- "I launched missiles against the Vagaari's living shields...."
"I realize you didn't have any choice."
"Which doesn't necessarily make it easier to accept. It is, unfortunately, the sort of decision all warriors must make."
- ―Chiss Ascendancy naval commander Mitth'raw'nuruodo (Thrawn) explains to Corellian Maris Ferasi his decision to preemptively attack the 'living shield'-bearing Vagaari, in order to prevent further loss of extra-galactic life.
Living shields were protective shields consisting of visibly encapsulated living beings (usually slaves) that were fitted to warships as deterrents against enemy combatants harboring varying degrees of what might be termed 'moral conscience'—by which a combatant force felt compelled to refrain from attack, by virtue of certain core philosophies or beliefs (often taking the form of codified moral law) that were inextricably bound to its general world culture and which, therefore, could not be breached or violated. It follows that a culture that actually employed such shields as defensive measures in warfare did not themselves possess any such restrictive moral codes or philosophies, nor were they in any degree bound by them.
The Vagaari, a nomadic pirate species from the Unknown Regions, was one such culture that used living shields extensively in their raids on other planets and cultures within those regions and in Wild Space. Possessing no such philosophical moorings themselves that would cause such crippling hesitation in battle, the Vagaari came to boldly trust in the 'living shield' as a highly effective deterrent to employ against any world culture or force that was bound by such restrictive moral codes or law.
The Vagaarian living shield took the form of transparisteel-like plastic bubbles fitted all over the hulls of their armored slave and treasure ships. Each bubble was a mini-prison, encasing a living alien being—usually a slave or captured enemy combatant or civilian.
Chiss Ascendancy naval commander Mitth'raw'nuruodo (whose 'core name' was Thrawn), a firm believer in the preemptive strike against space marauders who did not value life, employed that preemptive tactic against the 'living shield'-bearing Vagaari and their greedy, unscrupulous, murderous whims, in order to prevent further unnecessary loss of extra-galactic life and property. Thrawn's aggressive stance, however, was in fact contrary to the fundamental military doctrine of the Chiss people, who believed in upholding a doctrine of "peaceful watchfulness," and who refused to condone the preemptive military attack.
- "Living shields ... the most evil and cowardly defense concept ever created."
- ―Jedi Master Jorus C'baoth
- Outbound Flight (First appearance)