COIN in Space?
Posted by Patrick Barry
While the rest of the DC blogosphere is alight with news of the Disney-Marvel merger, my inner-geek was struck by Andrew Exum's Marine Corps officer cousin's views on strategy and insurgency as they relate to the Star Wars Universe. His take? The Rebel Alliance would have been better to adopt an insurgent mindset rather than trying to go toe-to-toe with a Galactic Empire that maintained a huge conventional advantage:
Why didn't the Rebel Alliance pursue a strategy of insurgency in their rebellion against the Galactic Empire? I would argue that they pursued a strategy of conventional war against the Empire and forwent every aspect of insurgent strategy and tactics. They finally came around a bit in the end by co-opting the Ewoks onto their side. Why hadn't they pursued that strategy on a larger scale?
Instead, they simply staged two conventional assualts on the Empire's center of gravity: the Death Star. Although both attempts were successful, I think they got lucky. I think they would have been better served had read their Mao and followed his maxims.
One big question I have is whether, given the intergalactic nature of the war between the Empire and the Rebel Alliance, a classic insurgency is even possible? If one of the insurgent's biggest advantages is his knowledge of the local environment, and the tacit support of the inhabitants of that environment, then isn't that advantage pretty much negated in the vacuum of space? I imagine that the space-based nature of war in the Star Wars universe constrained the Alliance's strategic options, perhaps significantly. I suspect that the rebels were pursuing the best set of tactics available to them - waging asymmetric war against the Empire's vulnerable conventional military assets.
To the broader argument that the Alliance was spending far too much time on military engagements at the expense of the more important political battles, I would reply that that's just not really born out by the evidence. Consider the pretty dramatic increase in the Alliance's diversity from 'A New Hope' to 'Jedi?' Presumably Admiral Ackbar's people would not have joined up with the Rebels during the intervening years had there not been some kind of serious, if un-depicted, political effort directed against the Empire.
Of course, all of this leaves out the question of how the alliance could have possibly waged an insurgency against a near limitless supply of Imperial clone-troopers. Someone better versed in the ways of the force will have to answer that question.