Over the past week there has been an outstanding exchange at the Duck of Minerva blog exploring the international relations and military strategy of Star Wars.
It all started when Wired Magazine’s Spencer Ackerman explored the Battle for Hoth. His analysis carried real world implications for counterinsurgency strategy, most notably observing that religious fanatics should never be placed in wartime command, and hegemonic powers tend to underestimating an insurgency’s ability to keep fighting.
The comments on Ackerman’s post are worth reading in their own right. One, for example, reads,
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.
Others continue in a similar vein. Then we get the Duck of Minerva’s responses.
First, we have Robert Kelly examined the five biggest strategic errors of the Empire, with a hat-tip to counterinsurgency strategy.
Then Steve Saideman considers the command structure of the Empire from the principal agent problem, drawing important lessons for Nato strategy in Afghanistan.
Finally we get Patrick Thaddeus Jackson examining the challenges post by the Empire’s command structure and the weakness of its military strategy against the Rebel Alliance. In doing so, he explores the tradeoff between material and ideological interests in foreign policy.
Outstanding stuff. Great fun, and an interesting way to use pop culture to think about global conflict.