Home > Media, Movies, Sci-Fi, Star Wars > Was the Empire Really So Bad? Part 3

Was the Empire Really So Bad? Part 3

Alright readers, for tonight’s update I’m going to continue to defend all-time bad guys The Galactic Empire.  This time, however, I’m going to do so by pointing out how awful the Rebel Alliance truly was.

Here’s a recap of some of the key points so far:  the Republic sucked and was the cause of its own demise.  The transition to the Galactic Empire was actually publicly liked (as evidenced in the last few minutes of Revenge of the Sith, and the Empire, while having some bad guys up top, was doing some good.  Namely, they were keeping scum like Han Solo off the space streets.

With that said, let’s look at their main enemies, the Rebel Alliance.

What Did the Rebels Even Want?

Within the first few minutes of A New Hope we’re introduced to the Rebel Alliance in the form of Vader boarding the Tantive V (yes, non Star Wars fans, I know the name of the ship off-hand) and declaring that everybody is a part of the Rebel Alliance and are traitors.

Alliance Leaders

“We want the ineffectual Old Republic back!”

By all accounts, the Rebels should be our heroes in Star Wars.  They stand against the empire who, we are to believe, are firmly evil and need to be taken down.

Except the only reason I can make a case for the Empire is that there were so few instances of them being truly evil outside of certain levels of leadership.  All of the events in the original trilogy are in response to the Rebellion (a point I’ll get to shortly) and we’re not told any reason—from before the formation of theAlliance—to actually think the Empire is evil.

The thing is, we’re not given any reason.  In fact, we know so little about the Rebels that all we know is they want to take the Empire down.  We don’t know why nor are we even given a slight hint as to what happened in the two decades between trilogies.

By comparison, most organizations—no matter how small and ill-formed—know what it is they are trying to achieve.  Consider al-Qaeda, who seem as nebulous in their goals as the Rebel Alliance.  We know they hate westerners and have declared a jihad.  That said, with some looking around you can easily find out that one of the main reasons is the idea of the Western world fronting a cultural assault on Muslims.  There is more depth to that, but we know what they want and why they want it.  You may not agree, but those reasons do exist and are stated.  No organization, terrorist or legitimate, is going to get what they want without openly stating those goals and their reasons.

Yet, the Rebels exist solely on the concept that the Empire is evil and that everybody must fight them.  Their list of reasons is minimal and the Rebels seem to assume that the Empire’s evil is self-evident to every onlooker.

Recruitment Strategy

So if the Empire was so blatantly, incontrovertibly evil then why was the Rebellion so small?  Seriously.

When you’re throwing everything you’ve got at a moon-size space station, consider something more effective than two dozen hand-me-down space fighters.

At the beginning of A New Hope we see a Rebel Alliance that is tiny and falling apart.  They are, by all means, on the very brink of losing everything to the Empire.  If the Empire is so terrible then why are so many people staying on the sidelines?  If, as we are to believe from the Special Edition endings showing multiple planets celebrating, the whole galaxy stands with the Rebels in spirit, then how is it that the Empire even stands the remotest chance of winning?

I realize the counter-argument there is that many people might not be willing to take the risk to work with the Rebels.  It no doubt endangers one’s family and friends, and so not everybody would take that risk, even if they did support the “ideals” of the Rebellion on an intellectual level.

Nonetheless, let’s look at a comparison.  The number of fighters that the Rebels fielded at the Battle of Yavin was around 25-30.  The screencap of it from the special edition (in which Lucas added more fighters than were originally shown) shows about 25.  That’s all of two-dozen capable pilots willing to fight to save the Rebellion.  Make no mistake, the Battle of Yavin (as with most battles the Rebellion fought in the films) was not something they would retreat from.  It was a last stand and an all-or-nothing endeavor.

And yet there are just over two dozen fighters.

Battle of Hoth

“You know, guys, I’m beginning to think sending infantry with small arms against giant, armor-plated walking dogs was a bad idea.”

