“History is not just about which battle took place on what day. On top of what happened, it also seeks to understand why these events unfolded as they did. On top of collecting historical data, it involves explaining the past.
To do so, it investigates why certain deeds had the consequences that they had. And this — the study of the results of different decisions in different contexts— places the study of history in the very center of our daily lives. For, if there is one thing we all have reasons to be interested in, it is why our acts give rise to the sequence of follow-up reactions that they cause.
Understanding the motivations and upshot of human behavior is no easy task…
we need to think about how larger contexts impinge on the impact of behavior.
Doing so will improve our understanding of why things happen as they do, without having to undergo the events ourselves. We gain practical knowledge, ‘for free’.
Studying history, then, helps in acquiring a solid trunk for our knowledge-tree of life…”
The immediate reaction is that if I as an officer can and will only suffer an excursion into the realms of history under the prod of promotion, how can our subordinates be persuaded to indulge? I believe that if we look back after the smoke and fog of the examination battle has cleared we will admit that our studies weren’t really that difficult and in some instances to our amazement our military history texts were fascinating and illuminating. I recall that when I was studying for a set of examinations in Wainwright in 1957 I put off reading Chester Wilmot’s Struggle For Europe time and again because it appeared at a glance to be such heavy going, until I could delay no longer Military History was to be written the next day. I forced myself page by page into the maze until suddenly I was caught up by the spirit and enthusiasm of the author. I read all night, completely fascinated, berating myself for having neglected such a magnificent treatise for so long. I suspect that the reluctance I did played in my studies is not uncommon. It was probably built up over the years by listening to unhappy examination aspirants and by reading a few obtuse texts on compulsory reading programmes. This reluctance to pursue the study of military history is understandable but will not bear up under exposure to the enlightened reading list available to any of us today.
“A gap has opened between the study of history and the construction of theory, both of which are needed if ends are to be aligned with means. Historians, knowing that their field rewards specialized research, tend to avoid the generalizations upon which theories depend: they thereby deny complexity the simplicities that guide us through it. Theorists, keen to be seen as social “scientists,” seek “reproducibility” in results: that replaces complexity with simplicity in the pursuit of predictability. Both communities neglect relationships between the general and the particular—between universal and local knowledge—that nurture strategic thinking. And both, as if to add opacity to this insufficiency, too often write badly.”
1. There is a cumulative value to investing small amounts of time in self-study over a long period of time
2. Neglect also has a cumulative effect
3. You cannot make up for lost time
*SPOILERS* Don’t read any further if you haven’t seen the movie. I mean it – Go see the movie first.
If you are reading this sentence then I am assuming that you know that Luke died, Leia sort of died, Snoke died, Phasma died (WTF!), Ackbar died (Seriously WTF!) the galaxy is ruled by a whiny, petulant, and incompetent child (actually, that *is* pretty scary), The Finn is now a character straight out of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid, the fate of the Rebelistance is on the shoulders of a Mary Sue who was sand-sledding a few weeks before (and she probably needs to wash), and in that time the Jedi have developed unbelievably new force powers that even the Jedi at the height of their training and scholarship didn’t have.
But at least we still have Poe, Rose, DJ, BB-8, and hopefully a few more from the Rebelistance survivors to carry the series forward (I kinda liked that A-Wing pilot too. I can’t remember her name though). But no decent Imperial characters are left alive except Ren, and he’s problematic.
But for some reason, the movie worked for me, even the second time when I knew what was going to happen. It was a fun movie even if it had issues. Like I said before, it’s no Rogue One. Rogue One with a John Williams score would be in my top five favorite movies of all time. But alas, we got John Williams-lite. There are three types of Star Wars Fans: Lightsaber fans, Blaster fans, and Turbo Laser fans. I am the latter. I love Star Wars’ space battles, and it’s going to take a long time for me to forgive Disney for what they did to Ackbar. And I love a good blaster fight as long as they get in their ships at the end. The Force is just a Deus Ex Machina for lazy writers and ruined The Extended Universe for me in the mid-2000s. And well, that’s what’s looking to happen with Star Wars after seeing The Last Jedi.
So let’s get what I didn’t like out of the way. The biggest problem with the The Last Jedi is the Force. I don’t care what the Force can do, but it has to be consistent. Consistency is key. Consistency leads directly to integrity, and without integrity there might as well be nothing. The Force has to follow the in-universe rules of its existence, and anything new has to retroactively fit. If it doesn’t the franchise dies. The Terminator franchise died because the time travel didn’t follow the in-universe rules established in the first and second films. If a plot device has no integrity, then there is no tension, because the audience will subconsciously say, “The writers will just add a new Force power. They’ve done it before”. The Last Jedi made this mistake twice. Once with Dead Yoda affecting the real world (which has never happened before even in the wildest fever dreams of the EU writers). And the next was with the Jedi telepathic/telekinesis/Force holes (which has also never happened before).
