2011/05/09

Star Wars Episode 1-3 and strategy

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George Lucas' Star Wars Ep. 1, 2 and 3 have been criticised for a thin and illogical story. Even years later, I still don't think I've ever seen a critique or article on these movies that was adequate. Thus I'll give it a shot myself, and be assured; it's about strategy.


The major storyline is on the surface the youth life of Anakin Skywalker, but the background story is what really drives episode 2 and 3: The forces of evil - personified by Sith Lord Darth Sidious - try to take over the somewhat democratic galactic republic (soon to be known as the "Old Republic"). Eventually, they succeed.
This success in the story was not so much based on lightsaber fencing as on an ingenious strategy. Western politicians didn't have such a brilliant strategy in decades. In fact, I don't think anyone had such a brilliant strategy in politics post-Otto von Bismarck.

The character of Ambassador,
then Chancellor, then
Emperor Palpatine source
The strategy was rested on the utter necessity of sustaining an empire once the republic was defeated. You need power to rule against the will of the people. The absence of a hostile empire or republic had left the galactic republic without a major military force, though.
Many people are nowadays used to think that such a lack of (para)military power would pose a risk against evil forces, but in fact it was the most major obstacle for a Sith empire project. Darth Sidious needed a (para)military force to control an empire. He would otherwise lose it quickly even if he got it.

As a consequence, a militarisation of the galaxy was required.

The whole war between the robot ('droid') armies and the Republic's clone soldier armies served this purpose. It was irrelevant which side won; Darth Sidious ultimately controlled both armies and both armies were 100% loyal.


This, of course, should be unsettling to all those who are so much into their profession as a soldier that they forget to ask about the point or legitimacy of a war they're emotionally invested in.
It should also be unsettling in light of the fact that in this story the outcome of the entire military conflict was irrelevant. It was irrelevant who won. All those brave and idealistic jedis who served (in this story) in the war were basically wasting their time and lives, being distracted from the real issue.

It's rare that someone devises a strategy in real life where the outcome of a conflict is irrelevant because conflict itself already accomplishes a (hidden) mission. Such cases are usually meant to weaken all participants or to make profit off their need for hardware. The ingenious (from an evil point of view) approach to devise a conflict strategy with a win-win for the strategist is kind of admirable.


Now compare this quite ingenious strategic plot to how the national leaders in the Western world with their hordes of advisers and staff members stumbled into conflicts like Iraq, Afghanistan, Somali piracy and Libya and then let's appraise the quality of the Star Wars episode 2 and 3 story again.

I'd rate Lucas much higher than Rice as national security adviser.


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7 comments:

  1. As I understand it, part of the why of Che Guevara’s expeditions to the Congo and Bolivia was to initiate a conflict or conflicts that would bait the U.S. into involvement in one or more Vietnam-level commitment in order to injure the U.S. economy by diverting resources away from domestic-based social spending while also decreasing America’s international prestige. I have no idea if al-Qaeda had something similar in mind with the September 11th attacks but I have been amazed for the better part of a decade now at how willingly American policy makers have walked into a scenario similar to the one Guevara envisioned.

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  2. In the new trilogy, there are some notches towards the current political situation at the time ("Either you're with me or against me" etc.)

    I think the political tale here is that of the 9/11 events (false flag attack) that changed the republic into a dictatorship (through the Patriot Act, permanent wars etc.).

    One thing I discovered only recently is "black propaganda" : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_propaganda

    This kind of stories exists for ages I guess.

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  3. DemolitionMan10 May 2011 22:27

    Sven, did you drink when you wrote that one? Lucas mixed the classic elements of the greek tragedy with some 19th century political history(Napoleon III)and set it into space. And that should qualify for a adviser position? That's the same kind of bull like asking Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer after the attacks of 2001 what might happen next...

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  4. I'm afraid I disagree too, there was no grand strategy at play, there was, bad writing.

    We never find out how the Trade Coalition was talked into open warfare by the Sith Lord, and why they made no effort to betray him, simply because there wasnt a realistic reason for them to behave in such a manner.

    That both armies were 100% loyal is another plot hole, if the froids were loyal, why did he need the clones?
    He could simply have conquered the republic with drones?
    If the drones werent reliable and so he needed loyal clones, who one earth gave absolute control of the clone army to Palpatine and missed its galaxy wide plot to exterminate the Jedi?

