What, Writer, Is Your Plan To Fail?

Continuing a discussion vaguely related to The Last Jedi, a military friend of mine pointed out that one of the two real problems with Admiral Holdo’s escape plan (which was not a bad plan in concept, just in execution) was that she had absolutey no back-up plan in case it failed. Real military leaders need back-up plans, contingencies in case the enemy does something unexpected (like, say, suddenly being able to track you through hyperspace). However, I’d point out that Holdo is hardly alone in the Star Wars universe for failing at this. A few examples of how people in the Star Wars universe utterly fail at contingency planning include:

The complete failure of both the Old and New Republics to have a military, or means of raising one rapidly. The whole reason unwarlike people have militaries is for the contingency of suddenly being attacked, or facing a quickly rising threat.

The Rebels inĀ New Hope were apparently content to simply wait for the Death Star to come blow them up, even though they must have had some transport ships to have gotten them to Yavin in the first place. In fact, one would have thought that evacuation plans would have been on their mind most heavily, since they didn’t know they were getting Death Star plans until the last minute.

The Empire is not a lot better in the planning department: They had no plan to catch the Millennium Falcon if its hyperdrive could be fixed. And why in the world did they sabotage it so it would be that easy to fix? They couldn’t have had a platoon of stormtroopers use its hyperdrive motivator for target practice? That’s the laziest job of sabotage ever.

The Rebels didn’t really have a plan for what to do if their commando strike team didn’t bust the shield bunker, which is indeed really stupid. Given the fleet they had mustered, they desperately needed a brute-force, we’ll-take-it-down-when-we-get-there-if-it-costs-us-a-few-cruiser-divisions plan to blow that thing, given the risk to their entire navy. And they also really needed a plan for what to do if half the Imperial Fleet showed up, because it did.

Of course, the supreme failures in the back-up planning department were the Jedi themselves. Wouldn’t you have loved to have heard THAT Academy In-service Planning Day?
“So, it’s been determined that it’s best to start Jedi training at about age 2. 3, tops.”
“Great. What do we do if we find a Force-sensitive who’s older?”
“I guess we… don’t train them!”
Okay! And just let that person wander around the galaxy with an unspeakable power they won’t know how to use. No danger of turning to the horrible Dark Side there! Hell, evenĀ killing potential-but-too-old-Jedi would have been a more ethical plan!

My guess is that this oversight exists because of the Rule of Cool, because desperate, do-or-die plans are romantic. Of course, they do happen, but only in extremis, and are usually far less romantic in real life. General Heinrici’s desperate defense of Berlin in 1945 comes to mind, for example.

The point is, that when you write, you may indeed wish to portray an against-the-odds victory, or a doomed last stand. But such things should happen because everything else was tried and failed. Let your heroes die on Plan Q, not because they couldn’t be bothered to come up with a Plan B.


From Somewhere in Orbit

The Cold Iron Towers: An Alternate History

This idea grew out of a thread on another author’s page, and got enough likes that I want to seriously talk about the possibility of doing it. Bear with me, because this is really thinking aloud, and there’s a LOT of room for filling in details. Jump on board in the comments if you’re into that sort of thing.

My alternate history begins in June 1942: Hitler decides that because of flooding, reports on Soviet tank strength, and the delay caused by conquering Greece, Barbarossa can wait until Summer of 1942. As a result, the European theater enters a lull. Knowing that they will not be needed in the East, Hitler orders the reinforcement of Rommel’s Afrika Korps, which succeeds in taking Tobruk, and begins pushing into Egypt. Britain is unable to reinforce due to Luftwaffe air superiority.
In December, Japan bombs Pearl Harbor, but realizing that Barbarossa is more important, Hitler does not declare war on the United States.

