Star Wars as a libertarian/neoconservative parable

Despite lackluster critical reception for its most recent iterations, Star Wars remains a perennial pop culture phenomenon of our age. Star Wars' endless dissection by various pundits is testimony to its enduring influence. e-hadj already documented how the trilogy was interpreted as advocating an authoritarian, Empire-esque government by a Weekly Standard writer. The controversial racist undertones present in Episode I and to lesser extent the rest of the series has also been covered in various other nodes. A writer at read Star Wars as an elitist, Nietzschian "superman" fable to Star Trek's egalitarian, cooperative crew adventure.

While these various interpretations are of varying weight, one interpretation that does bear a surprising amount of critical investigation is the neoconservative Star Wars. This particular reading of the series in general, and AoTC in particular, makes Chancellor Palpatine an Abraham Lincoln character, who unjustly consolidates state power in response to the red herring of a separatist threat.

Indeed, the parallels are startling. Both Palpatine and Lincoln assumed "emergency powers." (Suspension of habeus corpus, anyone?) Both Palpatine and Lincoln were granted such powers because of "separatists." And most chillingly, both Palpatine and Lincoln formed what they both called a "Grand Army of the Republic," creating standing armies.

The difference, of course, is that Lincoln saved the Union and freed slaves while Palpatine is at least indirectly responsible for blowing up a planet, not to mention a whole host of other nastiness. To neocons, however, Lincoln represents the point at which the American republic became a bureaucratic, authoritarian regime with the Federal government exercising far too much power over local sovereignty.

It would be difficult to argue that George Lucas disagrees with them. Given the unnerving parallels between AoTC and American Civil War history, it is no wonder that Lucas has been hailed in neocon circles as a modern-day Aesop.

The most convincing case for Lucas not being a political nut would probably refer to the commonly-held theory in Star Wars fan circles that the saga is a retelling of pre-WWII German history, with a Chancellor (Palpatine/Hitler) seizing the reins of the Republic. Any similarities between Star Wars and Civil War history are simply incidental to the true historical inspirations. This argument is only partially successful, as Hitler never had to deal with any separatists (in any case, separatists were not the major threat to the state as they were in The Civil War), and he certainly did not create a "Grand Army of the Republic."

As one contributor to neoconservative website put it: "Senator Palpatine, meet President Lincoln."