Image: The Helmet of an Imperial Stormtrooper, Washed Up on a Beach, Scarif, Abrion Sector, Outer Rim Territories.
Connor Giersch is a Sophomore at Tatooine University
In 5 ABY the empire fell.
After the destruction of the second death star and the assassination of Sheev Palpatine at the hands of the victorious Luke Skywalker, the remaining imperial forces began to crumble. In a desperate attempt to wage a scorched earth campaign, surviving imperial governors launch the punitive operation Cinder in 4 ABY. After a further six months of chaotic fighting, the New Republic was formally declared on Chandrila and quickly reconquered its territory, shattering the once great imperial some months later. By the end of the year, a peace treaty, the Galactic Concordance, had been signed on Chandrila formally ending the galactic civil war once and for all.
With the war finally over, the New Republic could turn to governing, in the hope of becoming a better republic, a replacement for all the failed ideals and hateful ideology of its fascist predecessor.
But thirty years later, it all came crashing down.
In order to understand the rise of the First Order and subsequent fall of the New Republic many researchers have adopted an ideological explanation: arguing that the fanatical commitment of imperial remnants to New Order ideology ensured that a rebirth of the empire was inevitable, so long as a large enough core of its officers survived. Still others have sought to place this conflict firmly in the realm of Jedi-Sith relations and blame the survival (and cloning) of Sheev Palpantine for the continued existence of his government.
While these ideas are certainly interesting, they are often methodologically unsound, attributing galactic history to religious tautologies. In addition, they fail to adequately describe the lessons learned from the conflict and highlight the areas in which the Galactic Concordance utterly failed to create stable grounds for peace.
Indeed, it is painfully clear that when the civil war finally ended, the New Republic had no concrete plan for what came next. What was to be done with the millions of stormtroopers, now well-trained, heavily armed, and without a country? What was to be done with the remains of the imperial officer corps? While some were imprisoned and others executed, the Republic engaged in no meaningful effort to Disarm, Demobilize, and Reintegrate (DDR) their former opponents. In addition, the New Republic did not create a security apparatus capable of protecting the new central government, underestimating the importance of meaningful Security Systems Reform (SSR).
It was these mistakes which directly led to the lawlessness of the New Republic and the ultimate growth of the First Order.
With few options to make a living after the Galactic Concordance and the economy in freefall after a grueling civil war, many former imperials flocked to warlord groups peddling extreme ideology. In fact, several high-ranking ex officers like Brendol Hux and Moff Gideon fled to the outer rim, leading a life of banditry and extorting from the populace the resources to build the formidable war machine that would one day become the First Order. Still others sold their skills as bounty hunters and mercenaries, where men like the former imperial sharpshooter Migs Mayfeld quickly became serious threats to public order throughout the galaxy. Meanwhile, the New Republic’s local law enforcement floundered due to lack of training, resources, and expertise.
To counter the rise of postimperial warlords, organized criminals, and underprepared law enforcement, the New Republic needed to enact a concerted effort to re-educate former stormtroopers and integrate them into the security apparatus. To understand why we must first re-examine a crucial misconception: that most imperial officers and stormtroopers were unable to be rehabilitated. We have already seen how the notorious mercenary Mayfeld was able to turn over a new leaf, even assisting future New Republic Marshal Cara Dune in the destruction of an imperial remnant fortification; not to mention the numerous deserters that proved an invaluable part of the Resistance to the First Order. These men and women are living proof that ex-imperials need not be hostile to republican values, and that with proper education (or re-education as necessary) they can be integrated into the new government.
To do so the New Republic should have first ameliorated the dangerous influence of New Order ideology and indoctrinate ex-imperials with a new set of values prioritizing liberty and human rights. This could be accomplished through a deliberate program of incentives for re-education: with ex-imperials forced to attend de-New Orderification programs, renounce their former allegiances and ideology, and sign a public affidavit admitting to and renouncing their past actions in exchange for a stipend or land. An excellent candidate for resettlement would have been the wealthy planet of Birren, hereditarily governed by the House Organa and thus under the personal jurisdiction of Senator Leia Organa in 6ABY. By locating ex-imperial homesteads on Birren, they would have been insulated from the vagaries of New Republican politics, and amply supported by the considerable wealth and influence of House Organa. Leaving the fertile planet the ideal choice for resettlement.
It is this structure of incentives and requirements that is the essence of DDR. By allowing ex-combatants to give up their weaponry, abandon old military structures, and re-enter society the New Republic effectively prevents its surviving enemies from existing forever outside the state, heavily armed and plotting revenge. While this is rarely a popular practice among liberated civilians, the fact of the matter is that the most crucial goal of a new regime after successfully seizing power is to neutralize the holdovers from the former regime: as even a minor remnant or warlord organization (like the First Order) can quickly metastasize from a regional threat into a galactic one.
As such, it makes perfect sense that despite its unpopularity this practice is far from a rare one. Instead, it is a vital part of nation-building, serving as a means of highlighting the new regime’s ability to overcome the past while retaining vital talent and (even more crucially) ensuring that “vital talent” identifies itself with the new regime, instead of nursing grudges and plotting against it.
But for this to be truly effective it must be enacted concurrently with Security Systems Reform (SSR). By building new security institutions uniquely suited to its governing style, the New Republic would have been capable of dealing with the thriving crime syndicates and bounty hunting rings festering within its borders. While the exact contours of such a system would be subject to the rough and tumble of policy formation, by including former rebel fighters and reformed ex-stormtroopers (preferably spread across multiple agencies with separate jurisdictions) the Republic could have built a security and law enforcement apparatus that was both robust and adaptable.
This failure to capitalize on the Galactic Concordance and fully demobilize former imperials is nothing less than a tragedy. In order to avoid repeating it, the same mistakes cannot be allowed to be made once again with the thousands of surviving First Order soldiers, officers, and bureaucrats. The complete elimination of Sheev Palpatine’s legacy and murderous ideology will take time, patience, and a concerted effort to rehabilitate our enemies in order to create a stronger republic than ever before.
“Galactic Concordance.” Wookieepedia. Accessed May 4, 2021. https://starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Galactic_Concordance.
“Migs Mayfeld.” Wookieepedia. Accessed May 4, 2021. https://starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Migs_Mayfeld.
Munive, Jairo, and Stine Finne Jakobsen. “Revisiting DDR in Liberia: Exploring the Power, Agency and Interests of Local and International Actors in the ‘Making’ and ‘Unmaking’ of Combatants.” Conflict, Security & Development 12, no. 4 (2012): 359–85. https://doi.org/10.1080/14678802.2012.724792.
Sean, McFate. Building Better Armies: an Insider’s Account of Liberia. Carlisle Barracks, PA: Us Army War College Press, 2014.
Taylor, Fred. Exorcising Hitler: the Occupation and Denazification of Germany. New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2013.