Friday, November 6, 2015

Star Wars: The Realist Case for the Empire

Last month, I provided a brief Twitter argument, in the context of the Star Wars universe, for the merits of the Empire in relation to its ongoing struggle with the Rebel Alliance. Herewith I amplify these arguments.

If as true realists maintain, the real struggles in and between states are not between tyranny and freedom but between order and chaos, there has always been an overwhelming argument for the Empire. That George Lucas never dealt with these arguments, perhaps because of his desire to sell a certain "narrative" of the struggle (or some 1970s bearded weirdo's ideal of a pre-modern society populated by furry creatures) need not detain us here.

Firstly, the Empire as portrayed in Star Wars "A New Hope" was, on sensible reflection, far from the simplistic brutopia portrayed and which would justify any sort of rebellion. Luke Skywalker is seen first as the archetypal enthusiastic and helpful Tatooine youth, growing up on a distant planet in a low emissions environment, in his adopted parents' simple dwelling - the sort of dwelling that any public television lifestyle show would readily celebrate. One can surmise that, here on Tatooine, the Empire incentivised Owen Lars, and his wife, Beru, to live simply, 'so that others may simply live', with their emissions taxed appropriately. In a similarly progressive way, the Empire allowed the Sand People to carry on the entreprenurial activity of their ancestors, while the Jawas practice an ideal form of "lifter not leaner" empowerment by recycling under-employed droids for after-sale in the marketplace. Again, the Jawas can be seen as operating a Tatooine version of Ebay, which, again, is made possible by the Empire's facilitation of a common currency, functioning markets and property rights. Finally, Obi-Wan Kenobi, an alleged enemy of this brutal Empire, lives peacefully in retirement like some pensioned (if more hygienic) version of a former Greens' senator, and he is disturbed not by cruel stormtroopers violating his property rights, but by Luke's youthful if tiresome and frivolous antics. What is there not to like here in the lot of imperial Tatooine? To be sure, the Empire has Beru and Owen Lars killed and their property destroyed on suspicion of harbouring rogue droids, but the Empire is hardly the first government to redistribute property from traitors to loyal supporters.

Secondly, moving on to Mos Eisley space port, far from being the "wretched hive of scum and villainy" of Obi-Wan agit-prop, Mos Eisley is in fact the sort of multicultural melting pot that would see SBS send George Megalogenis out to do a 3 part series on. Mos Eisley's authenticity as an entertainment precinct cannot be denied: it is grossly unclean, has terrible music worthy of an inner city street fair, has a full beverage service unhindered by nanny-state lock-out laws, and there is the easy mixing of all manners of species and life-forms. On a practical level, the Empire's stormtroopers simply ensure that Mos Eisley is kept open and secure to operate as a trading post for dealers in transportation and all manner of goods and services, as a Tatooine version of Rotterdam, Singapore or Hong Kong. Best of all, the patrons of Mos Eisley do not burden courts with ambit claims over debts and breaches of contract, but instead practice alternative dispute resolution, leaving parties to, say, enter loan agreements with Jabba the Hutt, while also disputing and settling debts and contracts in the efficient and final manner of Han Solo and Greedo. Frankly, if Mos Eisley was in Australia, the Institute for Public Affairs would, rightly, laud it as a model of libertarian self-governance.

Thirdly, we turn now to the Empire's most visible symbols: its stormtroopers, its star destroyers and its death stars. I concede that to a certain type of reader, any Empire that has to employ these such means to ensure confidence and loyalty is one they cannot support. To them I say your view is woefully impractical and naive. No empire in history was secured otherwise than by, ultimately, a readiness to use force. The fate of the rebellious planet Alderaan was no different to that of any number of rebellious provinces throughout history that had chosen to bite the mailed fist that fed and ordered them.

By all accounts, though, imperial stormtroopers were well paid and looked after by the Empire. In the battle on the Planet Hoth, who would you rather have been: some idealistic Rebel freezing in an icy trench awaiting your certain end OR some well kitted out stormtrooper bussed to the frontlines in a warm and cozy AT-AT? Meanwhile, the imperial star destroyer is, on any view, a mobile, agile, disruptive invention of the sort the Turnbull government should be examining (instead of auditioning rentseekers at these imbecilic 'policy hacks'). The star destroyer fleet created not just an entirely unspontaneous and necessary order in the galaxy, but the fleet's design, construction and crewing employed tens of thousands of people in productive work, and ensured that the Empire had a real working partnership between universities, industries and the Imperial Navy - a partnership that Australia's own future submarine program can only hope to replicate. Meanwhile the Death Star, while perhaps given an unnecessarily ominous name, was an entirely legitimate manifestation of the Empire's right to defend itself and to ensure order among its subjects. Any effort to undermine or attack the Death Star was an attack on the Empire's order and thus the freedoms of us all.

Finally, we examine the Empire's leadership and its most visible leader, Darth Vader. While Vader is portrayed as a merciless, cruel, hybrid machine man, that is not the full story. Vader's interventions are those of a narrow and focused magistrate - he appears seeking after the droids containing the stolen plans to the Death Star, which is hardly some roving commission of tyranny, and questions "Princess" Leia over her patently false claims to be on a diplomatic mission. Surely such zeal and attention to detail is commendable in a leader? Moreover, when the Empire's campaign against the Rebels is hampered repeatedly by incompetent commanders such as Admiral Ozzel, it is Vader who enforces an admittedly fatal accountability from his senior officers for their failure to ensure the Empire's campaign is prosecuted with surprise, speed and overwhelming force. What of the Western governments which, in the past 15 years of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, have conspicuously failed to hold even one incompetent commander remotely responsible?

