Glad Professors Aren’t Generals
VOX uses Game of Thrones to totally discredit Political Science
VOX’s Zach Beauchamp recently ranked the strategic success of the major characters from Game of Thrones Season 7 with the ‘help’ of a Professor of International Relations (Dr. Dan Drezner PhD) last week.
After reading the article, I must admit that I have not felt this uncertain about the predictive quality of my former academic discipline since the fall of the Berlin Wall (I have a Master’s in IR).
Sure, we ultimately agreed about the top two, but in much different order and many of the other picks were head-scratching to say the least.
#12 Daenerys Targaryen
I have no problem with putting Daenerys low on the list (she made a bunch of terrible decisions this season) but lower than several now dead people, lower than Tyrion, and lower than Jon ‘Ned” Snow?
That is some crazy grading by any standard.
They blame her for losing “two of her three” allies Dorne and Highgarden, which was directly the result of reluctantly going along with #7 Tyrion Lannister’s stupid plan (also she has more than three allies — see Unsullied and Dothraki).
They are certainly right to criticize her for failing to capitalize on her strategic advantage. But they give her zero credibility for the Battle of the Plunder Carts which erased much of the damage done by Tyrion’s plan and reconnected her forces. And how in the heck can you rank THREE people whose strategies resulted in DEATH above a woman who still controls a massive army and two dragons.
Yes, she is to blame for running off and losing the dragon, but that happened because Tyrion came up with the DUMBEST PLAN IN THE HISTORY OF ASOIAF. A plan so dumb, any real General who knew Cersei at all would not have been able to repeat it with a straight face. Tyrion is Cersei’s brother.
11. Peter Baelish
Peter Baelish was taken down by a classic combination of hubris and sexism. His body is literally on ice after Arya, Sansa, and Bran played him like a fiddle. Why in the world is he ranked at all (much less higher than Daenerys).
And here is the crazy thing, the authors have not one positive thing to say about Littlefinger’s strategy in the VOX piece.
If you believe Daenerys was 100% to blame for the loss of Viserion, okay, I guess dying is better than giving the Night King a weapon of zombified mass destruction (I don’t believe it was Daenerys’ fault).
So, why not Bronn here? Why rank Baelish at all? Heck why not Qyburn here?
And did anyone believe Baelish’s plan had any chance of succeeding? I sure didn’t (Sansa married to Littlefinger?).
#10-#8 Olenna, Ellaria, and the Greyjoy Siblings
Olenna Tyrell managed to:
Not get to King’s Landing (where she was supposed to have her armies meet up with the Dornish armies to encircle Cersei).
Not have any idea an invading army was crossing her territory and encircling and ultimately defeating her forces, all while she and her army were just relaxing at Highgarden.
But, these two claim she did well because she aligned herself with Daenerys? And that her only error was aligning with a weak leader?
Who else was Olenna going to align with after Cersei murdered her daughter? The Brotherhood Without Banners? Maggie the Frog? The Night King?
And how exactly can you claim the Greyjoy’s did even better? Yara had a large fleet full of seasoned Krakens and the entire armed forces of Dorne, and got them all annihilated (had she never heard of scouts or scout ships?). That was Daenerys’ fault how?
I can’t even respond to the inclusion of Ellaria Sand? Seriously?
I guess you can have Theon, at least he is finally fighting back.
#7 Tyrion Lannister
Tyrion’s first plan was to split his forces three ways and send his best soldiers to Casterly rock which has so little strategic value to Cersei she has literally never visited it during the entire history of the show.
Tyrion’s second plan, was to send several of his most important military personnel on a suicide mission to ‘capture’ a Wight that they were going to use to convince Cersei Lannister to call a time-out which she wanted (or needed) anyway.
I am pretty sure this was the worst plan in the history of the entire series.
And all of this just because he was worried that, assuming they won the war, people might think that Daenerys was ‘mad’ like her Father?
Tyrion’s strategies were so bad this season that I suggested that maybe his results might improve if he went back to being a total drunk.
If Tyrion had simply counselled Daenerys to finish the war, it would have ended before the season did (remember Bran talking about their desperate defensive position during the Dragon and the Wolf).
But no, Tyrion gets the pass, and it is all Daenerys fault?
#6 Arya Stark
My only argument here is that Arya should have been higher.
Arya singlehandedly eliminated the entire House of Frey (who controlled the Neck which was thought to be impenetrable). She also totally dominated one of the sneakiest players of all time in Littlefinger. How is she #6?
#5 Euron Grayjoy
I mean I guess?
He got a gigantic boost from Benioff and Weiss:
- They allowed him to build 1000 ships of a kind the Iron Islands never used (they were coastal raiders).
- They allowed him to build 1000 ships on islands that could never have provided the wood.
- They allowed him to totally surprise and demolish a gigantic navy with ships full of Dornish soldiers with zero costs to his fleet.
- They allowed him to teleport from one end of Westeros to the other at will.
I guess if that counts as strategy he did well? Great work (salute)!
#4 Sansa Stark
Okay, again, a bit low. But this one is fine (I had Sansa and Arya at #3 in my end of season rankings).
I would say more, but I don’t disagree.
If you want to read more about my thoughts on this, check these articles out:
Nope, Sansa Stark Isn’t In Trouble
Well, not more than anyone else in Westeros (see Night King)
Is Arya Really at War with Sansa?
Could Arya Be Playing a ‘Game of Sisters’ at Littlefinger’s expense?
#3 Jon Snow
You have GOT to be kidding me (you did say you were ranking strategy here right)?
Jon Snow, the guy who insisted on being part of the Moronic Seven?
The funniest part of this is their supporting argument is that he convinced Daenerys to fight White Walkers.
Yes, he did that, in one of the stupidest ways possible (see my rant above).
If she needed to see the enemy, why not have her fly her dragon high in the air over the army of the dead (too high to be attacked)?
Plus, and this is the important part, Jon KNOWS Cersei and Tyrion KNOWS Cersei. They would know that the only possible option was to finish Cersei off when they had the strategic advantage.
Also, if Jon hadn’t gone on the stupidest mission in the history of forever, Daenerys would not have had to save him (how again was this all Daenerys’ fault?).
#2 Night King
Only one question here. How is Night King not #1.
He has outwitted Bran at every turn. He has an army of the dead. He is undefeated this winter (and he thought ahead, carrying three ice spears and a bunch of massive chains with him).
And let’s not forget, The Wall has survived for thousands of years and the Night King just demolished it in about five minutes using a gigantic zombie ice dragon.
#1 Cersei Lannister
I had Cersei at #2.
I would have had her at #1 but she doesn’t have a gigantic zombie ice dragon.
No doubt she outplayed everyone except for the aforementioned Night King. Cersei had a very weak hand, needed a break in the war to reconstitute her forces, and clowned every single major player into giving her exactly what she needed.
Some of the arguments made by the dynamic duo were pretty crazy (like they don’t totally get what happened).
For instance, Cersei may or may not be pregnant (we only know that she is saying that she is pregnant).
Cersei could care less about Casterly Rock (it has been mined out for years).
Cersei had no idea she was exposing her troops to Dragon Fire just to get gold (the Battle of the Loot Carts was a surprise attack so it is hard to give Cersei too much credit for that one).
However, she was masterful throughout the negotiations at the Dragon Pit, so she deserves to be number 2.
Here is the guide to everything that I have written about Season 7:
Game of Thrones Season 7: My Ongoing Guide
Everything Josh H has written about Game of Thrones Season 2017