An Open Letter to the Officers of the First Order Re: Death Star Doctrine

il_340x270.767751302_ps14Note: The following contains spoilers.

An Open Letter To My Fellow Officers of the First Order; Gen Hux et. all.;

I wish to open this letter by acknowledging the difficult month we have shared, collectively, as leaders of the First Order. Most if not all of us reading this memo had close friends and trusted colleagues on Starkiller Base, their loss is a palpable wound.

However, even with the destruction of the Hosnian System and the hated Senate, it is up to us as officers to admit we have, yet again, suffered a defeat at the hands of the Resistance. Morale is at an all-time low. This is why we must be particularly careful not make hasty or foolish decisions without careful consideration of the polices that have led us to this low point in the otherwise glorious history of the First Order.

Which is why when entering a conference room on the leadership deck I was shocked and dismayed to discover a group of high-ranking officers, engineers and financial controllers in the middle of a meeting running over preliminary plans to create something they were calling “Ultimate Super StarKiller Murderbase IV.”


Just stop it. Do you hear me? Stop. It’s time we admit that he First Order, a supposed edification of the Galactic Empire, has problems we can’t Death Star our way out of.

This one is going to be powered by black holes or something and will have a oh dear lord please stop....

This one is going to be powered by black holes or something and dark lord above, enough already….

Do you have any idea the sheer scale of our war-fighting resources directed toward increasing size and complexity high-visibility, concentrated-power destructive bases over the past decades? It’s in the quadrillions. Think of all the ships, troops, manufacturing capability, planning and doctrine we’ve slavishly dedicated to these single-use weapons, and what we have to show for it in return. The Rebellion/Resistance, continues to vaporize them with the banal ease of dispatching mynocks from a garage. Worse, because we have placed so much unearned confidence in these weapons as a panacea to achieving our military goals, we have compromised our ability to fight more traditional conflicts.

I ask you to consider how many Star Destroyers, divisions of At-At mobile assault forces, TIE fighters and Stormtrooper weapon training programs (blaster proficiency is at an all time low, even by Stormtrooper standards) do these bases represent? With the effort and treasure we have dedicated to these failed programs we could by now have blockaded every significant system in the galaxy with capable vessels. We could have bombarded and invaded their capitals at will, or simply bribed them into fealty to Supreme Leader Snoke, All Hail Him, without discharging a blaster. Yet still we continue to build toward this scarcely-utilized capability, throwing our entire organization behind one new giant laser after another while the rest of the force survives on bits and scraps.

To be frank, even if one of these behemoths ever wound up surviving its initial contact with Resistance forces (which one never has) as I have noted elsewhere, their military usefulness is negligible. When one destroys a planet you are denied the entire resource capability of that world forever. Space is big, the number of habitable planets is finite. We just can’t go blowing up the ones with a population we find disagreeable at a particular moment. Despite the political and PR fallout, just from a practical standpoint we would find ourselves running short on the very thing we want to control in the first place, the very building block of a galactic empire: planets. Alderan, for instance, was a pretty nice place. My grandparents kept a villa there and had raised prized dewbacks for generations. Now it’s space rubble. Good luck planting the First Order flag there.

The whole Death Star/Planet Killer concept is vapid. They are ineffective against fleets and smaller on-planet targets such as population centers or military installations. Due to the engineering necessity of large, open spaces at their cores for sufficient venting or to have (as in the case of Starkiller Base), undefended oscillators on their surfaces, they are astonishingly vulnerable to swarms of small, fast, lightly-armed attack vessels. These so-called “super weapons” are instead single-use set pieces, good only for visually displaying just the kind of raw power the First Order stands for, but in practical use they are about as reliable as as fourth-hand droid at a Jawa market.

After a few Antakarian Fire Dancers at any rank-and-file Imperial officers club, when the topic of “Why does the Rebellion keep kicking our asses?” comes up, the first and typically loudest response is some version of the old saw, “Darth Vader’s Son used The Force on us! How are we supposed to defend against that?” The reality, however, comes from the softer, often unspoken voices at the periphery who know that only the first of the successful attacks on our “indestructible” bases were assisted by mystical intervention. At the Battle of Yavin, arguably  the best constructed of the battle stations, The Force was indeed an appreciable factor in its destruction. The others were lost to our own shortsightedness by failing to predict well-established Rebel attack strategy.

I put forth the following argument, at risk of my First Order career and, I realize, my very life at the hands of an enraged Sith, but the values for which we stand transcend my personal concerns. Thus I find myself in the uncomfortable position of speaking aloud what has been whispered in dark corners for too long, and I dearly hope others will openly join me in this realization:

Death Stars are far more useful to the Resistance than they could ever be to us.

