When you think of The Phantom Menace, the phrase "unqualified success" doesn't often come to mind. To even write the words in conjunction with Episode One causes physical pain, not unlike the pain I felt having to sit through it as an adult.
And yet, the Battle of Naboo can hardly be considered anything else. Large portions of the plan relied heavily on luck and the whole thing was nearly hosed a number of times, but however the battle turned out, Gungans died by the truckload, so that's a win for everyone. It's a shame that the Trade Federation chose to accept their surrender, but we can't have everything.
All joking aside, the Battle of Naboo represents one of the more successful military campaigns in the Star Wars movies. That assertion might be a headscratcher for some, seeing as how the Gungans were routed, the Queen ended up captured, Qui-Gon got stabbed and the day was saved by Anakin "This Is Podracing" Skywalker, but hear me out.
When considering the relative success of the battle, context is key. Most of what we see in Star Wars movies is, at best, spastic flailing. Victories are often Pyrrhic in nature (Battle of Yavin destroyed the Death Star, but wiped out a sizeable portion of the Rebels' fighter force and they still had to evacuate Yavin IV, for instance), and as often as not only make things worse in the long run.
The Battle of Naboo resulted in a clear cut victory. The Trade Federation was defeated thoroughly, their leadership on the planet arrested, and their trade franchise revoked. Sure it may have set the stage for the Clone Wars, but that wasn't the fault of the Naboo. I blame Jar Jar.
The Battle of Naboo had three distinct components. The first was the Gungan's engagement of the Droid Army. The second was the infiltration of the Palace, and the third was the assault on the Federation's Droid Control Ship. We're going to take a look at each portion separately in sort of a mini analysis.
The Gungan's portion of the battle was a perfect example of a tactical defeat that culminated in strategic victory.
From the start, the Gungans never stood a chance against the droids, something I suspect they, or at least their commanders, knew. Though their boomas could destroy the droids and their shields were impervious to blasterfire, the boomas were only as good as the throwing arm behind them, and the shields could only stop energy.
Meanwhile, the droids had everything from small arms to tanks. Though the Gungan shield generator initially prevented them from engaging with their heavy weaponry, their blasters had much greater range and rate of fire than the hand thrown boomas. Sure, every Gungan weapon thrown resulted in a casualty in the tightly packed droid lines, but they were severely outgunned.
They stood exactly zero chance of tactical victory. It was not going to happen. Even if they had the time to construct trenches and get some semblance of cover besides their oddly useless shields, they were screwed from the get go.
But, and this is the important part, they were never supposed to win.
Their job was to tie up the bulk of the droid army so the Naboo could infiltrate the Palace. To that end, they succeeded in grand fashion. Had they not sacrificed themselves as a diversion, it's unlikely that the mission into Theed would have succeeded, even with the help of Jedi.
They fought bravely. They stood their ground against impossible odds. The victory over the Trade Federation was paid for in Gungan blood.
Too bad Jar Jar survived.
So what lessons can be learned here?
The most important lesson is that a tactical defeat can be the key to strategic victory. A good real life example is the Battle of Guilford Courthouse from the American Revolution. After leading the British Army on a wild chase all over the Carolinas, General Nathanael Greene chose to make a stand at Guildford Courthouse, in the heart of North Carolina.
I'm not going to get super into detail in this post (we might take a look sometime in the future), but a pretty good summary can be found here. To make a long story very short, though the British took the field, they took heavy losses in doing so. Around a quarter of the British force was killed, wounded, or captured. This "victory" ended Cornwallis's southern campaign, and directly led to his eventual surrender to Washington.
The Gungans' tactical defeat was equally crucial to the Battle of Theed. Between the initial engagement and the subsequent routing of the Grand Army, they paved the way for the Naboo to play their part and destroy the Droid Control Ship, which conclusively ended the battle.
While the droid army was busy killing Gungans, the lucky bastards, the Naboo sent a relatively small force into Theed with two objectives: get pilots to their fighters, and capture the Trade Federation leadership.
According to the Wookiee page, there's a lot of stuff that happens here, but most of it comes from video games, so screw that. Games have always been considered questionably canon at best, so we're going to focus on the stuff seen in the movies.
