Were the rebels "all that" in the Star Wars movies?

Splitting off from this thread

Were the Rebel Alliance in the Star Wars movies morally superior to the Empire? Ultimately, it’s just a highly entertaining series of movies with third-rate writing, but still, I have several issues with how the Rebels did business:

[li]The rebels destroyed three worlds (the two Death Stars and the Endor moon) whereas the Empire destroyed one (Alderaan)[/li][li]The rebels were motivated by re-establishing a senate which had demonstrated its capacity for failure, whereas the the Empire (at least from Anakin’s POV) was motivated with cleaning up corruption and establishing law & order[/li][li]The rebels fought the Empire with such vigor and determination, but they didn’t seem to have a framework in place to replace the Empire once toppled.[/li][/ul]

Several people took issue with my assertion that the rebels destroyed more worlds than the Empire.

I disagree. If you take a normal intert “small moon”, nothing but rock - place it in orbit of a planet, then blow it up, you will start an Extinction Level Event on that world, just from the sheer mass that you inject into the atmosphere. Combine this with the fact that the Death Star II had power plants and fuel onboard capable of generating enough energy to destroy worlds. The radiation alone may have been enough to sterilize everyone standing within line of sight on the Endor moon. I’d say the Ewoks had mere days left to live, a month at most.

The rebels knew the physics of the situation, they had to know that shattering the Death Star II while it was parked in orbit would ultimately doom the Endor moon. However, they did it anyway, in an “ends justify the means” way that the Empire is much-maligned for.

If you examine the '70 SFX in minute detail (glossing over the vaseline and scotch tape and whatnot visible on-screen), you may reach the conclusion that Alderaan had a planetary shield. It’s not a great leap to then assume that, on a world with a power energy shield, the Alderaanians must have had some weaponry for defensive use. Even if it was Mag-Lite flashlights for the cops.

The only indication we had that Alderaan was pacifistic was from Princess Leia’s desparate pleas before Tarken gave the order to fire. I’d say she was in a position to say anything if it helped her situation. She already lied about Dantooine. We’ve seen that the planet had defenses. We also see that the rebels had spies and political leadership operating from Alderaan. It seems to me that when the Empire nuked Alderaan, they were hitting a legitimate military target.

I’ll admit, this is a tenuous point. It is possible that Alderaan had a planetary shield and no weapons. But in the political landscape of increasing Imperial pressure, I find it unlikely that the rebel leadership on Alderaan would leave their world devoid of defenses (aside from that worthless shield.)

Well, this is where you start playing with moral relativity. The Death Star was a legitimate target, regarless of the number of souls on board, because it posed a threat. Alderaan posed a threat, too. Come to think of it, so did the Ewoks on Endor. (And those damn Jar Jars, grrr…)

With this argument, you could hardly blame the Empire for smearing Alderaan across the solar system.

My other main issue with the rebels is their choice of government…

If all it took to collapse the Old Republic was one man stirring up trouble, then the Old Republic was a pretty crappy system. An actual republic, formed in the interests of its peoples, would have some means of checking itself, to prevent the corruption that led to the sudden rise of Palpatine’s power. The Old Republic was a house of cards, and (in my opinion) had to come down eventually.

The Rebel Alliance wanted to establish a New Republic to replace the Empire, formed in the image of the Old Republic, but we see very little evidence of this happening. Admittedly, the movies focus on the social and military aspects of the struggle, but I think we should’ve seen some political maneuvering to ensure the proper people were in place when the New Republic would be formed. Instead, we saw a single evening’s celebrations, and that’s the end of things. It’s just a likely that for all the rebels’ intentions and actions, the next week saw a dramatic spread of anarchy across the galaxy like a Hari Seldon disaster.

My point is this: the Rebel Alliance deserve props for overthrowing a dictatorship. But are the methods they used justified? Can the rebels claim that their acts of mass-murder are justified while the Empire’s were not? (Well, of course they can say anything they want, they won the war.) Furthermore, would life under their new government, as small as it must be, be any better than living with the Empire?

