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The Case for the Empire

Everything you think you know about Star Wars is wrong.

12:00 AM, May 16, 2002 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
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Whatever the case, the important thing to recognize is that the Empire is not committing random acts of terror. It is engaged in a fight for the survival of its regime against a violent group of rebels who are committed to its destruction.

III. After the Rebellion

As we all know from the final Star Wars installment, "Return of the Jedi," the rebellion is eventually successful. The Emperor is assassinated, Darth Vader abdicates his post and dies, the central governing apparatus of the Empire is destroyed in a spectacular space battle, and the rebels rejoice with their small, annoying Ewok friends. But what happens next?

(There is a raft of literature on this point, but, as I said at the beginning, I'm going to ignore it because it doesn't speak to Lucas's original intent.)

In Episode IV, after Grand Moff Tarkin announces that the Imperial Senate has been abolished, he's asked how the Emperor can possibly hope to keep control of the galaxy. "The regional governors now have direct control over territories," he says. "Fear will keep the local systems in line."

So under Imperial rule, a large group of regional potentates, each with access to a sizable army and star destroyers, runs local affairs. These governors owe their fealty to the Emperor. And once the Emperor is dead, the galaxy will be plunged into chaos.

In all of the time we spend observing the Rebel Alliance, we never hear of their governing strategy or their plans for a post-Imperial universe. All we see are plots and fighting. Their victory over the Empire doesn't liberate the galaxy--it turns the galaxy into Somalia writ large: dominated by local warlords who are answerable to no one.

Which makes the rebels--Lucas's heroes--an unimpressive crew of anarchic royals who wreck the galaxy so that Princess Leia can have her tiara back.

I'll take the Empire.

Jonathan V. Last is online editor of The Weekly Standard.