According to ‘Star Wars,’ Targeted Killings Don’t Work
The Empire stirs while the Force awakens
The end of Return of the Jedi is one big party. Fireworks explode over the capital cities of the galaxy’s major planets, ewoks dance with wookies, Han and Leia kiss and Luke sets fire to his father’s corpse while the ghosts of his mentors watch.
And why shouldn’t they all be happy? In a stunning military operation, the Rebel Alliance destroyed the Empire’s major weapons system while Luke assassinated its two highest-value individuals. The deaths of Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader meant the end of the Empire, right?
Targeted killings have never worked, especially against entrenched power structures such as the Empire or ideological causes such as the Dark Side.
At best, targeted killings strengthen the resolve of the remaining power structure and its ideological adherents. At worst, they pave the way for chaos as infighting consumes the remnants of the organization’s leadership.
When the Rebels destroyed the new Death Star and Luke killed the Sith, they left behind the Empire’s infrastructure, military personnel and equipment. Empires as large as Palpatine’s do not simply evaporate overnight. Their collapses are slow, long and bloody.
The new trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens dropped during Monday Night Football and it illustrates my point. The new film is set 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi … and what do we see? Idyllic rebels establishing a Galactic Federation modeled on the Old Republic and the dismantling of old systems?
No. We see white stormtroopers, the blazing red flag of the Empire and the black carbon of TIE fighters. The amount of soldiers and TIE fighters on display speaks to the Empire’s dramatic ability to remilitarize. True, we do see the ruins of star destroyers in the sands of a desert planet. But that doesn’t mean the entire Empire crumbled.
Then there’s Kylo Ren, living proof that Anakin Skywalker’s misguided religious crusade against the light side of the Force lives on. We see Ren briefly during the trailer leading stormtroopers into battle and monologuing to the melted helmet of Vader — an object he seems to have turned into a religious icon.
So the Rebel Alliance sowed chaos across the galaxy and paved the way for a religious fanatic to take the reigns of the Empire’s remnants. Did the Rebel Alliance have a plan to rebuild in the wake of its disastrous military campaign? Obviously not, and now everyone in the galaxy has to live with Ren and all the accompanying consequences.
But it’s okay, I’m sure the Alliance — cynical and wary after years of fighting the Empire — will find some young fools to go after Ren in what amounts to yet another targeted killing that sparks another round of chaos in an endless cycle of death and reprisals until the galaxy is nothing but dust, ash and the Force.