Creative Destruction

January 11, 2007

The Empire Is The Good Guys, Revisited

Filed under: Content-lite,Geekery,Humor — Robert @ 1:59 pm

(Originally posted on my old blog in June of 2005…presented for your amusement, with some minor edits for style and clarity.)

I just rewatched “Return of the Jedi” with Andrew, and in the course of the interactions with the Ewoks, I realized that the entire Ewok plotline reveals the moral rottenness at the heart of the Rebellion.

Let’s start from the beginning: what is the relationship between the Empire and the Ewoks before the movie begins? I submit that the internal evidence of the film makes it clear that they were peacefully coexisting. Several elements contribute to this conclusion, which is admittedly based on limited data, but which seems entirely uncontradicted by any available evidence:

1. When the rebels encounter the Imperial scouts on their speeders, the Imperials appear to be conducting routine patrols in the territory around their base. The guys on the ground seem to be about to eat lunch, while another group sits casually on their speeder bikes some distance away. This is not how soldiers on patrol in a combat area act; obviously they don’t expect any trouble from the locals.

2. The effectiveness of the Ewoks in battle against the Imperial troops, despite their inferior technology, clearly indicates that the Imperials have not battled Ewoks before. If they had, they would have developed tactics and doctrines suited to warfare against the indigenes. (I suggest orbital bombardment.) Instead, their deployments and approaches are clearly oriented around repelling a high-tech assault from orbit, rather than dealing with a native insurgency against their occupation.

3. The Ewoks, a hunter-gatherer society, appear to have no dislocations in their lifestyle. Their town, although only a short distance from a major Imperial facility, is apparently permanent, well-settled, and prosperous – numerous healthy young are in the community and Ewoks of all ages appear to be well-fed and happy. There is no sign of malnutrition or indications that the Ewoks have been displaced by the Imperial presence.

4. The Ewoks are unsurprised, and do not become hostile, when they encounter humans and a Wookie. Their reaction to other hominids is entirely contextual. When Leia is found helpless by one of the Ewoks, he pities her plight and gives her aid; he does take her “prisoner” but it is clear that she is well treated. When Luke etc. are caught in an Ewok trap, they are treated as food. This clearly indicates that the Ewoks are judging each visitor to their territory on their own merits and on the basis of the immediate context, and not assuming a hostile status with “those evil humans”. Otherwise they would have killed Leia immediately, having seen that she was connected with the speeder-riding Imperials. All of this leads to the conclusion that the Ewoks have met and dealt with Imperial humans before, and don’t bear them any particular malice or friendship.

So, it is clear that the Empire decided to use this moon for its strategic location, and took no hostile action against the native population of the world. They aren’t hunting Ewoks for food, they aren’t enslaving them for labor. I assume that the Empire took some Ewok land to build their base, but it doesn’t seem to have negatively impacted them. (Perhaps they paid the Ewoks a fair price for the land.) The Empire didn’t start colonizing the obviously lush and productive world or stripping it of its resources. They just built their base and proceeded with their legitimate military business. They defended their base against Rebel attack, but did little or nothing to forestall military activity by the natives, indicating that they did not expect such activity.

What happens when the Rebels enter this picture of interspecies cooperation and harmony?

The first encounter is when Leia meets an Ewok hunter and is taken back to their home. Her actions appear friendly – although her attitude is somewhat contemptuous of the natives’ intelligence – but we don’t really know her intentions. Perhaps she didn’t mean to be an infiltrator and a spy on the native people. We just don’t know.

The next thing that happens is that Luke, Han, Chewie and the droids are captured by an Ewok hunting party when they stumble into a trap. The Ewoks believe that C3P0 is some kind of divine being to be honored (though not particularly to be obeyed or feared), and decide to turn the bounty of their hunt into a feast for their god.

When C3P0 and Leia’s remonstrations are ineffective, Luke uses his Jedi power to trick the Ewoks into believing that C3P0 really is a god and really does have divine powers. The immediate motivation for this action – avoiding becoming lunch – is morally acceptable. However, the party does not stop with saving their own lives and proceeding with their own mission. Instead, they use C3P0’s divine status to turn the Ewoks into their own private army. They demand food and equipment, guides, and the return of their own equipment, legitimately seized by the Ewoks when the Rebels trespassed on their territory.

What’s worse, they enlist the Ewoks into their own futile rebellion against the legitimate authority. They take a largely helpless indigenous people who, by virtue of the humanity and decency of the local Imperial power, enjoy peaceful relations with the legitimate government, and turn them into doomed rebels. They convince them to mount a surprise attack against an overwhelmingly superior force, and the resulting battle results in the deaths of dozens of Ewok warriors – in exchange for a marginal shift in the tactical situation for the rebels.

