Our Rogue Republic's Dangerous Game of Risk

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You ever play Risk? The board game of global domination. Fun game.

If you've never played Risk before let me explain briefly how it works. Two can play but five or six players are better. You each get an equal number of pieces at the beginning of the game--armies--and through wisdom and restraint you amass more. Then you roll the dice and attack your neighbors, or defend yourself from attack, until only one player remains. According to the Strategy Guide for Beginners, "The most important way that someone might win this game is by diplomacy. In fact without it there is usually no chance to win. The reason for this is simple: you can never go against the whole world just by war!" Lately I get the feeling that the Neocons are playing Risk but with actual countries. They roll the dice, huff and puff, and launch an attack. The object of Risk is to overwhelm countries and move your men inside. Like Kermit Roosevelt did to Iran when he overturned the popular leader there and set up the CIA-backed shah. You succeed, or fail, in Risk by sheer numbers and by luck and shifting alliances. Just like in real life. I doubt Cheney, Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld ever played Risk. Dubya may have played Risk in that Bonesmen clubhouse of his on Yale campus, but I imagine he quit the game halfway through. Risk requires patience and strategy and, most of all, discretion and bravado, qualities in short supply in Washington, unfortunately. I get the feeling that our "master strategists" in this rogue republic'Rove, Rice, Perle, Wolfowitz, the PNAC crowd'rarely played Risk, or any other game for that matter. Instead they decided to align themselves with a couple of other upstart outlaw nations--England and Israel'to conquer the Middle East. Only problem? Those damn Middle Easterners don't want to be conquered. The Afghans weren't sophisticated enough to know they were defeated, never having been defeated before. And so they fight on. Undefeated. The Iraqis too. As for Iran, that nascent democracy (You can vote at the age of FIFTEEN in Iran), they've adamantly refused to be intimidated. Instead, like a good Risk player, Iran amassed a few armies of her own and added a couple of alliances. Allies with sizeable numbers of game tokens: China and Russia. Risk teaches you valuable lessons, about life, about hubris, about human nature, about treachery and diplomacy. Indeed, Sun Tzu, the author of The Art of War, might have invented it. "There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare," wrote Sun Tzu. He would have been a champion Risk player. Reading The Art of War, one realizes a nation should never attempt to conquer far-flung countries without amassing enormous amounts of armies and allies. But more importantly, diplomacy and discretion. The Great Game, Rudyard Kipling called the global land grab that passed for empire building in the Middle East during the late Nineteenth century. Nowadays I call it Risk, the game of global domination. I get the feeling that our rogue republic is viewed as a worldwide virus, spreading not democracy but infection. We've become a regime, an imperial predator carrying a plague virus. Madmen posing as reasonable men; fun opponents in board games, scary and dangerous in reality. But, unlike in the friendly game of Risk, our infected players toss armies around and fail to understand their lack of success, attributing failure purely to tactics. According to the Risk Strategist for Beginners: "Spreading too fast and too soon might lead to disaster. Always consider what will your enemies do, if you were in their place." Resist naturally. A strategy our beginners failed to envision or imagine. Now they've just about depleted their supply of armies..

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Douglas Herman's picture
Columns on STR: 136

Award winning artist, photographer and freelance journalist, Douglas Herman enjoys exploring the occasional ghost town or spooky conspiracy and can be found wandering the back roads of America. Recently Doug finished writing, directing and producing an independent feature film, naturally a "road movie," and credits STR for giving him the impetus to write well, both provocatively and entertainingly. A longtime gypsy, Doug completed a 10,000 mile circumnavigation of North America, by bicycle, at the age of 35, and still wanders between Bullhead City, Arizona and Kodiak, Alaska with forays frequently into the so-called civilized world of Greater LA.