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The Empire Strikes Back?
February 12, 2013 10:54 PM   Subscribe

Inside the Battle of Hoth.

"… in strategic terms, this is like Osama bin Laden’s escape from the December 2001 battle at Tora Bora, Afghanistan — a disaster masquerading as a tactical success."
posted by mazola (63 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was ready to Snicka Snack Snark on this piece and the tiresome Let Us Take A Thing From Star Wars And Be Serious but then I saw the awesome diagrams and this comment:

Have you even served with the Imperial forces? Sure it's easy to take potshots from your military blog in some no-name star system while the fleet and its legions fight the rebel insurgents, but combined space/air/ground operations are a lot messier than any infographic could ever portray.

Even with the Empire's full spectrum dominance of the battlespace, you can't just leverage fleet assets which are optimized for ship-to-ship combat into a large scale ground invasion force. A Star Destroyer might have more firepower than the entire militaries of less advanced worlds but you still need a proper ground assault ship to support infantry landings.

Unfortunately, the do-nothing blowhards in Coruscant couldn't get funding for the promising alternative designs from Sienar Fleet Systems and we ended up (as usual) with Kuat Drive Yards' overpriced, overdue, and underperforming AT-AT mess.


Ha!
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 11:02 PM on February 12, 2013 [37 favorites]


Is there some trick to, or joke behind, those diagrams? They seem to alternate between meaningless and vapidly simple. A probe, an arrow, Hoth? This picture is worth five words, and has to include three just to accomplish that.
posted by darksasami at 11:22 PM on February 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


I wanted to like this, but the whole thing is premised on ignoring several important facts set forth in the movie.

First, Vader isn't really looking to destroy the Alliance at Hoth. He's trying to find Skywalker. This explains both his decision not to nuke the place from orbit and his motivation for wanting to see the place in person. This may not be a tactically sound move, but it's a perfectly legitimate strategic one. The Empire can and will win any war of attrition with the Alliance, but the presence of Force users has already seriously unbalanced things. Vader would have been willing to sacrifice his entire invading force if he'd been able to capture or kill Luke.

Second, the author seems to seriously misunderstand how the planetary defense shield is described. The Expanded Universe does describe some such systems that cover an entire planet, but this one isn't portrayed that way. It covers an area above the base sufficient to prevent planetary bombardment, that's all. Further, you can't fly ships through the shield. Nothing gets in or out. The evacuation is carefully timed, such that evacuating ships are given a tiny time window during which the shield is essentially flicked on and off, allowing them to pass without exposing the base below. With those things in mind, the author's argument really doesn't make all that much sense. I'm not sure whether or not TIEs are actually supposed to be capable of operating in atmosphere, but even if they were, the kind of strafing run he proposes wouldn't work, because you can't fly through the shield.

Third, the problem with the blockade is not that Vader lacks sufficient force to accomplish it. If it were simply a question of adequate ships, he'd be fine. No, the problem is that all fleeing ships need to do is get sufficiently far outside the atmosphere to initiate a hyperspace jump, and that only takes a matter of seconds after the shield is crossed. This makes the ion cannon a truly powerful aid to the evacuation, as all it needs to do is give the fleeing ships a few seconds. The only way the Empire could prevent a successful jump is to mass capital ships around the evacuation route, and the ion cannon effectively prevents this. Notice that the only reason the Millennium Falcon gets in trouble is that its hyperdrive malfunctions. Luke's doesn't, so he's not going to have a problem.

Conclusion: if you're going to take the time to do any kind of critical military analysis of a work of fiction, also take the time to familiarize yourself with the facts of that work of fiction. Failure to do so turns what was only an arguable waste of time into an objective waste of time.
posted by valkyryn at 12:06 AM on February 13, 2013 [60 favorites]


I keep waiting to grow out of this stuff, but somehow it defies reason and remains interesting.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 12:11 AM on February 13, 2013 [12 favorites]


