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In Serenity, we learn that

The Alliance accidentally created the Reavers.

So my question is, why didn't the Alliance destroy them? There were less than 30,000 Reavers and the Alliance had a much larger military.

We also learn that

The Alliance knew that the truth about the Reavers could (and did) severely weaken them.

So why did they leave them alone for so long? It could be argued that waging war would bring too much notice but surely just allowing them to sit there and send out raiding parties would make them more known to the general public.

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    Plenty of real-world governments have preferred hiding a problem to solving it. – Nerrolken Aug 26 '15 at 14:13
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    I imagine that the threat of the Reavers made the Alliance seem like a better option to some of the outer planets. Unity through a common enemy, as well as outer planets needing the protection of the alliance more than they dislike the alliance. – Dr R Dizzle Aug 26 '15 at 14:14
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    @MikeEdenfield Even if they do deny the existence of Reavers (and again, I'm not sure they do), I'm sure that the people of the outer planets still feel safer under Alliance control. – Dr R Dizzle Aug 26 '15 at 14:37
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    @MikeEdenfield I'm pretty sure that the Alliance officer in charge of the ship says that Reavers aren't real, but there's no definite indication that's the official line rather than just his personal belief. – Anthony Grist Aug 26 '15 at 15:22
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    That's true, but if that's his personal belief, that belief came from somewhere; the most logical place would be that it's "common knowledge" on the Core Worlds, where people basically believe whatever The Alliance tells them. – KutuluMike Aug 26 '15 at 15:28
29

I'm not sure that this is ever addressed in canon, but logically;

The Reavers may have proved useful to the Alliance.

It is well known that not all of the planets in Firefly and Serenity were happy to become part of the Alliance, with an army of "Browncoats" fighting for independence from the Alliance (and ultimately losing). The Alliance is made up of a series of "core planets", with planets further out classed as "outer planets" resembling the 19th-century American West and being generally less civilised than the core planets.

It was the outer planets that made up the bulk of the Browncoats, many of whom still detest the Alliance after the war was over (see: Malcolm Reynolds). Politically, these outer planets are officially under Alliance control - but they often have very little regard for the Alliance and their attempts to control them. Naturally, the Alliance would be aware that they are not popular in these areas, and have probably considered the possibility of another Browncoat uprising.

So from the Alliance's perspective, the Reavers prove to be a useful resource. It is the outer planets (those associated with the Browncoats) that are most often attacked by the Reavers, planets that are unable to defend themselves and as such rely on the Alliance for protection. This reliance means that the outer planets may believe it too dangerous to attempt to "secede" from the Alliance in another civil war, guaranteeing the Alliances continued control.

In conclusion, the Reavers pose nearly no threat to the Alliance, but help ensure the continued loyalty of the outer planets.

Edit: It has been bought up in the comments that the Alliance might deny the existence of the Reavers. Even if they do, I'm sure the outer planets (which are aware of the existence of Reavers) feel more secure under Alliance control, so the end result is the same.

33

The Alliance's hold on the Outer Rim planets is much less secure than the inner worlds; this is the whole reason people like Malcom and his crew continue to exist. Once the Alliance managed to push the Reavers so they were confined to the Outer Rim, it wasn't worth their trouble to keep wasting resources on them.

Consider the issue from the Alliance government's perspective:

  • As far as they knew, everyone that knew the truth of the Reavers' origins was either dead, or a government official
  • The population of the Core Worlds mostly considered Reavers to be a myth.
  • The population of the Outer Rim assumed that Reavers were what happened if you tried to fly out past the edge of the system.
  • The presence of the Reaver horde floating outside Miranda was keeping nosy explorers away from the planet

In other words, keeping the Reavers out in deep space served as a deterrent to keep the population from wandering too far away from Alliance control, and kept (unwilling) guard on the Alliance's dirty secret. On the other hand, starting a war with them would cost resources and people, and would likely get people digging into their origins.

There was no upside for the Alliance to fight the Reavers.

  • "The population of the Outer Rim assumed that Reavers were what happened if you tried to fly out past the edge of the system". Really? I don't remember that even being said. – Dr R Dizzle Aug 26 '15 at 15:09
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    More than once I believe we're told that Reavers are "supposedly" what happened when people flew out to the edge of space, saw the "vast blackness", and went nuts. I think Jayne and Kaylee both express this opinion at different times. I'll try to find the clips. – KutuluMike Aug 26 '15 at 15:17
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    In "Bushwacked," Book states his theory that the Reavers are simply men who have been removed from civilization for too long. – Rogue Jedi Aug 26 '15 at 15:23
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    I think Bushwacked is the episode where Jayne explains the Reavers origins but I also think Kaylee repeats the same story in The Movie. – KutuluMike Aug 26 '15 at 15:26
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    @DrRDizzle At some point Kaylee says of the Reavers that they're people who went out past the edge of the system, "saw a vasty nothingness, and went giggledy over it." Jayne counters with: "Hell, I've been to the edge. Just looked like... more space." But then, Jayne is not of a sensitive temperament, so even if being in interstellar space made you crazy in the Firefly 'verse, you'd expect him to be immune :D – Wolfie Inu Oct 29 '15 at 6:01
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  • They are very far from the Core, hence going there are destroying could prove more complicated
  • Going there could unveil the role of the Alliance, and since most people never try to find out, it would have been a bigger risk than doing nothing
  • It serves the Alliance, as a good enemy helps justify military measures

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