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After re-watching The Empire Strikes Back after many years, I noticed that as Luke flies away from Hoth, he says to someone (probably Wedge Antilles)

I'll meet you at the rendezvous point

Or something like that (I might be confusing the words from when he tells Lando he'll meet him on Tatooine, but he definitely said something like that). Even in Princess Leia's briefing to the fighter pilots escorting the transports:

When you've gotten past the energy shield, proceed directly to the rendezvous point.

It doesn't sound like there's any room for interpretation there. The fighters are to head straight for the rendezvous point as soon as they're clear of the Imperial blockade. Even R2-D2 is under the impression that Luke's orders are to proceed to the Alliance's regroup point, and is surprised when Luke tells him they're headed to the Dagobah system.

Was Luke technically AWOL? Is there any canon evidence that can clear him of the charge of desertion (with Alliance equipment, no less)? Did he get clearance from anyone at all to go to Dagobah?

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In theory, Luke could have led the Empire straight to Yoda, whose location is a highly classified secret. The defence that Kenobi's ghost told him to do it might not have impressed a court martial. –  Royal Canadian Bandit Jun 23 at 10:03
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Now I think of it, Luke could always fall back on Jedi skills. LUKE: You don't want to press charges against me. ALLIANCE OFFICER: I don't want to press charges against you. LUKE: You want to give me another medal. ALLIANCE OFFICER: I want to give you another medal. –  Royal Canadian Bandit Jun 23 at 10:53
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@RoyalCanadianBandit: Luke states in Shadows of the Empire that Rebels have minds too strong for his mind tricks. Still, thumbs up for the laughs! –  James Sheridan Jun 23 at 11:09
    
@James Sheridan: Thanks. I thought that might be the case, which is why it's a comment and not an answer. :-) –  Royal Canadian Bandit Jun 23 at 11:14
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2 Answers 2

up vote 14 down vote accepted

Luke Skywalker never received clearance to go to Dagobah, no. The Rebel Alliance, however, had a far looser command hierarchy than the Empire, with a strong emphasis on individual initiative. In the New Jedi Order series, Luke Skywalker is confronted by a candidate for the New Republic Presidency who quotes Luke's own service record to him, noting the absence after Hoth is listed as "pursuing spiritual studies."

There is no mention that Luke was officially AWOL during this period, so it would seem that he was not, though there is no definitive statement in canon. In a regular military, he would certainly be considered AWOL, or at least MIA. We must also bear in mind that, unlike the fighter pilots you mentioned, Luke Skywalker is never directly ordered to go to the rendezvous point while onscreen, so he could have some wiggle room in his orders that they do not. Regardless, he seems to have been AWOL in practice, though not in a legal sense.

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Individual initiative or not, there is no military force in the world that would let a pilot abscond with the equivalent of an X-Wing for a private spiritual retreat lasting weeks or months, without facing severe consequences. That said, Luke is the hero who destroyed the first Death Star and Leia could have helped make any charges go away, especially if she presented it as Luke rescuing her instead of the other way around. –  Royal Canadian Bandit Jun 23 at 9:48
    
@RoyalCanadianBandit Of course, Star Wars doesn't take place on this world, but in a galaxy far, far away... –  evilsoup Jun 23 at 10:33
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@JamesSheridan: If the Rebel Alliance had any rules at all, you'd think that borrowing an X-Wing for a month would violate them. (Not to mention that it must have needed some serious maintenance after being buried in a swamp.) But between Luke's hero status and Leia's influence, I expect his absence could have been quietly ignored, or explained away post hoc as a special mission. –  Royal Canadian Bandit Jun 23 at 11:27
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@JamesSheridan: Kenobi was dead. Following his orders is only a reasonable excuse if Luke can convince the Alliance he is in communication with Kenobi's ghost. Short of Kenobi materialising in front of a tribunal to testify on Luke's behalf, this might be difficult. Also, AFAIK Kenobi never held any official position in the Rebel Alliance; his rank of General was in the Grand Army of the Republic, which of course became the Empire. –  Royal Canadian Bandit Jun 23 at 14:39
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@Jayraj: If Luke wanted to borrow an X-Wing, the Rebel leaders would want to know why. If he said the ghost of Obi-Wan Kenobi had told him to seek out a mysterious Jedi Master named Yoda, it would sound more than a little crazy, so I can see why he just took off without asking. (Some rebels would know of Yoda's history and maybe even his location, but Luke is not aware of this -- it is pretty clear he has never heard of Yoda before receiving Kenobi's instructions.) –  Royal Canadian Bandit Jun 23 at 15:17
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Considering he's the only known person who could fight Vader, I think the Rebel Alliance would accept his trip to Dagobah. Firepower wasn't working for the last 20 years.

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In the novel I mentioned in my own answer, Luke's political enemy outright mentions that he accepts "the necessity of your actions," while simultaneously saying he'd have Luke shot if he tried that sort of thing under his command. So you're not wrong about the Rebels being desperate enough to turn a blind eye to Luke stretching the rules. –  James Sheridan Jun 24 at 0:49
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