The movie, Star Wars, is about the struggle for control of the galaxy between the Rebels, representing the old Jedi Republic, and the Imperial Empire. The movie opens with a rebel spaceship being stopped, boarded, and seized by Darth Vader and the Galactic Empire. Previously, the galaxy was a republic. After a war and now a little over a decade later, the Galactic Empire controls the galaxy and seeks to end the rebellion. In an early scene, you see Grand Moff Tarkin, commander of the Empire’s super-weapon, the Death Star, order the firing of a missile to destroy the supposed rebel base planet of Alderaan.
The International Relations concept best displayed in this scene would is realism. Realism is an idea in international relations that stresses competitiveness and the conflict for power. Someone who believes in realism would see nations and states, or in the case of Star Wars, galactic regimes, as actors in a production, concerned with their security in the grand scheme of things.
Realpolitik would see a state acting in pursuit of their national interest and having a great self-interest in their struggle for power over an opposing state or political party. This destruction of Alderaan scene from Star Wars connects to the article Democratization and War by Edward D. Mansfield and Jack Snyder. In this article, the authors make a point to mention how “Pushing nuclear-armed great powers like Russia or China toward democratization is like spinning a roulette wheel: many of the outcomes are undesirable.
” (Foreign Affairs pg. 80).
Here the authors are referring to the long-standing American ideal of pushing democracy, specifically in communist states. The idea that America is the global police and a global enforcer of democracy is an example of realism; both in the sense that the United States government is afraid of non-democratic nations taking over the world, but also in a hubris sense where America feels that it’s their God-given duty to push its western ideals on other nations. Regarding the scene from Star Wars, this scene shows exactly what can happen when an autocratic state is being threatened by democracy and has access to weapons of this magnitude.
At this point, the rebels are just that, rebels. They seek to overthrow the current government and, as far as the Empire knows, this planet is where the rebel alliance is plotting their attack on the Empire. This action is best compared to the United States dropping two atomic bombs on Japan in response to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. during the second World War. The Data shown in War and Peace, specifically in the diagram “The 100 Worst Atrocities over the last millennia” published by the New York Times, shows that World War II had the largest amount of death, or Population Control, Marauder Style.
Another International Relations concept the movie Star Wars deals with is liberalism. In the article Liberal Internationalism 3.0: America and the Dilemmas of Liberal World Order G. John Ikenberry, defines some aspects of liberalism as “open markets, international institutions, cooperative security, democratic community, progressive change…” Ikenberry lays out three versions of modern liberalism, and the one that would most compare to Star Wars would be the second version, which has the following characteristics: Western-oriented security and economy system, modified sovereignty where states compromise legal independence to gain greater state capacity, a hierarchical order with rule-based relations and voice opportunities, enforcement of rules, economic regulation… (Perspectives on Politics pg. 74). This relates to Star Wars because before the Imperial Empire came into power, the Jedi Knights were the senate of the Republic. There they would hold round table discussions and act as a congress almost similar to the United Nations.
Looking at The Correlates of War Project, you can see the data for Militarized Interstate Disputes, which is a record of all instances when one state threatened, displayed, or used force against another (v4.2 1816-2010 period). Here you can see once again the idea of realism in force against states for the sake of gaining power.