The Real Tragedy of Rogue One
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story tells of the mission by the Rebel Alliance to steal the plans for the Death Star that sets up the events of the beloved 1977 movie Star Wars. Unlike may of the Star Wars films, this one was less a space fantasy and instead told a darker war story set in the galaxy far, far away. Disney opted to go with the writer’s and director’s vision of a desperate suicide mission that resulted in all the main characters of the story dying in their successful attempt to retrieve the Death Star plans. The movie didn’t end with an award ceremony or galaxy wide dance party. Instead it ended in multiple tragedies that ultimately granted the Rebellion a New Hope.
The real tragedy, however, of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story happened off the screen and is told in various Star Wars novels and other movies. The novelization of Rogue One reveals that Rebel leader Mon Mothma had worked for years in the Senate, building a coalition that would pass legislation to demilitarize The Empire. The Republic had built up its military to fight the Clone Wars, but that ended decades earlier. Mon Mothma’s plan was to use Galen Erso’s testimony about the Death Star as the catalyst for bringing the demilitarization bill to the floor. Having been integral to the creation of the Death Star super weapon, Erso’s testimony would have been convincing to worlds that were unaware of the Emperor’s secret project. Besides Death Stars, the Empire had a fleet of tens of thousands of Star Destroyers and fighters. Mon Mothma didn’t want to defeat one weapon, she wanted to scrap all of them.
As seen in the movie, a military intelligence leader, General Draven, decided to take a different approach. Rather than capture Galen Erso, Draven ordered his subordinates to assassinate Galen Erso. When his first attempt to do this through agent Cassian Andor looked like it had failed, Draven sent in fighter squadron to finish the job. They were successful in bombing and killing Erso, along with the whole lab where he did his work. This action undermined and destroyed Mon Mothma’s plans for demilitarization. Without Galen Erso’s testimony, she knew she didn’t have a chance and that open warfare was the only possible path. And while the two Death Stars were ultimately destroyed, the Imperial Fleet survived in its thousands strong we are told in the book Aftermath: Life Debt. Later in the novel Bloodline, we learn that this fleet served as the core of the First Order’s military 30 years later. Without it, the First Order would have almost certainly not gotten off the ground, captured worlds and resources and been able to build the Starkiller Base that featured in last year’s The Force Awakens. The Starkiller Base weapon destroyed the capital world of the New Republic, Hosnian Prime and four other planets. It’s estimated that several billion lives were lost in that attack.
Had Galen Erso been captured, a series of events would have unfolded that would have likely prevented the formation of the First Order and deaths of the billions in the Hosnian system.
One man’s decision to use aggressive violence instead of pursuing a peaceful resolution resulted in billions of deaths, decades later. This is the ultimate tragedy of Rogue One. And while this is just a fictional story from a sci-fi franchise, in this case it demonstrates an important principle about choosing a peaceful solution, even if its more difficult over choosing a violent solution even if it seems easier.