Ahsoka Tano, Child Soldier

“I’m the new Padawan learner. I’m Ahsoka Tano.”

While I absolutely love Ahsoka Tano and find her an enthralling Star Wars character, I am also torn by the reality that Tano, a child, was a combatant in the Clone Wars. Story-wise this was purposeful, as a juvenile protagonist – a “youngling” as Obi-Wan Kenobi calls her – was needed to draw younger viewers to The Clone Wars film and television series of the same name, giving kids a character that they could easily identify with. Narrative necessity aside, no one can deny that when she arrives on the planet Christophsis in the movie, Ahsoka Tano not only takes her first steps towards becoming a Jedi Knight but also becomes a child soldier.

Admittedly, when I first watched The Clone Wars movie and series I was never bothered by this reality. In all honesty, it never even crossed my mind until recently. So deeply enchanted by the new Star Wars stories being told, so excited to experience the Clone Wars which Obi-Wan first spoke of in A New Hope, it never dawned on me that Ahsoka Tano’s participation in the war was/is egregious. That Jedi Master Yoda would see fit to use the youngling as a courier, carrying an urgent message into the heart of a major battle is alarming, especially considering she is sent without any body armor. That he and the Jedi Order would allow Ahsoka and other Jedi children to be warriors in the conflict is appalling.

Then again, while alarming and appalling, it is not entirely surprising. The Jedi Order – Master Yoda included – was quick to take command of the clone army in Attack of the Clones, an army of genetically bred soldiers who were also, technically speaking, just children. That the ancient Order, committed to using the mystical Force for “knowledge and defense, never for attack” would move so swiftly to militarize is disconcerting, proof that the Jedi were not only imperfect but also flirted with the Dark Side. Sending children into battle, younglings such as Ahsoka Tano and Caleb Dume (himself younger than even Tano) is but another reminder that the Jedi Order in the late days of the Old Republic acted, at times, in morally and ethically repugnant ways.


I am interested to hear what you have to say about Ahsoka Tano as a child soldier, but I would also encourage you to check out the sites below to read more about the plight of child soldiers around the world. 

Child Soldiers International

Human Rights Watch

Amnest International

Children and Armed Conflict
(Be sure to watch the video featuring Star Wars actor Forest Whitaker)

8 comments

  1. I had definitely never thought about this. It’s a very interesting perspective. I was thinking about the fact that as a Padawan, she was actively being mentored in warfare… I don’t know if that makes it more or less disturbing! I suppose it depends on the mentor.

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  2. Oh man, the Jedi Order is messssed up. I think blogging over the past (almost 4!) years had me start off with extreme love and almost blind devotion to the Jedi Order…and slowly but surely I’ve become a little jaded. I’ve written a few posts on it. I still love the Jedi, and they changed my life, but they were not perfect by any means.

    Starting fresh with Luke could have been a good thing. Guess we’ll see because maybe not.

    I hated TCW for almost 3 years before I had a random 180. But yes, I have thought about that before with the children and their battle. They brainwash the kids pretty young so I’m sure they don’t look at it as child soldiers. The children are brought up in the Jedi doctrine and that’s all they know, along with the fact that they have an advantage because they have the Force.

    What would you suggest? An age where they are allowed to go into battle vs. how capable they are? I think Yoda looked more at their skills than age.

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    1. Like you, I used to have an otherwise wide-eyed love and affection for the Jedi. I still do in some ways, but I don’t necessary see them as this morally or ethically perfect Order anymore. Even Yoda acknowledges that the Order goes down a dark path at times, and there is a lot to be learned from the “good guys/gals” admitting they are not always doing the right thing.

