Before you break out the pitchforks and torches to defend the honor of the Jedi Order, pause for a moment to hear us out here. An additional warning before you continue on: This Star Wars critique will be supremely nerdy in every sense of the term, so buckle in. The thesis here is simple, and it’s that the Jedi were the driving force behind the complete collapse of the Republic (and the subsequent rise of the Empire to boot). Through a series of poor decisions, clouded judgment, and capitulation, the Order entrusted with the protection of the galaxy managed to fail on just about every front.
Don’t get us wrong: For a long time, the Jedi did a splendid job. Thousands of years of relative peace speak volumes to their effectiveness in the past, but all it took was a short series of mistakes to completely undo all their hard work. All it took was a civil war and a silent coup before virtually every Jedi in the galaxy was gone, and there’s one place you can point the finger for a number of reasons.
1. The Jedi essentially acted as an unregulated police force
It’s no wonder the Senate believed Chancellor (soon-to-be-Emperor) Palpatine when he told them the Jedi had made an attempt to overthrow him. The Jedi operated outside the bounds of the law, and for the most part were answerable only to their own internal council. While still subject to the Chancellor’s will, for the most part the Senate had little to no insight into their inner-workings. By acting independently from the political system, they bred distrust among the very people they were expected to protect.
2. They took on military titles and responsibilities
You may remember Qui-Gon Jinn telling then-Queen Amidala in Episode I that despite the Trade Federation blockade and hostile takeover, the Jedi couldn’t fight their war for them. They of course then proceeded to help fight their war, and from there things only escalated in the Star Wars universe. Despite only being “peacekeepers,” we saw Jedi assuming roles as Generals within the Republic Army, embedding them conveniently within the very troops that would eventually turn on them. In the end, they became soldiers instead of peacekeepers, going against the fundamental values of their philosophy.
3. The Jedi tried and failed to play politics
In a lot of ways, the Jedi tried to have their cake and eat it, too. While existing outside of the political structure of the Republic, they still attempted to enter into a game they had no business in. In the Clone Wars TV series, we even see them go so far as to expel one of their own for the sake of maintaining the public’s favor. We see this occur over and over again, as the Order entered into a cat-and-mouse conflict they never stood a chance to win.
4. The Clone problem
In Attack of the Clones, Obi-Wan Kenobi stumbles on a secret: That one of their own had commissioned a clone army from Kamino a decade ago. It didn’t take long before their hand was forced, as the clones became an integral part of keeping the Republic safe from the Separatist threat. That much is forgivable at least. Where the Jedi failed is in their follow-up efforts. There was no follow-up investigation on Kamino, no suspicion as to the source of the army, and a level of trust that never should have occurred. The sheer convenience of their appearance should have at least tipped someone off that something was awry. Instead, they ended up being the downfall of the entire Order.
5. The Sith ran circles around the Jedi for years
From what we know of the Sith/Jedi relationship, the Dark Side clouds the perception of even the wisest of Jedi Masters. Even so, we see examples throughout the Star Wars canon of Jedi being able to at least sense the presence of the Dark Side in an individual. Never once did anyone bother to suspect Chancellor Palpatine of being the most powerful Sith Lord in the galaxy, or of orchestrating the biggest long con in history. His coup was decades in the making, and he rarely even came close to detection by the Jedi. The result: Everything went according to Palpatine’s plan over the course of years, and the Republic crumbled in its wake.
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