Because we all need a good dose of geopolitics in between sword fights, White Walkers, and boobs, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has a thorough analysis of all the ways dragons are just like nuclear weapons. It's actually a stunningly obvious comparison once you get down to it.
Here be spoilers. And dragons.
George R. R. Martin himself has not shied away from comparing the geopolitics of the Game of Thrones to our contemporary world. Drones are worse than the Dothraki, he's said. And he's also made the direct comparison between dragons and nuclear weapons in an 2011 interview with Vulture.
Dragons are the nuclear deterrent, and only Dany has them, which in some ways makes her the most powerful person in the world. But is that sufficient? These are the kind of issues I'm trying to explore. The United States right now has the ability to destroy the world with our nuclear arsenal, but that doesn't mean we can achieve specific geopolitical goals. Power is more subtle than that. You can have the power to destroy, but it doesn't give you the power to reform, or improve, or build.
Indeed that's what Daenerys (Dany), mother of dragons, is learning after her conquering spree on the HBO show.
In his feature for the Bulletin, Timothy Westmyer lays out even more of the parallels between the two deadly, unstoppable forces. Here's how he compares the Vietnam War and Aegon the Conqueror's unsuccessful conquest of Dorne.
Limits of dragon warfare. Nuclear weapons may help prevent existential threats, but they have limited use in other military operations or foreign policy goals...Even with his dragon triumvirate, Aegon the Conqueror was unable to force a resistant kingdom to bended knee. Most of Thrones' fictional realms offer a "target rich" environment, with sizeable populations living in castles and pursuing strategies suitable to set-piece battle on open fields. The kingdom of Dorne, however, consisted of a rocky, mountainous, arid, desert landscape with relatively small cities, dispersed populations, and ample hiding places—making it more resistant to dragon warfare...
In similar fashion, during the Vietnam War, the US military faced a protracted campaign by guerrillas undeterred by America's nuclear stockpile. A secret 1967 report produced by the JASON Group determined that nuclear weapons would offer no decisive military advantage. Vietnam was "target poor" with diffuse supply lines and dispersed troops.
Game of Thrones fans, nuclear warfare geeks, and everyone else in between, be sure to check out the full analysis.
I've personally been pretty indifferent toward the dragons in Game of Thrones, which seems to be setting up for <—COMPLETE SPECULATION ALERT —> a final battle between dragons and White Walkers. Supernatural forces and especially the unbeatable dragons have always seemed like the least interesting part of the Game of Thrones, but Martin's allegorical bent give me a bit of faith he's cooking up something interesting. Does this speculation make sense or am I out of my mind? [Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists]
Top image: HBO