Wednesday, July 14, 2010

In Defense of the Imperial Stormtroopers

     They were known throughout the galaxy as the most dangerous fighting force in the known worlds.  “Only Imperial Stormtroopers could be so precise.”  Those words were uttered by Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi when surveying a heinous assault on a Jawa transport that left no survivors.  How did the white armor-clad Imperial soldiers gain such a reputation for brutal efficiency and then become mocked so ruthlessly for their inability to stop the crew of a single freighter from escaping the Death Star?  We will examine the beginnings of the Imperial Stormtroopers, from their roots in the first standing army of the Galactic Republic in nearly two thousand years, through their enforcement of the Tarkin Doctrine under Imperial rule, to their most humiliating defeat, at the hands of the Ewoks and a small band of rebels during the Battle of Endor.
     To examine the roots of the Imperial Stormtroopers, we look back to their beginnings on the planet known as Kamino.  Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas, sensing that the Republic would soon be facing war, ordered the creation of an army cloned from the genetic template of bounty hunter Jango Fett.  The army was cloned, artificially aged, and then trained by Fett himself.  During the Separatist Movement led by Count Dooku, Chancellor Palpatine and the Jedi Council brought the full weight of the clone army to bear, turning the tide against the robotic soldiers of the Separatists and enacting the Clone Wars.  The Jedi were uneasy about this, and their suspicions proved to be well-founded: The entire Separatist Movement was orchestrated by Chancellor Palpatine, under his guise as Sith master Darth Sidious, to gain control of the Galactic Republic.  Three years after The Clone Wars began, they ended when the Clone Troopers, following the contingency “Order 66”, turned on their Jedi leaders and brutally massacred them.  In three short years, the clone troopers had soundly defeated the droid army of the Separatist Movement and largely eradicated the Jedi, earning the respect – and fear – due them as the most dangerous armed force in the galaxy.
     When Chancellor Palpatine transformed the Galactic Republic into the Galactic Empire, he used the Clone Troopers as his first Imperial Stormtroopers.  No longer subject to the orders of commanders who followed the Jedi code, the Imperial Stormtroopers mercilessly crushed anyone that stood in their way.  Worlds that once stood in open revolt against the Galactic Republic were overran by the Stormtroopers.  Based off the genetic template of Jango Fett, and with all the Jedi dead or in exile, the Stormtroopers proved more than a match for any resistance.  For twenty-three years, the Stormtroopers suffered very few large scale defeats.  They switched up cloning templates after having to destroy a batch of rogue Jango Fett clones, and gradually began normal recruiting for Stormtroopers instead of just cloning to replace losses.  These changes in recruitment had some effect on the efficiency of the Stormtroopers, but not nearly enough to warrant the loss of their reputation.
     The embarrassment began for the Stormtroopers when dozens of the Stormtroopers failed to prevent Han Solo, Chewbacca and Luke Skywalker from rescuing Princess Leia Organa fromm the Death Star, where she was being held captive.  Solo, Chewbacca and Skywalker managed to make their way through the Death Star, rescue Leia and escape without injury, and with only the aid of two droids and Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, who lost his life in a confrontation with Darth Vader.  They did battle with a number of Stormtroopers along the way, and thwarted them at every turn.  This would be humiliating except, as Leia herself noted upon their escape, “They let us go.  It was the only reason for the ease of our escape.”  The Princess was not easily fooled.  Grand Moff Tarkin, the highest ranking official on the Death Star, had already surmised that  Leia was a remember of the Rebel Alliance and allowed her to leave so the Empire could track her back to the Rebel base and destroy it.  The Stormtroopers did their job: They herded the rebels through the Death Star and back to their ship so they could lead the Empire to their own doorstep.  This speaks volumes for the discipline, and fanaticism, of the Stormtroopers, knowing that they had to chase the rebels to their ship, while under attack, and without being able to kill them in retaliation.  That the plan ultimately failed and the Death Star was destroyed was no fault of the Stormtroopers at all.
     When next we see the Stormtroopers, it is the cold weather specialized Snowtroopers, battling the Rebel Alliance on the icy planet Hoth.  The Empire sustained minimal losses, due in no small part to the efficiency and discipline of the Snowtroopers.  Indeed, the only notable loss suffered by a Stormtrooper unit did not come twenty-three years after the formation of the Stormtroopers, when they engaged the Rebel Alliance on the forest moon of Endor and, anticipating much smaller numbers in opposition, broke ranks only to be attacked and overwhelmed by the indigenous Ewoks.  The element of surprise going to the Rebels and their furry friends allowed the Rebels to destroy a force shield generator protecting the second Death Star, which was preventing the Rebel fleet in orbit from attacking the Death Star.  Word of the humiliating loss on Endor, combined with the loss of the second Death Star and the deaths of Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader, who were aboard the Death Star, broke much of the psychological hold the Stormtroopers held over the galaxy, and broke morale within the ranks of the Stormtroopers themselves.  This begs the question: does one loss, devastating though it may be, eliminate over two decades of military superiority and dominance, even if it were at the hands of glorified teddy bears?  In this author's opinion, it does not, and the true blame for the failures of the Imperial Stormtroopers lies not with their skills and training, but with the arrogance of their leadership after twenty years of overconfidence fostered by the very domination provided by the Stormtroopers.