By Jared James
The Rebel Alliance is going to lose, not because they are outnumbered, but because they have no model on which to base plans for their campaign. There are essentially two kinds of insurgent campaigns: city-out or countryside-in; Leningrad, or Yorktown. The Rebel Alliance is fighting both of them wrongly, and has few chances left before defeat and dissolution.
The First Order, for its part, is not a foreign force; they are fighting a campaign of imperial consolidation (think: the Union side in the US Civil War, or the British side in the Boer Wars or the War of Continental Independence) not a conquest from outside. As such, they fail to seize most of the advantages of supply and maneuver their better trained, better equipped, larger force offers.
Angry Staff Officer is right: most of the strategic errors on both sides are at the level of command, top to bottom, failing to understand the nature and goals of the war. At the bottom, we see squadron Commander Dameron trying to win in decisive battle when he ought to have withdrawn his forces in good order. This is the same strategic error repeated time and again by Nathan Bedford Forrest and Benedict Arnold, tactical officers so good they often did win, at the sacrifice of resources needed elsewhere for more important objectives. In the First Order, command is so poorly integrated and joint services so insensibly divided that the overwhelming naval theater dominance of the First Order is often caught unprepared for otherwise minor tactical maneuvers by the tiny but well-coordinated Rebel military. Time and again the First Order’s fighters remain in their bays until well after the Rebel assault has taken shape. Only their numerical advantage saves them, with otherwise-unacceptably high losses, as was frequently the accusation leveled by McClellan against “Unconditional Surrender” Grant.
Alliance command seemingly mean to initiate a Mao- or Giap-style insurgency from the hinterlands of the Outer Rim, yet are stymied by broken lines of supply and communication, lack of outside assistance from the coreward worlds, and internal dissent over whether accepting defeat in the former strongholds of the Republic represents strategic defeat. A hinterlands-in campaign depends on being able to hide from concentrated forces, isolate and strike strong points, and relies on the rural populace for its supply and places to hide. Unless and until the Princess/Commanding General can quell the squabbling in her own ranks over which type of war they are fighting, the Rebel Alliance cannot possibly hope to sustain an insurgency long enough to convince non-aligned worlds and civilian populations to support or tolerate her forces’ presence, much less to recruit and supply a critical mass of fighters for Phase III of Mao’s (and Washington’s) war plan, counter-conquest of the Order’s core worlds.
The countryside-in model of insurgency offers essentially two branching variations: the classic Maoist model, with unified command lying concealed in the hinterlands of the Outer Rim until sufficient and reliable support both monetary and material flows from an Outer Rim politically united against the core worlds of the First Order to begin massing troops for larger-scale confrontation, or the Ngo Nguyen Giap/George Washington model, relying on outside support for money and materiel, with recruitment and political support coming from within both the Outer Rim and the core worlds, in hope of eventually uniting the populace politically behind the Rebel Alliance as a more legitimate government than the First Order.
In the inverse model, the city-out campaign, exemplified by V.I. Lenin and Krim Belcacem, the Alliance lacks unity of command or internal lines of supply sufficient to sustain an independent navy adequate to protect smugglers and privateers who might convince unaligned factions (such as Incom) to sell or lease the Rebels weapons of greater magnitude than the Alliance’s small internal manufacturing base is able to produce or purchase. While Alderaan had a vibrant economy, it is as unavailable as Yavin as a base of recruitment and sustainment for the Alliance. Even Chandrila can be relied upon only to the extent that its political leadership feel safe from internal dissent or First Order suppression. Anyone suggesting (like Gen Washington) that recapturing and re-colonizing the core worlds of the Republic ought to be a primary war goal, rather than not losing for sufficient time to convince unaligned factions and worlds that the Alliance might hold through a sustained conflict, has either to be convinced that is the wrong war model, or cashiered as quickly as practical. The critical step is internal resolution: Alliance command has to have complete buy-in for a model of campaign if the Rebellion is to succeed.
The Rebels have the advantage of a charismatic and competent political leader along the lines of Krim or Castro, but that advantage comes with the risk of internal dissolution if that leader is the only unifying center of gravity. Once they choose the hinterlands-in campaign, which they must, the Rebels may also take on the Sinn Fein/Hamas refinement, divided between public/political and covert/military divisions. It worked in Algeria for the FLN; it worked in Ireland for IRA, and it worked in Vietnam to a lesser extent. In this model, the public, political face of the Alliance treats with outside and unaligned actors while providing government and support services to Outer Rim and unaligned civilian populations gone unsupported by the First Order, whose attention (and funding) are bent on winning the military campaign against the covert military arm of the Alliance. This model enjoys the advantage of building the appearance of legitimacy to civilian populations before any overt military victories have been achieved, which makes it easier to tolerate the significant disadvantage that it relies on outside manufacturing and credit to sustain the military arm.
In brief, the Princess needs to unite the Rebel Alliance cadre behind a coherent (and achievable) model of insurgency, or be defeated by internal disunion before the First Order can manage to get its jackboots on. The Washington/Giap model offers the most practical advantages, while taking into account the disadvantages piled on the Alliance by its lack of mass popular support, internal manufacturing and finance. Adopting this insurgency model explicitly, and instructing the Rebels on its theory and tactical application, is the only plausible path to victory in war, barring a deus ex hyperspace event.
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About the Author: Angry Staff Officer is an Army engineer officer who is adrift in a sea of doctrine and staff operations and uses writing as a means to retain his sanity. He also collaborates on a podcast with Adin Dobkin entitled War Stories, which examines key moments in the history of warfare.