The Rebellion seems to me to be just as bad as the Empire. They may not have the true evil members like Palpatine, Vader, etc. But it seems that they consistently engage in tactics that result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of soldiers. Soldiers that are probably just serving under the idea that it's their duty to protect against the terrorists that call themselves The Rebellion.

So, since it seems that the Rebellion's modus operandi is to just destroy as much Imperial equipment and manpower as possible, how can they consider themselves to be good and just?

  • 33
    Killing military personnel in a military action (as opposed to, say, gassing their barracks or blowing up the planet) isn't really on the same level as what the Empire routinely does. – Jeff Jun 9 '11 at 17:09
  • 19
    If the Rebellion's campaign against the Empire is "bad", would someone who stood by and did nothing while the Empire destroyed planets, enslaved races, killed Ewoks, etc. be "good"? – CamelBlues Jun 9 '11 at 18:18
  • 3
  • 4
    @jwenting: Who said anything about planetary destruction? I refer to the blatant attacks on civilian shipping (in that same system, in fact!), the mass murders on Tatooine (an entire clan of Jawa, not to mention the Lars ranch), and the systematic destruction wrought in other areas. – Jeff Jun 10 '11 at 15:00
  • 7
    And all those civilian contractors repairing the death star:) – Monkey Tuesday Jun 10 '11 at 18:51

The Rebellion cannot be truly good, and the Empire cannot be truly evil. They are concepts. They are political entities which act towards each other, and in response to each other.

Some might say the Empire is evil because of how it came about - it deposed a thousand generations of tradition and history, replacing it with a government that began as a constitutional monarchy, and migrated towards a pure monarchy. The Empire also was reportedly biased against non-humans.

The Empire isn't evil, because the Empire is a collection of people. Some of those people were evil, true. But I'm sure the same could be said for the Rebellion. In any guerrilla force, engaged in asymmetric warfare, you will find anarchists who simply want to burn anything tied to the 'establishment' and psychopaths who simply want to kill.

Since the Rebellion is best defined as "those who oppose the Empire and seek the restoration of the Old Republic" they don't get an automatic 'good pass', as the Empire isn't evil. Instead, we must consider their actions.

By and large, the Rebellion restricts its offensive strikes to military targets. They do not seem to engage in widespread terror attacks or in attacks against the civilian infrastructure. In this way, they are good. They choose to limit their effective choices for reasons both practical and moral.

That said, their goals may SEEM laudable, but are they really? Let's look at the Old Republic, and its guardians, the Jedi. The Old Republic had no standing military. The Old Republic was governed by a massive Senate. The Old Republic had no method of extending its reach.

The Old Republic outlawed slavery, ensured equal opportunities for non-humans, and provided for personal liberties. The Empire was known to use slavery in some instances (notably with POWs). The Empire was discriminatory against non-humans (though evidence for this is sparse in the movies, it's made much more clear in the Expanded Universe). The Empire was totalitarian, squashing personal liberties in some cases.

It would be easy to look at this and declare the Old Republic superior to the Empire...but I don't think it's that clear-cut.

The Old Republic was not a good government. The Senate was overly large, fractured into many hostile factions, and strongly influenced by corrupt corporations. When a veritable GENOCIDE was being committed by one of the Republic's worlds against another, the Senate did NOTHING. When a group attempted to leave the Republic, they were opposed with military force. At the drop of a hat, the Republic overturned most of its oldest laws to deal with a short-term threat.

The Old Republic also seemed to have economic problems - Republic credits were worthless on Tatooine, which is presented similarly to a third-world country. Watto, presented as a shrewd businessman (though with a gambling problem) was completely dismissive of Republic Credits - they were completely worthless to him. I cannot imagine that a shopkeeper in Egypt, the Sudan, Saudi Arabia, or any other similar country refusing to accept a US Dollar or Euro. This indicates to me that the Republic currency was extremely weak. Watto runs a business, which relies on buying and selling, yet was unwilling to exchange an uncommon hyperdrive (which, given it is the only one on the market, is unlikely to be in demand on the planet) for Republic Credits. He didn't say, "Wait, let me check the exchange rate" or "Wow, I'd sure like that strong currency, I'll gladly take it!", he dismissed it.

Palpatine manipulated the system, twisted some events, and played people like a fiddle to gain power, true. That said, he COULD NOT have done so if the system hadn't been open to manipulation, had people willing to support his causes (NONE of the Seperatists were in on the whole plan, every planet which attempted to secede did so because of legitimate grievances or promises of a better situation for their people if they succeeded).

The Jedi were even worse. Consistently in the prequel novels and the movies, the Jedi act as Judge, Jury, and Executioner. They are shown to consistently kidnap children from their families, to raise them as Jedi. These children are brainwashed thoroughly, denied their families, taught to ignore their emotions, and taught to kill.

Given what they sought to restore, then, I don't think you can characterize the Rebellion as 'good'. In fact, in the Expanded Universe (which is now Legends canon, not the new Disney canon), the New Republic which the Rebellion formed after Endor lasts less than twenty (war-filled, economically shattering) years before collapsing.

At least, under the Empire, slavery was by and large eliminated, a united galactic economy emerged, piracy was brought to heel, and the space trains ran on time.