In my world, there is a word for people who use trickery and deception to convince simple primitives of their own divinity, and then use that divine status to turn peaceful hunters into jihadists against a vastly superior foreign power that has never harmed them.

That word is “evil”.

Other authors, David Brin foremost among them, have written pieces speculating about the odd moral universe that Mr. Lucas has created. I find myself in agreement with Brin’s conclusions, if not with his excessively egalitarian reasons for preferring the Imperial cause.

The actions of the Rebel characters in Episodes IV through VI, and the actions of the Jedi and/or Republican loyalists in Episodes I through III, add, rather than subtracting, to the weight of this conclusion. There are a number of extremely troubling actions or scenarios that buttress the belief that, while the Empire certainly has its flaws and demons, the Rebels are significantly worse.

The major question that Lucas always seems to avoid: “and then what happens?”

Again, the Ewoks are illustrative. OK, the Rebels win (at great cost to the Ewoks, and little cost to themslves) and the Empire is defeated, for the moment. Then what happens? Are the Rebels going to leave C3P0 with his new followers? Certainly not – he’s still useful. The Ewoks will just have to find a new god. Sorry about wiping out half of your warriors and leaving you vulnerable to the next hostile bit of megafauna wandering around the forests of Endor – oh, and sorry about destroying your culture’s beliefs about the Deity as part of the plan to cynically exploit, use, and then discard your people – bye, now. We’re off to the big victory party on Coruscant.

Rebellion? What rebellion?

There does not appear to be any popular support for the Rebellion.

This seems a rather bald-faced assertion to make, but my review of the films seems to lend considerable support to the idea. There are a handful of rebels in Episode IV – from the visual evidence of the triumphal scene, a couple of thousand at most. They have built a base from which their ancient and decrepit starfighters apparently raid legitimate commerce to support themselves. A few thousand rebels and a handful of ships, out of a Republic of thousands upon thousands of worlds?

Despite their major victory over the Empire, there does not seem to be any particularly large flocking to the rebel banner in Episode V. Again, we have a handful of rebels building a base in an out-of-the-way place, hoping to avoid detection by law enforcement. The behavior is much more typical of a criminal syndicate than that of a rebel movement that allegedly represents the true feelings of the populace of the Galaxy. With FTL communication and hyperdrive, why have a central base? Why not hide individual ships among the bulk of the citizens on all of these thousands of worlds – swimming in the human and alien sea of bodies? Clearly, because there aren’t any reliably Rebel population pools to hide within. The isolated frontier is the only place where the Rebels are safe from the people who will turn them in to the lawful authority.

Finally, in Episode VI (actually, at the very end of V, but it is more fully explored in VI), the Rebellion has a significant star fleet, indicating some real support. But wait – the ships are not human frigates provided by Rebel worlds. Instead, they are Mon Calamari battlecruisers, from a foreign nation outside the Empire. The Rebels have not found new support in the Empire – they’ve found patrons from outside it. We have no data as to the motivations of the Mon Calamari in providing the Rebels with a fleet in being – but we note that they do not hand over the ships, but instead continue to control them, and indeed hold positions of authority within the Rebel movement. It seems like the Mon Calamari have bought themselves a useful thorn in the side of their larger Imperial neighbor – but that they don’t trust their new “allies” sufficiently to give them the ships and then disassociate themselves.

(Correction: As noted in the critical posts linked below, the Mon Calamari are actually part of the Empire, and the battlecruisers they give to the rebellion are their contribution to the cause.)

As is wise, because…

Why would anyone ever trust a Jedi?

If I had mind control powers, my current ethics would require me to use them in very circumscribed and limited ways. The idea that I could enter the mind of another sentient being and change their thinking is somewhat horrifying in its implications – what of autonomy? What of moral choice?

I doubt that I would live up to my own ethics; I am certain that I would abuse my powers for my own ends, at least sometimes, no matter how hard I tried. (“You don’t need my rent check today…”)

The Jedi, as displayed by their most loyal propagandist, Mr. Lucas, apparently don’t even bother to engage in this much worry about the propriety of violating the mental sanctity of other sapient beings. They don’t approve of death sticks – well, then just make the person quit using them. There’s a troublesome negotiation with people having different needs and priorities? Just mind control one party until they take the line that helps the Jedi. Don’t have a good enough offer to convince the crime lord to forgive the employee who failed to do his duty? Try and control his brain to make him think he should do business with you anyway.

