House of the Dragon shows how terrible peace can be

Spoiler alert for the first two episodes.

Republicans who claim liberal Hollywood never criticizes Democrats should definitely watch house of the dragon because I’m pretty sure King Viserys (Paddy Considine) is supposed to be President Joe Biden. Or, if not Biden, a generic neoliberal leader in the same vein as most Democratic presidents in the last 30 years.

In case you need a review, house of the dragon it’s a game of Thrones prequel on HBO that takes place about 170 years before the events of the original show. Viserys has come to the throne after a great succession dispute and is desperate to continue the peaceful reign of his predecessors. He goes bad.

The first two episodes of the show contain incredible but spiky violence. In the first, the king’s brother, Daemon (Matt Smith), has built a brutal police state that organizes a wave of mass mutilations and murders without trial in the capital. Later, he attempts to usurp his niece’s position as heir to the throne by stealing a dragon egg and taunting a delegation with her own dragon. In the second episode, a pirate king is shown feeding crabs to the people of Westeros as the king vows to combat the threat with diplomacy.

Throughout the show so far, Visery has been portrayed as a man who tries to do the moral thing at every crossroads. He doesn’t want to marry his 12-year-old cousin despite political wisdom because, and he’s very clear about it, she’s a girl and it’s disgusting. He doesn’t want to start a civil war with his brother because, essentially, they both have nukes to use against each other, even if Visery has more. He doesn’t want to kill her wife with a medieval C-section, but the only other option is for her and her baby to die instead of just her. In particular, he does not want to start a naval war with the Estero Free Cities, something he is legitimately sure will result in years of bloodshed.

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He is so desperate to preserve the status quo that he continually fails to see what all heads of state must eventually see: peace can also be violence. It’s a problem that has plagued Democratic presidents for years.

In the 1990s, the United States was experiencing a rare time when it was not at war. During the Clinton administration, the Rwandan genocide began. Clinton, as desperate to remain a peacetime president as Viserys was to remain a peacetime king, delayed US military action in the region. As a result, an estimated 300,000 lives were lost.

Fast forward to the Obama administration. The country was tired of the wars started by his predecessor, wars we now knew were based on falsehoods. However, Bashar al-Assad initiated an ethnic purge in Syria that looked frighteningly like a second Holocaust. Obama wanted to intervene, but a Republican-controlled Congress denied him permission. Faced with challenging them or limiting the action, he opted for the latter. At least 500,000 have died since then, and the resulting refugee crisis was instrumental in the rise of fascism in Europe and America. There is a direct line from people fleeing Assad to majority white countries to Q-Anon.

Then came Biden and the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Although Americans have called for an end to military involvement in the region for decades, few were prepared for the violence that accompanied that departure. While there is certainly criticism about the way he retired, it was always going to be a bloody mess.

That’s because, again, peace is not the opposite of violence. Peace only works if both parties have it as their goal. Ukraine wants to be left alone and Russia wants to own Ukraine. The two are not trying and failing to understand each other. They exist in diametrically opposed paradigms that have no other step than war.

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what we are seeing in house of the dragon it is a failure to recognize similar situations. Viserys may be 100 percent right about the cost of the war with the pirates or his brother, but no solution is nonviolent. People who are eaten alive by crabs or manhandled by the city guard are suffering horribly. Viserys’ peaceful state ship floats on his blood.

Which course is better? You don’t know until you get to the other side. However, Viserys is a powerful political lesson. Good people are rarely good kings or presidents because goodness is a luxury of those who do not control nations. On a large scale, it’s just a question of which violence is the best option.

House of the Dragon airs Sundays at 8pm CST on HBO and HBO Max.

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