Similarly, the Battle of Hoth was again an all-or-nothing stand with most of the body of the Rebellion on the planet trying to escape.  In the picture of this battle, you see maybe 15-20 ground infantry, plus less than a dozen snowspeeders that were put against the force of AT-ATs.

My point in all of this is very simple: the Rebellion had almost nobody fighting for it.  Remember from the last post in the series that the galactic population is in the quintillions.  And the force of the Rebels is maybe a thousand at the Battle of Hoth, if you were to include support personnel.  This means that of the galactic population only 0.000000000001% were willing to fight with the Rebellion.

Consider the French Resistance in WW2.  Plagued by similar fears that their families and friends would suffer were they to join the Resistance, the French had a fairly small number of supporters.  While it’s hard to pin down exactly how many supported the Resistance in anything other than thought, it’s estimated that it was somewhere between 1-2 percent of the French population.  In other words, the French Resistance had 20000000000 times more people (in proportion) fighting for them.

Rebel Fleet at Endor

Remember when Leia’s ship in A New Hope was easily defeated by and fit into the docking bay of a Star Destroyer? I bet the Emperor was just squealing with glee when the Rebels decided sending a bunch of those against the Death Star was a good idea.

Before I get drowned in too much math and comparison, my point is simply thus: if the Rebels were so damned right in their conviction that the Empire was evil and it had to be taken down, how is it that their total support was absolutely miniscule?  Even considering that people would be afraid to take action, one would expect a Rebellion against the Empire to be a bit bigger than it was.

Final note: at the Battle of Endor the Rebellion fielded an entire fleet and no doubt, by this time, their numbers had grown.  I’m sure this was partly bolstered by their prior victory against the first Death Star.  Nonetheless, it could be assumed that if that was the entire fleet (as again, this was an all-or-nothing gamble) at the time of the Battle of Endor, it is still absolutely miniscule in comparison to the support one would expect them to have.

The Rebellion Would Have Failed without a Farmboy

At the beginning of A New Hope (as well as in a deleted scene with Biggs, Luke’s friend at the Tosche Station), Luke discusses the idea of going away to the academy.  In fact the academy he spoke of was not some Rebel-run terrorist training camp, but the academy of the Imperial Navy.

“Someday I’m going to fight with the Rebel Alliance I care nothing about in a war with the Empire that means nothing to me personally. But I’ll be damned if I won’t save the entire Alliance on numerous occasions.”

Biggs discusses this scene in more detail at the Tosche Station scene, stating that he left the academy to join the Rebellion (or something of the sorts).  Nonetheless, Luke’s entire attitude toward the Rebels, before becoming so involved, was that of curiosity.  Luke would have joined a traveling space circus if it got him off-planet.  The fact that he got to fly a fighter with the Rebels only sweetened the pot.

But beyond that, Luke was the only hope of the Rebellion.  He is shown, time and again, to be the reason the Rebels get out of their scrapes.  For all of the defected personal coming from the Imperial Navy, a simple farmboy (who admittedly has the Force) manages to outperform these pilots at every turn.

The fact that Luke made his fateful shot on the first Death Star by pure luck seems to be largely ignored.  For all the Force he had in him, if Han hadn’t taken the shot and confused the other TIE pilot who hit Vader, he would have been space dust before the shot went off.

The Rebels do, clearly, exist plainly on luck.  They were about to fail at every turn were it not for a convenient deus ex machina in the form of a moisture farmer.

So the Rebels Win? Then What?

I think this particular point really heavily goes back to the idea that the galaxy needs a powerful influence.  While the Republic sucked, it at least had most everyone unified under the same banner.  Ineffectual as it was, it was still a centralized government that had some power.  The Empire, too, seemed to control almost the entire galaxy worth controlling.  (Would you really bother to send a garrison to Tattooine if you didn’t have to?  Thought not.)

Because taking out the Death Star and killing the Emperor will certainly dissuade this ENORMOUS FLEET from blowing up the Rebels.