With the droid army engaged elsewhere, the infiltration team was able to enter the city with little initial resistance. They managed to successfully infiltrate the Palace hangar and destroy the droids within, but not before the droids were able to sound the alarm. Though the fighters were able to launch and carry out their attack on the Droid Control Ship, the infiltration team lost the element of surprise.
During the hangar portion of the mission, the two attached Jedi, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon, decided to bugger off and fight Darth Maul, because Jedi have no greater use than taking on random Sith Lords, apparently. It's unclear what would have happened had one or both of them opted to stay with the Naboo, but it has been postulated that, had Maul been left free to do as he pleased, he would have likely caused all manner of trouble.
Sure, the Queen managed to get captured, but in a plot twist that surprised no one, the benevolent pacifistic monarch of Naboo kept a crapload of blasters in the arm of her throne, because that's just what pacifists do, you know? They keep guns in unexpected places so they can shoot people by surprise [sup][citation needed][/sup].
Tactically, this part's a bit of a mess, as it mostly amounts to people running down hallways and shooting at droids, with the occasional synchronized grappling hook exhibition, but there's still a lesson to be learned here.
Much like the Gungans, the Naboo were massively outnumbered, but they had one key advantage: they were on home turf. The Palace was their home, and using their intimate familiarity, they were able to set up a situation that saw them isolated in the throne room with the very targets they were after in the first place. Even if Anakin hadn't been stupidly lucky up in space, they probably could have forced the Trade Federation bosses to surrender, thus achieving their ultimate objective.
Time and time again in the real world, we've seen small, highly motivated but poorly armed forces take on much larger and far more well equipped ones and succeed by fighting smart and taking advantage of their familiarity with the terrain. The most obvious real world parallel would be the Viet Cong, who successfully drove the US out of Vietnam, despite the fact that what they mostly did was die in droves. Despite the fact that they were up against a foe with greater numbers and superior technology, they managed to make life miserable for the US forces.
If you visit the sort of forums where wannabe historians dissect military history, you'll hear it said, over and over, that the US could have won in Vietnam if they hadn't tried to play nice. You hear the same thing about the Taliban, or the insurgency in Iraq. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a load of crap.
Groups like this don't need to defeat an entire army all at once. By being smart and fighting dirty, they can, at the very least, annoy their enemies to the point where they wonder just why the hell they're fighting in the first place. What's more, the harder the enemy strikes back, the more the likely the locals are to sympathize with the guerrillas, terrorists, freedom fighters, whatever you want to call them. Every bomb dropped on a home or a school or a place of worship sends recruits running into the arms of the resistance, and the only way to stop that from happening is to slaughter every man, woman, and child in the area of conflict.
Now, granted, the Naboo had a much more immediate objective in mind, but they used tactics more appropriate for a guerrilla force than a proper military. And it worked.
The place where this will come in handy the most is Rebellions. A minor faction that tries to go toe to toe with a major faction is going to lose in a straight up fight, unless they've got a tactical genius on their hands. The difference in available resources is just too drastic to be overcome through conventional means.
On the other hand, writing this kind of insurgency plays directly to the strengths of the minor faction while making it hard for the major faction to effectively counter, especially if the minor faction in question is rebelling on their home planet.
Don't try to face the invading faction with brute force. Snipe at patrols. Blow up convoys. When the inevitable military response comes down, make sure the news is plastered with images of crying children and destroyed homes. If you can't win an outright military victory, take the battle to the hearts and minds of the people.
Remember Dave? Of course you do, if you were around for the OS vs GR war. Everyone remembers Dave. Find yourself a Dave.
There's really not much to talk about here. A handful of pilots go and do something impossible because the plot demanded it. The moral of the story is, if you're going to attempt to do something that logic says is impossible, send along a main character. Preferably a child who has to be around for the next six sequels.
Oh, and if you have a droid army, don't place the sole control of it on a single ship that's an obvious target for protagonists, I guess. Give the droids some autonomy or something, or if you have to put the control on a ship, put it on an unobtrusive freighter trawling the edge of the system and bounce the signal around.
Where was I going with this? Oh yeah.
That concludes today's lecture. As always, feel free to leave questions and comments, but don't be an ass.