We have a History PhD in our midst, it seems
! I need to start reading about the Eight Route Army, I never heard of them...
Here are my two historical cents
. The Empire is very much like the Soviet Army in 1941, badly depleted, badly led (the Dark Council is very reminicent of the Military Council of Soviet Russia pre-1940; Inexperienced, politically powerful men with a penchent of culling their own ranks, rather than that of the enemy) with a significant manpower problem. However, unlike Soviet Russia, the Empire doesn't have the numerical superiority which allowed the Soviets to swallow defeats like Kharkhov or Kiev while learning to adapt to their own deficiencies.
The Empire can compensate by, firstly, taking a page from Stalin's playbook. After 1941, the command structure of the Army was significantly flattened, allowing, ironically, for the Soviet juggernaut to act with unheard of operational flexibility. I.e. curb the power of the Sith in the army or assign special tacticians that could advise the Sith generals without fear of reprisal.
Second, reform. The Empire needs to institute a reform of its military along the lines of Gaius Marius in 107 BC and loosen its racially discriminating guidelines for conscription. Marius drafted his legions from the poor citizens. the Empire has slaves and aliens. They can either do it now, or use it as a desparate last resort, like the Spartans or the Confederate South did (Spoilers: didn't go over so well).
Third, strategic reimagining. The problem with the Empire is less about its manpower problems, and more with its antiquated way of imagining war and, as a result, can be fixed by learning and adapting to their new reality. The only two campaigns that were even remotely succesful by today's standards were Hoth, where the idea was to tie up crucial Republic elements with misinformation and deception, and Ilum, where ground way gained, then progressivly given to secure a tangible resourse, while suffering relativly light casulaties. In contrast, the Core Worlds Campaign was very much Germany circa WW1. Balmora was for the Empire what Russia was for Germany in 1918 - a stretch of land you needed a million men to secure, while keeping those men from being mobile and effective elsewhere. Corellia was like Germany's Michael offensive, an impressive and succesful land grab with no clear long-term strategic objective except to hold as much ground as possible (Spoilers: didn't go over so well either
If the Empire adopts these three changes, then it will have a chance to continue fighting the war on equal footing. Win? Probably not, but fight? Definately.
Hah. Just a graduate student. But still.
I think that the Sith Empire's military is hard, if not impossible, to compare to a modern army in an institutional sense. The most obvious reason is that the chain of command is, ah, boned
. Even if the Emperor were some sort of oberster Kriegsherr
, he was notably absent even when he wasn't in his supernatural Palpatine-after-Endor shade state. Who is left to exercise supreme authority? The Dark Council, which frequently fights civil wars with itself
, and which seems to be in some sort of collegial authority-sharing position. Apparently Sith of any stripe have authority over Imperial officers of any rank or grade, although this is presumably mitigated at the highest levels by Moffs and general officers enjoying the patronage of powerful Sith of their own, and if one is the player character, then one can be ordered around by even lieutenants, Sith or no. All sorts of random Sith apparently give the War Ministry its "marching orders". Even Alexander's generals didn't come up with a "system" this dumb when their king died.
"Flattening" this whole mess out is arguably impossible, because it is a natural and even necessary consequence of the idea of the Sith. Supposedly, Sith only take orders from those they perceive to be more powerful than themselves, and only do this to bide their time until they themselves are the ones with the greater relational
power. Personal-political connections, not specific rank or clear lines of authority, dominate inter-Sith relationships. Imposing a concrete organization chart on the Sith would be denying the validity of the structure of their entire military-religious order. Its very fluidity is what makes it so appealing to many Sith. It enhances their freedom to be sociopathic lunatic murderers, and at least offers the possibility of rapid advancement toward the levers of power. Limiting Sith control over the military would run into a similar problem, apart from violating the chauvinistic preceptions of ostensibly "pure-blood" Sith (and don't get me started on how dumb Sith racism is - Palpatine's Empire's High Human Culture shoe-horned into an entirely different context in which it makes less than zero sense) of the intrinsic superiority of Force-users and their right to rule over the Force-blind.
Militarily, of course, these steps are emphatically necessary, I agree. But removing the fratricide and establishing a rational chain of command would basically entail removing the Sith from the Sith Empire. It's like the apologists for Napoleon Bonaparte, who claim that if he had managed the Spanish campaign differently, or if his foreign policy wasn't so spectacularly incompetent at the end of his reign, that maybe his empire would have survived. But Paul Schroeder and others have shown that Napoleon's empire's problems with foreign policy and with the Spanish ulcer and so on were intrinsic to Napoleon being its leader
, and removing them while keeping everything else about the empire would make no sense. So it is with the Sith.
I am almost tempted to argue that Malgus' civil war was aimed precisely at doing just this: creating an Empire at least temporarily
reorganized from the top down in a more objectively rational way to provide the institutional framework for a more powerful war machine that could fight the Republic on better terms than the old Empire ever could. But regardless of the player's conversation choices with Grand Moff Regus at the end of the civil war, the Empire that won the civil war is not going to fundamentally change any time soon. The story arc with Malgus' civil war was probably the best chance to implement a radical reform scheme for the Empire, but subsequent content seems to indicate that it's just as bigoted and that its hierarchy is just as byzantine as before the Battle of Ilum. One Nautolan officer - not even a field-grade officer - in temporary command on Denova does not even come close to stacking up with Malgus' Empire. As before, what successes the Empire can win for itself will be a product of individual genius, more often than not stymied
by Imperial institutions rather than being facilitated by them.
