In a Counterinsurgency Far, Far Away

The first great struggle between the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire ended with the destruction of the Death Star and an apparent victory for the Rebels at the Battle of Endor. Yet we now know that the struggle has raged on for the last 30 years. Why did the defeat of Emperor Palpatine and the much heralded “return of the Jedi” not produce decades of peace under a restored Republic?

In hindsight, it’s clear that for the Rebel Alliance the Imperial defeat at the Battle of Endor was a classic example of a catastrophic victory: a sudden collapse of a seemingly unbeatable foe that produced opportunities it was unprepared to exploit. Rather than capitalizing on their historic gains and establishing the hoped-for New Republic, the Rebels simply allowed the Galactic Empire to fragment, ushering in a period of chaos.

Now, facing a more virulent version of the Empire under the guise of the mysterious First Order, the Resistance, the successor of the Rebel Alliance, must succeed where its progenitor failed: It must be prepared to “win the peace” and show that it represents the best hope to end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy.

From the vantage point of a galaxy far, far away, we draw on our own history from a not-so-long time ago — chiefly, the experiences and lessons of the conflicts and unrest in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Libya — to offer a set of strategic recommendations to the leaders of the Resistance that will allow them to not only defeat the First Order, but to make its defeat absolute.

I. Horror vacui

Much of what we thought we knew about the Empire, the aftermath of its collapse, and the rise of its successor, the shadowy First Order, has now been shown to be…

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