One thing I found striking was that the Rebel Alliance was multispecies while the Empire’s bureaucrats and armed forces were all-human – suggesting humans were the Empire’s master race, though how they got there was never made clear in the pre-Empire trilogy. OTOH, there was never any hint of racial animosity as such and the nonhuman rebels never spoke of throwing off the human tyranny. It all seems rather odd.

First i’d just like to say I agree that the Endor Moon was rendered uninhabitable. However, there were no (relatively) sapient beings on the moon; Smart as the Ewoks were, they can’t totally be compared to humans/aliens in that universe. Endor doesn’t have any civilised settlements.

Also, a lot of what i’m going to argue comes from the EU. Just to point out, that is actually canon unless/until Lucas disagrees with it, so I think it’s fair to count it in.

Unlikely. In the Star Wars universe there’s only one planet with planet-wide shields (Coruscant/Imperial Center), which has two. Bear in mind, however, that this is the “capital” planet of the entire galaxy, and is literally totally covered in city. There’s resources there to support such a system, which Alderaan likely does not have.

And also from the E.U., it’s made clear that Alderaan has no military weaponry; they packed it all into ships which they then sent off into hyperspace (which is another story). It’s possible that police forces have weaponry, but it’s likely no more than the equivalent of pistols.

Alderaan was actually considered an Imperial planet. Many humans in the Imperial Navy were actually from Alderaan (and many defected after it’s destruction). It’s quite possible that trade goods useful to the Rebellion were being moved there on the sly, but by far the majority of its produce would be going to the Empire.

On the other hand, it’s quite possible that those goods in comparison to other sources were an important supply point for the Rebels. If so, then Alderaan’s destruction may well have been a significant blow to them. On the other hand, as I said these good would be getting to the Rebels on the sly; a much more cost-effective (and moral) plan would be to use counter-intelligence against the individual “traitors”.

They did it before the coming of the Empire, and carried on during it’s time.

The threat from the Death Star is a lot different to the threat from Alderaan; likewise, the number of souls on the planet is likely far greater whilst the entire complement of Death Star inhabitants were actual combatants. I don’t think there’s the complex moral situation you suggest.

One man who isn’t just smart has the power to manipulate minds and was in a position of power. For a real-life example, assume George Bush is a keen political strategist (cue jokes). Assume he can manipulate people’s minds. One meeting of the U.N., his support staff, and the two houses, and he could quite easily collapse the significant world powers.

Going from the E.U. again; you’re right, that is what happened next. The Emperor, Darth Vader, the Death Star and much of the Imperial Fleet were destroyed, but the Empire remained. Local planetary governors and Palpatine’s guards, assassins, and secret projects remained. It was years before Coruscant was taken by the Rebellion, and by then they’d sorted a (relatively) effective ruling council.

It also bears mention that the Empire is never defeated. They’re forced into a small area of space, but a treaty is signed stopping the war. Later on they even form a coalition with the New Republic, but that’s another matter. Point is; you’re right, the Empire wasn’t defeated by the end of the films. But it had been dealt a *very * large blow.

If your example of mass murder are the Death Stars, then yes; acceptable acts of war. If it’s the destruction of Endor, then it gets slightly problematic; but given the enormous blow dealt to the Empire, it probably was worth it; something else to bear in mind is that if the Rebellion had lost that battle, they would have been defeated for good. That was their entire fleet there. Plus, the atrocities committed by the Empire were on a huge scale, and they didn’t stop there; one weapon in development was the Sun Crusher, a weapon that would force a star to go supernove, destroying all planets in orbit around it.

For non-humans, definetly. No longer would they be second-class citizens or even in a lot of cases, slaves.

For humans? Depends on which humans. For those living in Empire-held worlds, life got worse, since they were taken from their positions of power over others (plus the cost of the war took it’s toll). There were planets such as Toprawa in which the local human population was subjugated and leveled to the point of medieval levels, so for people like this, much better. For Rebellion humans? Life probably didn’t change much, other than the moral benefit of being equal with one’s peers.