When the Rebellion/Resistance finds themselves facing a Death Star-type system they inevitably win both the battle and, on the greater stage, the war. The reason is the same in both cases: Death Star Doctrine warfare plays exclusively to their strengths. Over and over we build massive, slow-moving, highly visible, yet fundamentally indefensible bases. The Rebels/Resistance deploy motley collections of whatever ships and crews they have at hand, making desperate, heroic squadron-based raids one of which inevitably punches through. It’s the same as throwing pebbles at a Wookie skull. Toss enough and one will inevitably land in an eye socket, it’s just simple statistics.

Also they keep getting their hands on the plans. We need to do something about that too.

Also they keep getting their hands on the plans. We need to do something about that too.

Following their victory all credit is given to adherence to “The Light Side” of The Force stoking the superstitions of the Galactic populace from whom they receive financing, support, morale, recruiting and perceived initiative. All they need to do is repeat this cycle every few years or so to keep up the appearances of a viable fighting force.

But stepping back to an orbital view we see the Rebellion and their forebears in the Resistance have only ever had one base with a handful of leaders. Even when Hoth proved conventional, well-led attacks of specialized troops easily sweep their forces aside, we ignore this victory and inexplicably continue to pursue the untenable solution of Death Stars.  Are the vendor relationships within our organization so powerful we will allow them to lead us to defeat after defeat for a few plumbing and thermal-shielding contracts?

The First Order is about removing disorder and restoring stability to ensure progress. I understand why, in the light of our core principles, something like a Death Star/Starkiller seems like a seductive solution. Simply excise the disorder from the galaxy with a single, quite frankly thrilling, giant beam and no more messy impediments to our decretion. But the practical execution of this concept has led us down the path of fatal single-mindedness. Disorder is our enemy, yes, but disorder is the engine of novelty which can be turned against us if we continue to pursue a single course rather than a diverse, calculated military strategy to defeat the Resistance once and for all.

I beg you to consider my plea to divert from this course and shutter the Death Star/Starkiller programs for good.

Yours, Obediently,

Lt. Commander M. Wenchel Gendar


Moff Tarkin School for Strategic Studies

First Order Academy of the Outer Rim


An Imagined Conversation Aboard the Rebel Flagship, Briefing Room

Setting: The Rebel Flasghip, Briefing room a short time after Princess Leia, Lando Calrissian, Chewbacca, Luke and the Droids have returned from Bespin having lost their friend Han to the Bounty Hunter Boba Fett. Also in attendance are fleet officers including Red Squadron Leader, Higgs Bothkey.

Um, yes. I have a comment. Over here. Higgs Bothkey. It’s funny I was just dressing down the pilots a couple of days ago for questioning the orders of superiors. However believe it would amount to a serious dereliction of my duty if I didn’t point out that this plan to save General Solo from Jabba the Hutt seems massively overcomplicated.

Don’t get me wrong, no one wants General Solo back more than I do. He’s a great pilot and an inspiration to the men. I mean, the things he can do with that near derelict ship of his. I’m always telling them, “You guys are supposedly fighter pilots, but look at what he is capable of doing in a freighter. That thing has a kitchenette and he can still fly rings around you!” and then I encourage them to be as bold and aggressive in their maneuvers as he is. Tremendous pilot, General Solo.

And he can microwave snacks for post-battle munchies

And he can microwave snacks for post-battle munchies

We all want him back and it’s an emotional time since the retreat from Hoth, we need solid leadership, but this is no time to go flitting off on some half-baked rescue attempt. We need discipline now more than ever.

My primary issue (maybe I’m missing something?) is I’m just not sure if I get how the rescue is supposed to work as described. There seem to be a lot of moving parts. I’m going back through my notes on the presentation, tell me if I have this right: Two droids are supposed infiltrate the compound by surrendering themselves to this Jabba character. That’s a good idea actually, it’s smart to have some eyes on the ground and it removes the need to risk actual lives. I like that part.

Next we have Mr. Calrissian who will already be inside impersonating a guard. Ok, I’m not sure how that happened, but if you have that figured out then fine. Seems like we’re overdoing it on the infiltrating if we already have the droids there, just some feedback.

The next part is where I get concerned. Princess Leia, disguised as a bounty hunter (again with the infiltrating) is supposed to surrender Chewbacca to Jabba. This provides her access to the palace, and she then locates General Solo and unfreezes him from the carbonite.

