"Myths help us act; history helps us understand."
August 27, 2017 9:24 PM   Subscribe

Max Gladstone: DEAR SOPHONTS—
Your Harvest issue’s cover feature (“Heroes of the Galactic Revolution: A Twenty-Year Retrospective”), however well-intentioned in its commemoration of the anniversary of our galaxy’s liberation from the Palpatine Regime, indulged in and perpetuated many damaging and historically inaccurate popular fantasies. However widespread the folk narrative of the Skywalker and Solo families has become in the decades since liberation, we expect more from a journal of your self-professed dedication to intellectual rigor. The Great Sophont Theory of History has been deservedly discredited for decades; our galaxy’s very size—millions of sentient species spread across billions of worlds—should be enough to discredit any notion its history might be shaped by the decisions of a few individuals. What steersman could seize the wheel of such a vessel?

Spencer Ackerman: The Battle Of Hoth: The Empire Stirkes Out
The defenses the Alliance constructed on Hoth could not be more favorable to Vader if the villain constructed them himself. The single Rebel base (!) is defended by a few artillery pieces on its north slope, protecting its main power generator. An ion cannon is its main anti-aircraft/spacecraft defense. Its outermost perimeter defense is an energy shield that can deflect Imperial laser bombardment. But the shield has two huge flaws: It can’t stop an Imperial landing force from entering the atmosphere, and it can only open in a discrete place for a limited time so the Rebels’ Ion Cannon can protect an evacuation. In essence, the Rebels built a shield that can’t keep an invader out and complicates their own escape.

When Vader enters the Hoth System with the Imperial Fleet, he’s holding a winning hand. What follows next is a reminder of two military truths that apply in our own time and in our own galaxy: Don’t place unaccountable religious fanatics in wartime command, and never underestimate a hegemonic power’s ability to miscalculate against an insurgency.
Defense Nerds Strike Back: A Symposium On The Battle Of Hoth - "SO. YOU GUYS have really, really strong opinions about the Battle of Hoth."

Robert Rath: Hoth: The Failure of Imperial Military Doctrine
But to me, condemning or defending Vader's command decisions draws focus away from larger issues about the structural failures of the Imperial military. The lost opportunity at Hoth wasn't the fault of individual commanders, but of systemic issues caused by the "Imperialization" process, when the Grand Army of the Republic transitioned to a military doctrine unsuited to match the Rebel threat. Emperor Palapatine, not Vader, is ultimately responsible for the Imperial fiasco at Hoth, and the evidence for this is, interestingly enough, partially rooted in Star Wars: Republic Commando and its spinoff novels.
Ilya Somin: Leadership Principles of the Galactic Empire

The Death Star: A Pentagon Purchasing Nightmare
Meet the biggest cautionary tale in the world of defense procurement: the Death Star. Thanks to the Pentagon’s in-house acquisition journal, Defense AT&L Magazine — not usually a venue for fan fic — we have a detailed explanation as to why. Air Force Lt. Col. Dan Ward provides a nerdy-but-accurate examination of the Empire’s acquisition flaws in building the moon-sized death ray:
In the Star Wars universe, robots are self-aware, every ship has its own gravity, Jedi Knights use the Force, tiny green Muppets are formidable warriors and a piece of junk like the Millennium Falcon can make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. But even the florid imagination of George Lucas could not envision a project like the Death Star coming in on time, on budget.
Kevin Drum: The Death Star Is a Surprisingly Cost-Effective Weapons System
Think Tank: The Economics of Death Star Planet Destruction - "How does Death Star planet destruction affect the Empire’s GGP? (That’s Gross Galactic Product.)" [previously]
Death Star II: A Project Management Case Study

On twitter, @pptsapper [aka Angry Staff Officer] watches Rogue One:
Typical staff officer K2SO is. Just tells Jynn she's being rescued. No emotions, all analytics. Musta been a SAMS grad
Watching the Rebel Alliance admit that they've got splinter cell extremists is almost too realistic.
God help me I love grand Moff Tarkin's disdain for everyone and everything. He just hates everything

also wrote [and more]: What Rogue One Teaches Us About the Rebel Alliance's Military Chops, A Day in the Life of an Imperial Staff Officer, No More Task Force Rogue Ones: A Tactical Analysis of the Raid on Scarif

Seth Masket: The Star Wars Galactic Senate needed a minority party
Matt Ford: The Case Against the Galactic Senate
posted by the man of twists and turns (14 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
I was looking for more like the first link but I couldn't find any...
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:42 PM on August 27, 2017

this is an extremely niche form of fanfic I will always treasure
posted by The Whelk at 10:28 PM on August 27, 2017 [7 favorites]

omg omg
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:34 PM on August 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


Oh, geez, there's a moment in every tour when you're a geek staff officer* that you get that chuckle from another staff officer at a particularly obscure reference, and you realize "Yay, there's another geek here!" and then you further realize "And one of us is going to out-geek the other at some point and then we will both be sad because that sorta-friendship will be over because the outgeek-ed will think Jesus, that one is a huge geek and the outgeek-er will remember what it was like in high school when someone peeled away...".

I was only the outgeek-ed a fraction of the time, but that moment always happened and always sucked for both of us.


Anyway, fun collection of links. Thanks.

* -- Different from a staff geek, which is simply a person on the staff.
posted by Etrigan at 3:57 AM on August 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Did any fellow academic thickies note that Leia is actually Princess Dr Leia Organa, having got her PhD at 19? You can bet my PhD students will be hearing about this.
posted by biffa at 6:19 AM on August 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Warning: Nerd levels at full maximum. Repeat, FULL MAXIMUM.

