Monday, April 29, 2013

"Don't be too proud of this technological terror you've constructed. . . "

Audiences in 1977, and pretty much everyone since could tell you the tale of the Death Star.  While we might be left to wonder how this at all seems relevant to the actual world of today (as opposed to a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away) it actually speaks to the entire mindset of people who place WAY too much faith in technology.  The idea that the enemies of the Galactic Empire would be brought in line because of this massive battle station that could easily shrug off attacks from hundreds of fleets, and blow up any planets that happened to disagree. 

But that didn't work.  Millions of people and perhaps a few trillion monetary units were lost in an attack that simply shouldn't have worked.  How could a few dinky little fighters possibly defeat a battle station that had over 100,000 fighters?  While it might seem that this is just pure Hollywood, in all actuality there's precident in this galaxy not so long ago.  In 1921, Brigadier General Billy Mitchell attacked an old WWI battleship Ostfriesland, and after a day of slow attacks sunk the ship.  The battleship, often thought unbeatable except by other battle ships was proved to be very weak against air.  The greatest of all battleships Yamato and Musashi, despite taking a lot of air power to take down still fell to air power. 

But there are other terrors the Empire unleashed.  Take the AT-AT (All Terrain Armored Transport) was a giant hulking walker that had armor that was too strong for the Rebel air power to repel, and made mince meat of the Rebel infantry sequestered in trenches.  Despite being ungainly, slow, and with it's firepower not really mobile enough to act as an anti-air platform, the efficacy of the AT-AT can clearly be seen in the films.  It's a terrifying thing to contemplate.  But we see at least two of the five AT-AT's pictured brought down by relatively simplistic tactics.  It also begs the question, what would have happened if the terrain had been broken?  Suddenly these walking tanks that are not so fast or mobile, don't seem like such a great idea. 

Even the more agile, mobile and seemingly appropriate AT-ST (All Terrain Scout Transport) was proven in the next movie to not be that good of a design.  Despite being very effective against foot mobile infantry, it is easily defeated by loosing its footing, and at one point a few shots from behind actually destroys the whole thing in a very violent catastrophic kill that leaves barely anything left.  Clearly the storage are for the fuel is not armored enough. 

In our own galaxy, the Iraq War makes it clear that the age of the Tank may well be over.  It's not just the EFPs that are so powerful they can separate a turret from the chassis of a tank, but also innovations like the Javelin anti-tank missile make it clear that the flying tank columns that we had trained to fight in the cold war would be just so many targets that one could destroy.  Despite massive amounts of armor, and a lot of tactical maneuverability, all that can be undone by enemy traps that one can not see.  Perhaps if the insurgents in Iraq were cute like Ewoks, or the Coalition as evil as the Empire this fact might actually be cause to celebrate, unfortunately this is not the case.

While we can make certain analogies between the United States and the Empire in terms of weapons development (ok we're not blowing up whole planets, but Nukes are like the Death Star in a way) our over all goals, aims and tactics are different.  While we don't mind instilling a healthy dose of fear in our enemies, and on occasion will field impractical or unwieldy weapons systems, we're not aiming to rule the galaxy.  You also have to know that while the Empire keeps trying to engineer the ultimate crushing victory as seen in all three of the classic trilogy movies, Americans have learned to take whatever tactical victories they can get.  This is a mindset similar to the Rebel Alliance, though devoid the desperation seen in the films. 

While we are still waiting for Lightsabers, and Force wielding Jedi, or hyperspeed, there are lessons we can take from Star Wars.  Lessons we can strangely enough apply to our own galaxy, and our own time.  One of the greatest lessons that Star Wars left us with is to not rely too heavily on our technology, because the Force can always throw a monkey wrench in even the most impenetrable Death Stars we make.  In the end the Rebel Alliance won because of people, not weapons, and that should be something we should always keep in mind moving forward.  

1 comment:

Nicholas Darkwater said...

It's a balance, I agree.

Before the First World War, there is the famous fictional example of Colonel Blimp of the cavalry, who was to have complained that the new airplanes frightened the horses.

Then there was the enormous and costly (& not just in money) fiasco of the great technological wonder of the Maginot Line.