What then should be said of the Rebellion?

From Star Wars' beginning, all one sees is a small pirate ship recklessly trying to escape the lawful jurisdiction asserted by an imperial star destroyer. Darth Vader may not have expressly promised the Empire that he would "stop the boats" but he did earn his legitimacy by replacing the decrepit republic's indulgence of recalcitrance with a very heavy fist. We then see a short battle, in which the Empire is victorious, followed by "Princess" Leia insouciantly refusing to help Darth Vader locate the plans for the Death Star, showing a complete contempt for the Empire that, however unwisely, had allowed her some position.

Princess Leia is, herself, a strange hero for the social justice warriors to whom George Lucas' bias is inevitably intended. Since when did all the equality peoples, seeking liberation from oppressions real and imagined, bow down before some self-styled princess? What were Leia's real leadership credentials, other than her selfish, indulgent and unchecked aptitude for planning disastrous operation resulting in her support crews being successively imprisoned, strangled, destroyed and/or frozen? The invincible ignorance of Leia, and her high-handed dismissal of anyone who does not share her self-evidently delusional aspirations for an anarchic galaxy, would make her the ideal ensemble guest for the ABC's Q+A, the BBC's Question Time and whatever is running now in place of Jon Stewart. One glosses over Leia's disastrous taste in men, which includes the intergalactic criminal Han Solo and, admittedly unknowingly, her brother Luke, whereby Leia makes even the most desperate Bachelorette contestant look like Grace Kelly.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Rebels are the usual band of freaks and desperados that populate any fringe movement, armed, as with Leia, by an ignorant, nihilistic destructiveness worthy of the bolsheviks and/or the neoconservatives.

There is Luke Skywalker, who, after some brief exposure to the poor man's yogi Obi-Wan, considers himself anointed to right the galaxy's wrongs by destroying the very Empire that has provided so much peace and prosperity to so many. Luke's grandiose notions are a longway from Tatooine and his annual 'heartliege' in failing to apply to the Imperial Naval Academy. Like Castro destroying Jesuit schools, Luke wants to destroy the Imperial Navy that he never had the fortitude and "right stuff" to enlist in. Moreover, apart from some silly mind-trickery worthy of John Edward, all Luke Skywalker does is show up at convenient times for some light-saber play while others do the heavy lifting. All that is missing from Luke Skywalker's performance is some "Mission Accomplished" banner in the background, albeit of little comfort to the simplistic Rebels falling around him, who has just been storm-troopered into Alderaan-style oblivion. If there is one common trait of Leia & Luke, it is not just a simplistic politics but, also, a neocon-like need to instigate pointless fights that others will die in. One can see Leia & Luke being the preferred sci-fi heroes of the wider Tony Blair and Dick Cheney families.

Then there is Han Solo, an Ahmed Chalabi figure, who when he is not escaping creditors and warrants for his arrest, is also making stable and serious governance his enemy. How could any rational observer support a Rebel movement, however well intended, that has to enlist the support of Han Solo, deadbeat debtor and bounder? And Han Solo's corruption of Chewbacca, a very honourable and decent wookie of the old school, whose life is put repeatedly at risk by Solo's criminality, is the sort of exploitative employment practice that ought to have unionists and SJWs marching in the streets, instead of wondering whether the Millenium Falcon ran on renewable energy that was installed and is maintained by unionised labour. For all its faults, the paternalistic Empire maintained a strict law of master-and-servant that did not always benefit one to the expense of the other. Instead, Solo was allowed to require a Dickensian personal service from "Chewie", one that no employer should be allowed to ask of his employee and/or chap.

I have only just begun to put the overwhelming case for the Empire. For all the fashionable demonisation of Darth Vader and what he and the Empire represent, the imperial system was the status quo and the onus was on those proposing change to the galaxy's governing arrangements to make their case. As Prince George, Duke of Cambridge, said when confronted with equally silly military reform ideas in the 19th century, "if there is no need to change, there is a need not to change." The Rebels never did this hard work of proposing change, of persuasion and argument, instead opting for violence and rebellion. The Rebels were little more than the far ago galaxy's version of the Weather Underground, attention-seeking, indulged poseurs, addicted to violent and often lethal attacks on lawful authority. The dissolution of the Empire and its replacement by a pre-modern anarchy of hippy Ewoks dancing around the ruins of the imperial project, was never voted for by any imperial subject. For all of Leia, Luke, Han and the other ne'er-do-wells bravado and talk of "Freedom", they never trusted 'the People' they so loudly claimed to represent. The Rebels were, instead, at their most happy when they were murdering those charged with keeping the Empire safe, ordered and well-governed. The Rebels were geopolitical criminals of a kind not seen since Woodrow Wilson.

The case for Empire is clear. The preference for order over chaos is always right. No conservative should ever shrink from speaking up for the Empire, however unfashionable it may be. May we always stand athwart the galaxy and, with an entire fleet of Star Destroyers at our back, be prepared to say, "we find your lack of imperial faith disturbing".

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