About the only understandable use of the mind control power in the entire six-movie arc is when Obi-Wan uses it to avoid a fight with the Imperial troopers in Mos Eisley. Even there, he’s using it for wicked (i.e., rebellious) ends, but we can sympathize with his position, and understand his use of the power, even though it was wrong.

Knowing that the Jedi run around using mind-control to smooth their path in every possible circumstance, why would anyone extend this group any trust whatsoever? It might be necessary to ally with them – but to make them the defenders of your entire civilization? Good lord, just give the keys to Palpatine and get things over with. Interestingly enough, the evil, wicked Sith Lords and their terrible wicked empire never ONCE violate the integrity of anyone’s mind to trick them into internalizing another’s thought. Vader attempts to cajole, or to bargain, or to intimidate, or at need to use force – but never once does he try to trick people into thinking that he’s their friend when he is not.

What’s so evil about the Empire, anyway?

I will grant that building Death Stars and blowing up planets is not going to make any good-government types knock-kneed with pleasure. But the Empire is at war – is it such a stretch to go from a battleship that can bombard a world to a craft that can just blow it to smithereens? We note that the Empire does not use the Death Star willy-nilly – for example, by blowing up worlds systematically until a cowed populace turns in all Rebel sympathizers and destroys all Rebel ships they encounter. Instead, they use this massive weapon with discretion and specific targeting: eliminating the one world that is a hotbed of Rebel sentiment, and trying to use it to destroy the world where the Rebel base (and apparently no one else) is located.

Other than that, they don’t seem to do anything that’s out of line for a government struggling against a violent insurgency. Grabbing Cloud City? Hey, even after “modifying the deal”, Vader was going to leave it independent, showing great restraint in dealing with people who were obviously willing to shelter Rebel leaders.

You know what’s absent from the depictions of the Empire? Any indication that it was out there crushing dissent and stopping people from leaving. The Empire tolerated outposts of people not reporting to it, as long as they weren’t actively rebellious. There’s nothing to indicate that Rebel sympathizers who wanted to recreate their morally nebulous priest-state out on the Outer Rim would be harassed or persecuted. Why didn’t the Rebels just leave?

Because they wanted power over the entire Galaxy, that’s why.

But the Empire betrayed and destroyed the Republic!

The Republic was weak, ineffective, and highly corrupt. Its policy of using the Jedi to squelch dissent and prohibit allegedly free peoples from choosing to no longer associate with the Republic was despicable. Its “democratic” features were a democracy of aristocracy – there were more queens in the Senate than appear on Queer Eye For The Straight Guy. Here I come into agreement with Brin a little more; if you’re going to be a monarchy, fine, but having a collection of monarchs who get together in a parliament of kings is not a democracy. It’s oligarchy, the worst possible governmental model. No wonder the populace embraces Palpatine. At least he’s an honest dictator.

The Jedi code is a moral disaster – or, why would anyone trust a Jedi, part 2

Aside from the evil of their mind control usage, the Jedi “moral code” appears to be a conflicting melange of whatever feel-good pop psych was current in southern California on the days that Lucas was working on the script. “Only a Sith deals in absolutes,” indeed. Isn’t that a bit…er…absolute? They don’t give any positive examples of the code in the films, so we’re forced to go by Jedi behavior that is unremarked on by other characters as being objectionable. What can we observe?

Lying to kids about their ancestry is fine. You meant to tell them someday, right? (Around the same time you took C3P0 back to be the Ewok god.)

Secretly conspiring against the duly elected leader of your Republic is fine. Hey, I’ve got a bad feeling about him – that makes it OK to engage in criminal conspiracy.

Abandoning the mothers of Jedi to a continued lifetime of thinly-veiled sexual bondage is fine. It might take as long as a week to go back to Tattooine and free the mother of your most promising young Jedi…so let’s not think about it. Besides, the little whiner should cut the apron strings, already.

Ignoring violations of the Jedi code is fine. Doesn’t matter that you know your apprentice is nailing the Queen and has gotten her in the Jedi Family Way. Don’t turn him in, or insist that he make things right by resigning his Jedi status and becoming an ordinary family man, or abandoning his family for his higher calling. No, let him continue to muddle down the path to blatantly obvious moral crisis and destruction. It’s more convenient that way.

Building clone armies of soul-deadened warriors is fine.

Finding out that a mysteriously-not-dead member of your organization contracted for the work for reasons unknown, and deciding “what the heck, an army is an army” is fine.

