WAR DURING SPACE TIME

The Star Wars: Battlefront series is not that different from other shooters. You can pick between different classes, you capture control points, and you shoot soldiers fighting for the opposite side. Also sometimes someone with a lightsaber shows up and really slices folks up. What follows is a bunch of haphazard assuming about the Star Wars Universe and how the events in the game Star Wars: Battlefront could happen. I have not read any Star Wars books (they aren’t canon now anyways) and the last time I watched any of the films was when I saw this.

The law of armed conflict is pretty straightforward in most areas. So first I would like to examine the actions of the Empire and the Rebels as entities fighting each other in the Galactic Civil War. The Rebels rose up against the Empire. This started the Galactic Civil War. The Empire is well within its rights under the UN Charter to react to this aggression. But Star Wars took place a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. They definitely don’t have the UN Charter that we follow today. No one seems to talk about the Empire unfairly attacking the Rebels, they are, after all staging an uprising. It seems reasonable to believe if anyone broke any laws it would be the Rebels for starting an insurrection. It doesn’t make sense for an armed rebellion to be legal in any government system. So though the Empire may look bad, they are legally in the right when they attack the Rebels. They can try to stop an uprising.

A soldier checking out the Death Star's laser
A soldier checking out the Death Star’s laser

The use of the Death Star on the other hand seems to be a bit much. One of the guiding principles in armed conflict is proportionality. This is a balancing test where you risk the excessive civilian casualties, destruction, and loss of life against the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated. The Death Star destroys entire planets. Unless you have a planet that is just used for military reasons and is only occupied by soldiers there are going to be a lot of civilian casualties. When the Empire used the Death Star to blow up Alderaan they did it to set an example. The military advantage of having people scared of your giant laser machine does not outweigh the amount of destruction and civilian casualties caused by this use of the Death Star. This means proportionality is not a factor when deciding how to attack. This is clear when you look at other parts of the movies and Star Wars: Battlefront. On one level of the game you fight on Mos Eisley and Jawas are wandering around the map. They are harmless and fight for no team. No matter what side you are on you can just shoot them and face no consequences. Civilian deaths are simply a part of war in Star Wars. No one is thinking about what might happen to people that are not a part of either army.

War could have been different before the Galactic Civil War. The Empire came from the Galactic Senate giving power to the Emperor. He in turn took complete control. It is reasonable to believe that when the Galactic Senate was still in power there were laws on the books restricting when planets could attack each other and what would be legal during those actions. Each planet had its own customs and different types of life. They all balanced their interests in the Galactic Senate so they could live together in harmony. It is also reasonable to guess that these laws disappeared after the Emperor spread a police force of storm troopers across the universe. Planets are no longer engaging in skirmishes because they do not have the power to overcome the Empire’s vast power. The Emperor just forced peace onto everyone by making it impossible for anyone to fight each other. There may still be laws on the books stating that planets cannot attack each other, but the implementation now is just oppressive peace.

Armor that is just as effective as storm trooper armor
Armor that is just as effective as storm trooper armor

When you play Star Wars: Battlefront you can play as either the Rebels or the Empire. The Rebels wear vests, hats, and other gear that they seemed to have lying around. The Empire uses storm troopers wearing battle armor and helmets that cover their faces. Both of these offer the same amount of protection from the weapons being used by either side. The bulky, eyesight limiting armor that the storm troopers wear does not seem to give them any more protection than guys wearing whatever they thought looked fashionable to go have a war in. Could a storm trooper sue the Empire for saddling him with equipment that is useless at best and highly detrimental to his fighting ability at worst? Probably not. There are many reasons for this. One, the Empire has a ton of power. It can get the best lawyers in the galaxy and have them fight on its behalf. The lone storm trooper doesn’t have nearly enough power to fight back. He could team up with other storm troopers to create a class action law suit, but that would still be very burdensome and would take years to accomplish. This is still his best option. But if a storm trooper does bring a case forward it is highly possible that the Empire has immunity and cannot be sued by its citizens, and especially cannot be sued by its soldiers. The United States makes it nearly impossible for soldiers to sue the military for injury, and the Empire would probably have the same system in place for protection. The United Kingdom has actually implemented rules so that commanding officers or the military itself can be sued for sending soldiers out with faulty equipment, but in the Galactic Civil War every single storm trooper is wearing this bad armor. This isn’t just one company having a bad rifle, this is an army wide fault. Finally, there is the cop out answer; the possibility that the Empire has all the judges in the galaxy on the take. If the Empire is so big and bad it is reasonable to believe that all of the judicial system has been compromised. Or maybe the Emperor hears all big cases himself in some sort of system where he himself is the supreme court, and if that is the case then the storm troopers are out of luck again. So in all likelihood, the Empire cannot be sued because it has immunity, or it will not lose a lawsuit because it owns the legal system.

There are many other issues to look into with the law of armed conflict, and I could do some more analysis of that quickly mentioned and then dismissed class action, but I don’t want you here all day. What matters is that war was a lot more brutal a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Everyone was at risk if a war broke out, and soldier couldn’t even depend on their equipment working. That was the world they all lived in. That is a fact.

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