There was some comment on a previous post about how completely insane Luke's plan is at the beginning of ROTJ. Like, "I'll send in Lando to get a job as a guard, then I'll send in the droids to act as translators. THEN I'll send Leia disguised as a bounty hunter with Chewie in handcuffs. Then Leia will get caught freeing Han. THEN I'll come in WITH NO LIGHT SABER and get captured. THEN after fighting a rancor and getting caught again, when they're about to throw all of us in the sarlaac pit, I'll have R2 shoot me my light saber that he's been hiding THE WHOLE TIME and we'll all make a dramatic escape! It's FOOLPROOF!"
posted by nushustu at 12:12 AM on February 13, 2013 [11 favorites]


Yeah, just chucking in that thermal detonator and thawing Han out afterwards would have been so much easier.
posted by valkyryn at 12:22 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


This discussion makes me badly want to play me some TIE Fighter or X-Wing vs.
posted by flaterik at 12:41 AM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


You could make some defense of Luke's "relying on pure dumb luck" plan vs. Jabba by pointing out that just busting in and tossing a grenade wouldn't be "sporting" (I.e. not allowed for light-side Jedi) so he had to at least give Jabba a chance to give up Han voluntarily, but still have an exit strategy in place for when things inevitably went south. Revealing his light saber too early would have undoubtedly put his friends in jeopardy, so he had to be patient enough to wait for a clear exit window for the whole gang revealed itself.
posted by ShutterBun at 1:00 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]



if you're going to take the time to do any kind of critical military analysis of a work of fiction, also take the time to familiarize yourself with the facts of that work of fiction.

He is as clumsy as he is stupid.
posted by Darth George Lucas at 1:10 AM on February 13, 2013 [16 favorites]


Anakin/Vader was constantly screwing things up throughout the entire 6 films. Despite his gifts with the force, Anakin made a terrible Jedi knight even before he turned to the dark side and couldn't even rescue his own mother from slavery. And once turned (a decision he agonised over for 4 seconds) he immediately gets himself mutilated and crippled.

Years later, it was Vader's failure to retrieve the plans to the Death Star that led to its destruction. Then he begins a mad quest to find his son, spending lots of time on a roundabout method that involves hunting down some random associates and torturing them on the off-chance that Luke is as much of a poor student as he was (luckily that turned out to be true). Then he completely overplays his hand during the confrontation and Luke gets away.

So Vader stops looking for Luke only to have Luke fall back into his clutches pretty much by chance on Endor. He successfully manages to provoke Luke into a fight but gets his ass handed to him. You can see why Palpatine looks so pissed off when Luke throws away is weapon. "Damn, I am still stuck with this idiot"
posted by AndrewStephens at 1:21 AM on February 13, 2013 [21 favorites]


You could make some defense of Luke's "relying on pure dumb luck" plan
More elegant excuse: Dude - Jedi powers! In this case, sense of what the future's going to be. This also justifies Vader's roundabout methods.

Here's a more elegant scene of psychics playing 4D chess past each other in Spacepulp. (newest favoritist webcomic)
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:37 AM on February 13, 2013


First, Vader isn't really looking to destroy the Alliance at Hoth. He's trying to find Skywalker. This explains both his decision not to nuke the place from orbit and his motivation for wanting to see the place in person. This may not be a tactically sound move, but it's a perfectly legitimate strategic one.

At this point is he playing the Emperors game, or his own? Either way he's acting outside of and against the military command structure.
posted by Artw at 3:31 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, just chucking in that thermal detonator and thawing Han out afterwards would have been so much easier.

Actually you wouldn't even need step 2 there...
posted by Mercher at 3:39 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, Empire Strikes Back is a documentary?
posted by mattoxic at 4:06 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Despite his gifts with the force, Anakin made a terrible Jedi knight... and he was a shit actor
posted by mattoxic at 4:18 AM on February 13, 2013


Meanwhile, this is the extent of the analysis the characters themselves are doing in the movie:

Han Solo: Together again.
Luke: Wouldn't miss it.
Han Solo: How we doin'?
Luke: Same as always.
Han Solo: That bad, huh?
posted by randomkeystrike at 4:20 AM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]




I think the whole point of Star Wars was to nostalgically recreate the feel and excitement of corny old saturday-morning cinema films.

In that light an intelligible military strategy or coherent rational management of forces would have been flaws, not virtues. In a battle you're basically just delivering a sequence of heightened jeopardy episodes around the main characters, and you should help yourself to as much incoherence and deus ex machina as you need. If you start making sense, you've gone wrong and it's boring.
posted by Segundus at 5:32 AM on February 13, 2013


"Yeah, just chucking in that thermal detonator and thawing Han out afterwards would have been so much easier."