We’ve hit it already, but overriding the free will of others is fine.

Dumping the politically toxic offspring of your own craptastically negligent junior members on unsuspecting relatives – and apparently giving them absolutely no warning – leading to their entirely predictable deaths, is fine.

Leaving dozens of young trainees defenseless in a centralized and public location in a time of great conflict is fine.

Killing people for the crime of not wanting to be in your corrupt and failing state anymore is fine.

Conclusions

The Jedi are (were), basically, selfish and evil.

The Empire is (was), basically a normal human political entity, flawed but not unredeemable.

George Lucas has a moral compass that’s about 90 degrees skewed from what most of us would consider right.

We’ve been rooting for the wrong side. I’ve always wondered why I had a secret liking of Captain, later Admiral, Piett. Now I know why; he was a decent guy trying to do the right thing in a troubled universe. And he was on the side that, on balance, represents the good guys in the fight.

UPDATE: A couple of people – foolishly imagining that their opinions are of worth when they conflict with mine – posted some criticisms of my position here and here. Some of the points are valid and I’ll address them at some point.

28 Comments »

  1. Huh, I thought you were talking about the American Empire.

    Comment by DavidByron — January 11, 2007 @ 2:10 pm | Reply

  2. That too. Beats the alternatives.

    Comment by Robert — January 11, 2007 @ 2:13 pm | Reply

  3. Maybe you were talking about America?

    You justify acts of genocide by using rhetoric about terrorists who turn out to be subjugated peoples reacting to prior aggression. You don’t appear to understand that subjugated peoples even count as part of the Empire. You fail to see the fundamental racist notions of the Empire (the Empire isn’t majority human — it’s just that the Emperor is racist against non-humans so the humans are the only race he recruits as storm troopers or to the imperial navy).

    You advocate and justify a law of the jungle approach, a lawlessness that seeks to justify the actions of the president who seized power.

    Oh and you blame the other guys for faults you have:

    Its “democratic” features were a democracy of aristocracy – there were more queens in the Senate than appear on Queer Eye For The Straight Guy. Here I come into agreement with Brin a little more; if you’re going to be a monarchy, fine, but having a collection of monarchs who get together in a parliament of kings is not a democracy.

    The Naboo Queen is popularly elected to a fixed term of office.

    Comment by DavidByron — January 11, 2007 @ 2:42 pm | Reply

  4. Your comment doesn’t make any sense. Or at least, I can’t parse it. Figure out what you want to say and say it.

    Comment by Robert — January 11, 2007 @ 2:50 pm | Reply

  5. Interesting analysis but you’re ignoring the fact that the empire blew up a planet just to show that it could.

    Comment by Joe — January 11, 2007 @ 5:57 pm | Reply

    • They didn’t do it just to show they could. Leia had been lying about everything so far, her diplomatic mission, etc. They also knew she had schematic read outs of the death star. So why would they believe her about alderaan being peaceful and defenseless. So if they are fighting a rebellion and have reason to believe that they potentially have info that could be deadly the logical course is to eliminate the threat. Same as any military or police force would do.

      Comment by Matthew — May 30, 2012 @ 2:10 pm | Reply

  6. Yes, that is rather the tricky one to get over. Although ruthlessness in a central government facing the challenges of a Galactic-sized political entity is perhaps not an entirely negative trait. You’d have to be ruthless to accomplish anything.

    My suspicion is that on such a scale, there are only two workable political choices – a completely self-organizing emergent political system where a million billion different little governments thrive, or an absolutely methodologically despotic entity (albeit hopefully one with beneficent intentions).

    Either one would be interesting to see, if not necessarily pleasant to reside in. But a romantic republic, where enormous commercial interests bypass an ineffectual government, where secession is not allowed, and neither is effective self-defense on planetary scales, seems less plausible as an ongoing concern. People won’t stand for it over the long haul. The cultural values that would have been necessary to save the Republic – militarism, it looks like from the evidence of the films, where you can’t raise a decent army without resorting to biotechnology or robotics – just weren’t there, and so it’s got to go one direction or the other.

    The Rebellion, maybe, is on the side of the let-a-million-flowers bloom faction. Maybe. I get a much clearer idea that they’re on a monarchistic revival kick – restoring the magical Jedi to their place of pre-eminence over ordinary people. It doesn’t seem to me a cause worth fighting for – and I don’t see a whit of evidence that they’re fighting to restore the old Republic. They’re led by a the children of the religion’s “chosen one” figure, one of whom is a hereditary princess in her own right – that’s a dynasty in formation, not a democracy.

