Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Just when you thought that you could safely ignore "Star Wars" for the rest of your life...

...a new debate about elements in the films pops up on the internet. In this case, it's the question as to whether the Rebel Alliance should have used insurgency tactics against the Empire. io9 has a nice summary of some points of view, starting with the blog post from "Abu Muqawama" that started it all:
Why didn't the Rebel Alliance pursue a strategy of insurgency in their rebellion against the Galactic Empire? I would argue that they pursued a strategy of conventional war against the Empire and forwent every aspect of insurgent strategy and tactics. They finally came around a bit in the end by co-opting the Ewoks onto their side. Why hadn't they pursued that strategy on a larger scale?

Instead, they simply staged two conventional assualts on the Empire's center of gravity: the Death Star. Although both attempts were successful, I think they got lucky. I think they would have been better served had read their Mao and followed his maxims.
Yes, the Rebel Alliance did launch of strategy of conventional warfare against the Empire. They waged conventional war because they could wage conventional war.

The military confrontation in the original "Star Wars" was essentially an accident. The Empire moves a capital ship into an imperial backwater to intimidate the locals, the ship stumbles across a minor Rebel garrison, and the Empire decides to bring in the Death Star to finish the garrison off. The Rebels launch a commando raid (not a conventional raid) in retailiation and win a major victory by destroying the Death Star. In "The Empire Strikes Back", the Rebels lose another one of their garrision planets to an Imperial assault, but as we see at the end of the film, the Rebels still have a rather substantial space fleet available to them. In "Return of the Jedi", the Rebels manage to destroy the second Death Star with a series of commando attacks and manage to win a full-scale battle against an Imperial fleet. I think it suffices to say that when the Rebel fleet formations are roughly the same size and power of their Imperial counterparts, the imperative of an insurgency strategy has passed.

The Rebel strategy is akin to the strategy of General Washington during the Revolutionary War. General Washington's strategy was to stay on the tactical defensive to preserve his army, to look for opporunities to strike blows against sub-units of the British Army, and to fight a decisive knock-out battle against the British Army if the opportunity arose. Similarly, the "Star Wars" Rebels keep the fleet intact, retreat from their garrison of Hoth when necessary, and are more than willing to hazard a major military force in fighting the decisive battle in "Return of the Jedi".


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