Regular listeners to Battlecast will note I often define power as the capacity to nullify the enemy. Some listeners have written in asking what does that really mean? Watch this Star Wars clip and I’ll answer their question below.
Darth Vader and the Concept of Power
In this clip, Darth Vader clearly encapsulates the concept of power. He doesn’t talk with his enemies. He doesn’t reason with them. He nullifies them – he renders them incapable of resisting his will. Notice it is unclear if he actually kills all of the rebel soldiers he is fighting. He may simply wound them. He could have them arrested. But no matter what, the rebel soldiers, the enemy, is nullified – he is unable to resist.
Star Wars and Pluralism
As an aside, this scene also illustrates the fact that pluralism of values does not exist. The astute reader will no doubt say of course pluralism exists. I know one reader named Scott is a devout Christian and is also devoted to democracy while at the same time he is a son. So there is a plurality of claims on Scott. However, in the moment of decision, when claims on Scott conflict, he will obey one claim. The other claims will be nullified and will be as though they didn’t exist. This is the entire premise of the play Antigone. When we make decisions, our primary values nullify our other values – it is like they don’t even exist.
Pluralism doesn’t exist; an example.
Suppose there is a twenty-year-old girl named Rachel who is an evangelical Christian. She self-identifies as a Christian. She also self-identifies as a modern, free individualist. Now suppose Rachel is impregnated by her boyfriend, who then leaves her and refuses to support her. I want to stress that Rachel was not raped. Her sexual union was consensual. Rachel considers an abortion. Let us say that Rachel decides to have an abortion. Her action, not her words, but her actions would demonstrate that Rachel’s primary value, her real value – her Darth Vader value – is her freedom as a unique individual. Her freedom defeated her supposed Christian values in the moment of decision. And so we see pluralism does not truly exist. It is exists in people’s tongues but not in their actions. It is a phantom – a mirage. One value is always concrete – real.
Power and a Real Example
In this fictional clip of a real event, two bank robbers who covered their entire bodies with body armor and equipped themselves with AK-47s, engaged in a shootout with almost one hundred police officers. The police were armed with shotguns and handguns that could not penetrate the body armor of the robbers. This event is called “The North Hollywood Shootout”. During the 44 minutes of constant conflict, the robbers, Larry Phillips and Emil Mătăsăreanu, effectively nullified the entire resources of the Los Angeles police department for almost 45 minutes. In fact, the robbers were able to continue to resist until an equal engaged them. An equal is someone who has the approximate capacity to nullify an enemy as the unit they engage. An equal engaged Emil when the SWAT team, themselves kitted out with assault rifles and body armor, engaged Emil in combat. During the shootout, Larry and Emil wounded twelve police officers – who were effectively nullified. From this shootout, we can conclude that Larry and Emil were more powerful than the police officers they engaged. Power is the capacity to nullify your enemies. Larry and Emil, due to their superior physical conditioning, body armor, and assault weapons were more powerful than the police officers they engaged in combat. They are the real Darth Vader.
Power and Influence
Some well-read readers will object: what about other forms of power? For instance, in his book “The Anatomy of Power,” Galbraith claims there are three forms of power. They are condign, compensatory, and conditioned power (1983). I make the claim that while three forms of influence may exist, in the political decision only one form will be decisive and so the rest are nullified – and therefore we can proceed as if they don’t exist. In the moment of decision only one form of power is decisive. Moreover, in a political situation, only one form of power is supreme – this means one form of power has more capacity to nullify the enemy than any other form.
This is abstract. Let us consider a concrete example. There is a cult with a charismatic leader named the Tim Jones Cult. Cult members will obey Tim Jones’s orders no matter what he commands. He is decisive for them. Suppose he has 10 cult members. Tim can use these members to nullify his enemies. However, the Federal government in the United States can draw on potentially millions of soldiers to nullify Tim. Moreover, the Federal government’s soldiers are better trained and better armed than the members of the Tim Jones cult. In effect, the Federal government is nullifying Tim. Tim’s capacity to nullify, while more than an average citizen, is limited by the Federal government. Consequently, we can say that the Federal government is more powerful than Tim and the Tim Jones Cult. Power is the capacity to nullify the enemy. A good factual illustration of this nullification occurred with the governmental raid on the YFZ Ranch of the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints
The Concept of Power: A Summary
In summation, power is the capacity to nullify your enemy. That is why Wellington said Napoleon’s hat was worth forty-thousand men on the battlefield. That is why Rhodesia was able to stave off democracy for fourteen years (Moorecraft, 2008). That is why South Africa suddenly realized the errors of her ways when Cuba, an approximate equal, intervened in Angola during the South African Border War (Steenkamp, 1989).
- Luke Wolf
If you would like us to cover the North Hollywood Shootout, drop us an email and let us know. On a personal note, I would like to give a shout out to Alain from Lyon, Tim from Duluth, and officer Hendricks patrolling the mean streets of Outer Banks, North Carolina. All of them wrote in asking about the concept of power. Feel free to write in and ask us a question.
Galbraith, J. (1983). The Anatomy of Power
Moorecraft, P. (2008). The Rhodesian Bush War
Steenkamp, W. (1989). South Africa’s Border War, 1966-1989
Featured image credit – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story