Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Clone Wars: Galactic Balance of Power after Savage Opress (SPOILERS)


We hardly have any time for the dust to settle after the Savage Opress/Nightsisters Trilogy before kicking off the "Chosen One" Prophecy focused Mortis Trilogy.  But before we talk about Mortis and what it means for the way we view the prophecy and the Force, we should take a step back and consider the secrets that were revealed by Mother Talzin in this weeks Clone Wars episode, "Witches of the Mist."

At the conclusion of Witches of the Mist, Savage Opress returns to Dathomir and seeks the protection and advise of the Nightsisters and Mother Talzin.  Talzin unloads a bombshell on Savage, that he has a remaining kin member, the presumed dead Sith Apprentice Darth Maul. Talzin gives Opress a magic talisman to help locate Darth Maul and tells Opress; "He lives in the Outer Rim in Exile, You will find him, he will teach you everything you need to learn to be even more powerful....You have an important destiny to fulfill Savage Opress, you and your brother."

How does the introduction of Mother Talzin and her own unclear ambitions, and the teaming up of Savage Opress and Darth Maul effect the political landscape of the Galaxy Far Far Away during the Clone Wars.  A brief summary of some real world International Relations concepts may come in handy in explaining where The Clone Wars could go from here.

Balance of power, in international relations, the posture and policy of a nation or group of nations protecting itself against another nation or group of nations by matching its power against the power of the other side. States can pursue a policy of balance of power in two ways: by increasing their own power, as when engaging in an armaments race or in the competitive acquisition of territory; or by adding to their own power that of other states, as when embarking upon a policy of alliances.

Source: Encyclopedia

Bipolarity is a distribution of power in which two states have the majority of economic, military, and cultural influence internationally or regionally. Often, spheres of influence would develop. For example, in the Cold War, most Western and democratic states would fall under the influence of the USA, while most Communist states would fall under the influence of the USSR. After this, the two powers will normally maneuver for the support of the unclaimed areas.

The bipolar system can be said to extend to much larger systems, such as alliances or organizations, which would not be considered nation-states, but would still have power concentrated in two primary groups.

Multipolarity is a distribution of power in which more than two nation-states have nearly equal amounts of military, cultural, and economic influence....This system tends to have many shifting alliances until one of two things happens. Either a balance of power is struck, and neither side wants to attack the other, or one side will attack the other because it either fears the potential of the new alliance, or it feels that it can defeat the other side. One of the major implications of an international system with any number of poles, including a multipolar system, is that international decisions will often be made for strategic reasons to maintain a balance of power rather than out of ideological or historical reasons.

Nonpolarity is an international system with numerous centers of power but no center dominates any other centre. Centers of power can be nation-states, corporations, non-governmental organizations, terrorist groups, and such. Power is found in many hands and many places.[7]
Source: Wikipedia: Polarity in International Relations

The Bipolar Universe 

The Clone Wars era presents the galaxy with to major centers of galactic power, one centered on Coruscant under the Galactic Republic, and the other centered on the planet Raxus with the Separatist Senate under the banner of the Confederacy of Independent Systems (CIS) also known as the Separatists. 

As fans of the Prequel films we know that this bipolarity is artificial, created by Chancellor Palpatine/Darth Sidious in order to further his ambitions to seize power, destroy the Jedi and build up a military machine that would enable him to transform the Republic into and Empire and rule it with an iron fist. 

While the relative position of the Republic and Confederacy shifts back and forth during the wars as the result of different battles, alliances, and secessions, there is a relative balance of power between the two states.  This balance of power allows for Palpatine to continue the war indefinitely until he is ready to move his plan into the final stage with Order 66. 

The galactic civil war serves a number of purposes for Palpatine, not only does it instill fear in beings across the galaxy and make them more amenable to the peace and security that his New Order will promise, but it also gives Palpatine a incredibly large military to use to enforce his New Order, and most importantly severely weakens the Jedi Order and its ability to interfere with his plans. 

The Clone Wars themselves are tremendously destructive on the Jedi Order, not only do you have the attrition of death among Jedi, but you have abbreviated training for Padawans, increased militarization of the order and increased propensity for dark side acts among the Jedi.  The Jedi not only loose some of their moral authority with the general public, they loose their internal moral compass as they try to save the Republic, making very questionable decisions and taking equally questionable actions to do so.

Force Users, The WMD of the GFFA?

In the real world, the presence of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) can provide nation-states or non-state actors with a disproportionate amount of importance in the international system.  WMDs provide a threat to that is hard for other states to counter.  In the Star Wars universe not only do you have traditional WMDs (usually bio or chemical weapons) but you also have groups and individual Force users that can pose a similar threat to governments and individuals as WMDs pose in the real world. 

The threat that these individuals and groups can pose can be seen in the Expanded Universe (EU) by the extent to which during the Empire that Emperor Palpatine seeks to eliminate, co-opt, or quarantine such individuals and groups.  These Force users uncontrolled provided not only a potential place for Jedi to grow/emerge, but also in their own right as powerful as they were served as a threat to the Empire. 

How Savage Opress & Darth Maul could unbalance the galaxy

"A failed apprentice makes for a foolish master." ~Count Dooku

Assuming Mother Talzin was not lying to Savage Opress and sending him off on a wild bantha chase, then we have a very interesting situation developing in The Clone Wars.

The apprenticing of Opress to Maul provides two very interesting opportunities.  First, a second branch of the Sith family tree.  This could lead to Opress and Maul staying in hiding and biding their time until later in the Clone Wars series or even later into the EU or Live Action Series, much like the One Sith did under the leadership of Darth Kryat. 

The second possibility is that Opress and Maul could emerge sooner rather then later and enter the fray of The Clone Wars on neither the Republic nor the Separatists side.  The potential to add a third faction to this galactic conflict, with the Nightsisters or others as allies provides for some very interesting directions for storytelling.  We could even see a storyline where Republic and Separtist forces team up to oppose Maul's faction. 

What would be the objectives of the Maul-Opress faction?  To further destabilize the galaxy further and usurp potential galactic power from Palpatine seems like the most obvious and grand objectives.  On a lesser level, there may be some personal sense of revenge from Maul against Obi-Wan Kenobi for maiming him, or for Maul against Palpatine for failing to come looking for him and assuming him dead following the duel on Naboo.  

Just how much of his master's plan was Maul aware of before his bisection? We don't know but its pretty clear Palpatine played his cards pretty close to the vest.  But a true Sith apprentice is full of ambition and will seek to overtake his master.  Maul's injury may have prevented or delayed this urge, but it may not prevent it forever.

A living Darth Maul also brings up the debate about midi-chlorians and to what degree the loss of body parts reduces a Force users abilities.   Perhaps one of the reasons Darth Maul has remained in hiding, is that after his injuries he knows that he will never be able to challenge Palpatine directly because of his disadvantage in the Force.  Maul could be waiting for the perfect apprentice that he can use as a proxy to attempt to take over the galaxy.  His brother, whose familial connections he may be able to use to retain a dominant position over Opress could provide the perfect tool for Maul's envisioned rise to power.  Perhaps Maul and Talzin already have an alliance of sorts, and Talzin's machinations where to create an apprentice suitable for Maul all along, her goal was never to aid Ventress in seeking revenge, to aide Dooku in his goals, or even her own personal ambitions, but to further an alliance with Maul.

Whatever the case maybe with the direction that the Maul-Opress storyline may take, its clear that it will have a destabilizing effect on the balance of power in the galaxy and could pose a threat to both the Republic and the Separatists as these to powerful Zabrak Sith team up. 

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