    If a society is fighting to choose between a hereditary monarchy and an empire, I’m going to go with the empire. Heredity as a basis for governance has a bad rap, and for good reason.

    Comment by Robert — January 11, 2007 @ 6:22 pm | Reply

  7. Also, star destroyers are cool.

    Comment by Robert — January 11, 2007 @ 6:24 pm | Reply

  8. Wasn’t the entire war that created the Empire basically created by the government? Starting a war against your own country, and playing both sides so that you could take power? Isn’t that what Palpatine did?

    It seems to me that what happened in episodes 2 and 3 is the equivalent of if the conspiracy theorists were correct and the U.S. government had flown those planes into the World Trade Center.

    Comment by Glaivester — January 11, 2007 @ 9:34 pm | Reply

  9. Also, you seem to be trying to make the point that the Jedis and the Rebellion are bad more than that the Empire is good.

    Comment by Glaivester — January 11, 2007 @ 9:37 pm | Reply

  10. The Jedi make a lots of sense as an army of a fledging intergalactic empire. If it is very expensive to conduct interstellar commerce, as it would have been 20,000 years earlier, at least, you need an army that is very easy to transport. What better way to do that than with super-elite, lightly equipped soldiers who manipulate as much as they use focused superior force? It is the story of the British East Indian Company.

    The ability to move large armies (the clones, the droids and the storm troopers, respectively), and the ability to move massive planet killing weapons, by interstellar starship, appears to be a relatively new innovation at the time of transition from Republic to Empire.

    The huge diversity of the different world cultures and peoples who are capable of living in the same environments in the Star Wars universe, and the homogeneity of populations on most of the worlds, outside a few cultural centers and starports, suggests that these worlds have spent long periods of time isolated from each other, at least until recently.

    It would also be far easier to maintain interstellar peace if no one could afford to send massive armies on starships to invade their neighbors. A weak interstellar government would suffice to manage the little interstellar traffic that took place.

    Perhaps the transition from Republic to Empire is driven by recent discoveries that make possible cheaper interstellar transportation, a factor which would also explain why an alliance of merchants is a growing power within the Republic/Empire.

    Comment by ohwilleke — January 12, 2007 @ 12:07 am | Reply

  11. Interesting analysis but you’re ignoring the fact that the empire blew up a planet just to show that it could.

    The same has been suggested of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    Comment by Daran — January 12, 2007 @ 12:44 am | Reply

    • and rightly so

      Comment by cheese — December 26, 2015 @ 9:48 pm | Reply

  12. […] I pounded on Star Trek not so long ago, let me pound on Star Wars, now. As Creative Destruction pointed out, the Rebels weren’t very, well, Good. A number of other writers say the same thing – that the […]

    Pingback by Deep Thought » Blog Archive » Star Wars as Endorsement of Moral Absolutes — January 12, 2007 @ 10:25 am | Reply

  13. That’s an interesting point, ohwilleke. The economics of Star Wars have never seemed to make a lot of sense. For example, energy and vehicle technologies are so cheap that even ordinary farmboys on hardscrabble, backwater worlds can have the equivalent of a personal car and a personal light plane. Yet beasts of burden are still in common use, even by the military elite.

    Of course, trying to draw consistency out of a Lucas canon is a bit tricky.

    Comment by Robert — January 12, 2007 @ 1:49 pm | Reply

  14. Also, star destroyers are cool.

    They didn’t have a star destroyer. They had a planet destroyer. A small planet destroyer. With a mainframe. Old tech wimps. If they’d’ve been real evil geniuses they’d have made an iPod sized device that could take out 50 blue giants before needing to be recharged. And played DVDs.

    Comment by Dianne — January 12, 2007 @ 1:59 pm | Reply

  15. The same has been suggested of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    One could debate the necessity of the Hiroshima bombing. The Nagasaki bombing was clearly just to test the device. In front of the USSR. Draw what conclusions you wish from that.

    Comment by Dianne — January 12, 2007 @ 2:01 pm | Reply

  16. If they’d’ve been real evil geniuses they’d have made an iPod sized device that could take out 50 blue giants before needing to be recharged. And played DVDs.

    Well, they outsourced the design to those bat-wing aliens. They’re lucky it worked at all.

    Comment by Robert — January 12, 2007 @ 2:06 pm | Reply

  17. Well, they outsourced the design to those bat-wing aliens. They’re lucky it worked at all.

    Well, that’s the problem with dictatorships: No one was willing to tell Darth that the outsourcing was a bad idea because they were afraid the conversation would go like this:

    Underling: But Vader, we can’t do this. The bat-winged aliens are so incompetent they go to Elbonia for expert help. It’ll never work if…gah…

    Vader: I find your lack of faith disturbing.