This is really great stuff.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:45 AM on August 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

A lot of the articles on the battle of Hoth take Vader's statement at face value when he blames Ozzel for tipping off the rebels by coming out of lightspeed too close to the system. But we know from the opening scene in the movie that the real reason they know the Empire is coming is because Han Solo stumbled across their probe droid, so the rebels already knew they were coming.

And you want to bet who ordered the probe droid operation? I'm guessing it was Vader. I mean this is clearly ass-covering by higher ups
posted by Zalzidrax at 10:33 AM on August 28, 2017 [4 favorites]

I think that analysis of the Battle of Hoth gives too much credit to Imperial incompetence. Yes, Admiral Ozzel did come out of hyperspace too close to Hoth, alerting the Rebels and putting the Imperial squadron within range of their Ion cannon (say what you will about having a religious fanatic as part of your command structure, it is useful when you need to clear out a few senior officers who may have achieved their rank through patronage, sycophancy, or simply by failing up), but this ignores the Rebels' almost textbook execution of a fighting retreat. Certainly, while security through obscurity was the Alliance's primary defense, the selection of a location for a base must necessarily have taken into account that it would eventually be discovered, and included a plan for escape (a lesson that would have been learned at Dantooine, Yavin 4, and countless other Rebel hideouts). The retreat from Hoth is a clear example of these lessons being put into practice.

HRH Gen. Dr. Organa clearly understood that in an evacuation, the priority is getting transports off the planet and to safety. Any ground action is merely a delaying tactic, to keep an escape corridor open long enough to maximize the volume of personnel and equipment that can be removed. To do this, you establish a perimeter, and hold it only as long as it remains tenable, or it becomes time to evacuate the troops on the line. Then you collapse the perimeter in an orderly fashion, pulling back to a more compact perimeter that can be defended by a smaller force, and continue to hold up the enemy advance for as long as possible. This is exactly what we see at Hoth.

I'm not sure that the author is correct in his assertion that a TIE fighter could get through the Alliance's shield canopy. It was my understanding that even the Rebels were limited to speeders within the shield perimeter- otherwise they might have used their Y-wings to bomb Imperial ground formations, and we would have seen much more of an aerial component to the battle, with X-wings and TIEs dogfighting over the planetary surface. As it stands, the use of speeders as close air support for the ground defenses was a masterful element of the overall strategy, as they were able to cause significant damage and confusion among advancing Imperial forces. In particular, speeder squadrons under Cmdr. (later Gen.) Skywalker were able to very effectively exploit Imperial ground troops' main weakness: the use of troop carriers elevated to a significant height above the battlefield, with an unstable propulsion system, and only forward-facing weapons.

I have written elsewhere that the AT-AT (and to a lesser degree, AT-ST) platform is a classic example of ideology trumping practicality in military design and procurement. Everything about these systems speaks to a desire to terrorize, to dominate, and to literally tower over subject peoples. While they certainly provide a powerful psychological effect, they are wholly unsuited to many actual combat situations. However, it should not be argued that the use of these systems represent a failure of Imperial tactics at Hoth specifically- in fact, the weaknesses of the Imperial walker platforms have been demonstrated in numerous other actions (cf. the Battle of the Moon of Endor). Furthermore, it could only really be argued that the use of these systems was in any way connected to Vader's command at Hoth in the most general sense (a military that selects gives a senior role to an unstable fanatic is also likely to select equipment based primarily on psychological effect).

So the failure to decisively defeat Rebel forces at Hoth is more properly attributed to larger structural failures within the Imperial forces, and the highly successful execution of an innovative and meticulously-planned retreat by well-trained and disciplined soldiers, than it is to any specific decisions made by the Imperial commander in the field. Yes, things did get a bit hairy once the shield barrier fell, and the Rebel CP was overrun (and the Rebels should probably have evacuated their senior command elements much earlier), but by this time the bulk of Rebel forces had already escaped. Vader's presence within Echo Base is almost entirely irrelevant, as a bombardment of the base would have served little purpose at this point, most of the Rebels having already departed.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:33 AM on August 28, 2017 [6 favorites]

just want to call attention to HRH Gen. Dr. Organa
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 1:54 PM on August 28, 2017 [6 favorites]

(a military that selects gives a senior role to an unstable fanatic is also likely to select equipment based primarily on psychological effect).

Can we think of anyone who else was an unstable fanatic and yet had an army that did have effective and not merely psychological weapons?
posted by biffa at 3:51 PM on August 28, 2017 [1 favorite]


If you mean Hitler, one of the (many) weaknesses of the Third Reich was its emphasis on "superweapon" projects over production and improvement of core weapons systems. Not to mention that core weapons systems (such as the famed panzers) were often over-engineered and difficult to maintain in the field. Even the Luftwaffe, while it had excellent fighters and short-range bombers, had no long-range heavy bombers, and the scale of resources committed to things like rocket-planes meant that Germany had difficulty producing their standard aircraft in sufficient quantities, and keeping the ones they did have in the air.

When it comes to "superweapons," the parallels between the Tarkin Doctrine and Nazi military doctrine are pretty self-evident.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:36 PM on August 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

Oh my god real world analysis of the fantastic is possibly my favorite thing. Two articles in and the rest of this post is hitting my eyes like a giant roast turkey that is mine, all mine. Thank you TMOTAT!
posted by EatTheWeak at 7:49 PM on August 28, 2017

Holy god though, the ad window that pops up over the rightmost edge of the text in the Hoth Symposium link and hovers right over the line break is a high-water mark in heinous online reader abuse. I've been of a mind to not use things like AdBlock lately but damn, this reminds me why we need them. Who could possibly develop a warm feeling towards a company that interrupts you once every dozen words or so while you're reading?
posted by EatTheWeak at 8:08 PM on August 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

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