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Old 08-23-2009, 02:06 AM   #1
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Mercs and pirates and brigands

Oh my.

The problems I have seen with the KOTOR games is a lack of understanding of small scale warfare. You see, every battle is not a massive confrontation, and every enemy is not a grand army. Sometime you have to make it simpler, and the groups I have mentioned above are perfect examples.

MERCENARIES The mercenary, or professional soldier has been around since man has had armies. The Persians fielded Greek units against their kinsmen in a civil war between Cyrus the Younger and Artaxeres. The most famous Mercenaries of legend, the 10,000 with an officer named Xenophon as one of their commander is a historical epic. The men, who had been hired by the Persians, found themselves marched across the Persian Empire before discovering the paymaster intended to use them to death. Instead of accepting this, they cut their way through the largest army in the world, fighting in fact all the way home. If you had learned Greek, it was one of the first books because being a soldier, Xenophon's style is brisk and simple.

In Italy from the 13th to 16th century they were the shield of the Italian city states like Genoa and Venice, and made ’Mercenary’ an honored profession. The name for these men were Condottieri for the latin word for ‘Contractor’. But they were expensive, and since their men were their capital, they didn’t believe in wasting it. If you had to train every man out of your pocket without the deep pockets of a modern government would you send them on Banzai charges?

While the term ‘Turncoat’ for a traitor was coined for mercenaries (They would wear a surcoat with their city colors. At the height of a battle, they would reverse them, with the enemy colors inside, therefore turning their coats or changing sides) the traitors were rare. Why hire a bunch of men who you know betrayed an employer?

What has constantly amazed me is that the most eloquent arguments against mercenaries have been expressed by one man, a man better known for being a sneaky underhanded SOB than anything else.

My namesake.

Nicollo Machiavelli (Yes, I can spell it right, I have been waiting all this time for someone to comment on it) whose name gave us the word Machiavellian for sneaky didn’t like them. Not that they weren’t efficient, rather on the whole the Condottieri tended to stay true to their contract. Machiavelli wanted home grown armies because their officers were local men that could be suborned. He also believed in paying little or nothing.

To give you a modern example; there is an old Merrie Melodies cartoon about the army called ‘21 dollars a day, once a month’. The title is based on the pay scale in the 1930s for a buck private. when I was in the Coast Guard, the pay for that same E2 was a whopping 125 a month. A month later it went up to 365 a month; an average of 1.50 an hour when minimum wage was 3.50. Yet seven years earlier, Mike Hoare’s 5th Commando who cleared the Simbas from the Congo, was paid 1250 dollars a month for the same rank. That is about a hundred dollars less than I make after taxes right now.

(Addenda 2014)

As much Military history as I have read there is always something I missed. One such war was the 30 Years War, where the Catholic Church decided to abrogate the Treaty of Ausberg, where they accepted first that the Lutherans were not going to be beaten that easily, then the concept of Cuius regio, eius religio; a phrase in Latin translated as "Whose realm, his religion", meaning the religion of the ruler dictated the religion of the ruled. However that peace was between just the Lutherans and the Catholics. When the Potestants fractured into other religions, the Catholics, aided primarily by Cardinal Richeliu of Francee, decided to take it all back.

We're not talking about the massive armies of today. The total of men on both sides were around 250,000 men, split among all of the nations from Sweden to Italy, from Spain to Poland, and most of it was fought across what is now modern day Germany. It was also the first war in history fought almost entirely by mercenary armies. The religion of the men fighting didn't matter; prisoners from your last battle were usually incorporated into your own ranks, so there were men from as far away as Ireland fighting.

The problem was the cost, not in lives, though that is a factor, but in what you had to pay to field that army. The paymaster sometimes didn't pay on time, so the armies tended to forage for what they needed. Read plunder, including every negative thing you can think of happening in wartime. But we now looking back forget one important fact. Because as much as we are horrified by all of those things we now call War Crimes, that had been the standard way an army got paid from the first Empires until around the start of the 20th century. Up until the 18th century, armies were rarely paid much if at all, and got into it for the glory and the loot. Cities were just places your enemy de jour put a lot of the wealth. Watch or read the Play Henry the V where he orders one of his oldest friends hung for looting a church. Because in most wars, if the land wasn't under your control after that war, they pretty much didn't give a damn about the civilian populace. And if you want to quibble about the date I used for a cut off, look at the War Between the States here, where 'foraging' was still common practice.

