The Cardassian Union, sometimes referred to as the Cardassian Empire, has a long, rich history. The Cardassians were originally an empire driven by peaceful and spiritual knowledge. When an extreme resource depression forced the Cardassian people into a more militaristic power the tides of political power changed on Cardassia Prime in an effort to gather off world resources in the name of self preservation. Since that time the Cardassians have strived to expand in an effort to increase their storage of raw materials and economic wealth. They have more recently been seen as a resource poor, opportunistic military force, but have made many large gains after the end of the Dominion War.
The history of the Cardassian Union tends to consist of extremes, once a peaceful and spiritual people, their planets poor resources proved unable to support their expanding population and starvation and disease became rampant. Millions of deaths resulted, leading to a general breakdown in the government. The military forces of the planet staged a takeover and launched several wars against their neighbors in order to secure new resources. Although further millions were lost in these wars, the military government did succeed in stabilizing the situation on Cardassia. The Cardassian Union itself was formed under an agreement between Central Command and the Obsidian Order to share power.
In 2346 the Cardassians invaded Setlik III, believing it to be a base to be used in an invasion of their own territory by the United Federation of Planets and a prolonged period of tension further heightened by hostilities resulted. In 2355 the Federation dispatched a Constellation Class starship in an attempt to make peace, but the Cardassians rejected the offer and forced the ship to flee. Hostilities officially ended in 2367, although the Cardassians remained less than friendly.
In 2372 a civilian uprising deposed the military government. Suspecting Dominion involvement in the coup, the Klingons launched an invasion of Cardassian space and eventually Cardassia Prime, the Cardassian homeworld. The Federation opposed this action and was successful in forcing the Klingons to halt their advance towards Cardassia Prime. Although this destroyed the Federation-Klingon alliance and resulted in a short period of hostilities between those two powers after the Klingon Empire withdrew from the Khitomer Accords. The Federation shipped considerable aid to the devastated Cardassian government.
Humiliated by having to rely on charity from a former enemy after a relatively quick and easy defeat at the hands of the Klingon Empire, Gul Dukat led a Dominion takeover of the Cardassian Union and was installed as ruler of the region in 2373 and promoted to legate. The Dominion were quick to upgrade the Cardassian fleet and introduce more advanced technologies into their ship building techniques. Cardassian forces had subsequently fought along side the Jem'Hadar in the Dominion War with their leader, Legate Damar, who took power after Legate Dukat was presumed dead. However, on stardate 52412.8, that all changed; angered by the Dominion's alliance with the Breen and the loss of over 7 million troops, Damar led a Cardassian fleet comprised of elements of the 1st, 3rd, and 9th Orders. They attacked and destroyed the Dominion Cloning Facility on Rondak III. In doing so, Damar had called on all Cardassians to rebel against the Dominion. During the final battle for Cardassia Prime the Dominion seemed to have the Federation-Romulan-Klingon Alliance outnumbered. However once word of the Dominion destroying Lakarian City on Cardassia Prime reached the Cardassian troops that were within the Dominion fleet, all the Cardassian vessels turned on the Dominion and Breen vessels. The Alliance wasted no time in joining the Cardassians and thus the Dominion War ended with a Alliance victory.
The Cardassian Union as a whole also accepted it as a victory for them, but it was time to rebuild. The Cardassians started to pick back up the pieces of their highly unstable empire and much sooner then expected everything was back in order, but it would take time to rebuild many things such as the Cardassian fleet. With help from the Federation the Cardassians were able to rebuild many of their major cities on Cardassia Prime as well as begin a kick-start for their industrial and economic sectors for the coming years.
By 2380 the Cardassian Central Command had been rebuilt mostly to its former self. While the fleet still lacked the raw power to compete with the Federation, Klingons or Romulans, the Cardassians could at least defend themselves. There were also intelligence reports shared with the Federation and Klingon Empire by the Romulan Tal'Shiar indicating the possible return of the Obsidian Order in the near future. By 2382 the Cardassian government was fully reformed with the Detapa Council having moderating control over the Central Command and the Intelligence Bureau at full operating status.