      I think you are right that Yoda was looking at skills more than age. In fact, as I was writing the few paragraphs on Ahsoka, I had that thought in the back of my mind. She is naturally gifted, far more gifted than other younglings, and I am sure the decision to have her apprentice with Anakin was not made entirely as a way to send her to war. But I think the basic problem about Ahsoka going to war starts with that fact: the Jedi Order is not supposed to be fighting wars. Keeping the peace, defending others, they can certainly do that. But that they charged into battle leading a genetically bred army (ethical issue alert!!!) is not in line with their philosophy. Now, I am also aware that within SW there are certain political realities, and the Jedi served the Senate. If, in the Military Creation Act the Senate also gave brevit generalships to the Jedi, ordering them to take command of the Clone Army, that is certainly something that has to be taken into consideration. However, that also feels like an unnecessary justification, a deflection from the fact that the Jedi Order could have pushed the Senate to be negotiators, not military leaders.

      And, as for Ahsoka, I am not entirely sure what I would suggest other than I don’t think she should have been sent into battle. As I admit, I am torn because I really love her as a character but she is a child. Someone else suggested to me that the Order needed as many Jedi going into battle as possible, so they sent children like Ahsoka. But that is almost more uncomfortable, the thought that the Order, needing to fight a war, had to send children into battle to pad their ranks! Yikes!

      I suppose, if nothing else, my intention for writing this short piece was to spark conversation on the topic of child soldiers and the Jedi, and I think it is doing that. Whether there are crisp answers to the dilemma is another thing, but I guess that is why I just come down hard on the basics: she is a child, she shouldn’t be a soldier in a war.

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      1. Yes, I don’t like that the Jedi who are supposed to be keepers of the peace, instead seem to be fighting many battles and are very active in the Clone Wars. Interesting what happens when politics starts meddling…

        And I guess I would refute your argument when you say “She is a child, she shouldn’t be a soldier in war.” with the fact that, again, she has the Force. I think having the Force means you’re ready and trained for more and your advantages are higher than the average civilian. It’s not that I necessarily believe this with all my heart, kind of playing devil’s advocate.

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      2. I can certainly agree that Ahsoka – having the capacity to use the Force – is exceptional, far more so than the average individual. The Jedi are set aside as “god-like” in Star Wars, and that certainly extends from the elder figures like Yoda down to the younglings. But I am not sure that being exceptional – or hell, even being mature for her age – is reason enough for a child to be sent to the front lines of a conflict. Still, I am torn. I really like Ahsoka and her coming of age in the series is fascinating, even against the backdrop of a war. And yet, I can’t shake that the Jedi Order fails her and other younglings by putting them into such a situation.

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  3. I think this point really forces one to examine how one interacts with the material under the Star Wars brand. If one prefers it purely for the entertainment value then that is fine. If on the other hand one prefers to use Star Wars as a lens/mirror to examine our own society/world and the implications of that reality then this sort of discussion is great.

    We have recently seen hints of psychological issues following war (in Rex), there has been an attempt to make the politics of Star Wars a bit more realistic, and we recently got our first “gritty” film in the form of Rogue One. However, the question of the moral implications of much of the Jedi Code and how the Order as a whole functions could bring to mind parallels with some of the most effective indoctrination programs in history. Further, if the Galactic Senate functions in any way like the real world Congress of the United States the Jedi would have had input in the formation of the Military Creation Act (as stakeholders) and are therefore at least partially implicated in its application to the Clone Army and the galaxy as a whole.

    Going beyond the political realm we also get into questioning some of the standard tools of the Jedi order; I am thinking here of the “mind trick” in particular. While it is used for comedic effect in the movies if one really sits down to think about it they are literally taking away the free will of anyone “weak-minded” enough to fall for it. The fact that we don’t see a Jedi use this for something “evil” doesn’t mean the implications are horrifying.

    I have also often thought about the implications of the Jedi existing as a military/police/intelligence/investigative arm of the Republic apparatus. Given what we have recently seen of the myriad of Force organizations in the galaxy the fact that the Jedi serve in this role implies that the Republic government endorses their version of worship of the Force. To me, this means that the Republic takes on shades of a theocratic republic and effectively has a state sponsored and and sanctioned religion.

    I don’t bring all of this up to discredit or to say in any way that my enjoyment of Star Wars is lessened by these concepts. I would argue quite the opposite. My point here is that my enjoyment of the material is only enhanced when authors find a way to work in deeper themes (without beating me over the head with it) that offer us a commentary on the reality in which we live.

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