That was the primary reason the Swiss and Germans were known for mercenaries like the Hessians who fought for the British during our Revolution. Even a century later, the economoy of those nations were still badly damaged by that war of a century earlier. If all you have to sell is your men to fight and die, that is what you sell.

Mercenaries have fought in every theater and specialty. Privateers are mercenaries on ships for example. Andrea Doria of Venice was a Privateer commodore. They have also made history. The first aerial dogfight was between two aircraft both flown by mercenaries that fought over Mexico in 1911. Neither was shot down. The first bombing run on a ground target and first attack on a warship by an aircraft happened the next year also in Mexico.

They are still around. Both the British and Indian Armies have Gurkha Regiments. They are so fearsome in combat that during the Falklands Campaign an Argentine Battalion, with the choice of fighting a Gurkha battalion or an SAS Regiment charged the larger unit rather than face the Nepalese. A group named Executive Outcomes with less that 500 men fought the FUR in Sierra Leone to a standstill. The UN, which took over in 1995 found they needed 15,000 troops to contain the same rebels and were losing ground.

Pirates The problem with war is that it breeds chaos. Under international law, the local government, or the occupying power is required to supply all of the normal services a society expects, and that includes policing. With the areas contested between armies, bandits can run rampant, and at sea it’s even worse. The pirate era began because there was no law on the sea, especially in the Caribbean. Most of the depredations were small scale by modern terms, but ships under the command of Sir Francis Drake sacked the city of San Juan De Uloa, a few years later Hawkins did the same for Panama, and the city of Port Royal was sacked by an actual pirate fleet five years before the city sank into the ocean. Captain Kidd the famous pirate started with a letter of Marque, the legal document that gave a privateer the right to attack other ships.

But while fearsome, pirates were in it for the money. They tended to avoid hard targets. Going against an army is not cost effective, while attacking a city will give you lots of loot, attacking a fortified city with a good defense means casualties, and since they work for pay and booty, you’re not going to have the same gung ho feeling among pirates. Of the three above, only Panama was really considered well defended, and the fact that it was sacked proves the Spaniards were wrong about what was ‘adequate’.

Bandits. What Pirates are on the sea, Bandits are on land. Some of the mercenaries above were not above a little banditry. After all, except for being paid for it, the only difference between a mercenary and a soldier at that time was the pay scale. Most armies were paid little or nothing, and they made their fortunes by picking up the odd trinket as they marched. Pillage was a fact of war until the militaries of the 18th century made it illegal.

How this applies. The difference between a modern mercenary infantryman and one portrayed in the KOTOR games is just degree. Each would be trained with their weapons, which oddly enough would take the same amount of time whether a sword or bow and a modern mortar or rifle, even to blasters and disruptors. The armor whether bronze or steel, modern plastic and ceramic SW Cortosis weave or Mandalorian Beskar iron or for that matter Clone or Stormtrooper would be supplied. Even those groups formed in the Greek era did what they could to create conformity except for some specialty weapons more reminiscent of modern Special Ops teams. So having a brand new recruit outfitted with personal weapons and armor is just standard procedure. That kit is his ‘plant’ loadout. What he would probably take with him.

Since modern armies, and by extension the SW universe has heavier weapons and armored vehicles, you would expect them to also have mercenary units that specialize in tanks, armored personnel carriers, helicopters even fighters. But considering the expense, the mercenaries would more likely just supply trained personnel to man and operate it. After all, a squadron of F14 Tomcats costs more than a quarter billion dollars just for the aircraft. If you add fuel, spare parts, expendable ordinance then technicians trained to service them that squadron costs more than a billion dollars just to maintain and operate for a year. Those figures are for training, not for combat. For a full combat cycle (Suggested no more than an eight month deployment) can cost 50 million dollars a day for that one unit.