First, Dead Yoda lit the tree on fire. No Dead Jedi has ever affected the “real world” with anything except words before. We know the Dead Jedi are always watching. So if they can affect the real world (“world” as in universe created by George Lucas), why didn’t Dead Obi lightning the Death Star’s exhaust port in the original Star Wars? Or Dead Qui Gon come back and lightning Jar Jar before he fucked the galaxy? There’s a thousand examples over the previous seven movies when the Dead Jedi could have affected the world as Yoda did with that tree. Why didn’t they? At least it can possibly be explained away by saying Yoda forced (Ha!) Luke to channel the lightning without his consent. But again, no dead Jedi, or even a live one, has ever forced another Jedi to use the Force against his or her will before. That’d be “Force Rape”, wouldn’t it?
The bigger Force inconsistency in The Last Jedi were the telepathic/telekinesis/force induced worm holes. That’s never happened before. It was hinted at between Leia and Luke, and Luke and Vader in Empire, but until the big reveal that Leia was force sensitive, it was a liability and required proximity. In TLJ it’s plot centric and they have entire conversations. So why didn’t the Jedi use it before this? Was the power only learned from the ancient texts in the tree, that Rey never read? Surely Yoda and Sam Jackson knew about it when the Jedi for all intents and purposes ruled the galaxy? So why wasn’t it used when Order 66 was executed, when a simple “Beware” to the Jedi would have saved them? Or during the Clone War? The communication aspects alone would have made it a game changer: A person to person instantaneous communication system that doesn’t rely on connecting infrastructure or line of sight? And we know from the water on Ren’s hand that physical objects can be transported. That’s a whole other dimension to warfare. The Jedi could have formed an agile command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, information, surveillance, reconnaissance, targeting, and force (C4I2SRTF…) architecture and infrastructure that would be exponentially more powerful than a bunch of warriors wielding laser swords. The Separatists could never have competed. That’s the very definition of a Revolution in Military Affairs. Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time did it with Tel’aran’rhiod but it had to at least follow its own logic. If Fake Luke could touch Real Leia, and Real Rey could touch Real Ren, why can’t Real Ren touch Fake Luke or Real Luke? The best Fantasy and Science Fiction follow their own internal logic, as whacked as it may be. The Last Jedi did not.
OK, enough about Hokey Religions, let’s talk about what Star Wars was always about, characters and relationships. As I alluded to in the beginning, most of the main characters at worst suck, or are irritating at best.
Rey is the very definition of a “Mary Sue”. If you don’t know, a “Mary Sue” is an annoying literary trope where a lead female character is perfect in every way, surpasses the other main characters in every way, is beloved by all who see her, and has no flaws that are not endearing. Rey is a better pilot than Poe, a better Jedi than Luke, a better shot than Han, a better gunner than Finn, a better swordsman than Vader, etc etc. And she learned this all in a week or so. She hasn’t even had time to change from what she was wearing as a slave, scavenging wrecked star destroyers on Jakku. Luke might have been a whiny bitch that almost put a lightsaber blade through his eye the first time he was given one, but he was just a moisture farmer and bush pilot. He was relatable. How could Rey learn to fly when she scavenged all day for a cinnabun? Take a shower, Wish Fulfillment.
The rest of the characters aren’t nearly as bad, though some were wasted. Phasma most of all. She could have been The New Boba Fett. But she’s like the last remaining stormtrooper from the original trilogy who were always getting knocked out, beaten up by teddy bears, or not hitting anything. I’d be pissed if I was Brienne. She was to the First Order what Finn was to the Rebelistance. I do not like the direction Finn is headed. He fucks up everything he touches. He’s like a TV dad with few redeeming characteristics. In Force Awakens, he was a great gunner, had intimate knowledge of the First Order, and tried to take care of Rey, even if she didn’t need it (I still consider that a positive, it’s the Romantic in me). In The Last Jedi he was a bumbling fool just along for the ride, literally. He contributed nothing after the first few minutes after waking up. He has been demoted to sidekick.
At least he was a sidekick to Rose, one of the better newly introduced main characters. Like I said before, I have a soft spot for supporters rising to the occasion. Too bad the occasion she rose to (Ha!) meant absolutely nothing. I mean, the trip to Monaco allowed Hollywood to get some preaching in. It’s 2017, I get it. When Hollywood isn’t raping itself, it’s virtue signaling, and you aren’t going to get a good rating on entertainment’s worst monopoly, the Tomato Meter, without some virtue signaling. But Finn and Rose’s mission was absolutely meaningless. Unless of course, it was meant to introduce some new tension in the form of a Twilight-Style love triangle. If it did then consider me on TeamRose (You heard it here first). TeamMarySue can suck it.
But again, their mission, though exciting, was a waste. In fact if it wasn’t for BB-8, who did all the actual work, and DJ’s magically convenient appearance, they’d still be rotting in jail waiting to be rescued, or frozen in carbonite hung up as a decoration to cover a hole in a casino wall. Actually, that would be awesome and make a great transition to the next movie, just like Empire and Jedi. And they would have accomplished more in the plot.
