Geopolitics from a six-year-old


I’ve been playing Civilization III again lately. Right now, I’m playing as Egypt on the easiest difficulty level, and my six-year-old is watching me play. Since it’s the easiest level, I’m light-years ahead of my opposition ― right now, it’s 1470 and I have paratroopers, jet fighters, and tanks. With that kind of firepower, it’s pretty hard to resist the temptation to go beat the snot out of one’s neighbors, and that’s exactly what I’m doing.

Anyway, the next big milestone in my Civ’s arsenal is nuclear weapons. Sean knows, from various trips to the National Museum of the United States Air Force, what a nuclear weapon is and what it’s capable of. The Cold War gallery even has a new display ― a giant screen showing a mushroom cloud, towering above the observer, and a ten-warhead MIRV, innocuously displayed at eye level.

But getting to nuclear weapons in Civ III is a long process. After you discover fission, you have to find some uranium. After that, you need to research the Manhattan Project (a Great Wonder of several hundred shields). Then, in order to deliver your warheads, you need Computers, Rocketry, and Space Flight. After that, you can finally build a Tactical Nuke or an ICBM. It’s a long process ― even longer if you’re six, and waiting for you dad to play turn after turn of trying to fight a war the “old-fashioned” way.

So Sean’s new strategy is this: “Hey, Chris ― why don’t we make a peace treaty with them so that they’ll leave us alone while we build our nuclear weapons? Then when we get them, we can start the war again and turn their cities into mushrooms.”

Pretty clever, I thought, for a six-year-old. He’ll be one to watch, especially since he’s started beating me in Go. I couldn’t help but notice the startling parallel to at least a couple of contemporary “civilizations,” and what many smart people assume are their own nuclear ambitions.

The really ironic part is my chief adversary in this campaign: Persia.


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