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Why do the Jedi not try to arrest any Sith? Are they too dangerous to be kept alive as Mace Windu says about Palpatine?

Surely all Sith aren't so strong that they couldn't just be captured and contained? Doesn't it go against the Jedi code to kill them when they don't have to? Why is it a fight to the death as soon as they see each other and know who they are?

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I'd point out that the title of your question states "Do the Jedi..." while the body states "Why do the Jedi...". Not sure the actual question here, but here is my take:

It is not true that the Jedi always kill Sith on sight. There are several noticeable instances of Jedi attempting to, or actually capturing, Sith.

  • Capture of Darth Revan: During the Jedi Civil War, Jedi agents successfully captured Darth Revan, though at the cost of most of their team. Source: Knights of the Old Republic (video game)

  • Capture of Count Dooku: During the Clone Wars, Anakin and Obi-Wan capture Count Dooku from a band of pirates. Source: The Clone Wars (TV Show)

  • Capture of the Dread Masters: During the Great Galactic War, a Jedi strike team was successful in capturing the powerful six Dread Masters, and sequestering them away in a maximum-security prison. The purpose was the Jedi council believed the masters were too valuable. Source: The Old Republic (video game)

  • Capture of the Sith Emperor: During the Cold War, a strike team sought to capture an redeem the Sith Emperor; however, they were unsuccessful and were themselves turned into Sith. Source: The Old Republic (video game)

  • Capture of Darth Sidious: At the end of the Clone Wars, a group of four Jedi Masters confront Palpatine upon learning he is a Sith Lord, and seek to arrest him. However, they fail and are all killed. Source: Revenge of the Sith (film)

  • Capture of Tahiri Velia: At the end of the Galactic Civil War, Tahiri was captured by Ben Skywalker after a short duel. Though it does not appear Ben had specific plans - whether to kill or capture before the duel, he saw an opportunity and took it when it came up during the duel. It should be noted that Tahiri was at this point a very disenfranchised Sith apprentice, and not one very deep in the Sith way. Source: Legacy of the Force - Invincible (novel)

So you see, there are multiple cases, in varying media, including one of the main films, and from multiple time periods, that show instances where the Jedi attempt or are successful in capturing Sith. In some cases, it is a very powerful Sith that they attempt to capture.

In the films, we see many instances where the fight is just 1 or 2 Jedi against a Sith, and often, not planned encounters. It would be difficult to attempt to capture a Sith when you do not have the benefit of surprise, and without the benefit of numbers. There was really no hope for Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan to capture Maul, or for Obi-Wan and Anakin to capture Dooku in Episode II. While Anakin does overpower Dooku in Episode III, the plan did appear to capture him; however, Anakin did violate the Jedi code by killing him when it wasn't necessary. Of course all the encounters in the original trilogy are instances where the Jedi was the weaker combatant or had other extenuating circumstances precluding a capture attempt. So it is a fight to the death usually because the Sith would grant no quarter, not because the Jedi will not.

  • Master Windu was going to execute Palpatine either way, it seems? – Josh Schwarzzeskywalker Dec 13 '14 at 11:21
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    @Jwad - it's not clear from the film or the novelization that the intent was to kill them before they actually got there, but after Palpatine killed the other 3, certainly he had changed his mind. – The Fallen Dec 13 '14 at 14:50
  • From my answer here it seems that the original intent was to just arrest him, though we have no way of knowing if those are just unmeant words. – The Fallen Dec 13 '14 at 14:53
  • @JoshSchwarzzeskywalker, no Mace's use of Vaapad is what made him want to kill Palpetine. His original mission was to arrest him and that was his intent before the duel. However, the fact that Palpetine became so hostile so quickly and proved to be such a threat, Windu determined that Vaapad was needed, which opened up Windu's connection to the dark side, thus giving him the desire to kill the man. – Robert Dec 23 '14 at 14:48
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I think to a large degree it is more a question of execution than just killing them on sight. To have become a Sith in the first place you have had to do enough terrible things and worse still follow such a nihilistic and selfishly destructive view of the world that your crimes are self-evident.

Also I don't think many Sith give the Jedi much choice - its becomes a kill-or-be-killed situation at every engagement.

  • All Sith are to be executed without trial? – Josh Schwarzzeskywalker Dec 13 '14 at 4:24
  • Your first point is not entirely true – The Fallen Dec 13 '14 at 5:15
  • That is a good point you make about Windu. I doubt they are officially executed without trial. But consider how totally inverted and yet assured Annakin was at the time of the duel on Mustafa. His actions had not only been evil but that evil was now completely normalized within Anakin. At that point is there anything anyone can do to help them? 'Then you are truly lost.' – user38114 Dec 13 '14 at 5:41
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When Windu was going to kill Palpatine, Anakin makes it clear that it does go against the Jedi Code.

That leads us to believe that in theory Jedi should be arresting the Sith not killing them. However in a kill or be killed situation, its understandable that a Jedi would kill during battle, but if the opponent is incapacitated then the default would be arrest him. Also, It's against the Jedi code to execute for past crimes.

  • You have to remember, Mace Windu was a stickler for the rules of the Jedi Code. If there was a boyscout when it came to that, it would be him. However, Mace's fighting style, Vaapad, pushed him deep into the dark side of the force and almost over the edge at times, this was one of those times. Had Windu not used Vaapad when fighting Palpetine, he never would have even thought about killing him. The second he disarmed the Emperor, he would have arrested him. This is evident before the two even fight when Windu goes to arrest Palpetine. – Robert Dec 23 '14 at 14:43
  • However, since he was nearly in tune with the dark side during their duel, from using Vaapad, and the fact that his emotions were all out of whack, he had just had two Jedi Masters & friends cut down in front of him, he clearly wasn't thinking straight. Again, it was only through his use of Vaapad that caused him to even think about killing Palpetine. – Robert Dec 23 '14 at 14:45
  • I'm just not sure about Vaapad making Windu want to kill Palpatine. Looking back on it he probably said he was too dangerous to be left alive because he just watched Sheev slice and dice three Jedi in one second. – Josh Schwarzzeskywalker Jan 15 '15 at 2:48

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