Unless pieces of Han fractured and broke off. Intimate pieces.
posted by plinth at 5:49 AM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I took immediate issue with the characterization of Admiral Ozzel as 'bumbling'.

I've always thought it made more sense that he's a rebel sympathizer. He aids the cause from the inside including trying to dismiss the finding of the generator in the first place (leading to the great exchange of glares with Piett), then coming out of hyperdrive intentionally close to Hoth in order to warn his allies.

He was a hero to the rebels and nobody can tell me different.
posted by mazola at 6:05 AM on February 13, 2013 [13 favorites]


Metafilter: turns what was only an arguable waste of time into an objective waste of time.

These kinds of analyses of Star Wars seem thematically out of place.

I think the whole point of Star Wars was to nostalgically recreate the feel and excitement of corny old saturday-morning cinema films.

Yeah, that.

It's like pondering Elmer Fudd's sexuality given his desire for Bugs Bunny in drag as a lover, and his desire for Bugs Bunny sans drag as dinner.
posted by device55 at 6:10 AM on February 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Trying to figure out why Lucas did things is like trying to figure out why your cat does things.

I've been watching the original, unaltered trilogy with my son. Star Wars is called Star Wars, none of this Episode IV: A New Hope crap, Jabba the Hut doesn't show up until Jedi, and Han shoots first. Watching it on High Def reminds me of how much fun those movies were to watch originally.

Like a lot of films, there's little point in thinking about them too much. We can wonder why the Empire, with millions of Storm Troopers and Tie Fighters at their disposal, would invade a planet with four slow, clumsy walking tanks that can be taken out with a grappling hook and a grenade (and then wonder why the Rebels didn't just hide some guys in a snow bank to take them all out the way Luke did) but it's much more fun to just kick back with some popcorn and enjoy the fuck out of them.

And try not to get too squicked out when Luke makes out with his sister.
posted by bondcliff at 6:19 AM on February 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, Vader is after Luke and doesn't really care about anything else. He, perhaps arogantly, assumes that they'll be able to crush the rebels at his leisure.

The emperor want Vader to capture Luke so he can turn him to the dark side and have him replace Vader. Vader wants to capture Luke so he can turn him to the dark side and they can usurp the emperor because that's what Sith do. He even tells Luke this at the end of the movie.

I don't think Luke or anyone else planned for everything to go the way it did in Jabba's palace but they did put a bunch of contingencies in place. I think the plan was for Leia to sneak Han out. If that didn't work, they had Lando undercover to help out, Chewy already in the prison to look for Han while he recovered from hibernation sickness. If that didn't work, then Luke would come in and try to use his Jedi mind trick on Jabba and if all else fails, R2 had already smuggled in a weapon for him. The rancor pit ordeal threw a wrench in the whole works so they cobbled together an escape from what assets they had in place. It was some convoluted plan, there wasn't much of a plan at all, they just got as many people and as much equipment in area as they good and trusted the rest to luck and skill. The mostly made it up as they went along. That's how I always saw it anyways.
posted by VTX at 6:24 AM on February 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


psychics playing 4D chess past each other

One of my insane friends and I used to play "Omniscient beings having a conversation" during bored moments. Invariably it goes like this:
  • "Dude, I know what you're going to say."
  • "No, I know what YOU'RE going to say."
  • Rinse and repeat until bored again
The life of an actually omniscient and eternal being would get pretty boring pretty fast. Luckily, in real life no such thing is possible.

It is, however, an excellent device to cover plot holes in fiction.
posted by flug at 6:37 AM on February 13, 2013


Yeah, Vader is after Luke and doesn't really care about anything else. He, perhaps arogantly, assumes that they'll be able to crush the rebels at his leisure.

Vader is more or less a religious figure put in command of a military operation. This has not traditionally gone well. The Sith also seem to be selfish individualists, pretty much by design, so expecting them to do well in an environment that calls for concerted group action... well, I wouldn't expect anything else.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:54 AM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


The life of an actually omniscient and eternal being would get pretty boring pretty fast. Luckily, in real life no such thing is possible.

I knew you would say that.

