I've been interested in military stuff ever since I was a kid and got my first set of little green army men. Its no surprise then that the military aspects of a movie like Star Wars would capture my imagination. From the Star Destroyers and Stormtroopers to the X-Wings and Rebel soldiers. All of it was just so 'cool'. As I grew up with Star Wars, I often pondered the various aspects of it—just how were the various militaries organized? There were lots of hints in the original three movies, of course, and from these I was able to piece together what I thought was a rational explanation for most of it. Then the prequels happened—and along with them the Clone Wars cartoons, and...well, things just didn't seem to add up. That's what this post is about—how the various Star Wars militaries are presented in the movies, and how I think they would 'really' be.
First of all, I simply reject the notion that the Republic in the prequel trilogy had no military whatsoever. It is ridiculous to think that any government could survive in a 'competitive' environment without a military—even a relatively small one. It is clearly the case that the Republic is NOT the only power in the galaxy—the Hutt's seem to have their own independent state, and I don't think they're the 'live and let live' sort. If they had the muscle to take over the Republic, they would. Obviously, there's something keeping them from doing so. And it also obviously isn't the Jedi, since Windu himself said there were too few of them to fight a war by themselves.
Likewise, there are all sorts of lower-level threats that would require some kind of military to hold them back. Pirates would certainly require a navy, as would overly aggressive corporate powers (like.. oh, I don't know.. the Trade Federation?). When you add to this the fact that the Old Republic obviously has a military tradition (as seen in the Knights of the Old Republic series) it would only go to reason that there was a military in existence before the start of the Clone wars. In fact, considering the size of the Republic, the military would have to be quite extensive.
It reasons then that there was a Republic Navy prior to the clone wars. It was a large one, but probably very spread out, patrolling the space lanes. It would have ships and equipment geared towards this kind of duty: mainly patrol vessels, but likely with at least some heavy ships to back them up in more serious confrontations. Though the prequels may not support this, the Zahn novels do—namely with the whole Katana fleet which was sent out BEFORE the Clone Wars and represented only a fraction of the total fleet strength of the Republic.
For the reasons listed above, it also seems likely that there would be some form of army as well—at the very least some marines, deployable by the navy, but also likely including planetary militias of various sorts.
The second assumption that the prequels and Clone Wars cartoons seem to make is that Clones comprise the bulk of the republic military—if not its entirety. Again, this seems unrealistic and impractical. Just how many clones could the Kaminoans have made prior to the war breaking out? And how many could they continue to produce? When you're looking at things on a galactic scale, even the output of an entire planet (that's assume the entire world of Kamino was devoted to just making clones) is relatively insignificant.
Again, it seems more likely that the Clone Troopers would serve as the elite fighting force of the Republic, the 'tip of the spear' as it were. A lot of the 'grunt work'—especially in the early stages of the war—would have had to fall on the shoulders of the Republic Navy and various militias. As the war went on, it goes to reason that the republic would expand these 'conventional' forces in direct relation to their Clone forces—especially when you consider how hard pressed the republic seemed to be. Simply put, they couldn't rely on Clones alone, and it would be foolish of them to do so.
I guess one of the main reasons I had to work all this out for myself was because the prequels (once again) seemed to be contradicting the original trilogy. I mean, you had all these Generals and Admirals in both the Rebel and Imperial militaries (Dodonna, Rieekan, Veers, Ozzel, etc.). They had to have come from somewhere? It was assumed (by more than just me, I imagine) that many were veterans of the Clone Wars. And yet, in the prequels? Nope. Just clones fought in the Clone Wars. But I think that my personal theory explains this all away without too much difficulty.
Simply put, in the movies (and even in the Cartoons) we are seeing only some of the most pivotal battles of the war and the most elite fighting forces. Therefore, we see the various elite all-clone task forces in action. Elsewhere, off-camera, mixed clone, non-clone forces continue to hold the line against the separatists. So that's where Dodonna and the others must have been. Make sense to you? Does to me.