So was it worth it? Most certainly.

Under the Empire, all non-humans were seen as lesser. In the best cases, non-humans in the Empire were used as domestic servants, and in the worst as slave labor or simply exterminated. The more “useful” races were either subjugated or blackmailed/tricked into providing their services.

You’re talking real-world physics in a universe that has time and time again been shown to not have real-world physics. We have no way of knowing what happened, except that we see them partying. Note that the Rebels do not leave, but stay to celebrate.

Tarkin didn’t contradict her statement, and what’s more, implicitly classified Alderaan as a nonmilitary target.

Not just any man, but a Sith, capable of mind control and other nifty tricks.

This is scary. Disregarding the issue of whether intelligence has any bearing on the situation, the Ewoks are clearly sentient. They have tools, weapons, clothes, villages and a social structure. Are you saying that because you believe they’re not quite as intelligent as humans, although they’re obviously very close, it’s perfectly OK to wipe out their home?

You seem to be under the impression that there’s some sort of moral ambiguity in destroying a planetkiller weapon, controlled and manned by people who have demonstrated that they are ready, willing, and able to use it against innocents. I’m curious what moral code could possibly consider that morally ambiguous. I’m also curious as to whether there is any conceivable act which would be morally justified under that code.

As for your arguments about the inadequecy of the Republic’s government, it’s a lot like Sideshow Bob’s election campaign: “Mayor Quimby freed Sideshow Bob, a dangerous criminal, and set him loose on the citizens of Springfield. Mayor Quimby is soft on crime. Elect Sideshow Bob.”. If the Republic’s only fault was that it made it possible for the Emperor to come to power, it logically cannot be any worse than the Empire. Even if you accept the bizarre premise that the Empire was good, then allowing the rise of the Empire was also good, and therefore the Republic was good. Besides, there’s no indication that the New Republic had exactly the same form of government as the old one: It’s quite possible, and indeed probable, that the Rebels built in some new safeguards to hopefully prevent a new Emperor.

No, not perfectly ok; only that as I said, they can’t be totally compared to humans/aliens in that universe.

It’s certainly a moral wrong to kill them, but the alternative - the entire Rebel fleet being destroyed, and that resulting in the Empire being in power for longer - would result in the deaths of not only significantly more people, but more people with a higher level of sapience. I’m not suggesting that because they aren’t up to “our” standard, that it’s fine to kill them; only that in comparison killing, let’s say, hundreds of Ewoks is preferable to millions of others, and that their sapience is just one factor of many.

I didn’t really see that in the films. Are you getting that from Expanded Universe?

How did humans become the master race? Was it just because Palpatine was human? But he achieved power with a lot of non-human support. Lucas has given us absolutely no historical context here. We don’t know if humans have an older or higher civilization than other races, or ruled other races in the distant past, or anything. As with Europeans during the age of colonial imperialism, we do see humans living on a wide range of planets, which most races don’t; but they do not seem to predominate on Coruscant.

Yes, although as you pointed out, it’s shown in the populations of the respective organisations.

Again, this would be the E.U., but just as a lot of things in Star Wars, there’s a real world inspiration; think Hitler and Mein Kampf.

Palpatine set up the enemies of the Old Republic secretly; who do we have there? Nemoidians (the green skin guys), the flying bug dudes, some sort of robotic guys (and of course the seperatist troops are all robots). The only visible, notable human on the seperatist’s side is Count Dooku, an ex-Jedi. And the entire Republic troops are clones from a human source.

It’s easy, once they’re defeated, for Palpatine to say “Look; we’ve defeated those nasty, bad, aliens! They’re all secretly plotting against us, you know. And don’t they look strange? And how 'bout those Jedi - Count Dooku was one, you know! Hooray for our fantastic human clone guys, who saved us!”. He took advantage of already there bad feeling and manipulated it into full-blown mistrust and hatred.