::YAWN::

Well. I think I shall kill myself now.
posted by Splunge at 6:55 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


First, Vader isn't really looking to destroy the Alliance at Hoth. He's trying to find Skywalker. This explains both his decision not to nuke the place from orbit and his motivation for wanting to see the place in person. This may not be a tactically sound move, but it's a perfectly legitimate strategic one.

Given that, then, the "letting bin Laden get away at Tora Bora" comparison is even more apt.
posted by deanc at 6:57 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Vader is more or less a religious figure put in command of a military operation. This has not traditionally gone well. The Sith also seem to be selfish individualists, pretty much by design, so expecting them to do well in an environment that calls for concerted group action... well, I wouldn't expect anything else.

Except that Luke is the single most powerful force user to ever live (once he matures). Look at what Palpatine and Vader have been able to do together. If either of them were able to turn Luke to the dark side, it would be game over for the rebellion.
posted by VTX at 7:12 AM on February 13, 2013


I've always been a little miffed that they hand-waved the deflector shield away. Star-Wars-universe shielding was only vaguely defined in the original trilogy, and when they were finally shown on-screen in Episode I (the Gungan assault on the Trade Federation stronghold), they retconned the Battle of Hoth into an even bigger strategic blunder than it was in 1980. Defensive shielding in the Star Wars universe appears to function similarly to those in the Dune universe: it reacts to the momentum of objects coming into contact with it. Energy weapons and kinetic projectiles are repelled, but objects moving slowly enough can pass through it with minimal resistance (c.f. the Trade Federation droid army pushing through the Gungan dome shield like they were pushing apart heavy curtains). Thus, the Hoth base was shielded from atmospheric bombardment, but couldn't stop AT-ATs moving toward it at walking speed. It would, in theory, also stop TIE fighters from penetrating it, except for one thing: TIE fighters run on ion propulsion systems, and aren't subject to the same physics that keep airplanes in flight. Even operating in the atmosphere, TIE bombers can hover stationary, or move at whatever speed they desire toward their target. Imagine, then, a squadron of TIE bombers creeping veeeery slowly past the defensive shield, and then operating with impunity.

So, there really was no compelling reason for the AT-AT assault not to have air support. In fact, air support would have changed the tone of the fight entirely: all Vader needed was for one TIE bomber to get through the defensive perimeter, and then blow the hell out of the generator. The rebel defenses were entirely oriented toward stopping a ground assault; the only weapons shown on-screen were artillery batteries and forward-mounted blaster turrets, neither of which could have been turned against small Imperial fighter craft. The only hope the Rebel force would have had against TIE bombers would have been to abandon the speeder plan entirely, and send the pilots to scramble their own limited force of X-Wings, relying on them to dogfight within the very small area enclosed by defensive shielding. The shield would have been down in moments, well before any Rebel ships could make it past the blockade. Meanwhile, the remainder of the TIE fighter cohort would have been waiting just outside the defensive perimeter, ready to tear apart any evacuation craft that passed near them.

The really damning part of this isn't that Vader fucked up the strategic planning of the assault, but that he forgot that he had the entire TIE cohort of six star destroyers available to him, when he himself was a fighter pilot.
posted by Mayor West at 7:39 AM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Trying to figure out why Lucas did things is like trying to figure out why your cat does things.
At least my cat shits inside the box. So I guess I only disagree with this in form but not in kind.

I've always wondered why there's only the barest rudiments of military strategy in science fiction.
I've read the lament elsewhere, for example, Heinlein's Starship Troopers was basically WWII Marine Corp operations with jumpy suits. Haldeman's work. There's very little book or on screen science fiction that takes the technological advances to their tactical conclusions.
Just off the cuff in Star Wars - why are droids taking the time and energy to communicate with sound waves?
Examples abound. Some of it is just plain ignorant, some is obviously for the on-screen (or descriptive) wow factor. OTOH Fritz Leiber took pains to describe the surreal nature of war in the distant future. His work is not real popular in comparison.

Star Trek is mostly old naval battles, yes and Star Wars draws from the WWII dogfights etc.

