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Argument: The Destruction of Alderaan Was Completely Justified

(Image: Lucasfilm)

It is trendy to argue that, in Star Wars, the bad guys are actually the good guys and vice versa. This is the geeky version of #SlatePitches--deliberately contrarian takes for the sake of argument that Slate has became famous (or infamous) for. For example, just last week I linked to a video that stated that gangster and slaver Jabba the Hutt was a fine fellow.

Most of the arguments in favor of Palpatine's Empire in Star Wars falter over at least one major problem: in Episode IV, Grand Moff Tarkin uses the first Death Star to blow the heavily-populated world of Alderaan to bits. You can watch the scene here.

Who is actually going to say that the massacre of the people of Alderaan was a reasonable and ethical course of action? Sonny Bunch of the Washington Post does. He argues that Tarkin had no reason to believe anything that proven liar Princess Leia said and that the obliteration of Alderaan was acceptable for a larger goal of establishing peace:

So, Alderaan was a legitimate military target. Was the level of force used against it justified? It’s a tricky question, but it seems the least bad of all the alternatives. Consider another option the Empire could have taken: invading Alderaan, removing its leaders and installing a pro-Empire regime. However, putting boots on the ground in this manner would likely have destabilized not only the planet but also the entire region, creating a breeding ground for religious terrorists and draining blood and treasure for decades. It’s not hard to imagine a Jedi State of the Alderaan System (JSAS, for short, though they’d likely prefer the simpler Jedi State (JS)) arising from the ashes of some ill-conceived invasion and occupation.

This was probably just the sort of catastrophe that Grand Moff Tarkin was trying to avoid when he devised his Death Star-centered defensive strategy. The Tarkin Doctrine, discussed here, is one based on deterrence and the threat of force rather than the use of force. Granted, you have to use force once for the threat to be useful, but it’s easy to see the appeal of such a tactic, which is designed to save lives in the long run. Imagine the human toll — not to mention the enormous fiscal cost — of launching invasion after invasion of breakaway systems. The utilitarian calculation is complicated, but it’s not hard to imagine a scenario in which fewer people died as a result of the destruction of Alderaan than would have died in a series of costly invasions.

The destruction of Alderaan, then, is more analogous to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki than it is to a “genocide.”* Yes, it was horrible, and yes, it would be nice if it didn’t happen. But it was an attack on a legitimate military target and defensible under Just War Theory, an attack intended to save lives by deterring other major powers from beginning conflicts of their own. The Imperial Grand Moff Tarkin is no worse than Democratic President Harry S. Truman — and no one worth listening to considers Truman to be a monster.

Thus the destruction of Alderaan was the right thing to do--from a certain point of view.

-via Popehat

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