Any good government should learn from the mistakes and the successes of its forebears: in this case, after the defeat of the Empire, the New Republic should have copied the successes of the Old Republic without copying the mistakes that allowed Palpatine to take control so easily. The Old Republic, mired in controversy and stalemates, was easily manipulatable and powerless to stop its own corrosion, even though it was easily seen by every party involved. When all of the supplementary material for The Force Awakens was launched, I was shocked to see that the story of the New Republic was closely mirroring the story of the Old Republic. Stuck in a stalemate, the New Republic couldn’t decide how to move forward in terms of dealing with a shadowy organization that posed a pretty clear threat to it. I was afraid that we were seeing that the New Republic hadn’t learned the lessons it should have from the Old Republic and might prove itself to be in just as bad a place as the Old Republic. Bloodline seemed to explore the New Republic more critically, from Leia’s point of view, asking: what can a stagnant governing body do? For Leia, the answer was rebel against her own government…again. Which lessons did the New Republic not learn, and fail to learn so disastrously that Leia had to leave that which she helped create? And did their failure to learn these lessons make the New Republic worse from the start?
It may not come as a shock, but the biggest issue to address in the New Republic is its view of the military: what should the role of the military be in the new government? Should it be as large as it was under the Republic? An idealistic Mon Mothma begins demilitarization efforts on Chandrila only a few months after the Battle of Endor! I don’t think that this type of thinking can save the galaxy. Eventually, the fighting must stop and some sort of treaty has to be formed—you can’t kill an ideology just by killing a lot of people (something Leia has learned by 34 ABY). It is my opinion, though, that the New Republic reduced their military far too soon. Remember: this effort started before the Galactic Concordance was signed, so the Imperial Army and Navy was still intact! Between Endor and Jakku, you’ve got at least the four invasions of Naboo, the heavy blockade of the Anoat sector and Kashyyyk, and the continued plight of Ryloth. With these as just a few examples of Imperial aggression, it’s hard to figure out what made Mothma confident in de-escalating the war so early.
Can you actually end a war without fighting an armed opponent? Can one ideology break another by words alone? If not, this wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen the failure of a determined idealist. I think the Old Republic’s involvement in the Death Watch’s takeover of Mandalore should have been a clear lesson to the New Republic: pacifism does not adequately meet the needs of an oppressed people group in wartime. As Satine tried to deal with the rising threat of Death Watch, acting nonviolently, she was silently consenting to the use of violence by her allies from the Republic. Had she truly had a problem with their violence, she would have asked them to bow out. Instead, when push came to shove and Maul, the Death Watch, and the Black Sun came down on Mandalore, she specifically asked for an invasion! What Mothma would have thought of the Duchess is up for debate, but the history of the Republic signals that violence may be the best answer to free certain systems.
The New Republic’s response to the oppression of Kashyyyk proves that idealism quickly turns sour for people presently in trouble. When Han and Chewbacca were working to liberate Kashyyyk from Imperial rule, Mon Mothma was quick to write the system off as inconsequential enough to not waste resources from her dwindling army on. Rather than take action to end violence, Mothma seemed content to sit by and worry about them later, once stability was found on other systems. This is partly due to the fact that Kashyyyk was still tightly under Imperial rule (after having very open access in the months after Yavin), but also because it didn’t have the utilitarian value for the NR that another planet would have. The rebellion built on hope had already become too pragmatic to help the species that might need its help most. Even Twilight Company changed course to save people (though their change of course did change the tide of the war by opening Sullust to the Rebel fleet). And the Old Republic stepped in during the most egregious cases: one remembers Onderon, Mandalore, Geonosis, Mon Cal, and other systems that had problems too big for the local government to handle. The Old Republic had to raise its debt limit and increase the army size to accommodate this change, but it shows some concern for their well-being. The New Republic has a military, but it stands down in the face of present danger! Is it too much to wonder how the New Republic became too useless for half of the Senate, and a lot of the galaxy, so quickly?
It’s easy to point out that the Republic’s colonization efforts both led to its takeover by the Emperor, and subsequently caused all of their systems to be placed under Imperial rule. If the New Republic continued to fight, what would distinguish it from the Empire? Maybe the idealism was misplaced. Maybe the New Republic’s military could be used to end heavy blockades and defend NR controlled space, and let the systems rebuild on their own. But would a treaty have ended the oppression of the Wookiees, or would these extremists have required more aggressive negotiations to remove anyway?
It may be easy, having seen the devastating effects of Starkiller Base, to say that the New Republic could have held on to its military for a bit longer. After several years of war (even if the Rebellion didn’t really begin to openly oppose the Empire until only three or four years before Yavin), it would be easy to think that the galaxy might be tired of constant warfare, and in PR terms, Mothma might have been right to end the war swiftly. But, in contrast to the Old Republic’s initial hesitation in taking action against a secret threat, the New Republic removes its army in the face of a growing and present threat and ignores the people it was sworn to protect! Pacifism and peace are great ideals, but, in my opinion, were adopted far too early. Could a new government, unable and unwilling to help the galaxy’s most oppressed be a better solution than one that would oppress them? Yes, but only slightly.