The Detapa Council formally requested that all Federation and allied vessels depart from Cardassian space so that they could begin supporting themselves as much as possible. The industrial sector of the Cardassian people was jump started by the need to rebuild their fleet and within three years much of the original fleet was reestablished. However, the Cardassians also learned some ship building and technological lessons from their former Dominion allies and were able to successfully upgrade the newly constructed vessels with upgraded or totally new systems with a flair of Cardassian engineering. While still not up to par with their Federation, Klingon or Romulan counterparts, the Central Command still managed to retain it's usual tactical style of obtaining numbers and tactics over actual individual power. While not openly pressing the other empires, the Cardassians did begin to stand their ground as early as 2385 in order to establish themselves again as a major galactic power. With the help of the Intelligence Bureau, the Cardassian Union was beginning to obtain much of it's former power, perhaps even surpassing it by 2385 by continuing to roll out the technological upgrades learned during their membership of the Dominion.
Structure of the Union
The Cardassian Union is essentially broken into a trifecta of responsibility and power. These three organizations are primarily tasked with separate duties, however are subsequently tasked with integrating a checks and balances system with one another to ensure no single body becomes overtly powerful. The organizations are the Detapa Council, the Central Command and the Ministry of Justice. Formerly the Obsidian Order, the ruthless intelligence gathering organization, was one of these three organizations before it's essential destruction at the hands of the Dominion and then dissolvement. In early Cardassian history the Central Command and Obsidian Order overtook command quickly and buried the Detapa Council away from power, but after the end of the Dominion War the Cardassian government was restructured with the Detapa Council aligned with the most political power.
The Detapa Council, headed by the Castellan, the Cardassian Head of State, is the civilian governing body on Cardassia Prime that is tasked with all the political power of the Union. The Detapa Council represents the Cardassian people and their wishes. As elected officials they coordinate efforts with the legate's of the Central Command to ensure national security, but keep the interests of the general populace at the forefront of policy making decisions.
While the three organizations are supposed to be equally as powerful through the checks and balances system, in effect the Detapa Council holds all the political legislative, executive and, at most times, judicial power on Cardassia. However as they are not the military force and are only an elected civilian body they cannot exercise military might. With a good working relationship with the Central Command, based primarily on internal Cardassian pride, the Detapa Council is a supportive leadership group for the Cardassian people.
The Central Command is the main military operating force of the Cardassian Union. Operating thousands of vessels across Cardassian space the Central Command is tasked with, but not limited to, overseeing the protection of the Cardassian people, the security of it's boarders, national security of the Cardassian Union, exploration of unknown space, first contact with new races and civilizations, shipping and handling of cargo within the Cardassian Union, and protection of civilian freighters within Cardassian civilian owned companies.
After the end of the Dominion War the Central Command coordinated efforts with the civilian government to begin ship rebuilding efforts. Research and development in the Central Command began to backwards engineer and explore some of the Dominion technologies they shared with their allies during the war. Improvements in weapon power, shield strength, communications, transporters, life support systems and many other ship-born systems came from this technological revolution. On top of those enhancements, the Central Command also began exploring the possibility of creating more diverse ship classes to introduce into their fleet. With only operating a select few classes for efficiency, lessons learned from the war showed that they needed more smaller, maneuverable classes as well as larger, heavily armed warships. As a direct result many new starship classes began to hit the construction phase as early as 2380.
The Cardassian Intelligence Bureau, the more tame replacement for the Obsidian Order, works directly with both the Detapa Council and Central Command as a joint military-civilian agency. Many officers of the Cardassian Fifth Order are dedicated to intelligence endeavors. Because of the joint nature of the Bureau, the civilian operatives cannot operate their own independent military fleet and must use their military counterparts for that.
Ministry of Justice
The Ministry of Justice is the central legal structure of the Cardassian Union dealing with the courts and judicial system. Considered cruel by most standards, Cardassians have a unique sense of justice. Often the verdict and punishments of criminals are arranged far in advance of any trial. Because of this, trials, usually publicly broadcasted, are just propaganda for the Cardassian government. Although sweeping reform took over Cardassia following the Dominion War, the Cardassian sense of justice as gone unwavering.