So I might be on TeamRose, but I also have a soft spot for magenta based short haired women, especially when they know how to handle a squadron of star cruisers. I was furious when my main Mon Calamari, Admiral Ackbar, died in the same explosion that caused Leia to go Michaelangelo. (Seriously, Disney, you did Ackbar wrong) But he was quickly replaced with Amiliyn Haldo. For a fleeting moment Vice Admiral Amilyn Haldo replaced Princess Leia as my favorite female character in the Star Wars franchise. I’ll be in ma bunk. Then she immediately went toxic and incompetent, even if she did have the baddest-ass scene in the movie (I wonder why no one thought of that for the Death Stars?). What a waste.
Poe said, “So what’s the plan”? And she didn’t tell him. “Do what you’re told and like it, peasant”. (That’s my exact quote that I said out loud at that moment). This isn’t the Empire, this isn’t the First Order. This isn’t a division headquarters or the State Department. This is the Rebelistance. This is the Republic. We have Flat Organizations. There was absolutely no reason Haldo shouldn’t have told Poe the plan. He deserved to know. Hell, the whole crew deserved to know. A simple, “Thanks for asking Poe, but I was just about to brief the crew. Please take a seat. Attention everyone. This is Vice Admiral Yummy Hot. We are going to fuel up these small transports that are magically equipped with super rare cloaking devices, and escape to a secret hideout on a nearby planet that doesn’t show up on anyone’s scanner. (*eyeroll*) When we are safely away, the First Order will destroy this ship and assume we are dead. Then we will rebuild.” And Poe will say, “Thanks, ma’am. Great plan; I’m proud to be a part of it. I was wondering when we were going to use these cloaking devices. Need me to do anything? No? Mind if I buy you a drink while we wait?” *They adjourn to the bar* Now, admittedly Rose would then just be the foil to prevent Finn’s plan to escape. But we would still have our Twillight-style love triangle when Poe and Finn try to out complement each other in front of Haldo at the bar. In that case, consider me TeamPoe.
But all we got were four of the five most interesting new characters in the franchise acting like morons with no effect on the plot at all. Their shenanigans did introduce us to Benicio Del Toro’s DJ. Can’t wait to see him in the next one. Is he a Lando or a Boba Fett? Only time can tell. Speaking of time, how about Snoke? Ha! That was a quick reign… what a waste. I’m still saying he was the whiny kid from Star Wars Rebels all growed up. At least Kylo Ren had a semblance of a character arc.
Thank God Ren ditched the helmet. (Oh, did you catch the references to Baby Jesus in this movie? That’s never happened before either) I hated his helmet. And getting rid of it alone saved him in my eyes. I might have bitched before about the fact that the new Jedi telepathy exists, but the actual content of the conversations was great acting and writing. And Rey and Ren had the best lightsaber battle in the franchise. I honestly wanted more Crimson Guard to burst into the room just so the fight wouldn’t end. And now he’s the supreme leader of the First Order. Kylo Ren is a suitable villain for this generation: An evil spoiled child with delusions of grandeur and wielder of a nearly unlimited power who has no leadership or teambuilding experience and has to rule through brute force, coercion, and intimidation. I think I might dig up the cache of blasters in my back yard and join the Rebelistance myself.
Just about everything else I really liked. BB-8 is a great character and a Hero of the Republic. Chewie stole every scene he was in but I still think he should have eaten the Cornish hen. Chewie rips people’s arms off! Screw your plush doll. Rawwwwrrrr! Leia were awesome and Carrie swirled the dust in the room. Mark Hamill did the best he could with the stupid direction Luke was headed, but that’s more a criticism for Force Awakens. They’re going to be missed. Great space battle in the beginning, Hollywood is obviously setting us up for the Eighth Air Force miniseries. I loved that the Cruiser was named after the admiral in Rogue One. I loved Maz’ extended cameo. I really thought she was talking about Chewie though. That would have been awesome. All of the other supporting characters were great and I really hope some of them get bigger parts in the next movie.
Now it may seem like I didn’t like the movie, but I am a bitter and cynical old man hardened and numbed by decades of After Action Reviews where my every action was a disaster mitigated only by the cross talk of my junior leaders and NCOs. Pointing out the negative is all I know how to do. If you got a “good job” from me you probably more than deserved it. I am not going to tell you why you did a good job because I’ve learned I probably don’t understand why anyway, and to be honest I don’t really care. I’m just glad you did a good job. So, that being said.
Good job, Disney. I’ll probably see it again tomorrow
“The Army University Press is pleased to publish “Learning From Our Military History: The United States Army, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and the Potential for Operational Art and Thinking”, another book in The Art of War Series.
LTC Aaron Kaufman examines how the US Army was successful in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He notes that some tactical organizations, companies included, learned and adapted, whereas others accomplished little and made the environment worse.
The interviews conducted and personal reflections
confirmed that a deeper and more historical understanding is required. He concludes that OIF demonstrated the need for operational art and thinking, particularly in commanders of relatively junior rank. This work offers an explanation on how we learned and adapted in OIF, not for the purposes of a definitive military history, but only as an intellectual way point that may lead us to useful military history for the future of the Army.”
“As British historian Paul Johnson wrote, ‘The study of history is a powerful antidote to contemporary arrogance. It is humbling to discover how many of our glib assumptions, which have been to us novel and plausible, have been tested before, not once but many times and in innumerable guises; and discovered to be, at great human cost, wholly false.’