Widening the manpower base for the army seems inevitable in the aftermath of such grievous defeats, but it's not a be-all end-all and it certainly isn't going to confer the Empire any sort of real advantage
. It's a stopgap measure, indicative of the severity of the Empire's losses and its relatively parlous manpower situation compared to the Republic. I'm not totally sure what you were going for with the specific Marius reference; tying wider conscription to political reforms, as Marius tried to do, seems like a flat-out fantasy for the Sith Empire. And it's not clear that the regime even needs to care about popular support or lack thereof. The population of the main Imperial worlds does not seem to be particularly agitated or prone to rioting or opposing the war. Compared to the labyrinthine power struggles of the Force-users at the upper levels of government, the great mass of the population of the Empire is effectively invisible.
Finally, I'm not sure if the Imperials are even capable of implementing "new" strategic paradigms. As noted before, institutionally, the Empire is an unholy mess. The chain of command doesn't really exist. Doctrine seems to be out the window, although with Sith in command, "lots of dying" is probably written into the Imperial equivalent of FM 100-5
. If there is a general staff organization, a war board, or whatever, it is summarily ignored at the whim of the Dark Council. To be fair, it seems like the Republic doesn't really have much of an equivalent either; General Garza's personal doctrine seems to be "committing war crimes = winning". But still. It seems like the Empire's ability to even conduct a meaningful overall strategic (re)evaluation doesn't really exist.
So far through the course of the war, it's possible to reconcile Imperial operations with a "policy" of low-ante operations with relatively certain payoff. The invasion of Taris scotched a massive Republic base practically at the doorstep of the Stygian Caldera and was absolutely necessary
if the Empire wanted to survive the first few months of any war with the Republic; the fact that it was also a propaganda victory was icing on the cake. Operations on Quesh relied in large part on the resources of the Cartel instead of large quantities of Imperial troops, and before Dracen's ultimate defeat the Empire managed to keep things running relatively smoothly and 'on the cheap' there. The aforementioned Hoth campaign was an effort to drag the Republic into an attritive contest in which the math did not favor them; it's not clear, unfortunately, if this actually succeeded, because while the Imperial leadership seemed to think that it had led the Republic into a deadly quagmire, the Republic forces saw the Clabburn plateau as an end in itself and didn't recognize it as having been purchased at a particularly steep price. Still, the intent
on the Imps' side was there. Then there was Belsavis, which amounted to little more than a reinforced raid with an extremely high payoff, and Voss, which didn't come down on either side (a defeat for the Empire) but towards which the Empire did not devote many resources.
So by and large, before Corellia, one might argue that the Empire was already trying to conduct operations with an economy-of-force mindset, insofar as anything can be generalized across the entire Imperial political-military landscape. Of course, one could look at the same evidence and argue that the entire Imperial war effort was disparate and led in lots of different directions with no real endpoint to any of them, and that clear successes when they were scored, e.g. on Taris or Belsavis, were less the work of Imperial policy and more the work of convenient geniuses like the Wrath, Darth Nox, the Grand Champion, and Cipher Nine.
Still. Even Corellia, as initially construed, fits into this framework. The Empire went for co-opting the Corellian leadership, not a general force-on-force engagement, and could reasonably have believed that promises of Corellian autonomy would make the whole campaign relatively cheap; even if the attack failed, it would suffice to derail any impending Republic offensive and provide a breathing space. That went for those who saw Corellia as something to conquer, obviously, like Darth Decimus and his coterie; the Emperor simply went after Corellia because there were lots of people there and they were prospectively easy to kill. In neither case was the Empire necessarily
committed to a long, slogging, destructive quagmire and eventually a comprehensive operational defeat that rivals Endor and Ebaq 9 as a decisive battle of galactic history. The failure on Corellia was not necessarily caused by a failure to pay attention to the economy-of-force role that the Empire had to play now. I think that it was more a result of the intrinsic weaknesses of the Sith Empire and its way of making war. Too many cooks spoiled the soup (and, frequently, committed fratricide at the behest of the Star Cabal). Even native politicians could not successfully co-opt Corellian society, probably exacerbated by the high-handedness of the Imperial administration. Yes, it was a problem that the Empire even committed a tenth of its entire military to the Corellian campaign after it had started out as a low-ante endeavor. But that sort of thing happens: a combination of mission creep and reinforcing success
. That's not necessarily the kind of problem that can be solved by an institutional overhaul; the institutions that are most problematic are the ones that can least be touched, and contingency played an enormous role anyway.
Anyway. Lots of rambling. I do that. Sorry.
Incidentally, the Eighth Route Army was one of the two field armies that the Communist Party of China maintained within the framework of the Republic of China's National Revolutionary Army (the other field armies were Guomindang, or Nationalist, ones). Its sister formation, the New Fourth Army, mostly operated along the Chang Jiang during the Second World War, but the Eighth spent its time fighting the Japanese in the northwest and eventually established the bases in Manchuria that would prove vital in the campaigns waged against Jiang after the Americans and Soviets defeated Japan. The People's Liberation Army that would win the Chinese Civil War was basically formed out of the Eighth Route Army, and some older scholars still referred to the PLA by the name "Eighth Route Army" during the phase of the Civil War that saw the decisive actions in the Three Provinces. Sorry if that was unnecessarily confusing. I do believe that "Eighth Route Army" is a much cooler name than the PLA, much like "US Army" is not nearly as awesome as the "Grand Army of the Republic".
Of course, my belief that the Empire cannot and will not meaningfully conduct institutional reforms that will improve its ability to resist the Republic didn't take account of Rise of the Hutt Cartel
, so yeah.