Star Wars and COIN

No, not Reagan’s map-cap scheme. The excellent George Lucas trilogy. I just finished watching the original Star Wars trilogy with my wife, and was struck by two things about the final scene of Return of the Jedi. First, how effective unconventional tactics are against a technologically advanced enemy. And second, how Star Wars lied to us about the outcomes of these sorts of protracted conflicts.

The Empire and the Rebel Alliance have been at war for some time, we are given to believe. In the first two films, the battles are straight up fights, more or less. (Excepting some cosmetic deficiencies.) In the final battle scene of the series, on the forest moon of Endor, the Ewoks mount a commendable insurgency against the massively technologically superior Imperial forces.

Ewoks to the Wescue

Their use of unconventional tactics—stealing the speeder, commandeering the AT-AT walker, tripping walkers with ropes, rolling logs down a mountain-side; you know the drill—is simply second-to-none.

Also, as Katy pointed out, “they definitely know the terrain.” It gave them a huge advantage, even though they were possibly outnumbered, and definitely out-gunned.

Those Damn Lies

Star Wars lied to us about insurgencies. It teaches us that insurgencies have a simple end: The Emperor is dead. Darth Vader is dead. The Death Star is destroyed, along with the Imperial fleet and its command. Everything is happy across the galaxy.

In Star Wars, the end-game, the exit strategy is defined and simple. In real life, “we have no idea what we’re working toward, so we end up working toward nothing.”

It’s not all George Lucas’ fault, but maybe it has something to do with it. What do you think?


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