Living on Hoth
Intellectual challenges on the outskirts of the American Empire
So I live in Maine. This does not mean that I know Stephen King, have a pet moose, or subsist entirely on blueberries. If one had to equate it to anything, it would be living on Hoth. Hoth, for the illiterate non-Star Wars initiates, is a cold and desolate world where the Rebel Alliance chose to build a secret base. It was the scene of an unfortunate defeat for the Rebels in “The Empire Strikes Back,” where the Rebels failed to adequately integrate their air capabilities with their ground defenses. Noobs.
Like Hoth, Maine is cold and fairly desolate. There are a mere million people living in a state the size of Pennsylvania. It is the most northern state in the U.S. and borders Canada, which might as well be a star destroyer for all the Mainers care. Canadians frequently prey on Maine’s trees and clog our roads in the summers. The surface is clad with snow six months out of the year, ensuring that we develop special technology to survive. Studded snow tires, snowmobiles, and snow-blowers are to us what Tauntauns were to the Rebel Alliance.
Cold is the prominent feature here. Cold does weird things to your brain and puts you in a defensive mindset. If your first enemy is winter, everything else naturally takes a second place. Which possibly explains Maine’s defensive mindset for the past 400 years. It has mounted precious few military offensives. Granted, when it does, it kicks ass, such as in 1744 when the militia got all hopped up on low-tar tobacco and Allen’s Coffee Brandy and took the French fortress of Louisbourg. But for the most part, it hunkers down, prays mother winter will set in to drive the invaders out, and then gets burnt by the British.
This cold accounts for the lack of ingenuity and daring shown by the Rebels on Hoth. A small force like that has to be mobile and engage in raids to sap the enemy’s strength. Attempting to mount a full defense against what appears to be several star destroyers worth of Imperial whoop-ass is naive, at best.
Maine made similar mistakes. Rather than train its militia to be offensive-minded, they built forts. Lots of forts. Big forts, small forts, weird forts. In the 20th century, Maine was the poster child for the odd new branch of the Army called the Coast Artillery Corps. Massive 16 inch guns were mounted in giant immovable casemates that pointed towards the sea. Not unlike the Rebel ion cannons.
In the end, would enemy ships have destroyed Maine’s coast defenses as easily as the Empire blitzed through the Rebel Alliance’s base? We will thankfully never know. Neither Germany or Japan ever thought Maine a suitable target. Joint Army-Navy exercises in 1903 brought U.S. battlewagons off the coast of Portland and landed 4,000 sailors and Marines on Maine soil. These were soon chased off by Regular and National Guard Army troops who declared victory, overlooking that the massive battleships and heavy cruisers of the U.S. Navy were still afloat. Which is also the mistake the Rebels made; if you don’t destroy the enemy’s ships, they can sustain their offensive.
As I write this, the first foot of snow is laying on the ground outside my window and the flakes have begun to fall again. The six months of immobility have begun. Mobility and survivability are the name of the game, i.e. getting off the couch and shoveling snow. Hoth, and its lessons, will ever be on my mind as I endure the long winter. As will how to remain intellectually active when I am house-bound, which of course is what spawned this blog post that you somehow got suckered into reading.