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For other uses, see Tarkin (disambiguation).

The Death Stars epitomized the Tarkin Doctrine.

"Fear will keep the local systems in line. Fear of this battle station."
Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin[src]

The Tarkin Doctrine, also known as the Doctrine of Terror, Rule of Fear,[1] and officially known as Imperial Communiqué #001044.92v, was a message originally sent directly to Emperor Palpatine from then Moff Wilhuff Tarkin. The transmission detailed Tarkin's concept of maintaining order and increasing security within the Galactic Empire by means of state terrorism. It became one of the most important documents regarding Imperial policy.


"The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers."
Princess Leia[src]

Tarkin, discussing his doctrine

The Tarkin Doctrine was an evolutionary concept. It had its roots in 29 BBY, when Raith Sienar presented his plans for the Expeditionary Battle Planetoid to then-Commander Tarkin. Tarkin was fascinated by the concept: as an officer in the Republic Outland Regions Security Force, he had seen the chaos caused by the absence of government in the Outer Rim Territories. His own experience with the Galactic Senate was also a factor in this, as it split the galaxy into thousands of sectors with a senator each claiming to represent trillions of citizens, which led to chaos.[2] To create a navy large enough to police the entire galaxy would be ruinously expensive, and could still be overcome by an opponent making use of hit-and-run strikes and a stateless strategy. Tarkin saw Sienar's design, improved with the addition of a weapon powerful enough to seriously damage a planet, as the solution to this strategic conundrum: no world, he believed, would dare harbor pirates or defy central authority if the punishment was the destruction of their planet.[3] He also had experience with how he was trying to pursue pirates within his sector, only for them to go deep into another sector, where they would exploit jurisdiction laws where Tarkin was unable to continue his pursuit without possibly entering conflict with another moff.[4]

Tarkin plagiarized Sienar's concept and presented it to Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, who ordered the beginning of research that would eventually lead to the Death Star.[5] Another influence on the development of the Tarkin Doctrine was the creation of the sector armies of the Grand Army of the Republic during the Clone Wars and the re-installation of the office of the Governor-Generals, which overrode existing sector borders[6]

Tarkin presented his complete concept to Emperor Palpatine in 18 BBY. The Doctrine called for three primary principles: Territorial Consolidation; Rapid Communication; and, most infamously, the Rule of Fear.[2]

Under Territorial Consolidation,[2] to deal with cross-sector criminal and rebellious activity and the problem of jurisdictional conflicts, the Tarkin Doctrine called for the retooling of the sector armies' areas of operations to create Oversectors, proposing they be tailored to control unstable galactic hot spots and be assigned greater forces than usual in an attempt to root out rebellious activity before it could take hold. Each Oversector, capable of crossing traditional sector boundaries, would be controlled by a single official who answered directly to Palpatine.[7]

Under Rapid Communication, the Tarkin Doctrine also called for the cannibalization of the HoloNet and its restriction to the Imperial Navy,[7] as well as the overall Imperial Military,[2] in order to deny communication to insurgents and to more effectively coordinate Sector Groups.[7] According to Tarkin, this was because the HoloNet, allowing face-to-face communication across thousands of light-years, was far too valuable to let the public have free access. Under this method, each sector flagship would receive its own transceiver and remain in direct contact with Oversector command, while Oversector command would maintain a direct link with Imperial High Command on Coruscant. Another reason for this implementation was to ensure that far-flung Imperial sectors could no longer run wild from a lack of discipline by making sure central authority watched their every move.[2]

Grand Moff Tarkin on the bridge of an Imperial Star Destroyer

Finally, the cornerstone of the Doctrine was the concept of "rule through fear of force, rather than through force itself," also most infamously known as the Rule of Fear. Displays of power, most vitally through the use of terror-inspiring superweapons, would, Tarkin suggested, stifle dissent and rebellion. The presentation of a seemingly invincible weapon of ultimate power would play upon the fearfulness and awe of the citizenry to render all thought of assault against the Empire forgotten.[7] It was therefore Tarkin's recommendation that the Empire invest strongly and continually in the innovation of ever more-powerful weapons of war.[8] The inspiration behind the creation of the rule of fear, and more specifically the research into superweapons development, was due to increased Rebel activity, and more specifically that the Rebels were now capable of not only fighting various Imperial troops, but also engaging in conventional naval warfare and destroying armored vehicles during a planetary invasion, meaning the Imperial military's superiority in equipment, training, and numbers would not be enough.[2]

Emperor Palpatine was very impressed with the ideas, so much that all the suggestions were implemented with Tarkin promoted to the new rank of Grand Moff (making him the first Grand Moff). Tarkin's own sector army's theater, the Greater Seswenna, was dramatically expanded to become Oversector Outer, which encompassed most of the Outer Rim Territories. In addition, he was given command of four Sector Groups to crush insurgent activity, and was placed in command of the Death Star project, which fulfilled his philosophy of creating a weapon so powerful no planet would dare countenance resistance. According to the Tarkin Doctrine, once the Death Star was active, no one would dare act against the Empire. Terror at the prospect of planetary annihilation would ensure compliance and order.[9] The Tarkin Doctrine was also later included in the Imperial Handbook: A Commander's Guide, which was ironically published to the Imperial Military commanders shortly before a cornerstone of the Tarkin Doctrine, the First Death Star, along with Tarkin himself, was destroyed at Yavin 4.[2]

