17 June 2009

Ideological Bedfellows: The Case of Confederate States of America and the Alliance to Restore the Republic

The Civil War was the bloodiest conflict in American History. Half a million soldiers lost their lives in a little under four years, the South was virtually annihilated, and the Republican Party of the North was able to dominate politics and industry for the next half century.

The devastating effects of Civil conflict can also be seen in the Original Star Wars Trilogy. Billions of lives were lost among the Rebel Alliance and their supporters, as well as hundreds of thousands of Imperials. Many of these lives came from the destruction of the planet Alderaan by Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin when he oversaw the First Death Star.

In these two scenarios, there existed a leftist minority of people who wished to preserve a way of life that was tied to the past who fought against an industrial right-wing opponent who vastly outnumbered them in manpower and resources. The American South had a deeply entrenched anti-capitalist system that was almost feudalistic. Their aristocracy was well established and resistant to change. Likewise, the founders of the Rebel Alliance, more formerly known as the Alliance to Restore the Republic, worshipped thousand-year old ideals and even their name implies a need to restore their environment to a former time.

In the following Facebook Note, I intend to both prove that both the American South and the Rebel Alliance were in some ways liberal systems who yet wished for a reactionary return to the status quo. I also intend to explore why the Rebel Alliance succeeded where the South failed. Finally, I will compare and contrast both governmental systems in the light of an upcoming oppressor, in the case of the South, Lincoln, for the Alliance, Palpatine. Neither rebel is completely aligned with the other though, and I intend to demonstrate how both seditionary groups contrast markedly with each other, namely on issues of race relations, the rights to arms, and others.

Although seemingly incompatible with each other, the Confederate States of America and the Alliance to Restore the Republic are remarkably similar in their circumstances of war, background, ideology of government, and even their fundamental theories of existence. Both shed the blood of hundreds of thousands of their supporters in order to restore a way of life that was threatened by not an outside power, but rather, a familiar one. Both rebellions served to travel back to a time where they could practice what they wished without interference from an unforgiving system based on machines. As Obi-Wan Kenobi said in Episode IV, Darth Vader, the Empire’s Playboy, was “more machine than man now. Likewise, the Antebellum North thrived on commercial production and factory-based cities. The Rebel Alliance as well as Johnny Reb after many years of oppression saw war as their only escape from a regime unsympathetic to their plight.

Both the Southern United States and the planets under Rebel Control were highly agrarian and rural in nature. Luke Skywalker, the supposed “boy wonder from the Original Trilogy, was raised on a moisture farm on the planet Tatooine. Tatooine is a staple planet of not only the OT, but the prequels as well, and can be seen in every film except TESB. In fact, every planet in the Original Trilogy that served as a Rebel Base was extremely rural. The Fourth Moon of the Gas Giant Yavin was actually an ancient planet that formerly housed the Massassi Warrior tribes as well as ancient Sith spirits, ironically enough. The next base, Hoth, was an inhospitable arctic wasteland. There is no planetary rebel base seen in the third film. Rebels seem to operate in completely rural surroundings, similar to the South.

Likewise, the antebellum South had been extremely agrarian from the Revolutionary Era. The largest southern city by the time of the Civil War was New Orleans at 169,000. This compares to the highest populated northern city, New York, which was over a million. New Orleans was not even typical of southern life, and catered to a large population because if its nature as an important port. The same could be said of New York City, but New York also had a thriving industry representative of a northern lifestyle. Even the South’s favourite political party, the Democrats, had always heralded themselves as the “party of the common man and their essential founder, Thomas Jefferson, had many times acknowledged his love for farming and his desire for the entire nation to be agriculturally based.

The main difference, of course, between these two societies in this respect is the reasons why they were each ruralized. The Rebel Alliance was more or less forced into agricultural settings. A rural surrounding gave them a better chance to avoid Imperial routings and allowed them to more covertly fashion their agenda. The South, on the other hand, relished their rurality. They based it as a point of pride, and it was part of the lifestyle they were defending when the North invaded. As will run true with many of the differences between the Alliance and the South, the South claimed ideals that would be a hindrance in war and made them the reasons they fought the war. Agrarian pride cannot defeat an industrial foe, and the Rebel Alliance rightly saw that in order to fight back effectively, they needed to arm themselves and industrialize as much they could against the stronger power.

The South was founded on a liberal system. The Democratic-Republicans founded by Thomas Jefferson always favored the little man over big businesses, and in many ways, the South was a liberal movement fighting against a repressive industrial-based society composed of the North. However, there were important conservative differences, which seem more like liberal motives laying a foundation for a reactionary course of events, exactly the same as the Rebel Alliance. The South looked down upon social movement, diversification of goods, and market competition. They instead, wished to be stagnant, cotton was profitable, and so they went with cotton. Likewise, their feudalistic social structure made their region economically powerful. The South, as a region, ranked the fourth strongest economy in the world at the time of the Civil War.