Once you have proven yourself, you can remain with the unit, or strike out on your own. Executive Outcomes above in addition to supplying military services, also supplies security for companies, and even bodyguards. So single mercenaries are not a surprise.

Bounty Hunters

Last but not least, Bounty hunters. American law, based on English law, placed bounties on criminals that had not yet been caught. Under English law, A highwayman who had committed crimes in three counties or more were declared outlaw. An outlaw could be killed by anyone, and bringing in proof (The head was sufficient if the man was well known) would earn any citizen a bounty. In the US from right before the War Between the States until the 1890s, uncaught criminals had bounties placed on their heads, and a relatively famous series of the 60s named Wanted Dead or Alive enshrined them as a Western legend. The term is specific as you can see; if it is too hard to catch them, you can bring in the body and still get paid. But the primary view was justice; this man is a criminal, bring him in, or prove he is dead.

As much as people lambast 'the dirty rotten coward, who shot Mr. Howard' (Robert Ford shot Jesse James, who had been hiding as Thomas Howard) Jesse James was a criminal who had to be brought in and had eluded arrest for seven years.

Modern day bounty hunters on the other hand are pallid representations. These modern hunters chase not the uncaught criminal; rather they chase the man who had been caught, then paid their bail and ran away.

Considering the representation of bounty hunters in the Star Wars movies (The Empire Strikes Back) and the Game (TSL) they are not really what bounty hunters were in either historical realm.

What I see is a version of the original American Bounty hunter system that probably began when the Republic became too large to be easily managed. Think of modern day Earth where a criminal can flee to another jurisdiction and escape prosecution.

As an example, Ira Samuel Einhorn, a.k.a. "The Unicorn Killer" was arrested for the murder of Holly Maddux in Philadelphia in 1977. 18 Months later, her body was found in a trunk his closet. Thanks to his lawyer Einhorn was able to make a bail of 40,000, and in 1981 days before his trial was to begin he fled to Europe.

In 1993, Einhorn was tried and found guilty in abstensia (Meaning he was not there for the trial, a very important point as you will see) and sentenced to life without parole.

But such trials are in violation of federal law unless the person (As einhorn had) had fled when they knew they would be found guity. France (Where Einhorn was in hiding) appealed to the Court of Human rights on the grounds that they would not extradite to a government that had capital punishment (Pennsylvania does not have one) and demanded a retrial.

As a consequence of this refusal, in order to secure the extradition of Ira Einhorn, the Pennsylvania legislature passed in 1998 a bill (nicknamed the "Einhorn Law") allowing defendants convicted in absentia to request another trial. The bill was, however, criticized as being unconstitutional (as it was argued that the legislature cannot overrule a final judgment handed down by a court, yet another bone of contention in Europe. This was finally cleared on July 20th, when Enihorn was returned to the US.

Now picture another entire planet, with their own legal system, their own version of what is a proper punishment, prevailing upon another to forgo it on the grounds that the punishing government is harsh.

Don't laugh. Until the late 1960s it was not murder to kill a black man in a number of southern states.

In Star Wars It later began to fall apart because while under both British and American law only a government official (Mayor or higher) could file a bounty, yet under the Star Wars Imperial government files one to catch a member of the Rebel (And the Republic in TSL) you have a man filing a bounty on a woman that spurned him, even criminal organizations (The Exchange in TSL and by Jabba the Hutt in Star Wars)

The Bounty Hunter's Code mentioned in TSL actually made sense; don't hunt another's prey, don't interfere with other while they are hunting, and try to take your prey alive.

So how to play them:

Must a bounty hunter or Mercenary be some homicidal maniac? Are privateer as evil as pirates?

You decide... But I will be watching.

'To argue with those who have renounced the use and authority of reason is as futile as to administer medicine to the dead.' Now who said that?

From the one who brought you;
What we die for...
KOTOR excerpts
Star Wars: The Beginning
Star Wars: Republic Dawn
Return From Exile

Last edited by machievelli; 07-25-2014 at 10:31 AM. Reason: Addenda
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