One of the most fascinating genres of pop culture commentary over the last few years is the Empire apologia from the Star Wars universe. This surprising cult of contrarianism postulates that the Jedi and the rebellion they support were actually the bad guys - the equivalent of religious fanatical terrorists causing mayhem for the Galactic Empire, which was just trying to ensure peace and order for its citizens.
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) October 20, 2015
Well, apart from the inhabited planet-destroying, I suppose. (But there’s even a defense of that.)
Not coincidentally, the defense of the Empire has corresponded with a rise of nationalism and populist fascism in the real world, mostly in Europe, but America was not immune. But strangely, the pro-Empire conservatives are almost completely #NeverTrump as well. Jonathan Last and Bill Kristol were leading anti-Trump voices at the Weekly Standard, and Sonny Bunch is much harder to nail down on actual policy than on pop culture.
I never bought the argument (or trolling, as it were), but Rogue One provides another bit of evidence for their anti-rebellion case. In the most recent Star Wars story, Imperial Director Krennic tries to convince prodigal engineer Galen Erso to return to work on the Death Star by promising that his family can come with them and live in honor as heroes aboard the station. Erso declines, of course, resulting in bad news for everyone. But we must assume others accepted this offer.
The Death Star was under construction for decades. Surely there were families on board once it was inhabitable. There were probably families created on the station.
Prior to The Force Awakens all we see in the Empire’s ranks are male officers and troopers, but if Erso’s family was invited to live among them, there must have been others. How big was the Death Star Daycare? How many ob-gyns and maternity wards were present on its 21,588 floors? By one count there were 2,399,638 people present on the station, 843,342 of them listed as passengers, which would include any family members of the million-plus imperial staff.
The destruction of the Death Star(s) has already been called a tragedy. Once you realize that there might have been hundreds of thousands of women and children aboard, innocent family members of legitimate military targets, you have to admit it was more like an atrocity.
Or you could be a monster and say they should have chosen their family better. That’s what President Obama’s spokesman said about the 16-year old American citizen killed by a US drone strike in 2012 2011. In a cruel twist of fate, the first Special Forces raid conducted under President Trump killed that same 16-year old’s 8 year-old sister, who was also an American citizen. Both were children of Anwar al-Awlaki, an al-Qaeda leader killed in another drone strike the year before his son. Both were considered regretable collateral damage from legitimate military operations.
— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) January 29, 2017
This is where the Empire vs Alliance struggle grimly reflects reality. Even if, like the galactic rebels, American military strategy since 9/11 began to secure freedom around the world, it has quickly turned into a war machine more concerned with vengeance than peace.
The Alliance suffered a horrific loss of billions on Alderaan (because it was thought to be a rebel base) and retaliated by destroying the Death Star and it’s millions of inhabitants, both complicit and bystander. How many more civilian casualties does our own well-intentioned War on Terror have to inflict before we realize the solution is perpetuating the problem?