Dragon Drama: Game of Thrones Has an Air Power Problem

Whether Daenerys can temper her use of military force to protect the populace of the kingdom she claims a right to rule has emerged as one of the central moral tests, and potentially, moral tragedies, of the long-running series. That same ethical dilemma haunts many military campaigns today.
Dragon Drama: Game of Thrones Has an Air Power Problem

Following the epic siege of Winterfell, the Game of Thrones episode “The Last of the Starks” confronts its protagonist Daenerys Targaryen with wrenching military dilemmas that might have been ripped from today’s headlines—and issues on the ethical issue of force that remain highly controversial today.

While her ally Jon Snow advances troops south by land, Daenarys moves her Unsullied infantry by sea to rebase her forces at Dragonstone, a fortress which offers a convenient staging ground for her ultimate goal: the capture of the capital of King’s Landing, held by the villainous Cersei Lannister. Daenerys flies over her fleet with her two dragons, confident in her supremacy as Cersei has no air force, and her infantry and cavalry lack effective anti-dragon weapons.

Cersei’s advisor Qyburn, however, has developed and mass-produced huge crossbows called ‘scorpions’—ballistas which have the range and penetrating power to harm Daenerys’s dragons. In the real world, ballistae were first developed by the Greeks and Romans as a form of naval and siege artillery (they played a role in Caesar’s conquest of modern day France and Great Britain) and had an effective range of a few hundred meters.

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