    U: (Gasp.) You’re so right. Great work those bat-winged aliens do. I’ll get right on typing up the contract.

    And so on. With the way Vader and the Emperor acted it’s no wonder that the military turns out to be unable to win when fighting squirrels.

    Comment by Dianne — January 12, 2007 @ 4:41 pm | Reply

  18. First thing – the Xwings weren’t old fighters, and the B-Wings were brand new designs, only the Ywing was an old design that predated the TIE fighter (Incom offered the design to the Empire but it was too expensive, engineers defected and took the design to the Rebellion). The rebellion was actually pretty large however spread out, their main support was through the Bothans and the MonCalamari (who with created the large cruisers the Rebellion had – modified primarily from their pleasure cruisers).

    If you look at the extended universe (the novels primarily), there is a back story that was never brought out but made a lot of sense. There were (30-40 years after episode 6) a massive alien invasion to which pretty much devastates the galaxy (the “inhabited” regions). However a dictatorship / military force like the Empire would likely have been a far superior defense against this enemy (march in, death star it walk out). The emporer’s rise in power could have been designed for this occurence.

    Secondly, and this has brought through in the extended universe, the old republic was getting very corrupt and beauracratic, the Jedi were also not always as respected as they appear to be, being aloof, stand alone and very dictatorial. They were not elected but acted with the the power of a judiciary (like judge dredd, hey were often Judge Jury and Executioner).

    The Empire did not appear to be that terrible, yes Aliens were prohibited were serving in the military, and in the government however they were not terribly oppressed in the majority of cases (being allowed to get on with and live their lives with very few restictions beyond the normal laws). The majority of “imperial oppressions” were generally from populaces that rose up against the Empire. Not arguing that they were good, but the Rebellion is offering a biased viewpoint on this point.

    Comment by Chris — January 12, 2007 @ 9:41 pm | Reply

  19. The fairly conscious analogy for the Empire, of course, is the Hitler’s regime, right up to the Weimar-like way that Palpatine rises to power, and Hitler’s own reputed associations with off color practioners of dark religious rites.

    Robert is correct, however, that the Empire is not nearly so evil as Hitler’s regime. Hitler’s regime was horrible not so much because of how he came to power (both George Washington and Charles DeGaul took power in ways more blatantly unlawful), but because of its rampant conquest of an entire continent based on little more than the force of arms, because he brain washed an entire society into his cult of personalilty, and because he combined hate with power in a cruel, genocidal brew.

    The Empire simply isn’t that evil. Palpatine does not secure new substantial territory beyond the boundaries of the Republic by the force of arms. Daily life is little changed for civilians in most of the Empire from the way it was when it was ruled by the Republic. There is no analog to the Hitler Youth, and there are no cowering minorities (except the once powerful Jedi). The Empire, quite frankly, doesn’t seem to have any really well defined political philosophy that it imposes upon its subjects. It seems as much influenced by its people as it is a force for imposing a way of life upon them. In operation, the Empire operates more like the Roman Empire, transitioning from Republican to Empire, than the Third Reich. There are storm troopers swarming through towns, but all of the abuses are associated with maintaining the authority of the Empire, rather than achieving anything concrete with that authority.

    Yes, the Empire does blow up a planet full of innocent people whose political leaders are sympathetic to the rebels (notably a world in which aristocracy seems more real and hereditary than it was on Padame’s world). But, this is more of a Hiroshima or Dresden than it is a Holocaust.

    Certainly, Palpatine and Vader are not philosopher kings. They lie, they ignore the law, they are ruthless, and they kill in great numbers that aren’t carefully proportionate to achieve their ends and erase all traces of potential resistance from the old regime. But, it isn’t clear that any agenda greater than personal power is driving them. Palpatine does not seem to have his own Mein Kampf.

    The story line of the authorized Star War books, that continues the saga, moreover, argueably sets up a situation with a ruthless invading foreign species that threatens everyone who lives in the former Republic’s realms, that would have been greatly aided by the unity that an Empire could have provided. Given the precience that the Force provides, one can even argue that Palpatine, like the protagonist of the Dune saga, is simply riding an inevitable wave of history.

    Comment by ohwilleke — January 12, 2007 @ 9:54 pm | Reply

    • “Yes, the Empire does blow up a planet full of innocent people… But, this is more of a Hiroshima or Dresden than it is a Holocaust.”