Josef Stalin, having had six months to prepare and reasoning that Germany is too occupied in Africa, invades German-occupied Poland over the frozen ground of winter. With sympathetic Communist partisans all over the Balkan peninsula ready to strike, Stalin’s war quickly becomes acknowledged as a war of global liberation from capitalism and fascism. Communist cells all over Europe begin guerrilla warfare. With the Wehrmacht facing defeat, Germany hastily offers Britain any number of concessions to end their war. Churchill’s price for peace is the surrender of all captured colonies and massive post-war reparations, including the evacuation of France. Germany agrees, on the condition that Britain and Germany join in creating a neutral French Republic that will be kept out of any war with Germany. Hitler also begins courting Roosevelt, emphasizing the similarities between the New Deal and Hitler’s own “economic miracle.” “American Socialist” and “British Socialist” unions begin to form. While they are decidedly minority factions and disliked by the populace as a whole, they are more popular than the Communists.

Fighting Japan on its own, Roosevelt is forced to bow to Republican pressure to end Lend-Lease to the British and Russians. Japan, for its part, joins the Soviet Union, citing “Western Imperialist perfidy” on the part of the Nazi regime. The Soviets and Japanese Army agree to divide the tottering Republic of China between them after the war, and with the fall of Berlin apparently weeks away, the Soviet Far Eastern Army is assigned to invade China from the north.

However, free to fight the Russians alone, Germany begins to stabilize its Eastern Front just short of Berlin. For most of 1942, the Soviets and the Germans fight it out in East Prussia, while the US duels Japan. As Germany recalls its troops from the Balkans, Stalin seizes Istanbul and the Dardanelles, freeing the Black Sea Fleet to raid into the Eastern Med, after which, the Soviets seize the Suez Canal. Forced into the realization that the Soviets mean what they say, the Commons reluctantly support Churchill’s call for a “Devil’s Alliance” with the Nazis in winter of 1943. The United States joins the alliance by summer with Roosevelt’s reluctant approval, and Stalin’s forces are pushed back. The Britisha and American navies force the Med and land in Greece and the Balkans, using friendly Italian bases as their jumping-off points. As the Wehrmacht advances and the Anglo-Americans liberate Soviet-conquered Norway and Finland, the horror of the gulags shock the civilized world. The tide has turned, and Moscow and Stalingrad fall before Hitler’s Tiger tanks and jet fighters and the British and American blockades. Roosevelt barely scrapes an electoral win in 1944. After the American Manhattan project results in the bombing of Hiroshima and Vladivostok, the Soviets and Japanese surrender. Stalin commits suicide before he can be tried for war crimes.

The United Nations is formed with the United States, Britain, China, Greater Germany and Italy as permanent members of the Security Council. Italy retains Libya. Britain keeps Egypt and the Suez Canal, and liberated Greece reclaims Istanbul, again renamed Constantinople. A Jewish state is proposed, but Nazi-leaning Arab governments make it clear that no such thing will be tolerated. The few Jewish refugees to escape to Palestine ask the British and Russian governments for help, and the Russian Republic agrees to accept the Jewish population in its Jewish Autonomous Oblast on the Chinese border. It achieves independence and UN recognition in 1949.

After the war, Nazi agents reveal how thoroughly the Soviets had planted spies in the Manhattan Project, naturally taking the stolen knowledge for themselves. Nazi Germany detonates its first weapon in 1947. After Hitler reneges on his promise to evacuate the Low Countries, the Western Allies and Germany nearly come to war over the “Brussels Blockade.” A state of Cold War is recognized.

A wave of fear sweeps the United States over the fear of Nazi infiltration, and fueled by the awareness of Hitler’s air and rocket superiority. Only infusions of British jet technology keep the USAF competitive, and Churchill is voted down in disgrace after Hitler annexes all the West Russian territories.

The Marshall Plan manages to revitalize the Russian Republic, Finland, Norway, France, and Britain. Hitler copies the plan for Italy and Spain. The MacArthur Constitution is approved in Japan. Without support, Mao Zedong is hunted down and killed by Chiang Kai-shek, armed by both the United States and Germany. Chiang quickly copies the German model, proclaiming the “Chinese Socialist Republic. He quickly brings Vietnam and Korea under Chinese suzerainty.” Blamed for “losing China” and the German ascendance by the Republicans, Truman is defeated by Dewey in 1948. Greater Germany demonstrates long-range missiles and orbits a satellite by 1952. The United States cannot follow suit until 1958.