    Palpatibne wasnt a master of strategy, his strategy was to trust in the writer and go for it....

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  5. "We never find out how the Trade Coalition was talked into open warfare by the Sith Lord..."

    They weren't. Remember; the clone army began the large-scale warfare. Palpatine corrupted the already greedy Trade Federation and lured them into more opposition to the republic by promising easy victories thanks to his schemes.
    Oh, and the Trade Federation's leaders had to expect assassination by Siths if they refused to go along, and they were cowards.

    "That both armies were 100% loyal is another plot hole, if the froids were loyal, why did he need the clones?"

    He needed the clones to convince the greedy Trade Federation to build more droids. The clones were furthermore able to team up with jedis and thus kill them more easily.

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  6. I'm sorry, but all of you are missing the point: As sven himself pointed out, which side won was irrelevant. Either way, palpatine would benefit enormously.

    If the seperatists won, palpatine could present himself (to the republic) as the solemn leader, wily enough to cut a good deal with the seps, and save what little of the republic remained. But in reality, he would be in complete control of the two sides.

    If the republic won, well... We already saw what happened: He still became emperor.

    Anyway, the overall point is, palpatine had no large standing army (nor an entrenched counter-terrorism/counter-intelligence network) to supress the people of the republic with, and even if he did, he would be seen for what he has: A brutal tyrant.

    So instead, palpatine did the smart thing: He created a boogie man (the seperatists) as a pre-text to create such an army. Its official use was to combat the enemy, but its true purpose was to supress and control the people of the republic (but this would be done secretly, in the name of protecting the people, and they would love him for it). Officially, freedom was to be exchanged for security. But in reality, the republicans gained neither security, nor freedom.
    The few people who knew what was really going on were either ignored, or silenced... Kind of like what is happening in the U.S, today. But hey, what do I know?

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  7. "We never find out how the Trade Coalition was talked into open warfare by the Sith Lord, and why they made no effort to betray him, simply because there wasnt a realistic reason for them to behave in such a manner."

    Actually I found that development very plausible and in touch with reality. In the first movie the Trade Federation was basically a bunch of corporate thugs with a standing army, which they tried to use in what they perceived as an isolated incident (the Naboo-blockade) to make the Republic comply with their corporate interests. The Republic did not have a standing army and was disorganized, thus seemed open/compelled to negotiate - which they sort of were, until Palpatine deliberately escalated the Naboo-situation on both ends, when he realised that the blockade alone wont cut it. So only because the very person who goated the TF into action, also turned on them behind their backs, did this change and created a situation, where the TF were in over their heads, facing what was now sort of an existential struggle, where they were given all the proper signs by now Chancellor Palpatine/Sidious, that negotiations were futile. The movies (esp the first one) may have painted them a bit too much like the village idiots, but their basic reasoning is present in real-world events almost all the time.

    My only problem with the whole scenario is the "one man changes all"-notion, which is mostly unrealistic - even the most powerful individuals in history had a capable entourage (Dooku was an effort there, but a weak one), but then again Palpatine was a Jedi/Sith and this is still a Fantasy-story (I wont use the word SF for this aspect of Star Wars).

    "That both armies were 100% loyal is another plot hole, if the froids were loyal, why did he need the clones?"

    Again, not a plot hole, it fits very neatly. If Palpatine would not have come up with the Clone Army to defend the Republic against the threat, which he initiated (by luring the TF into the Naboo-trap), somebody else would have, thus taking things out of his control, jeopardising the outcome. Only by controlling both parties effectively during the crisis was he able to assure, that his goals were met. Palpatine had to have a means to counter the droids in public perception, otherwise he would have lost the position of Chancellor to someone, who was wiling to take action. And of course the neat thing about the Clone troopers was the aspect Sven mentioned, they were in a position to exterminate the Jedi from the inside of the Republic more efficiently than the droids ever could as a make-belief opposing force. Last but not least the Clone army was to be the start for his permanent security force, while the droids, which had merits as "troublemakers", who were quickly available in high numbers, were less ideal for enforcing a long-term police state.

    Lucas may have created a cliche primary story, but the backdrop political story is IMO quite interesting when compared to real-world politics and the whole point of international affairs, political scare-tactics and the like. Too bad Western audiences seem to have next to no clue about those points.

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