The Empire was ultimately unsuccessful in instilling the fear necessary to keep the galaxy in line. Palpatine increasingly changed Tarkin's original words to his own meaning, "Rule through fear instead of through idealistic government agencies." Consequently, with the Death Star fully operational in 0 BBY, he dissolved the Imperial Senate with the battle station to be the principal source of Imperial control in the Outer Rim.[10] However, the Death Star produced the opposite of its intended result—instead of cowering under the threat of such a weapon, the people viewed its victims (particularly the unarmed planet Alderaan) as martyrs and rallied to the Rebellion's cause, especially after the Death Star's destruction at the Battle of Yavin. Further Imperial attempts to enact the doctrine with projects like the Tarkin, a stripped-down superlaser named in honor of the martyred Grand Moff, and the even larger Second Death Star, met with destruction in concerted Rebel strikes. The Empire was thus left in the same strategic conundrum the Tarkin Doctrine had been formulated to correct, and throughout the Galactic Civil War the Imperial Navy was never able to bring enough ships to bear to properly police the Outer Rim.[11]

Aside from the flaws relating to the Rule of Fear, there were also some flaws encountered in the implementation of the other two principles. According to the ace Rebel pilot Wedge Antilles, a flaw in the first principle was a Grand Moff's jurisdiction crossing sector borders; accordingly, the Rebels changed their strategy by staging raids at the border of an oversector and then drawing two Grand Moffs into a turf war (which was ironically the reason he formed the first rule in the first place[4]). Likewise, the smuggler-turned-Rebel General Han Solo mentioned that a week after the implementation of the Tarkin Doctrine, bootleg transceivers could be bought from any hustler on Nar Shaddaa, thus defeating the intended purpose of the second principle.[2]

Full text[]

Source: Death Star Technical CompanionAttribution: Wilhuff Tarkin

To: His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Palpatine
From: Governor Tarkin, Seswenna sector, Eriadu
Regarding: Increasing the security of the Empire

Your Majesty:
It has recently come to my attention that what had previously been the quiet grumbling of malcontents on backwater worlds has become dissidence in more civilized systems. Your Majesty will forgive me if I am repeating foundless rumors, but I have heard there is even armed defiance in some sectors.

Coupled with increased resistance to your plans from hot-headed young senators, this situation has given me pause to think about our long term security arrangements. I myself have been frustrated chasing pirate bands in my sector, only to have them leap deep into a neighboring sector where my forces cannot follow without running into conflict with another Moff. If the scattered armed resistance should become organized, it will doubtless follow the example of its criminal brethren. Granting any rebel group the advantage of elusiveness is foolhardy at best. At worst, it could lead to our destruction.

Even the excellent pace with which His Majesty is increasing the size of the Imperial Fleet can scarcely hope to provide all-encompassing security should a significant number of planets decide to defy your New Order. We are years—perhaps decades—away from a force vast enough to secure every system and every world simultaneously.

Therefore, I present the following recommendations for your consideration:

  • To provide a swift, systematic response to rebellion as it appears and before it has time to entrench, I suggest the formation of Oversectors—sectors consisting of systems in which rebellion is newly born, or systems which maintain frequent contact with systems in chronic unrest. These Oversectors would be formed without regard to current sector boundaries. With the freedom to cross outdated political borders, Oversector forces would be able to respond to threats quickly, while they are still small and manageable.
    Liquidating a dozen small threats is easier than rooting out one well-established center of defiance. As an Oversector is created only across problem sectors, they must be given a greater quantity of forces than a normal sector. Three Sector Groups should suffice.
  • Command of an Oversector should be given to a single individual who reports directly to His Majesty. This will bypass any delays caused by political opportunism in your advisors.
  • Cannibalize existing holonet transceivers, modify them, and put them in the flagship of every Sector Group in an Oversector command. Place similar facilities within His Majesty's command ship and within the Royal Palaces of Imperial City. This will enable forces to respond to threats almost as quickly as they are reported. Imperial forces will be able to coordinate to a degree impossible among an enemy whose fastest means of communication is an ever-changing rendezvous point somewhere in the galaxy.
  • Rule through the fear of force rather than through force itself. If we use our strength wisely, we shall cow thousands of worlds with the example of a select few. These examples would need to be highly visible worlds, whose punishment would be further revealed through our control of information via the hyper media.
  • Your Majesty, it has long been my contention that your New Order needs one undeniable and overwhelming symbol to impress and, yes, frighten the masses. The average citizen has no grasp of numbers nor a head for calculation. I maintain that the effectiveness of the Star Destroyer stems from not only its massive firepower, but from its size. When citizens look at a Star Destroyer and then compare it to the craft which might be mustered to attack it, they have a tendency to dismiss such a notion as suicidal rather than approach the problem tactically.
    This natural state can be exploited to a far greater degree, as the average citizen deals in symbols, not rational analysis. If we present the galaxy with a weapon so powerful, so immense as to defy all conceivable opposition against it, a weapon invulnerable and invincible in battle, then that weapon shall become the symbol of the Empire. We need only a handful, perhaps as few as one, of these weapons to subjugate a thousand thousand worlds. It must have force enough to dispatch an entire system, power enough to shatter planets. The fear such a weapon will inspire will be great enough for you to rule the galaxy unchallenged. What do you need with the Senate when you can give direct control of territories to your hand-picked regional governors? Sweep away the last remnants of the Old Republic and let fear keep the local systems in line—fear of our ultimate weapon.

I am ready to begin work to implement these steps at your word.

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Behind the scenes[]

The full text of Imperial Communiqué #001044.92v first appeared in the Imperial Sourcebook. The text above is from the Death Star Technical Companion, which has different wording from the Imperial Sourcebook version while retaining much of the same meaning. The Death Star Owner's Technical Manual shows yet another, significantly shorter, version of this communiqué.



Notes and references[]