Critical Intel

Critical Intel
Endor: Anatomy of a Tribal Insurgency

Robert Rath | 2 May 2013 16:00
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It's a mystery where or when the Golden One doctrine originated. Perhaps it was a happy accident that C-3PO resembled an Ewok religious figure, or perhaps a force-sensitive shaman foresaw the droid's coming. Regardless, Skywalker's shrewd and cynical exploitation of this belief gained his commandos the leeway to both secure their freedom and enlist Bright Tree Village in the Rebel cause. On one hand, manipulating the indigenous population into attacking a hardened facility seems fairly irresponsible and callous - after all, many Ewoks were killed in the ensuing operation - but on the other hand if the facility stayed, it was likely the Imperials would eventually expand their sphere of influence and destroy Bright Tree as a whole. Ultimately, the Rebel-Bright Tree alliance served the interests of both the Rebellion's galaxy-wide strategic aims, and the natives' local grievances about enslavement and deforestation. Bright Tree sealed the alliance with a symbolic gesture pregnant with symbolism for a localized insurgency - they welcomed the commandos into their tribe, both counting them as fellow insurgents and differentiating them from the "foreign" Imperials.

From the moment the commandos utilized Ewok pathfinders, it became obvious how beneficial the new alliance would prove. Rather than blundering into patrol after patrol, native guides took the strike team directly to the shield generator. When the main entrance proved too fortified for a successful assault, the Ewoks suggested an alternate point of infiltration that proved a softer target. Unfortunately, the ease of access turned out to be an Imperial trap - though it was at this point when the Ewoks proved their true value as insurgents.

To the layman's eye, the Ewoks' subsequent ambush seems largely ineffective. While a few arrows did strike Stormtroopers in their unprotected throats, the vast majority of Tempest Force immediately opened fire on the Ewoks and routed them, pursuing them into the forest.

But this is where people misunderstand Ewok tactics: This was not a disorganized rout, but a strategic retreat meant to draw out and disperse the Imperial forces. By pursuing the Ewoks into the forest in all directions, not only did Tempest Force lose unit cohesion and break themselves off into twos and threes, but they were suddenly fighting on the insurgency's ground - a dangerous place for a counterinsurgent to be.

At their most basic, Ewoks are hunter-gatherers. And like all hunter-gatherer societies, the indigenous population of Endor developed a finely-honed hunting process to take down prey and predators much larger than themselves - then adapted these tactics to warfare. First of all, like Paleolithic humans, Ewoks both hunt and fight in groups. The image of a single Stormtrooper facing down a single Ewok is a fallacy, since the natives of Endor - well aware of their size - make up for their individual weakness with coordinated attacks from multiple angles. It's never the Ewok in front of you that delivers the killing blow, it's the one behind you that sinks an obsidian spear point between your ribs. Worse, Ewoks frequently coat their weapons with neurotoxins that cause muscle contractions and inhibit lung function, suffocating the victim. In other words, once Ewoks manage to knock a larger opponent to the ground by tripping or swarming him, they can easily poison him or remove his helmet and bludgeon him to death. This tactic is especially deadly when paired with traps and hunting snares. Opponents tangled in nets or partially buried in rockslides might have time to struggle helplessly as they see a swarm of furry bodies encircle them, volcanic knives gleaming in the wide, unblinking eyes of their killers.

Ewoks are vicious little bastards, when you think about it.

Therefore, while it appears that Tempest Force had the upper hand when following their furry prey, in fact the Ewoks were calling the dance. The insurgent hit-and-run maneuver achieved the desired tactical objective: not only did it draw Tempest Force away from the Rebel strike team so they could take and hold the shield bunker, but it tied the Stormtroopers down over a wide area where they were unable to easily support each other. Finally, it drove the enemy directly into prepared traps and ambush positions - rains of rocks, nets, Punji stakes and camouflaged warriors. It was an effective method of scattering and destroying the enemy. Years later, a traumatized Stormtrooper recalled how Ewoks murdered his squadmates one at a time, killing them in their bedrolls, leading them into booby traps and tormenting them with drums in the night. In addition, Ewoks were perfectly adept at appropriating enemy weapons for their own use. Years earlier, while fighting Sanyassan Marauders, Ewoks stole enemy blasters and used them with great effect - though they tended to discard the weapons when the power cell ran out, possibly because they didn't understand the concept of reloading.

However, Ewoks did face an opponent that all insurgencies fear: armored power. Much like Hind helicopters slaughtered the Mujahedeen during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and German armor crushed partisans across Eastern Europe, Ewoks had few effective weapons against AT-ST walkers. While log traps designed to defend against the Gorax destroyed two walkers, other attempts to stop the behemoths proved ineffectual, and it fell to Chewbacca to hijack an AT-ST and use it against the remaining Imperial armor. Again, this is consistent with many insurgencies in the history of warfare, which generally need an outside force to train and equip them before they can overcome modern technology.

So in the final analysis, how did a primitive culture defeat an overwhelming military force that was their superior in individual strength, technology and training? In short, they used the same guerrilla tactics that have served rebellions and insurgencies from ancient Gaul to modern Afghanistan. Instead of attacking the enemy directly, they harried the Imperials and drew them away from the main objective. Then, as the professional troops secured the area and commenced demolition operations, Ewok forces tied the Stormtroopers down by dispersing them over difficult terrain and attacking them with asymmetrical warfare. Like good guerrillas, they didn't so much defeat the enemy as they enticed them into failure. Supposedly veteran troops like Tempest Force should've known better than to abandon a strategic point and blindly chase insurgents into terrain that limited their line of sight, but they did it anyway. In addition, the Imperials' lack of any troop transport capability save a single AT-AT - which would have difficulty moving in forested terrain - hampered their ability to move the rest of the legion into position to support the relatively small detachment fighting the Rebel strike force. Once again, as we saw at Hoth, the Imperials should've never abandoned the air mobility tactics they utilized during the Clone Wars. Lack of troop transports meant that reinforcements had to reposition by foot over hostile terrain, and by that time they were already besieged by Renegade Squadron and other Ewok warriors.

Are Ewoks furry? Yes, and proudly so. Do they look like teddy bears? Indeed. But don't let that fool you. When you're on your back in the moss of a alien planet, head throbbing from blunt trauma and staring up into the blank eyes of an Ewok, when you feel his weight on your chest plate and moist breath on your face, when you feel the stone knife worming its way underneath your chinstrap you'll realize ...

This bear has claws.

Robert Rath is a freelance writer, novelist, and researcher based in Austin, Texas. You can follow his exploits at or on Twitter at @RobWritesPulp.

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