be firmly in control of all events after the initial First Contact. There has been plenty of debate over the years about the power of the United Nations and the need for such a body in world affairs. Contact with an alien civilization will make such an argument look rather absurd. We can't have hundreds of nations attempting to welcome an alien civilization individually. We must stand together as a planet and speak with one voice. That voice needs to be the United Nations. It may not be a perfect representative world government, but it has the framework in place to develop into such. This will be extremely important as First Contact progresses from initial shock and awe into a new relationship with the Universe.