  • How did the Jedi kidnap children? The only recruiting I remember was that of Anakin, and his mother did not object to that. – user1320 Jun 9 '11 at 19:30
  • 7
    @Tim Based on the way Anakin was "recruited", it's not hard to see how the Jedi could easily prey on a single parents desire for their children to have a better life. I doubt they tell them just how "better" that life really is. Kidnap may be too harsh, but it also may not be far from the truth. – Ryan Jun 9 '11 at 19:35
  • 6
    Not too related: Did Mussolini really get the trains running on time? – Kobi Jun 9 '11 at 20:32
  • 7
    @Tim: They explicitly say that if Anakin had been born in the Republic, he would have been identified and brought into the fold as an infant. – Jeff Jun 10 '11 at 15:01
  • 1
    @bitmask: They were originally called the Alliance to Restore the Republic, I think it follows that they wanted to restore the previous government. – Jeff Jan 4 '14 at 22:57

That is the ideology under which virtually every rebellion from the history of the Earth operates. When you are vastly out-manned, out-gunned and out-financed as nearly every rebellion is, your only tactic can be to attack the enemy's resources and do as much damage to their infrastructure as possible. When you can take away your enemy's ability to make war, only then can you gain the upper hand and victory.

They say "War is Hell" for a reason.

  • 8
    I would direct you towards Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian Independence Movemement – Ryan Jun 9 '11 at 16:59
  • 3
    @Keen How many construction workers, electricians, plumbers, and on and on do you think were on both Death Stars? The Rebellion targets both civilians and military targets. – Ryan Jun 9 '11 at 17:14
  • 9
    @Ryan Well, I'm a contractor myself. I'm a roofer, Dunn and Reddy Home Improvements. And speaking as a roofer, I can say that a roofer's personal politics come heavily into play when choosing jobs. – user1027 Jun 9 '11 at 17:18
  • 29
    @Ryan, with regards to Gandhi, the success of the Indian Independence Movement relied on a "MORAL" opposition (The British Empire), a population that when face with the immorality of their own actions were bound to correct their own behavior. The success of Gandhi was the surrender of the British not a victory over them. Had India been a German Colony, under the Third Reich, I have no doubt that history would have never recorded the name Gandhi. Many Jews tried "peaceful" opposition, only to be remembered as a statistic. – Cos Callis Jun 9 '11 at 19:46
  • 4
    @Cos +1. Ghandi was a fluke. Most empires are NOT usually in the state of mind that Brits were in when Ghandi succeeded – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jun 11 '11 at 17:24

The Empire is set up, both from an in-universe perspective and out-of-universe, to be evil, on the level of most totalitarian dictatorships in humanity's history. The "kick a puppy" moments in the original movie are many; the idea of shooting escape pods, torture, the concept of a battle station specifically designed to destroy planets, the use of said station on a world with no standing army that wasn't, as a whole, active in the Rebellion, etc etc.

Notice in Return of the Jedi, that once Palpatine is dead, all the Empire cronies on the Death Star pretty much lose it and go into survival mode. They can't have seen him die, and the Death Star hadn't taken all that much damage relatively speaking (the rebels hadn't taken out the power core yet and even the SSD colliding into it was relatively minor). A very few remained focused on their tasks in the novel, like Jerjerrod (whose part in the movie was cut down considerably); in the movie, everyone pretty much abandons their post. Even the TIE fighter following the Millenium Falcon as they escape the core is focused solely on getting out, when the pilot could easily have taken Ahab-like potshots at the Falcon.

The novelization explains this panic quite simply; the Emperor is dead. He'd held the Empire together pretty much on pure evil willpower. With him gone, the single cohesive force tying the Empire together was shattered.

For its part, the Rebellion never attacked a civilian target. When you're running a rebellion, killing the enemy is part and parcel of the deal. The Rebel Alliance was rebelling partly because of the atrocities they'd already witnessed (Alderran's destruction can't have gone unnoticed, and more than likely had the opposite effect than Governor Tarkin intended), and partly because they'd seen the Old Republic's democracy swept away to be replaced by a dictatorship. Western thought generally abhors such actions of government.

  • Given the size of the Rebellion and simple human nature, there MUST have been Rebel attacks on civilian targets. They most likely weren't sanctioned by the RA leadership, but they must have happened. – Jeff Jan 14 '12 at 15:58
  • 1
    Name one. I haven't played ALL the SW games, nor watched all the non-movie content like SW:CW, but between the canon movies and the games I have played (two Rogue Squadrons, three Jedi Knights, and various others) I can't think of a single mission or storyline that had any good guy deliberately destroying civilian structures or killing civs. – KeithS Jan 31 '12 at 15:58
  • In all of the games, you play someone acting on behalf of the Rebel leadership, who would never do that...though Wraith Squadron (under the command of Wedge Antilles) DID rob a bank. – Jeff Jan 31 '12 at 16:37

Don't forget, that the Empire tortures people, (like Leia on the Death Star) and that this wasn't allowed under the Old or New Republic. Even though the Rebels did kill the innocent workers on the Death Star, it was the lesser evil option. Take 9/11 for instance, if a fighter pilot had shot down an airliner before it hit, he would have killed the passengers yes, but he would have saved hundreds or thousands of lives. The same goes for the Rebel Alliance.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.