On the surface, it’s a bit of an outrageous question: Why would Emperor Palpatine start a conflict with himself when he’s clearly already subduing a large chunk of the galaxy? What could he possibly gain from snowballing his own downfall? Here we cover a few reasons as to why that theory has been floating around.

Theories in the Comics

There are actually a few ways of answering this question. The first is more of a theory and can be examined in the canon Star Wars comics. The first of which can be found in Star Wars: Hidden Empire #2 (by Charles Soule, Steven Cummings, Victor Olazaba, and Guru-eFX.) A main character in the comic, known as the Archivist, in a recording says, “Empires need enemies. They need justification for all those weapons…for all those soldiers. A reason for their subjects to be afraid, so the people will tolerate a level of control they would never otherwise allow. Palpatine was very good at finding enemies. First, it was the Separatists during the Clone Wars, then the Jedi during the purge. I wouldn’t be surprised if he created the rebel alliance himself, just to keep the game going.” 

This statement is treated like an outlandish theory, even within the story. However, the Archivist does have a point in that Palpatine has been shown in the past to be playing chess with himself, pitting the Republic and the Separatists against one another during the Clone Wars. On top of that, manufacturing his own army that would eventually become the perfect mindless soldiers for him to use until he could recruit his own. Following this logic, it’s not entirely outlandish to believe that Palpatine would have crafted some kind of strategic enemy that he believed could be squashed quickly by his Empire in time or transformed into the next phase of whatever plan he had contrived. 

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Palpatine Utilized the Rebellion For His Own Gain

In Star Wars: Darth Vader – Black, White, & Red #3 (by Jason Aaron, Leonard Kirk, Romulo Fajardo Jr., Daniel Warren Johnson, Marc Bernardin Stefano Raffaele, and Andres Mossa) there’s a small piece of internal monologue from an Imperial officer named Lieutenant Sulaco. The character is revealed to be a rebel spy by Darth Vader. In exchange for the lives of her loved ones, she makes a deal to become a double agent and says, “He doesn’t want the alliance wiped out. “Pruned” was the word he used. A rebellion is good for imperial morale. A wartime Empire needs an enemy. One he can control.” 

This is a small moment that can be missed, but with the other theory brought alongside, it can shed a whole new light. If, in fact, Palpatine had created the Rebellion, Vader wouldn’t want to stamp it out immediately. They would like to keep it alive for as long as possible while slowly milking its life and resources, so it continued to struggle against the vast resources of the Empire. Having double agents on the inside would help them keep tabs on their strategic enemy, to ensure they wouldn’t grow powerful enough to become a real threat.

Every Event During the Galactic Civil War Was Calculated by Palpatine

Palpatine needed an excuse to continue expanding his territory into every nook and cranny of the Galaxy in order to achieve his ambitions of gaining total control over it and its people. The Rebellion is that perfect excuse. After all, following the quote mentioned above from The Hidden Empire, a hooded figure, later revealed to be either Luke or Leia, says, “I suppose. But even if he didn’t start the rebellion, he absolutely used it.” So, even if Palpatine didn’t create an enemy for his Empire, he wouldn’t hesitate to jump at the opportunity to use them in the ways already discussed here. To instill fear into the ordinary people he was attempting to control. 

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It’s well-known that the Rebel Alliance eventually proved too great for Palpatine to control and eventually deposed the tyrannical emperor. It was all over once they gained the aid of a Jedi–a Skywalker Jedi. After Anakin failed as the chosen one, that responsibility went to Luke, and he was the one to finally defeat the Sith and bring balance back to the force (for a time). Why would Palpatine birth something that would eventually lead to his failure? And this theory isn’t to say that every part of the rebellion was created and managed by him, not like the level of control he had on both sides, like in the Clone Wars. There were undoubtedly people in the Rebellion who truly believed in their ability to take down the Empire. 

To Palpatine, the Galactic Conflict Was Simply a Different Point of View

However, there is another way to interpret the question of whether Palpatine created the Rebellion. There is the suggestion that when an empire attempts to control, destroy, and enslave whole populations, that it is inevitable that a rebellion will begin. Eventually, people would stand up against an organization like that and attempt to sabotage their efforts. That it was fated, and inevitable from the very beginning of the Empire that backlash would ensue, no matter how prominent and how terrifying their opponent may be. 

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So, whether he deliberately created the Rebellion or came about through fate, destiny, or something of the like, it ultimately led to his demise. The creation of the Rebellion and the hope that it gave people that freedom was a possibility was enough to inspire the subjects. Palpatine tried to subdue and grow more and more until it finally led to his end at the hands of his own apprentice. 

There are hints throughout canon stories that keeping the rebellion alive for as long as it was was somewhat purposeful by Palpatine and Vader, and done so out of a way to excuse their brutal tactics and keep the morale of their soldiers high, and keep a clear goal in mind. 

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