The “Swastika Scare” drives many former pro-German propaganda writers and converts to Naziism underground. The HUAC investigates, and jails those who refuse to testify about others with pro-Nazi leanings. At the highest levels of society and academia, however, Naziism is often secretly admired for its scientific achievements and its promise of eugenic improvement of humankind.

Hitler dies in 1947, and is laid to rest with honor. His death triggers a quiet purge by the Army of some of the more radical Nazi elements, but a more-or-less clean succession is engineered, with “de-Hitlerization” accomplished and the release of many surviving POWs and political prisoners. Jews are allowed to identify themselves and emigrate. Only a few thousand survive. Returning to Russia, they bring stories of Nazi concentration camps, but these are not widely talked about since there is no hard proof. Many believe the stories are simply anti-Nazi propaganda. After Eugene McCarthy’s “witch-hunt” for Nazis implicates the Army, he falls from power. Only Richard Nixon, with his arrest of former Bund Leader and State Department employee Francis (Fritz) Kuhn, gets a boost.

In 1952, charismatic young politician and war-hero Joe Kennedy, Jr. challenges Dewey and wins. Elected on the twin platforms of challenging Nazi dominance in space and revitalizing the economy. The US quickly achieves dominance on the world stage as an industrial power, outstripping recovering Nazi Germany by a fair margin. However, growing Nazi sentiment in Central and South America and Africa tarnish his legacy. Although Kennedy is re-elected in 1956, the fall of Cuba in 1959 to openly-Nazi Fidel Castro shakes public confidence. The German moon-landing in 1960 seals the Democrats’ Fate, and California Governor Richard Nixon is elected President by a landslide over the much-derided candidacy of John F. Kennedy.

Pro-Nazi elements support de-colonization worldwide (against formerly British and French colonies only, naturally). Naziism is “recast” as a struggle for national identity and support of the poor throughout the world. German propaganda spins into high gear throughout this time, emphasizing the unity of the German people and the prosperity of their lower classes as they homestead through the Ostmarks of the Greater German Reich. Protests that this is only possible because of the extermination of the Russian population and the occupation of the Soviet cities is largely ignored as Greater Germany begins to challenge American economic dominance in the 1960s.

However, the Nixon years are also a period of some foreign-policy successes for the United States. Under Nixon, the United States’ Aries Program lands Grissom and Chaffee on the moon in 1965. Nixon improves relations with China by exploiting racial tensions between it and its German ally. Nixon also has success with his “Southern Strategy” of reaching out to Black Americans and using the power of the federal government to enforce their right to vote. He is criticized for abrogating States Rights and increasing racial tensions.
Also, Nixon’s insistence on opposing Naziism in Central America leads to a number of low-level wars in which American troops are dragged in. Growing hostility to “American chauvinism” grows on campus as more and more lives are lost in Guatemala and Honduras. Opposition to Naziism is increasingly questioned, and a rift opens in American life, with a counterculture that resists capitalism and American interventionism. The “Peace movement” urges the United States to leave other countries alone to work out their own destinies, and finds support on college campuses across the nation. Among some political thinkers, distinction is made between “Naziism” as a legitimate political system, and the excesses of “Hitlerism.”

That’s as far as I can take it right now.  What do you think? Bear in mind this is VERY rough and obviously open to all sorts of criticism. Let me know.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but I will: this is (I hope obviously) NOT a pro-Nazi world. Naziism is evil. But it is one in which Naziism is strongly PERCEIVED to be the lesser of two evils because of a different set of circumstances. I reject Naziism in all its forms as an odious and terrible political and social philosophy. But there was a time, historically, in which it was seen by many as a potential and desirable future. Many good people died to see that this future did not occur. This universe asks the question: “What if they had not fully succeeded? What if the issue had remained — in the public mind — in doubt?” If you find this horrifying, good. It IS horrifying.