Luke Skywalker was no nation-builder
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.