The South wished for less government interference, although more states rights. Their desire for a less strict interpretation of the Constitution is a key element in understanding their basic liberality. A strong Federal government, although small, for years has been associated with conservatism, and a looser system is more liberal. The key paradox here, though, is that the South favoured small government, and non-interference, however, the states’ rights desired as well as the desire to support every individual common man lets their liberal sides show through. Of course, it may be argued that the South’s contradictory system of power consolidated in large plantation owners may go against the small-time farmer, but one must remember that even many of these small farmers owned one or two slaves, and even if not, they respected their system. The South was a land of honour and even the poorest whites felt that they were superior to blacks, and honoured their richer cousins, feeling as if they were still supported in an inclusive system of brotherhood even if pragmatically they were dreadfully impoverished.

Similarly, the Alliance to Restore the Republic favoured a return to old-fashioned ways through liberal means. The Galactic Republic had stood for a 25 millennia before the rise of Emperor Palpatine. Many Senators were old and corrupted; the Republic was in a deep decay that Palpatine promised to eradicate. Even though the Republic was very noticeably 25,000 years old, it is important to note that its structure at the time of the Ascension of Palpatine reflected that of the Ruusan Reformation only about 1,000 years prior. This was after the Battle of Ruusan, the last great stand of Sith vs. Jedi, but this is for another discussion.

The Old Republic was very much ineffectual and slow to act. It is for this reason that when Palpatine was Chancellor during the Clone Wars, he convinced the Senate to vote him more power for less deliberation in the first war they had faced since Ruusan. Palpatine never looked back though, and although he promised to give up power, he downgraded the Senate to little more than an ineffectual, slow advisory council until shorty before the Battle of Yavin, in which he completely dissolved it. The Empire stood from afar and Palpatine, although essentially the most powerful man in the Galaxy (Arguably Anakin Skywalker had the potential to be about twice as powerful as Palpatine, but due to the limitations brought on by his prosthetic limbs, his strength was only about 80% of the Emperor’s). The Emperor, himself, though, was extremely conservative. He left the day to day maintenance of the Empire up to his Head of Government, Sate Prestage, acknowledged Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin has Second in Command to him in all military matters, and finally, left the Jedi Extermination and other personal tasks up to Darth Vader. By the Battle of Yavin, Tarkin and Vader were essentially equals in the eyes of Palpatine as dual second-in-commands, this may have been to eliminate the threat of any one of them overtaking the Emperor alone, although there is little evidence of a rivalry, and no replacement was found after the death of Tarkin on the first Death Star. Palpatine believed in small government without interaction with citizens. The Alliance, on the other hand, believed the government should extend itself to all people in aid. For this reason, the Alliance was a liberal system that sought a return by means of violence to an older way of life, exactly like the American South.

Both the Rebel Alliance and the American South had to deal with an oppressive regime that wished to conform them to an alien way of life and government. The North wanted the South to abandon the way of life that was most natural to them and that they had practiced since their inception. The South felt that it could become more successful as a Confederacy of States, while the North insisted on the strength of an omnipresent Federal system that could exert its will on all who opposed it. During the war, this actually became readily feasible and apparent with the ascent of Abraham Lincoln to the Presidency. Likewise, albeit somewhat more drastic, the Empire sought to ambiggen the role of one man instead of a thousand-member Galactic Senate, and also sought an oppressive rule with disdain towards citizens and other cultural lifestyles. The Empire was extremely xenophobic, and was driven by a need to oppress a people different from them. Again, this is perhaps a little exaggerated, by the North, too, wished to oppress the culture of the South.

Lincoln expanded the power of the Presidency the farthest it had been up to that date. He instituted drafts, was allowed to make virtually limitless war decisions to bypass deliberation, and unconstitutionally freed the slaves by his own Emancipation Proclamation, without a formal Declaration from Congress. Lincoln, in a purely government circumstantial light, is very similar to the Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Sidious. Sidious, otherwise known as “Frank" Palpatine in time of war consolidated his power, too, and used it to impose the Galactic Empire’s version of a draft, the creation of a Grand Clone Army. Palpatine went on to use the Separatist Threat during the Clone Wars, and then the Rebellion as a means to legitimize his own ruthlessness and displays of power, citing the maintenance of safety and security for the Empire. In much similar fashion, Lincoln allowed total warfare against the South that included attacks on civilian farms and food supplies, as well as General William Tecumseh Sherman’s infamous Georgian March to the Sea. No action was taken against Sherman’s tactics after the war was over, not unlike the lack of apology for the Massacre of Ghorman undertaken by Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin that killed hundreds of tax protestors during the Empire’s early years.

The Empire basically thrived on promises of safety and security, although this was mainly a rule through fear immortalized in the Tarkin Doctrine. Named for Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin, the Doctrine simply stated that widespread state terrorism could be used to control a populace. This lead the Empire to spend its money on massive demonstrations of power to maintain a fear of power in its citizens and foes alike, rather than actual exertions of force. The best example of this, of course, was the destruction of the liberal planet of Alderaan.

