One of the great things about Star Wars is that it inspires endless debates and opinions on a wide array of topics. Best bounty hunter? Most powerful Jedi? Does Salacious Crumb have the best haircut in the saga? In that spirit, StarWars.com presents From a Certain Point of View: a series of point-counterpoints on some of the biggest — and most fun — Star Wars issues. In this installment, two StarWars.com writers discuss which side is really more powerful, the Empire or the Rebel Alliance.

Without a doubt, the Empire is the most powerful side, says Justin.

It depends on your definition of strength, doesn’t it?

From my point view, strength in this case means the ability to protect the over 3.2 million habitable star systems found throughout the galaxy far, far away. It means having the ability to make hard decisions quickly that are in the best interests of the people living on the planets in those star systems. And it means providing a mechanism by which those people can contribute their individual talents to this noble and shared goal. Where they can step up to lend a helping hand to their galactic neighbors.

The Rebel Alliance is not that mechanism.

Do I believe they have the best interests of the people at heart? I do. But in a galaxy filled with fearsome creatures, crime syndicates, and religious fanatics constantly engaged in shadow wars with each other, the Rebel Alliance’s ideals come at a very high price. And its leaders don’t pay… the galaxy’s citizens do.

Take, for example the New Republic’s (the Rebel Alliance by any other name still stinks) demilitarization after the Galactic Civil War. The admirable goal of peace took precedence over the safety of the galaxy, allowing the hyper-militarized First Order to conquer the galaxy almost overnight in The Force Awakens. Easily broken? That’s the literal definition of weakness.

Or, let’s look at the mess the Rebel Alliance made of the decision to attack Scarif to steal the Death Star plans in Rogue One. Jedha City destroyed, confirmed by their own agents, and their fear and aversion to fighting paralyzed them. The Empire’s iron grip on the galaxy was nearly unbroken because the Rebel Alliance lacked the will to do make the hard, yet necessary decision. Ineffectualness… yet another literal definition of weakness.

The leaders of the Rebel Alliance consistently place their idealized version of a galaxy at peace above the real needs of its people. Their selfishness informs decisions that are repeatedly shown to weaken their organization and the galaxy they claim to care about.

Darth Vader speaks with the Emperor.

While there are certainly moon-sized problems with the Galactic Empire, strength isn’t one of them. In fact, you could say that the Empire’s central issue is that it was too strong, and that its power was misappropriated by a small group of individuals acting on their own agenda. These individuals may have weakened the Empire, but the organization retained its inherent strength.

Unfortunately, sometimes strength isn’t enough.

“Even fools can get lucky.” -Darth Sidious, Star Wars Episode I Journal: Darth Maul

The rebels celebrate a victory.

The Rebel Alliance is more powerful than you could possibly imagine, says Kristin.

What Justin’s describing is, frankly, dictatorship. Strength wielded to keep the masses in check while those in seats of power exploit resources for their own personal gain is corrupt power and I refuse to accept that any group or government who would wield such a thing is stronger than the will of its collective people.

The first duty of an equal society is justice, and the Empire flouts that at every turn.

They’re not protecting those 3.2 million habitable star systems when they’re wielding a planet-destroying weapon of mass destruction. And besides, brute strength is only one type of power.

The Rebel Alliance is quantitatively poor by comparison to the Empire, with fleets of clunky, second-hand ships patched together again and again, but it is rich in optimism. Those who join the Imperials ranks are drones or corrupt politicians, power hungry and eager to please like Palpatine and his cronies.

Being part of the Rebel Alliance requires an iron will, a steadfast belief in the goals of freedom not just for oneself but the entire galaxy, and an idealistic future where democracy will rule once more. It often requires those who enter its ranks to give up personal security and act in secret to divert resources to the cause and avoid detection.

What is more powerful than the underdog rising up out of sheer will not because they believe they will triumph but because failing, and even sacrificing their own lives, is preferable to living in fear in the Empire’s shadow?

And what is more powerful than the example each of those individuals and tiny rebel cells set before they band together to become even more powerful and battle ready?

The Rebel Alliance draws its power from hope, from the ability to inspire the forgotten average inhabitants, and from the strength of those people rising up and refusing to accept a galactic dictatorship. They are willing to wage war against an opponent who outguns them because they know they can, eventually, overthrow them and create a free and equal society to benefit everyone.

The Rebel Alliance sounds a battle cry heard across the stars asking ordinary citizens of the galaxy far, far away to rise up and join them to fight their oppressors. That’s real power.

“For too long I have watched the heavy hand of the Empire strangle our liberties, stifling our freedoms in the name of ensuring our safety. No longer!” – Mon Mothma, Star Wars Rebels

What do you think? Do you agree with Kristin or Justin? Let us know in the comments below!

Associate Editor Kristin Baver is a writer and all-around sci-fi nerd who always has just one more question in an inexhaustible list of curiosities. Sometimes she blurts out “It’s a trap!” even when it’s not. Do you know a fan who’s most impressive? Hop on Twitter and tell @KristinBaver all about them.

Justin Bolger is ILMxLAB’s brand marketing manager and he doesn’t like the Empire…he loves it. Talk Star Wars with him on Twitter @TheApexFan.

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