But there are plenty of examples of in-universe nonsense.
What stands out for me is the only real contrast between Empire and Rebel tactics (apart from their pointlessly convoluted nature)

Empire high command: "Brilliant tactical strategy general. You've served us well for decades through countless incursions. You're utterly reliable in the field and your battle plans are ingenious;"
General 'Insert evil name": Thank you sir.
EHC: But you spilled Jumba juice on my cloak. - DIE!
*force lightning*

Vs.

Rebel High command: "Nice shooting son! Where you from?"
Private/latant Jedi Object Verbnoun: "Thank you sir. I'm from Planet Alliterative. We shoot verb mammals with our letter-number guns from arbitrary measure of space distance all the time.
RHC: You're a general now.
PFC Major General Object Verbnoun: Uh...ok? Then let's tactical up the 2nd color wing to the bottom of that hill for some reason and fight from a disadvantage but win somehow and it's not important for squad leaders to know where to move or communicate with them even though we're using squad tactics and hand held weapons because I know everything. So they're dying needlessly, but they're inspired not scared. So we'll win.
RHC: Genius!
*rebels win*
posted by Smedleyman at 7:41 AM on February 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


Metafilter - This picture is worth five words, and has to include three just to accomplish that
posted by Phreesh at 7:43 AM on February 13, 2013


Militarily/tactically this assault may have been a wash but cinematically the Rebels were quite successfully under attack and threatened, methinks.
posted by George Lucas at 7:50 AM on February 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


I hang out in every Star Wars thread until George checks in. No, I don't have a life.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:56 AM on February 13, 2013


How can George Lucas and Darth George Lucas be in the same thread?
posted by Chrysostom at 8:00 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why not just uses the considerable destructive power of the Star Destroyers to melt the planetary surface surrounding the base and drop it into a pool of lava? Their deflector shield becomes their tomb.
posted by Artw at 8:05 AM on February 13, 2013


Vader had a fine plan: come out of hyperspace at the edge of the system, sneak in some stormtroopers to blow up the shield generator, blast the ion cannon from space, and then give the whole Rebel Alliance the choice of surrender or annihilation.

Then his admiral screwed it up. I do like the theory that he was a secret rebel.
posted by BeeDo at 8:06 AM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've always been a little miffed that they hand-waved the deflector shield away. Star-Wars-universe shielding was only vaguely defined in the original trilogy, and when they were finally shown on-screen in Episode I (the Gungan assault on the Trade Federation stronghold), they retconned the Battle of Hoth into an even bigger strategic blunder than it was in 1980. Defensive shielding in the Star Wars universe appears to function similarly to those in the Dune universe: it reacts to the momentum of objects coming into contact with it. Energy weapons and kinetic projectiles are repelled, but objects moving slowly enough can pass through it with minimal resistance (c.f. the Trade Federation droid army pushing through the Gungan dome shield like they were pushing apart heavy curtains).

It used to be that there were two types, ray shields for blocking energy weapons and particle shields for blocking physical objects, but Episode I removed the consistency (obligatory Wookieepedia link).
posted by jason_steakums at 8:14 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


As this circulated through my FaceBook circles yesterday, I was always quick to point out that this piece pales in comparison to the masterpiece of Star Wars revisionism that is this analysis of what happened on Endor immediately after Jedi.
posted by COBRA! at 8:21 AM on February 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


We can wonder why the Empire, with millions of Storm Troopers and Tie Fighters at their disposal, would invade a planet with four slow, clumsy walking tanks that can be taken out with a grappling hook and a grenade

I've discussed this before, but the AT-ATs make perfect sense for the Empire, not from a tactical point of view, but from an ideological one.

We have many instances in history in which ideology has over-ridden pragmatism in the development of military philosophy or technology. Two recent examples might be the Soviet decision to slaughter a big chunk of their professional officer corps just before war with Germany; or the German insistence on very precise, over-engineered and difficult to manufacture technologies during the same period (not to mention making their air forces entirely subservient to the goals of combined arms/blitzkrieg, to the exclusion of effective long-range strategic bombing).

