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Essence of Decision: Understanding the Real History of the Imperial and Succession Wars

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Recommended Star Wars Viewing Order:

  1. The Force Awakens
  2. A New Hope
  3. The Empire Strikes Back

And that is it. Everything else would simply be a letdown, and leave viewers disappointed...


Essence of Decision: Understanding the Real History of the Imperial and Succession Wars

The fall of the Empire, and the failure of its successor states to re-establish order in the galaxy, is usually mistold in the history books. Popular, semi-academic, and even academic authors write it as a combination of tabloid soap opera and personal heroics: villains, Jedi Knights, stunning double crosses, the Palpatine succession, and--of course--the bizarre and incomprehensible repeated cross-generational psychodramas of the Skywalker family.

This, however, neglects the real history--the deep structural and bureaucratic-cultural factors that led, as Leia Amidala/Skywalker/Organa apocryphal warned her father, the star systems to slip through the fingers of the Empire even as it attempted to tighten its grip. This neglect in standard histories means that while they can serve as entertaining diversions, they cannot as sources of true deep understanding of historical events--and they can serve even less as sources of lessons to guide present and future policymakers.

To provide just one example: It was very clear to all operations-research specialists crunching the numbers that the most cost-effective Imperial and successor weapons systems were three:

  • Tie Fighters,
  • Star Destroyers, and
  • hired bounty-hunters.

Bounty-hunters accomplished enormous successes in counterinsurgency against Rebellion, New Republic, and Resistance forces alike. And they did so with low—nay! with negative— impact on the Imperial budget deficit. Star Destroyers gave the Empire and its successor states not just space superiority but space supremacy wherever their deployment could be logistically sustained. And the Tie Fighter was the T-34C tank of the Imperial and succession wars—cheap to build, easy to maintain, very maneuverable, packing a much greater than anticipated punch, and so easy to fly that even a moderately-skilled pilot could become an ace on his or her first excursion in a Tie Fighter cockpit.

But, for cultural-bureaucratic reasons, Imperial and successor admirals, generals, and bureaucrats preferred to downweight these highly effective weapon systems in their force portfolio.

Generals preferred clone armies. The clone armies provided lots of senior command slots for generals. They made them feel important. Never mind that clone stormtroopers showed less than zero initiative. Never mind that clone stormtroopers could never hit the broad side of a barn. And, of course, the brainwashed second-generation janissary stormtroopers were even worse

Admirals preferred to spend every available credit not on more Star Destroyers and on logistical support for Star Destroyer deployment but, rather, on building superweapons— eggshells armed with hammers, with the power to destroy planets, but insanely vulnerable to X-wing attack, and, as Lord Vader warned Grand Moff Tarkin--insignificant in the overall strategic balance because of the trump card that was the Force.

But, of course, high Imperial and successor politicians were unskilled in operations research, and rarely aware of on-the-ground operational realities. They were easy prey to the lobbying of generals, admirals, and bureaucrats. And the coup de grace was provided by the claques of pseudo-intellectuals on the make who wrote for netlications like the Imperial Review, the Imperial Interest, and the Decadely Standard.

The results of the failure of the Imperial Military Reform effort ably chronicled by Jamfa Maphi were obvious, and inevitable. Simply project what the results of near-run battles like Yavin IV, Hoth, Endor, Jakku, and Starkiller would have been had Imperial and successor force structure seen Star Destroyers, Tie Fighters, and bounty-hunters at their core, rather than mere accessories to the eggshell superweapons and the blaster-fodder of stormtroopers...