Luke Sky­walker was no na­tion-builder

The Washington Post Sunday - - OUTLOOK - By Daniel W. Drezner Twit­ter: @dan­drezner Daniel W. Drezner is a pro­fes­sor of in­ter­na­tional pol­i­tics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplo­macy at Tufts Univer­sity and a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor to PostEvery­thing.

Afresh trailer was re­leased this past week for the up­com­ing Star Wars film, set 30 years af­ter the Ewok-laden end of “Re­turn of the Jedi.” And while the se­ries does best with ac­tion, not pol­i­tics, there is no deny­ing that this trailer makes a key po­lit­i­cal point about what hap­pened a long time ago in a gal­axy far, far away: The Rebel Al­liance’s vic­tory in the Bat­tle of En­dor was a cat­a­strophic suc­cess.

The desert planet of Jakku does not seem to have ben­e­fited all that much. Daisy Ri­d­ley’s char­ac­ter, Rey, ap­pears to be a scav­enger, and the planet is lit­tered with im­pe­rial wreck­age. If that hasn’t been cleaned up af­ter 30 years, it’s a good sign that the Al­liance has failed at statebuild­ing.

The new trailer makes it look like the rebels won the bat­tle but lost the nar­ra­tive. Con­sider this ex­change:

Rey: “There are sto­ries about what hap­pened.”

Han Solo: “It’s true. All of it. The Dark Side. The Jedi. They’re real.”

Thirty years af­ter the Ga­lac­tic Em­pire is de­stroyed, and the whole thing’s been for­got­ten? Aren’t the vic­tors sup­posed to write the his­tory? Where are the holo-doc­u­men­taries? Why hasn’t the Sen­ate been re­vived as an in­sti­tu­tion? Why hasn’t fear been dis­carded as an in­stru­ment to keep the lo­cal sys­tems in line? That’s just poor post­war plan­ning. It’s al­most as if the rebels hadn’t ex­pected to win so quickly.

Sim­i­larly, Kylo Ren’s omi­nous pledge in the trailer, “I will fin­ish what you started,” as he gazes at the charred hel­met of Darth Vader, is pretty dis­turb­ing. It sug­gests that the rebels failed at ad­ver­tis­ing Vader’s aban­don­ment of the Dark Side in the last min­utes of his life, al­low­ing later gen­er­a­tions to in­ap­pro­pri­ately va lori zea Si th lord. This is less sur­pris­ing: Af­ter all, Luke couldn’t have pro­duced ev­i­dence of Vader’s last-minute con­ver­sion. Still, the rebel lead­er­ship should have ex­pected and planned for this counter-nar­ra­tive.

Per­haps we should not be too shocked. “Cat­a­strophic suc­cesses” hap­pen all too fre­quently on this planet, as well — just ask former pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, who dub bed the U.S. vic­tory over Sad­dam Hus­sein in Iraq ex­actly that. Re­pub­lic-build­ing can be re­ally, re­ally hard. Maybe this new tril­ogy will be about how the next-gen­er­a­tion rebels learn from their pre­de­ces­sors’ mis­takes, rolling up their sleeves, en­gag­ing in the hard, grubby work of pol­i­tics, and fi­nally restor­ing peace and tran­quil­ity to the ves­tiges of the old re­pub­lic.


The Force was strong; post­war plan­ning, not so much.

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