In the Empire's case, we have a military that has not had to go toe-to-toe with a conventional land force in nearly a generation (it is unclear to what degree the rebellion has been ongoing or is heating up again at the start of A New Hope. It seems like the last major conflict they fought was the suppression of the Wookiee on Kashyyyk.) Instead, they have needed to dominate and demoralize a variety of different civilian populations. Key to this goal (at least as far as Imperial command is concerned) is the projection of overwhelming power (or at least its appearance). The Empire relies on terror weapons. They have the largest ships in space, they have a battle-station that can (and will) destroy whole planets, and they have armored vehicles that literally tower over subject populations. Of course, these have not really been tested in a large-scale conflict, but it is easy to see how they might have evolved out of the more practical armored walkers observed on several battlefields during the clone wars (lower-profile, all terrain, turret-mounted rotating main gun).

The Empire does not expect forces encountering the AT-ATs to stand and fight- those that do not immediately flee (or that take up more hardened static positions) are expected to be overwhelmed by the walkers' significant forward-facing firepower, and then mopped up by ground troops. The fact that this has never been tested is irrelevant to the Imperial War College- everything about the Empire tells them that it should work. They can't even imagine that the rebels might use mobility and cheap, practical equipment (are the speeders on Hoth the rebel equivalent of a T-34?) to take the fight behind (or underneath) the main guns of an AT-AT.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:25 AM on February 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


Vader murdering Ozzel, the commanding officer, could also be explained as means to plausible deniability. Vader's real goal is to find Luke, alive; thus he doesn't want the tactically-expedient option of a surprise bombardment. Even though the military thinks he's crazy, he needs to explain himself to the Emperor -- so he secretly orders Ozzel to drop out of hyperspace too close to Hoth, and to not tell anyone why he's doing so. If the Emperer asks Vader why he didn't just bomb the planet, he can blame Ozzel. Then he murders Ozzels to make sure he can't tell the Emperor about it, and -- bombardment being ruled out -- embarks on a ground assault, which he leads personally so that he can find Luke.

That said, the "Ozzel is secret a rebel sympathizer" argument is also more plausible to me than presuming he's just incompetent.

I'd also note that, at least in the extended canon of books, comics, etc., it's generally accepted that a lot of the rebels never made it off Hoth -- the leadership did, sure, and a fair number of the rank-and-file, but it's hardly as if everyone escaped, and in escaping as quickly as they did they had to leave an immense amount of equipment behind. The logistical repercussions were huge, and in that sense it was as much a strategic defeat as a tactical one.
posted by cjelli at 9:11 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


This thread is just amazing for a lot of reasons, not least of which because it has had me unconsciously humming Holst's Mars through my teeth since I started reading.
posted by gauche at 9:23 AM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]




> It's like pondering Elmer Fudd's sexuality given his desire for Bugs Bunny in drag as a lover, and his desire for Bugs Bunny sans drag as dinner.

As a film school grad, I guarantee you someone out there has written this essay.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:50 AM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Basically yes, that.
posted by gauche at 10:57 AM on February 13, 2013


That said, the "Ozzel is secret a rebel sympathizer" argument is also more plausible to me than presuming he's just incompetent.

If you liked that theory, then you'll love my alternate universe where the original Star Wars trilogy is the story of Firmus Piett's unlikely (and unwanted) rise through the ranks of the Empire to the point where he survives the destruction of the Executor in ROTJ and assumes the role of 'Emperor' in the political vacuum that follows the Battle of Endor.
posted by mazola at 11:08 AM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have a similar theory about John Travolta's character in Battlefield Earth being a suicidal, self-hating Psychlo. There's incompetent, and there's getting your home planet blown the fuck up.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:14 AM on February 13, 2013


That said, the "Ozzel is secret a rebel sympathizer" argument is also more plausible to me than presuming he's just incompetent.

HOTH WAS AN INSIDE JOB

GOOGLE KENDAL OZZEL
posted by Mayor West at 11:21 AM on February 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


Slow down, people. I think it's clear that the real story is one of an unbelievably talented young pilot destroying multiple Death Stars, killing countless imperials, and making fun of yokels like Luke and Jansen -- Wedge Antilles, true hero of the Rebellion. Don't buy Lucas's tricky editing, Wedge blew up pretty much everything that got blown up in the entire original trilogy. Do you think Han shot first? No, it was Wedge firing from orbit because he's just that good.
posted by Copronymus at 11:22 AM on February 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


