Moments before the start of the Battle of Yavin.

Matt Cavanaugh was caught in a holding pattern, as it goes for American military personnel leaving a place like South Korea. He had spent most of 2015 and some of 2016 away from his wife and two young daughters, and he had to wait a few more days before finally returning home to Manitou Springs.

"You're just in a crummy hotel room doing nothing," he says.

So the time was perfect to delve into a new project that had come to mind over the past year: a book comparing modern war with "Star Wars."

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Say what you will about Darth Vader, but he knew how to run a modernization program. When he was put in charge of the Death Star Joint Program Office, that battle station reached initial operating capability on time – a feat the Pentagon seems unable to replicate many years later.

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Star Wars

Accident Investigation Board – Rebel Alliance 

T-47 Airspeeder (Field Modified)

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There are few sights more exciting than a futuristic fighter jet tearing across a clear blue sky. In video games, movies, and comic books, these slices of imagination dominate the skies and look good doing it. And whether or not they’re hitting Mach 3 during an attack run against invading aliens or attempting to topple some genocidal giant robots, it's nice to know that the Pentagon can always just turn to Netflix for inspiration when it starts dreaming up the warplanes of the future.

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Photo illustration by Brad Howard.

President Trump wants a new branch of the military to seek out new and new civilizations and boldly kill what no U.S. troops have killed before.

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Screenshot

Editor's note: This essay, "Han, Greedo, and a Strategy of Prevention," is excerpted from the new book Strategy Strikes Back: How Star Wars Explains Modern Military Conflict from Potomac Books. The volume — which includes work by more than 30 soldiers, scholars, and diplomats, along with a foreword by former general Stanley McChrystal — is available now online and in bookstores.

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