The Rebels, at the end of Return of the Jedi, have killed Vader and Palpatine.  The entire galaxy celebrates and we’re left with a happy ending.  Except for one enormous, terrible looming question: then what?

You see, nobody dared stand against the Emperor or Vader because, quite simply, you couldn’t.  They would kill you easily and your attempt at a coup would be over.  They wielded supreme power without the fear that they could ever (except by another force user, who they had killed) be taken down.

When the Rebels take them down, I highly doubt the Empire just surrendered and called it a day.  Consider the size of the Imperial fleet when Lando and the crew in the Falcon go at it head on.  In that picture alone I can count 21 Imperial-class Star Destroyers and the SSD Executor.  It’s hard to say, exactly, what the fleet strength there would be considered, but keep in mind all of these ships are goddamn massive.

We do see a few of them (notably the Executor) go boom, but even as the Death Star II is destroyed there was no doubt some fleet left over.  This fleet had two options: fight to the death and inflict as much collateral as possible against the rebels; or to run and get the rest of the fleet.

“Darth Vader…I want it to be known in my living will that if we are to die, the Empire should acquiesce to all of the Rebel Alliance’s demands. This is my last wish.”

You see, the key here is that the Imperial Navy is goddamn huge.  It is doubtful that their entire fleet was present at this battle.  In fact, this is probably just one task force within a fleet.  Consider that the Emperor expected the Death Star II to be shielded for the entire time and that it was operational.  That, alone, meant he wouldn’t need the whole fleet, as the Death Star could easily dispatch the Rebels.

So after Palpatine and Vader go down, you still have massive fleets roving the stars with no central hierarchy anymore.  Additionally, the rest of these people in power are just plain old people, sans the force, which means there could be additional power struggles afterwards.

In one of the few times I’ll mention the EU, I’ll take note of the way they handled the galaxy post-Endor.  That is to say, numerous admirals and high-ranking officers within the Imperial Fleet formed a couple splinter Imperial factions.  It took the NewRepublica long time to finally take everyone down.  In the end, an Imperial general with a hell of a lot of foresight, Pellaeon, brokered peace with theNewRepublic.

The reason I bring in that part of the EU is because it illustrates my point better than I could without the example.  That said, the EU isn’t G-canon and we don’t know that is actually what happened.

Indeed, the Rebellion would face an uphill battle, as some planets would no doubt change allegiance right away.  There were no doubt, however, many planets that would stay aligned with the Imperials.  The Rebellion would have to face a difficult decision there: conquer those planets (in the name of freedom) or allow the Empire to exist and the war to continue on.

Keep in mind that the Empire is huge and galaxy-wide.  They no doubt had countless other fleets and supporters.  Taking down the head may leave them disorganized, but it certainly doesn’t leave them any less capable of inflicting pain or defending themselves.

In Closing

Seriously, why would a planet on which the Imperial presence consists of a few stormtroopers looking for droids celebrate this hard?

You see, the Rebellion, for all that Lucas did to portray them as heroic, had no foresight.  They launched a campaign against the Empire with almost no popular support (as evidenced by their numbers), with little idea of what they actually wanted or why, and finally with no plan as to what was going to happen afterwards.

Indeed, the power vacuum left by the Rebellion’s destruction of the Death Star II and the deaths of the two Sith would be so significant that I cannot imagine the Rebellion successfully uniting the galaxy ever again.

Instead, I would imagine a galaxy in which the two major players are the Rebels and the remains of the Empire.  Beyond that, however, I’d imagine every powerful mercenary band, criminal cartel and planet with a decent fleet would declare itself a sovereign nation.  While the Rebels may call that freedom, without the Empire (or some central, governing body) the Galaxy would no doubt face endless border conflicts that would not be resolved until somebody had the will to re-conquer the entire galaxy.

The galaxy the Rebels want sounds more like lawlessness and anarchy than freedom.

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