Alright, I'm going to go right out and say it: I assume there is a lot more going on then is shown in the movies. I assume that the fighting shown isn't the only area of the battle, but rather the area shown is the one we are interested in. Furthermore the AT-AT used weren't the only vehicles on hand, but the ones that would work in the extreme cold (Remember; the Alliance was having a ton of trouble keeping things in the air due to the cold). It seems entirely plausible that Ties couldn't fly in the cold and wind, and since they couldn't fly ties down there, may as well make the ground forces earn their pay. Then, once you've got ground forces down there, why NOT take the base? Get some captives, some intelligence, possibly find where the rebels fled to, some nice trophy prisoners to kill after show trials, all of which would be lost if they pulled back and bombed it from orbit, which may well allow MORE rebels to escape, as they've already gotten troops at the base who'd have to pull back.

Furthermore, even if he didn't take down the entire alliance, they lost a ton of material, and a large number of personal, neither of which they had in abundance.
posted by Canageek at 11:36 AM on February 13, 2013


I hope J.J. Abrams and Simon Kinberg are reading all this.
posted by mazola at 11:41 AM on February 13, 2013


How can George Lucas and Darth George Lucas be in the same thread?

There is no conflict. You underestimate the power of the dark side.
posted by Darth George Lucas at 1:03 PM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wired's follow-up article: Defense Nerds Strike Back: A Symposium on the Battle of Hoth
posted by 1970s Antihero at 1:10 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Please stop saying "Han shot first."

Han shot. Nobody else shot.
posted by snottydick at 2:04 PM on February 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


The problem is that there no way to figure out if the Empire was using intelligent tactics without knowing things we don't know. How shields really work, for example.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:14 PM on February 13, 2013


The problem is that there no way to figure out if the Empire was using intelligent tactics without knowing things we don't know. How shields really work, for example.

Well yeah, but we do know a few things. Do we know how they work? No. Do we know what the characters say about the shield? Yes. Even without any rigorous understanding of the technology involved, we ought to be able to take what the characters say seriously.

Problems arise when there are inconsistent portrayals. Like, for example, when Luke is trapped in the trash compactor. With his lightsaber. That he never bothers to use. In the whole movie. We see in Episode I that these an exceptionally useful way of getting through locked doors. But even without Episode I, you'd think it would have occurred to Luke to at least try to use the freaking laser sword to, I don't know, kill the grabby tentacle thing.

*ahem*

That doesn't happen here. There are relatively detailed descriptions of how the shield is supposed to work in this instance, and the author just ignores them completely. Does the movie tell us everything we might wish to know? No. But it tells us enough to make sense of what happens. So faulting the movie for its logic without taking this into account isn't fair.
posted by valkyryn at 2:26 PM on February 13, 2013


I think the analysis is a simple one - we have two sides in the battle, with two different objectives:

-The Rebels wish to provide enough time to allow for the evacuation of the majority of their equipment and personnel.

-The Empire wishes to destroy and/or capture the Rebels.

The tactics used are pretty straightforward. The Empire relies on the fact that has both numerical and technological superiority in launching a straight out assault with no subtlety. The Rebels stage a delaying action, use the materials that they do have in some unconventional ways, and evacuate in reasonably good order.

The Rebels are clearly the victor in that they achieve their aims during this battle.

The larger failing for the Empire after Hoth is the inability to learn from this mistake; the battle of Endor again displays the same type of thinking and over-reliance on numbers and tech superiority to win the day.

I think the lesson here is that no matter the edge the Empire has, its failure is an inability to adapt and display flexibility in approach. I would look to both the training and motivational approaches for senior officers of the Empire, and suggest that the "Force choke" method of promotion is not encouraging the type of officer the Empire needs.
posted by never used baby shoes at 3:12 PM on February 13, 2013


I hope J.J. Abrams and Simon Kinberg are reading all this.

William Shatner Thinks J.J. Abrams Has Gone to the Dark Side
posted by homunculus at 3:21 PM on February 13, 2013


If you start making sense, you've gone wrong and it's boring.

I disagree. Good worldbuilding lets the audience skip to the good stuff.

Take Star Trek TNG. Most of us watch it mostly because we like to see Patrick Stewart resolve conflicts through slightly pompous and self-righteous speeches. It's not a show that's even trying to depict a realistic navy. However, it's a show that takes the idea of diplomacy quite seriously. Realism matters in that respect.

