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Home > World

Why Star Wars is Not the Best Model for Foreign Policy

15 March 2004

Nobody doubts the social significance of the franchise that is Star Wars. Younger readers may be interested to know that Star Wars was the Lord of the Rings phenomenon of its day. But aside from the impact it had on a generation of filmgoers, Star Wars can now be seen to have influenced a whole generation of politicians.

Broadly speaking, Star Wars is a product of a post-Hiroshima generation – the mentality behind it being that ending a war is really all about making a huge explosion. There’s no “hold on, what about all the women and children living on the Death Star – can we really justify their deaths for the sake of a swift end to this war?” Or even, “what about the high level of fallout caused by an exploding Death Star, and the consequences for generations of Ewoks in the future?” It’s simply a case of blowing everything up, then Luke Skywalker can get his medal and Hans Solo can get the girl and everybody’s happy.

It could be suggested that George Lucas (who was not a politician) had a rather simplistic view of the way things work in war. In fact, by the end of Return of the Jedi it simply comes down to getting rid of one man. Even Darth Vader turns out to be fairly unimportant – at the end of the day, all they have to do is kill the Emperor, and everything is solved. Which is where today’s politicians seem to have taken a leaf out of the George Lucas school of foreign policy. Because although the war in Iraq saw a few jolly exciting bangs, essentially it was all about getting one man. Saddam “the Emperor” Hussein.

When the special edition version of Return of the Jedi was released, one section that was roundly criticised was the short insert at the end showing everybody everywhere in the whole galaxy having a huge party because the Emperor was dead. It just wasn’t felt by fans of the films to be realistic that the death of one man, however powerful, would solve everybody’s problems quite so quickly. Yet the Pentagon clearly based their war strategy on that very concept. The worrying suggestion is that Star Wars fans have a better grasp on reality than Pentagon officials. While the Star Wars fans have continued muttering about consequences and reading all about the post-Emperor galaxy in a wealth of fiction, in real life the world was rushed into a war with the main aim of getting rid of the evil Emperor Hussein, so that we could all live happily ever after.

They got rid of him. Saddam Hussein was captured (looking, in fact, in worse physical condition than the Emperor in Return of the Jedi). We’ve seen the cheering crowds. The Ewoks have had their little dance. But we’re left with a country in which the new situation increasingly looks not much better than the old one. Bush and his officials must have wet themselves when they realised there wasn’t another video after Return of the Jedi. They’ve destroyed the Emperor! Everything’s meant to be okay! Where’s the film telling them how to deal with the mess that’s left over?

The recent blasts in Karbula and Baghdad, killing over 140 people (that’s over 140 times the number of Ewoks killed onscreen in Return of the Jedi), are just the latest incidents in a conflict that has essentially continued to run since the day Bush and Blair went in with all guns blazing. The Emperor may be out of the way, but the film isn’t over. Bad plotting, obviously, so you can see why nobody could possibly have seen it coming (well, except James Dobbins, Bush’s special envoy to post-Taliban Afghanistan; and Kanan Makiya, Iraqi author and college professor who met twice with President Bush to advise him on post-war strategy; and the Archbishop of Canterbury; and the year-long 5 million dollar study conducted by the US State Department before the war; and several international relief experts; and the Vatican; and France; and…actually, just about everybody). Everything indicates that, for the sake of an easy war, the people in charge decided to pretend that everything would be okay after Saddam was gone, rather than consider the long-term consequences of their actions.

So although the war is officially over, the rising civilian death count has now exceeded 10,000 people, over 2500 of whom were killed after Bush declared major combat over. Some people would consider this an unacceptably high number for what is, officially, peacetime, and might want Bush, or Blair, or any of the people who insisted that we had to go to war straightaway a year ago, why exactly they failed to make adequate provision for post-war administration. Were they simply hoping for a Lucasfilm happy ending – in which case they are naïve and incompetent and should resign? Or did they just not care very much what happened once they’d made a few bangs and captured the baddy – in which case they probably owe the people or Iraq an apology?

Fortunately for Bush and Blair, these are not questions they have been challenged with as much as they should have been, largely due to the continuing diversion of the hunt for weapons of mass destruction. The abhorrent suggestion that said weapons might not actually exist may have caused them some awkward moments, but it has at least distracted attention away from the even more awkward situation in Iraq; while we’re all focussed on an imaginary future in which nuclear weapons are discovered in Iraq and everybody congratulates Bush and Blair and dances like Ewoks, nobody needs to worry too much about the real present in which Iraq has had one form of terror exchanged for another.



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