This seems absurdly dangerous and frankly unnecessary.  First, Princess Leia is our commander and a member of the Royal Family. Sending her into a palace full of armed criminals alone is absurdly risky and if she were to be captured…well if the holobriefing on this Hutt is correct around how he treats the female members of his entourage, it could lead to a humiliating situation at best. As a member of the Officer’s Council I can’t support this under any circumstances. Second, releasing Solo at this point will leave him weakened and likely blind. This seems absurd considering there will be scant support for the infiltrators at this time. Best to leave him in the carbonite, where he will be safest and the least impediment to rescuers.

Carbonite offers advantages over our previous methods, you must admit

Carbonite offers advantages over our previous methods, you must admit

But that’s not the worst of it. I am even more concerned at the description of the next step: “Commander Skywalker enters the palace using Jedi mind powers.” Look I don’t even know what that means. The Jedi have been gone for a generation and even so, we all remember how badly their thing turned out. Best leave the extinct space wizards out of this.

And is this part out of sequence? Isn’t Commander Skywalker supposed to be bargaining for General Solo’s life? Isn’t this Hutt a businessman? Attempting to bargain after Her Majesty has unfrozen Solo risks having to broker a deal for Solo AND Chewbacca AND Her Majesty if they are captured, correct? Does this not put Commander Skywalker in a much less advantageous position?

Why not have Commander Skywalker go in first, attempt to bargain just for Solo and if Hutt agrees then take him out still in carbonite hibernation? If that fails, then we move to a further stage of the plan.

Speaking of which, I’m sorry, but I graduated first in my Strategic Military Tactical Planning level at the Academy and I still simply can’t make out how this next part as described is supposed to work, exactly. A giant monster gets killed? Something about a slave barge and a “Pit of Sarlacc” if I’m reading that right? The plan is supposed to be that the R2 unit throws Commander Skywalker a lightsaber and….it really seems to trail off from there.

I simply can’t support any of this, honestly. I will of course follow my orders, but please, I’m begging you to reconsider this “plan,” if you can even call it that.

Alternative? An alternative? Yes, I have an alternative: Bombs. Bomb the palace from orbit. Bombard the wampa piss out of it, forgive my language Your Highness. It’s out in the middle of nowhere, there is no risk of collateral damage on that near-deserted sand and gravel pit they have mislabeled as a habitable planet.  After the bombs we then sift through the rubble, find General Solo, toss him up the loading ramp of a shuttle and hit the hyperdrive. Later we unfreeze him on the medical ship under ideal conditions. Bam, boom, done.

They're armed with axes. Yes, axes.

They’re armed with axes. Yes, axes.

There is little risk to injuring General Solo, encased as he is he’s perfectly protected. Alternatively we could combine a targeted aerial strike with a raid, the guards there seem particularly undisciplined. Some combination of aerial bombardment and a decisive commando operation should make short work out of this Jabba, his henchmen and the entire Tatooine criminal syndicate, and good riddance as far as I can tell. I hate to say it, but if the Rebellion every gets our own Death Star we should vaporize that whole bloody system for all the trouble it’s caused…uh…no offense Commander Skywalker.

I know that to many in this briefing we’re talking about Han, your friend with whom you’ve been through many scrapes and adventures. But to us it’s General Solo, a key leader and a vital comrade. We must act rationally, and his current capture and imprisonment is a problem befitting a surgical military operation, not a haphazard swashbuckle with oddly comical undertones.

I bet we could fit a dozen thermal detonators in the R2 unit alone

I bet we could fit a dozen thermal detonators in the R2 unit alone

You know what? We could combine your plan and mine! We could put the bombs inside the droids before they infiltrate! They could then detonate right next to Jabba and then the strike teams could…what? Why are you looking at me like that?


An Imagined Speech from Red Squadron Leader on Hoth, out by the Transports

Hey, guys? Guys, form back up. Get back in formation for a second, OK?

Hobbie, what the Hell was that? Don’t look stupid you know exactly what I’m talking about. The whole, “Two fighters against a Star Destroyer?” outburst in the middle of the the Princesses’ briefing.

Oh, man I could so punch you in the face right now, Hobie. And get a haircut.

Oh, man I could so punch you in the face right now, Hobie. And get a haircut.

It’s not just you, Hobbie, it’s all of you. You guys’ meeting behavior is terrible.

I know it’s a stressful time and the AT-ATs have just blown up the power generators and everything, but we have to deal with this now otherwise it’s just going to get worse and you all know I’m a big believer in dealing with problems as they come up.

