The idea for a book relating modern military with “Star Wars” came to Matt Cavanaugh when he was stationed in South Korea in 2016. With foreign counterparts, one common interest was the battle between the rebels and the Empire.
“ ‘Star Wars’ really is the universal war,” the NORAD-based lieutenant colonel said in a previous interview with The Gazette. “That’s what makes it so useful and powerful to use as a device to have a conversation about real issues.”
“Strategy Strikes Back,” a collection of essays, hit shelves last year. The book takes on new relevance when a new movie comes out (not to mention when a new Space Command is announced for Colorado Springs).
Ahead of “Rise of Skywalker” this weekend, some topics to contemplate from the book:
Jim Golby, an Army strategist and former Pentagon and White House staffer, paints a cautionary tale in his essay. The galaxy’s supreme warriors became “elitist,” he writes, overly confident in their own abilities. They were “insular, sequestered, and utterly unknown to the very people they were sworn to protect,” adds Steve Leonard, a former senior military strategist.
Golby asserts: “Similar to the Jedi, the United States’ all-volunteer force is becoming smaller, more insular, and increasingly detached from American society.”
The Jedi refused to believe rumors of the dark lord rising. “The Sith would not have returned without us sensing it,” assumed Mace Windu.
So, with his purple lightsaber and sidekick Anakin Skywalker, he tasked himself with approaching Emperor Palpatine and “chose to ignore the rule of law,” Golby writes — a key confrontation that resulted in disaster, in Skywalker turning to the dark side.
Intelligence and technology consultants Raq Winchester and Fran Wilde theorize “how General Grievous and vulture droids foreshadow conflict’s fast future.”
We meet Grievous in “Attack of the Clones,” a power-hungry cyborg who retains his brain from a previous, organic life before optimizing himself. He is a centaur, the authors write, “a composite person-AI who makes decisions by synthesizing human and machine intelligence.”
He uses vulture droids not so unlike how generals use droids today. Technology is rapidly expanding and being weaponized, Winchester and Wilde write. “Centaurs and drone swarms will likely give us safer, quicker war, but may come with the loss of the very human why.”
Grand Moff Tarkin had one primary directive: “rule through fear,” writes war journalist Kelsey D. Atherton, “and that fear came from a weapon never before seen in the history of the galaxy.”
That was, of course, the Death Star. Tarkin was the gray and grizzled commander of the Empire who, by golly, commanded respect even from Darth Vader. Who wouldn’t respect someone behind the controls of the planet-vanquishing Death Star?
Other essays in “Strategy Strikes Back” draw comparisons with the atomic bomb, such firepower that achieved a mission at Hiroshima but came at costs impossible to pay. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Tarkin died within his own weapon.
One might recall the U.S.’ recent decision to withdraw from Syria, leaving behind ally Kurds, when reading Max Brooks’ “letter to senators” imploring aid on Endor. The writer recalls the fateful battle that took place on the now-ruined and abandoned planet, and “those forgotten allies whose courage and sacrifice made that victory possible.”
Those were the Ewoks, the bundles of fur not to be taken for granted, Brooks notes. “My fellow senators, do not for a moment underestimate the ingenuity, tenacity, and utter ferocity of the Ewoks in battle.” Better to make friends than foes, he writes.
Kathleen J. McInnis’ case is simple yet complex, built on something Mark Twain supposedly said: “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”
Anakin Skywalker started innocent and turned into Darth Vader. A “sense of agency — charting a truly new path — was only realized by Anakin’s successor generation,” writes McInnis, an international security analyst. That was Luke, who refused to kill his father, an act of forgiveness resulting in balance restored to the force.
“(T)his calls to mind post-World War II Europe,” McInnis goes on. Rather than penalizing Germany, “the United States and Europe determined it would be better instead to rebuild and reintegrate Germany into a broader project of European integration.”
But this, she surmises, alienated the Soviet Union, sowing the seeds for the Cold War. Since the end of that war, she writes, it’s difficult to determine America’s “agency.”
And in a galaxy far, far away, the battle for peace continues, in the center of it the fearsome Kylo Ren, who started innocent.