The Confederate States of American and the Alliance to Restore the Republic are both very similar in nature. Both were formed by influential yet dissident Senators only after many years of oppression and intolerable acts by an industrial superior. The South under the leadership of Jefferson Davis, Senator from Mississippi, Alexander Stephens, Congressman from Georgia, and Robert Toombs, Senator from Georgia, were all stalwart Unionists at one point or another who opposed secession. Likewise, Senators Mon Mothma of Chandrila, Bail Organa of Alderaan, and Garm Bel Iblis of Corellia were all Republic Loyalists who at first opposed open Rebellion. Both these founding fathers were staunchly loyal to the previous system of government. The South justified itself by saying it was restoring the initial Confederacy laid out by the Articles of Confederation formed in 1777, and the Federalist North were opponents of the original American Dream. In a very similar light, the Rebel Alliance was fighting to restore the Old Republic, which the Galactic Empire much more blatantly was diametrically opposed to.

So, why then, did the South fail where the Alliance succeeded? There are many reasons, not least of which lies in one man of the South, Judah P. Benjamin. Benjamin was a Jew, and Secretary of State for the South from 1862-1865. His chief objective was to bring the United Kingdom into war to fight against the North. At the time, Britain was very dependent on Southern Cotton, and it would have benefited them to support the Southern Regime. The Britons, however, disliked the idea of supporting a much outdated government of systematic slavery based solely on racism. For this reason as well, Benjamin also argued in the Southern Government for freeing the slaves for them to fight, an idea that General Robert E. Lee also supported. This, however, was not possible.

By 1865, the Emancipation Proclamation had made the war clearly over slavery. For the South to free its slaves would be to abandon a reason it was fighting the war. As the North slowly made Emancipation its secondary objective behind restoring the Union, the South then of course had to oppose this. To free the slaves in 1865 would fulfill one of the North’s highest objectives of the war. This is not even considering as well the loss of the cultural lifestyle Southern white men also fighting to protect. To free the slaves, namely, would go against every reason the South seceded.

Where Judah P. Benjamin failed, the Rebel Alliance succeeded. The Incom Corporation defected to the Rebel Alliance shortly after the Corellian Treaty was signed by the three major Senators mentioned above, and a formal Declaration of Rebellion had been submitted to the Emperor. The Incom Corporation brought to the Alliance many excellent ships, most notably the T-65 X-Wing Starfighter. Although the Alliance were still heavily outnumbered by the Imperial fleets, the addition of superior starfighters helped their odds. It was not until the TIE Interceptor could the Imperial Navy match the Rebel’s speed and firepower, and even then the Interceptor lacked missiles and defense shields.

A major reason the Alliance succeeded where the South failed was the Alliance’s view on race. The Empire was extremely xenophobic and racist, and generally, only humans (mostly British, apparently) became high-ranking officers. The exception, of course, is Grand Admiral Thrawn, a Chiss, who was a brilliant high-ranking commander. This is evident that although the Empire instituted a formal policy of racism, the Emperor himself was not necessarily bigoted. Anyway, two of the Rebellion’s core alliances came in the form of the Bothans and the Mon Calamari. The Bothan spy network was extremely valuable in locating the Second Death Star, although Palpatine later stated he let the Bothans have the information so he could stamp out the Rebellion in one location. Nevertheless, the Bothans were key allies and gave the Alliance much of its desperately needed intelligence during the war. The Mon Calamari were also vital to the success of the Battle of Endor and the destruction of the Second Death Star, as their fleet of Mon Cal Cruisers, although still dwarfed by the Imperial Star Destroyers, gave the Alliance a fighting chance in battle.

The South failed to forget its racist tendencies, and also failed to secure outside alliances. This is why they did not succeed in the War of Northern Aggression, while the small Alliance to Restore the Republic defeated the looming and omniscient Galactic Empire. To forget its racism, though, would be to forget what it meant to be an honourable Southerner. There was no way this could happen. The Alliance was more tactful and although similar politically to the South, their social structure did resemble a much more liberal system that other planets could relate to, especially with the total crushing weight of oppression from Palpatine. Perhaps also, if the North had extended its industrial and capitalistic scheme over nations in Europe, more would have rallied to the Southern cause, but of course still, this was quite improbable for the mostly Continental North to do at the time. Perhaps the South should have rallied with Mexico. After the Mexican War which resulted in a third of their nation ceded to the Union, the Mexicans no doubt harboured some grudges. Of course, one must remember that Texas was an original member of the Confederacy, that is, prior to the assault on Fort Sumter. Texas was made up of land stolen from Mexico as well, so Judah P. Benjamin would have been in for some very careful negotiating.

There are options both rebellions had. The South ultimately was fighting for much of the right reasons, but also too many of the wrong reasons. The Rebel Alliance, although fighting for the good of all races in the Galaxy, less taxation, and less of a tyrannical government ruled by fear, was also fighting for an outdated system that had a thousand-year corruption and degeneration that lead to its collapse more than Palpatine could have accomplished on his own. The Empire was also beneficial for the Galaxy in many ways, and the Rebel Separation and aftermath ultimately lead to devastating losses to outside forces such as the Yuuzhan Vong that would invade in the decades following the Battle of Endor.

Also, the Rebel Alliance had Han Solo, who is just badass. Dude, he iced Greedo and fucked Leia in the same Trilogy. He's the man.

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