So what the fuck was that, Hobbie? What the fuck? Princess Leia is A) my boss, B) all of our boss and C) a member of the royal fucking family. You don’t go interrupting her in the middle of a briefing when she’s trying to evacuate the whole frikin base with some bitchy little comment. You don’t think she has better shit to do than come out here to the hangar and explain how to escort a transport to you idiots?

And it was a stupid question. I know I said there are no stupid questions but that was, actually stupid. You didn’t remember we have a fucking ion cannon? You don’t ever look down during training flights and think, “Hey, shit, I wonder what that giant round ball WITH THE HUGE FUCKING GUN STICKING OF THE MIDDLE OF IT might be?” You don’t assume this piece of surface-to-orbit weaponry will factor into the evacuation somehow? You can’t just wait till the end of the briefing to find out what the whole plan is rather than get all snippy with the goddamned leader of the entire Rebel Alliance?

Does this look familiar to anyone?

Does this look familiar to anyone?

If this wasn’t an emergency she’d have busted you down to Assistant Tauntaun Groom Third Class on the spot and I would have processed the paperwork.

And you know what else, you assholes? This is a military operation not some rich boy flying club on Coruscant. If she tells you or I tell you or anybody of a superior rank tells you to go up against the Executor herself in a first generation Y-Wing with one engine pod and no droid, YOU FUCKING DO IT ion cannon or no. Got me? This is a war, remember?

And I’m so mad right now because this isn’t the first time. You were total dicks to beardguy on Yavin when he was telling us about the Death Star attack he’d figured out. Yeah, it seemed pretty implausible to me at the time too, but you have to admit it fucking worked, right? And you were all, “Two meters is impossible blah, blah, blah” and some fucking farm kid from The Eastern Spiral Arm of a Banta’s Asshole goes out there, has never even been in a dogfight before, and he blows the fucking thing up first shot.

One week later he's showing you how to fly the most advanced fighter we have.

Vroom! One week later he’s kicking all of your asses

Did any one of you remember that considering some piece of shit like a T-Sixteen can bullseye a wamp rat you supposedly highly-trained ostensibly cream-of-the-crop space-pilots in advanced fighters should be able to hit a freaking exhaust port? Did it cross your minds that even though it sounded a little nuts, this was the best option we had considering we were up against a planet ass-fucking Death Star? No?

You did not consider that, apparently. That is why most of the squadron got wiped out. I figured that would knock some sense into your heads, but no. Apparently you cannot learn on your own so I am going to have to tell you.

Ok. Here goes: You want to know why Farm Boy became the hero? Because Farm Boy listened. Farm boy didn’t interrupt when people were talking. He applied his folksy pluck or whatever the hell it is they have out there in the sticks to the problem and blamo! Next thing you know the Princess is hanging a medal the size of a dewback turd around his neck and two days later they announce in the Officer’s Bulletin he’s a fucking Squadron Commander while those of us who have been slaving away for years with you half-wit Gungans are still waiting for a promotion.

Man I’m pissed off right now. Oh yeah. You know what else? This is why some vest-wearing yahoo who hangs around with a Wookiee keeps showing you guys up. In a freighter.In a fucking freighter. Think about that.

You guys are outclassed by a ship with a permanent board game station

You guys are outclassed by a ship with a permanent board game station


Building Gloucester’s hipfrastructure

Good News! Gloucester’s city government along with some other wheeling and/or dealing has saved Cape Pond Ice. This is indeed welcome because it’s going to allow ‘The Coolest Guys in Town’ to  make their evolving business model work better. It must be hella tempting for them to move almost everything but their core fishing related stuff to one of their off-Cape Ann locations. We can only imagine running a bagged ice delivery service from a town with water rates comparable to those on Arrakis from a facility off the end of one peninsula which is itself off of yet another peninsula adds up to something of a pain in the ass.

Like, four people are laughing right now

Like, four people are laughing right now

You’ll hear no snark from us around Cape Pond Ice. What we do want to toss out is a gentle reminder that there is more than one kind of critical infrastructure in Gloucester requiring maintenance. No,  not potholes, complaining about them provides 60% of the content for online message boards thereby generating economic activity in the thriving “yelling at things impotently” sector. And we’re not talking about the natural gas infrastructure which is being panic-replaced every time someone smells a dogfart. We assume the whole town is one carelessly discarded cigarette away from going up like Krakatoa.

does this mean Fiesta is off?

does this mean Fiesta is off?