      The blowing up of a planet constitutes genocide. That was the point: wiping out an entire people. Holocaust

      Comment by Nate — May 20, 2012 @ 8:30 pm | Reply

  20. …and here’s some more evidence of the basic humanity of the Empire’s senior leadership.

    Comment by Robert — January 14, 2007 @ 3:39 pm | Reply

  21. the palpatine regime seems to be, fundamentally, a pragmatist totalitarianism, with no real agenda beyond self maintainance. this makes them, while not pleasant, fairly easy to deal with: the rules in such a state are brutal, but obvious and plain to see.
    now the rebellion, while it officially stands for restoration of a republic, more covertly seems to be a front for the restoration of something else: the restoration of a fundamentalist-jedi-ism wherein those trained to use the force believe that their talents come with divine authority to govern the unenlightened masses.
    the best analogy to use for the transition from republic to empire would be that of a totally backwards theocracy overthrown and replaced with a secular dictatorship.

    Comment by Rob — May 17, 2011 @ 3:24 am | Reply

  22. I know this has been up forever in internet years, but having just stumbled upon it I’d like to say something. I can’t point to a single point of canon evidence from the movies that Palpatine is an alien hating racist ala Nazi uber-mensch mentality. As a senator, even after into his early years as emperor, Palpatine had a contingent of alien advisors. People keep pointing to the military, specifically the grunts in the form of the Stormtroopers. However, I want to attack that from a completely different angle. The clones were not required just because they needed the blonde haired blue eyed super soldier. Looking at U.S. as I am American, and the amount of money in our military budget required for training, logistics, feeding, outfitting, etc, it’s staggering and we only have one planet to move our armies around on. The trooper’s armor, a modified form of Mandalorian powered armor. While I don’t believe it had strength enhancing properties, it did have advance communications systems, HUD in helmet that had multitudes of information available, sealed climate system, that could even sustain in vacuum for a short time, and could sustain an extended time with available add ons, etc. That armor was not cheap, and had to cost billions, if not trillions, of Galactic credits to issue. In the first three movies alone we see something like four advancements of that armor as well.

    Had the Republic, whether manipulated by Palpatine or not, suddenly found itself in need of an army that it had to uniformly outfit, can you consider the ramifications? A helmet with provisions for Twilek head tendrils. Body plates large enough to vacuum seal a Wookie. Just look at Luke in Episode IV, sandy haired blue eyed human. What was Leia’s concern? “Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper?” Luke did not meet the minimum height requirement to properly use the armor. The clones were a cost *saving* measure. Above and beyond the pre-programmed, ok it’s time to kill all the jedi now, they were 100% uniform, or were destroyed. One type of armor, one size, infinitely interchangeable. As gruesome as it is, your chest plate is damaged? Grab the one from a downed comrade who was shot in the back. It’s the exact same size, you know it’s going to fit. If that comrade was a Jawa, not so much.

    So, aliens can not join the Military. Nope, sure can’t. We can’t outfit you. It’s no different then some of the constraints on the American military. Too fat? Not worth our time to get you into shape. Bad eyesight? Sorry. Asthma? Not going to happen. While we may not have the same body armor concerns, we do have the same outlook on size. Over a certain height? Sorry you’ll never fly, you won’t fit in the cockpit of the fighter. I state it was all logistics, not racism, that kept the fledgling Galactic Empire 5’11” – 6’1″ only.

    Comment by Ed — September 9, 2011 @ 11:04 am | Reply

  23. On the surface each statement seems true but here are some things to consider:

    1. The Imperial Forces probably did not engage the Ewoks because their threat level was so low it didn’t warrant military or even diplomatic action. The ewoks were a sub-humnaoid tribe too primitive to matter to worry. As for the ewoks, they were most likely stymied by the vast asymmetry of the technology. They didn’t even have a chance to even communicate with the invading Imperials, because they sped by too fast. When they found Lea, they were probably happy to get ahold of a human and she was a “soft” prisoner, not unlike the Last Samurai” just to study her.

    1.a. Unless Luke was using Jedi mind tricks, the ewoks joined the battle on the accord of their leadership after hearing the story. They weren’t forced, but realized that these “guests” were apart of something bigger and chose to take up arms. They could have declined.

