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‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ Is a Lesson in Military Opposites

Palpatine may have given the First Order additional strength, but the resulting strife between the theocracy and the military produces the intelligence the Resistance needs to gain some battlefield parity. Both Kylo Ren and Pryde fail spot this developing insider threat, being distracted by the search for Rey and the logistics of organizing the fleet of the Final Order.

For their part, the Resistance needs allies if they’re to succeed at all, but they find help only in small doses. Poe reunites with an old friend, Zorii Bliss, who gets him the means to board Kylo Ren’s star destroyer. Finn and Poe discover a militant group of ex-stormtroopers who live in the Endor system and are willing to assist—which will become a crucial asset in the coming fight. To add to their usefulness, they are mounted on horse-like beasts. The arrival of former Rebel Alliance general Lando Calrissian provides a much-needed morale boost. These minor alliances still can’t offset the massive advantage held by the Final Order, but at least they’re not actively harmful.

Battle Tested

With intelligence gathered from Hux and Rey, the Resistance realizes that they have one shot at taking down the combined Final Order fleet. By destroying a single signal node, they can render the Final Order’s ships unable to maneuver and vulnerable to attack. The Resistance settles on a three-pronged effort: Poe Dameron will lead a starfighter assault to give cover to the second prong, a ground attack force led by Finn with the objective of destroying the Final Order signal node. Lastly, Calrissian and Chewbacca in the Millennium Falcon will venture on a galaxy-wide campaign of public engagement to try to build enough of a follow-on force to capitalize on the success of Task Force Finn.

This plan calls for increased synchronization across all components of the assault force—easy to accomplish given the small size of the element. The starfighters use their maneuverability to fly between the capital ships of the Final Order and keep their guns silent for fear of committing fratricide. This limits the initial combat between starfighters alone, enabling Poe’s fighters to provide air cover for the transports of Task Force Finn.

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General Pryde quickly identifies the Resistance plan, shuts down the signal node, and transfers the source of the signal to his own star destroyer. Due to good communication between Poe and Finn, the transports reroute to the star destroyer and land on its exterior. Pryde, aboard the targeted star destroyer, orders the destruction of this force by targeting their speeders. However, Finn counters with low-tech engagement, sending in his mounted element of ex-stormtroopers in a cavalry charge that rapidly maneuvers to the decisive point. Finn and Jannah—the ex-stormtrooper in charge of the mounted detachment—use explosives to destroy the Final Order signal.

Although this first phase of the operation is successful, Resistance fighters can’t keep an air canopy over the ground force. They’re simply outnumbered by the swarming fighters, sent in as the last order of general Pryde before his bridge explodes. Poe, as Resistance Commander, is resolved to fight to the last. As they all know, this is their last chance. Their own flexible command structure allows them to adapt to changing circumstances.

In a Dunkirk-like moment, the Falcon returns with a fleet of private military frigates and starfighters. Stuck in stasis, unable to maneuver, and with the loss of all of their senior leadership, the Final Order cannot strike back at the coalition fleet. Completely dependent on having someone at the top to give orders, the mighty military force cannot survive after decapitation.

Despite Palpatine’s theocratic intervention—eventually disrupted by Rey and Kylo Ren, now Ben Solo—the Final Order ultimately falls victim to its own size, its rigid command structure, and its inability to maneuver outside their own assembly area.

A Doomed Empire

From the Empire to the First Order to the Final Order, the ideology of control and order has strengthened with every iteration. While it helped all of them become first-class military powers, it gradually decreased the leadership potential found in the organizations. In comparison, the Rebel Alliance and Resistance bred leaders who accepted risk, were daring, formed ingenious plans, and who could react quickly to changing situations. This came at the cost of loose organization, chaotic command climates, and a decentralized military industrial complex.