Consider the Federation's agreement with the Romulans not to build ships with cloaking devices. In the real world arms control agreements are almost always mutual; this concession is unilateral. The viewer starts asking herself why the Federation agreed to put themselves at such a disadvantage and the show offers no answers. Worse, now she's thinking about how to beanplate the treaty instead of Picard's furrowed brow and Data's cat. Unrealistic worldbuilding is distracting.

Contrast that with what the show gains by talking about the Neutral Zone. The Neutral Zone does not even need to be explained to the audience because it's a straightforward reference to the Korean DMZ. Tense hostile neighbors are maintaining a precarious peace by setting up a mutual no-go zone along the border. Easy. That's militarily and diplomatically realistic. Because it's realistic it doesn't get in the way of the story. Even better, the viewer is able to use real-world knowledge to draw inferences about the pressures the characters are under. It's intuitive that going into the DMZ threatens the peace, and that's a story engine.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 5:29 PM on February 13, 2013


How can George Lucas and Darth George Lucas be in the same thread?

There is no conflict. You underestimate the power of the dark side.


Always two, there are...
posted by radwolf76 at 6:09 PM on February 13, 2013


"I think the lesson here is that no matter the edge the Empire has, its failure is an inability to adapt and display flexibility in approach."

That's because it's a top-down organization run by a single man. And that man is a Sith, proficient in bureaucratic double dealing and skulduggery but not so experienced at running a massive war machine. In the Clone Wars the Jedi and the Republic Navy took care of the military details. Even the Trade Federation ran their own operations and he'd just order them around. Darth Sidious wasn't interested in military strategy or the proper way to command, not when the traditional Sith methods of domination and terror were much more fun.

When Darth Vader discovered that his son was alive, it must have been wonderful news for the Emperor. A new Jedi to kill or corrupt! Thus the events of the third movie, where he manipulated the rebels into a trap at the Second Death Star and tried to manipulate Luke into crossing over to the Dark Side. The Emperor didn't care about sound strategy or minimizing his own losses, not when it was so emotionally satisfying and Sith-like to come up with grand schemes that moved his opponents around like chess pieces and let them destroy themselves. The Empire couldn't adapt and employ a different approach to dealing with the Rebels because he wouldn't let it.
posted by Kevin Street at 6:11 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


The older I get the more I appreciate the Empire.
posted by mazola at 6:22 PM on February 13, 2013


The older I get the more I appreciate the Empire.

Wait until you get a look at their health care system.

The Empire relies on terror weapons.
*Superstar destroyer blaring* DO AS WE SAY OR YOUR PLANET WILL BE BOMBARDED!

*crudely slapped together subspace transmitter* Uh, yeah. Hello? We've got no infrastructure to carry out low orbit refueling operations for massive Capital ships. Uh...

SSD: YOU DARE REFUSE OUR COMMANDS!?

Telos command: Uh, no. But, see when the last remnants of the Old Republic was swept away we lost a lot of the key communications points. It'd be, uh, nice to have some file clerks. Heh. Y'know, heh. People hate those government bureaucrats but when you don't get subspace mail for two weeks heh, and the iridium stops flowing from the asteroids, people sure seem uh ...
SSD: YOU WILL SERVICE OUR SHIP OR DIE!

Telos: Ok. Uh, there's a clearing at these coordinates. Not too many trees.

SSD: WHY HAVE YOU NOT CLEARED THE CONTINENTAL FORESTS TO SUPPORT MAJOR FUELING LOGISTICS?

Telos: Man, we've got maybe 500 Seinar systems graders but no one here can figure out how to certify people on them to a standard or where to send permits to dump the waste.

SSD: WE WILL DESTROY YOU!

Telos: Well who you gonna get to clean up the bodies? And then deal with the plague that follows. You can't just scare us into efficiency we don't have any bureaucrats man.

SSD: DIE! *launches bombardment* OK, MOVING ON....

SSD officer: Uh, move to where sir? We were out of gas when we got here....

SSD: HOW DARE YOU QUESTION ME! DIE!


Y'know, I have the same kinds of issues with drone strikes. People need guidance even if you're knocking out - especially if you're knocking out - their leaders.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:42 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]




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