    2. Although not blatantly portrayed, the emperor was probably the most powerful user of the mind trick. Think of when he first addressed the Senate and he had over whelming support. Do you think that was just because of his great oratory skills? Also, the turning of Anakin, remember how he dropped to his knees when he realized what he had done to Mace Windu? Remember how he slavishly blurted out (paraphrasing) “I will adhere to your teachings?” Don’t you think that Palpatine was so far in his mind that Anakin probably wasn’t himself at that moment? Also it was a little odd that the moment the emperor died, there was such chaos. You would think that the admirals and the generals could keep the Imperial Fleet going longer than the Battle of Endor. Maybe the Emperor was holding it together with one big mind trick.

    3. No honor code is honorable. Look at the Hippocratic oath…”Do no harm.” Doctors have to harm you to save you. A scalpel is a type of knife. This does not make Doctors bad. The Jedi intentions were good, but there implementation wasn’t always ‘stellar.’

    Was te Empire purely evil? No , But it was th3 worse of evils by far in comparison to the Republic and the Jedi.

    Comment by Ren — March 6, 2012 @ 9:09 pm | Reply

  24. I think you’d also like to know that after the events in the Star Wars movies, an extragalactic invasion of the galaxy occured by the species known as the Yuuzhan Vong. The invasion killed trillions. The Vong were known to colonize entire planets, terraforming them and using them to grow organic ships to move on to other planets like a virus.

    Interstingly, Palpatine (according to Star Wars lore) was one of the few people in the galaxy to have heard of the Yuuzhan Vong invasion before it became a problem. We know that the Vong scouts became active during the clone wars, so Palpatine could have overturned the corrupt and inefficient Republic in order to prepare for the invasion. Later, Palpatine built the Death Star. What is most interesting about the Death Star is that it would be extremely inefficient in a war against rebels, who could simply leave the planet and jump to hyperspace before the Death Star got close. What it would be good for is destroying planets colonized by a virus-like species that cannot be killed off once they invade a planet and terraform it (i.e. Yuuzhan Vong).

    It is my firm belief that Emporer Palpatine spent nearly his entire life preparing to defend the galaxy from the Yuuzhan Vong invaders, only to be thwarted by the Rebellion, which meant that trillions of people would die in the coming invasion.

    Comment by Chuckles — August 31, 2014 @ 7:29 pm | Reply

  25. Yeah. Like most rebellions, what comes after is worse than what comes before. And like most republics, the empire that supercedes them is better than what came before.

    The problem with a very large country is that eventually inevitably one gets the coordination problem inherent in most democracies. It is the reason that historically democracies have been very homogenous countries. One cannot really have a multicultural and well-functioning democracy (the perfect example is Belgium, or India).

    The empire had thousands of cultures, with human beings being a relatively small plurality. Further, no “assimilation” was possible between humans and most other beings, as they could not cross-mate and were literally different species. Thus, no long term assimilation was possible, and in a time of conflict, people would inevitably fall into their own species’ groups and demand secession. This is what happened with the CIS, who were mostly non-human secessionists.

    The truth is that the world is a dark and dangerous place, and the best kings take the burden of being the most ruthless and power-seeking so that by ensuring their own security and power, they reduce the desires of the varied populations to try and secede. They may not like each other, but they respect and well-regard the Emperor. The Emperor, not being beholden to the plutocracies that really run democracies, has no reason to favour discriminatory policies for one group over another, beyond guaranteeing his own security. There is no corruption in the system that the Emperor cannot stop if he wants. In a democracy, the system is inherently corrupt, and no President can even get his position without being at least some what corrupt himself.

    In many ways, Star Wars highlights the logical impossibility of a well-functioning multicultural and multi-species republic. The leaders of the Republic would never have told the population about the Yuuzan Vong, because doing so would have necessitated making huge sacrifices in the short term, which politicians and publics rarely are willing to do. People would have simply called the truth-tellers crazy and carried on, sticking their heads in the sand. If they had accepted the truth, the Republic would have become very unstable, with various groups with the most to lose vying for power and trying to create dictatorship – which is exactly what happened with Palpatine, in a way. The Republic, inherently unstable, could not survive institutionally in a time of crisis, especially as the Jedi were incapable of hitting the Yuuzan Vong with their force powers.

    In most ways the Empire was a superior form of government to the Republic. Instead of vilifying Palpatine for falling to the Dark Side, galactic residents should have been thankful to him for becoming a disfigured freak in the process of consolidating power. While all true Kings are egotists, and Palpatine was no exception, the fact that he became a monster – which he could not himself honestly deny – in his quest for power, and made massive preparations to defend against the Yuuzan Vong, shows that he was not just self interested. He cared about the Galaxy and did not want it to fall to the invaders.

    Now, if only we can get someone like him for the Earth…

    Comment by Hate Monger — April 2, 2016 @ 9:25 am | Reply


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