Humans are the most widespread species in the SW universe, so they have the advantage of numbers, too. I believe humans do, in fact, predominate on Coruscant; the problem is that in the films we see only leaders of other worlds and the bedrock slum level, both which have the more significant numbers of non-humans in a (as Coruscant is) highly xenophobic world.

Those of you who can’t bring yourselves to support the rebels are not alone. The Weekly Standard has also spoken up in defense of Darth Vader and the Empire. Their take on the issue is here. As for myself, however, I have to stand with the Rebels.

The main complaint with the rebels is that they have destroyed the galaxy-wide government and unleashed mere anarchy upon thousands of star systems. Following the events in Return of the Jedi, there is no centralized authority, and the one government will presumably be replaced by thousands of local governments. Some of those will be corrupt, some will be ineffective, some will fight with each others.

I think that’s all a good thing. Why? Simply because a galaxy is too large to be governed as one unit. Concentrating power over many different localities in too few hands is always a recipe for disaster. Effective administration must be done by people who are in touch with the populace, who know what’s happening at ground level. There’s no way that the members of one body can understand all the issues unfolding on hundreds of thousands of different planets.

I figure that the rise of the galactic Senate must have gone something like this: we start out with each different planet existing as a separate nation. Gradually they join in leagues and guilds, for mutual defense and economic benefit. But there’s too much interplanetary conflict still, so some sort of congress is created to settle disputes between planets. Over time, it’s decided that this congress isn’t strong enough to defend everybody’s rights, so the Senate is created, with real, permanent authority. Over the course of four thousand yeras, the Senate does the only thing that any government ever does well: it expands its own power. By the time of The Phantom Menace, the entire galaxy is being choked by its bureaucracy. Groups such as the Trade Federation are exploiting the situation by beating up on defenseless planets like Naboo.

(It’s been asserted that the Galactic Senate must be an effective government because it lasted 4,000 years, but since when is an old government necessarily a good one? The Ottoman Empire ruled the Middle East and North Africa for almost six centuries, yet its rule was a terrible one.)

In circumstances such as these, downfall is inevitable. The weaker planets have no choice but to support emergency powers for the Chancellor, who claims he will defend them against the Trade Federation and the other thugs who are gathering into the separatist movement.

But, of course, there’s no such thing as a benevolent dictator. Palpatine soon becomes a schoolyard bully on a galactic scale. The usual downfall is complete. Freedom has become oppression, democracy has become dictatrship, equality has become tyranny. At this point, there is no reasonable way to fix the system from within. The only option is to destroy the top of the power structure and move back to local control.

Was there a European cut that had different scenes? IMDB says nothing! :confused:

I’ve only watched the American releases, and the only copy of eps IV-VI I have at home are a VHS copy of the original (non-special) editions.

It still seems extremely disproportionate to me. Surely there was a way to cripple the Death Star, rather than obliterate it. Any machine that large and complex has to have a bazillion points of failure. I think it speaks volumes that the rebels exploited the very first one they came across, knowing it would kill (millions? billions?) a lot of sentient people.

Another issue: given the size and complexity of the Death Stars, can it be assumed that all Imperial personnel onboard are combatants, or even interested parties? Surely the Death Stars were staffed by more than soldiers. There must have been a sizable support staff of non-combatants - wing wipers, cooks, janitors, vending machine repairmen etc. - not to mention the civilian contractors, guests of honor (some whose bunks are one floor directly above unit number 326827), and so on. I would be very surprised if the military was a majority of the personnel on the station.

There were slaves in the Old Republic, at least on the outskirts. Anakin and his mom were slaves on Tattooine. I had the impression that this was an illegal employer/employee relationship, but the law was not enforced.

I agree that it’s uncanny that the Empire was seemingly staffed entirely of humans. They even shared a common mock-British accent, suggesting that they were mostly from a select community. Definitely shades of fascist Germany.