No, we’re talking about the hipfrastructure. “What is this, you ask?” searching for yet another cloying mollusk-related pun. The hipfrastructure consists of the available resources in any given place to support the other kind of “cool”. The cool that collapses like a quantum waveform when you try and measure it. At some level everyone is cool. We ourselves like to don our navel-high dad jeans, hop in the front seat of the minivan and crank up some Spin Doctors to show the kids just how cool we really are (we are not cool).

For the purposes of this argument we’re going to define ‘cool’ as culturally edgy; pushing boundaries of the artistic, business, service, technology, science and education fields. The people who make those kinds of advances happen to be of a certain stripe that social scientist Richard Florida defined in “The Rise of the Creative Class”, a little dated these days, but then again Gloucester is still waiting for an Indian restaurant so it may not be a bad model for us to examine.

What still holds true from Florida’s premise is this: In the old days the only way most cities and towns could develop economically would be to  to bring in a large employer, usually a factory. That factory would serve as the economic engine, not just for jobs in the plant but ancillary and support businesses along with the eateries and shops and teachers and mechanics to provide services for the employees and each other. In return the company would become patrons of the library and the arts community, they would put benches in the park and build wings on the hospital. This is the ‘economic development’ most of us are used to.

[Aside: we should note that one of the many freaktacular things about Gloucester is that even without a huge monolithic factory the insane level to which the existing business and individuals here support the city and its people (especially kids). Just look at any public space in town and just see the number of plaques, engraved bricks, memorial benches and ‘thank you’ boards and you get the idea. IT’S AMAZING!!]

In the new way, it’s backwards. You build the cool shit first: You have to have a great library, a thriving arts community, good education, groovy restaurants and bars, decent health care and things like farmer’s markets, yoga studios and festivals. Because you have this amazing stuff people want to be a part of your city and then they themselves decide to open business and live there. Cool people are like geese, they like to cluster together but without all the poop (hopefully).

You wind up with a lot of smaller but more cutting-edge outfits,  providing diversity and making you less vulnerable to the cycles and crashes of any particular industry. All this from starting out with a few groovy cafes, a brew pub, an organic grocer, a bike store and some interesting art happenings. Amazingly this leads to Internet startups, independent graphic design firms and 3D printing labs.

This very thing happened in another industrial city that had fallen on hard times but was full of interesting people who loved the shit out of it. And now Portland Oregon is one of the most dynamic cities in the country, responsible to two things we could not exist without: The Leatherman Tool and The Decemberists . No more need be said.

A quick thought experiment:

Knowing all this, imagine the City of Gloucester could dedicate 500 large to stimulate economic development in town. Would it be better to: A) build a manufacturing facility that mass produces those novelty plastic helmets that hold two cans of beer with associated tubing, or B) Turn Empire on Main Street into an outfit called ‘Tandori Tattoo and Terrarium”, a combination Indian restaurant, body art studio and emporium featuring those tiny little trees and plants in jars.

there is also a toad who drinks PBR

there is also a toad who drinks PBR

We all know what the manufactory brings: jobs, taxes, some other economic activity generated around their industry and employees and that is all good. You won’t hear us complaining about that.

But assuming the T^3 place employs the same number of folks HOW MUCH MORE AWESOME WOULD THIS BE?. And the biggest point of difference from the tailgate-helmet place is this: People will talk about it. They won’t shut up, in fact, because it would be amazeballs and folks will share pictures and reviews of it on Instagram and FaceBook followed with pictures of their weeners on SnapChat because that’s what people do. The Internet is weird.

And it won’t just be once. Every time someone asks, “Dude, where did you get that sick ink of Shiva holding a Bonsai tree?” It will make people want to check it out. Folks with no previous association to Gloucester will show up, walk around, see all the other cool things going on in town, much of it already here, and think, “You know what? This might be just the place for my combination taxidermy museum and robot makerspace”. And so it goes.

So, you may think that this leads to just having a bunch of annoying artsy types mincing around and there is little benefit to that unless you sell clove cigarettes and vintage lunchboxes. Here is the magic that Portland figured out: Larger companies look for cool places to locate because that’s where they can attract the most cutting-edge workers. You can’t staff any modern industry without employees who are versed in technology and the best kind of people for a 21st century enterprise are those who are creative and independent in the way they think. You only find these people clustered together in places with hipfrastructure. The  hipsters themselves are simply a sign your hip ecology is healthy, like seeing frogs in a pond or something. Frogs with moustaches. Playing banjos. You get the idea.

more horrifying than the Sting pic? Discuss

more horrifying than the Sting pic? Discuss

So the lesson is that in ice as in life, cool matters and we should support both.

Also: Natural gas lines. Fix that shit now. Holy crap, people we’re all going to die.