What did the Empire gain at Hoth? It had the opportunity to deal the Rebel Alliance a defeat from which the Rebels might not have recovered: the loss of its secret base; the loss of its politically potent symbol in Leia; and most of all the loss of its promising proto-Jedi in Luke. Instead, Luke escapes to join Yoda; Leia escapes with Han to Cloud City (where Vader has to resort to Plan B); and the Rebel Alliance’s transport ships largely escape to join up at a pre-established rendezvous point, as we see at the end of the film.
At the very most, the Empire’s assault on Hoth killed a couple of low-ranking Rebels and destroyed a few transit ships — which we don’t even see on screen. Instead of crushing the Rebels, it scattered them, leaving them to survive for the additional successes they’ll achieve in Return of the Jedi. It’s a classic fiasco of overconfidence and theology masquerading as military judgment — and the exact opposite of the Empire striking back.
Immediate contender for the year's most delightfully nerdy, yet strangely informative article.