EU = Expanded Universe, which means books, comics, etc. Not written by Lucas, but Star Wars canon includes it until Lucas says otherwise, so it’s an acceptable source of information.

First off, how do you know it was the first one they found? They stole the plans, so presumably they gave it a good look over and found the best weakness to exploit.

Secondly, how can you picture somehow getting all the people off the thing? The Rebellion are essentially a guerilla organisation; what set of circumstances could they bring about to make a highly mobile killing machine lose all it’s personnel without killing them? Other than Coruscant, it’s pretty much the safest place to be in the Empire.

Third point; remember that the first Death Star was about to destroy the planet the Rebels were basing off of at the time; not to mention the fact that it can literally just fly to any world, maneuvre, and destroy it, at any time. It’s a huge threat, and a present threat.

I wouldn’t. Think of a ship nowadays; how much of the population onboard are noncoms? Very few. The cooks, mechanics, support staff etc. are all members of the armed forces, not civilian contractors.

That’s true. However, under the Empire, slavery was both legal and almost galaxy-wide.

Not just uncanny, but purposeful. The only place you’d find a non-human on an Imperial ship was as a high-ranking officer’s slave or as a subjugated labor force.


Yes, I’m sure it had points of failure. Which were armored and watched and inspected. They had a handful of one-man fighters to deploy against a planet-killing moon! You take whatever gives you the best chance of success, period.

Besides, mere failures can be repaired.

Anyway, methinks the OP doth protest too much.

When was Endor destroyed? It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the movies.

It wasn’t. there’s a thing floating around the net arguing that if something the size of the Deathstar II was destroyed where it was, relative to Endor, Endor would have been destroyed in the process.

Here we go…Endor Holocaust.

The Death Star was not a planet. (It was no moon either.) Further, there’s no canonical evidence that Endor was destroyed.

But is killing hundreds of Ewoks morally preferable to killing hundreds of others, because of lesser sentience?

And why is their sentience lesser? They appear to act like humans of primitive cultures.

My main objection is the scale of the situation. It’s a similar question, I suppose, to using atomic weapons against Japan in WWII. How many people is it acceptible to kill, in order to achieve your military goals? I don’t think there is any hard, fast answer, it’s just an extraordinarily difficult decision to make. And I’m not suggesting that the rebels necessarily made the wrong decision, but rather that by deciding to blow the Death Stars, they’ve tarnished their dream.

My primary complaint about the Old Republic is that it had stagnated and corrupted. Also, the Jedi upon whom they depended so much was visibly arrogant and blind to the future. I’m sure the Republic was filling many socio-political needs for those in the center of the galaxy, but life for those on the fringes (e.g. Tattooine) was becoming more and more difficult, and there was much evidence that it wouldn’t last.

You know, this makes a lot of sense. Thanks for posting that.

Well, crap. I haven’t really read those. I read a bit by Timothy Zahn a while back, but I couldn’t get through it.

Yeah, the rebels were under a bit of a time crunch. Mainly because Leah knowingly acted as bait and drew the Empire to the secret hiding place. Not that I blame her - she was just a kid (18 or so?) but with a little more forethought, the Yavin ambush could have been diverted or prevented altogether. Hindsight being 20/20 and all that…

I wish I had a cite, but I had the distinct impression that a large-ish percentage of the crew (though certainly not a majority) on US Navy aircraft carriers were civilian contractors. Large land-based installations certainly have an increasing civilian population. And in any modern military, the vast majority of the manpower is dedicated to logistics and other non-combat support activities. Though I suppose it could be argued that droids take up this task in the Imperial military.

Well… yeah I guess so. :slight_smile: We’re discussing pop-culture science fiction, so by definition the topic is trite.

Primarily because they’re furry, and short, and don’t speak in mock-British accents. :wink:

I guess that’s plausible, but is it what actually happened, in E.U. (of which I know little)?

But how did they become so?

I raised these questions in this thread but never got a satisfactory answer.