Saturday, November 03, 2007

Bush Foreign Policy Patterned on Board Game

A former classmate of President George W. Bush said today that he believes the Bush administration’s foreign policy has its origins in a board game Mr. Bush frequently played in college.

"George and I played a lot of RISK at Yale," said Bob Pendergast of Darien, Connecticut at a news conference held today in Manhattan. "The way he always started out was to put as many armies as he could in the Middle East. He used to say his dad [President George H. W. Bush, at the time director of the Central Intelligence Agency] told him the key to foreign policy was to destabilize the Middle East by sending troops in to set up regimes that would be friendly to the U.S. I thought this was a dumb strategy—the Middle East has a lot of borders and is hard to defend. Plus it doesn’t really help you get control of a continent—which is what you want to do at the beginning of a RISK game. George said he would do the same thing if he ever became president. George used to drink while we were playing, so I didn’t take this too seriously, but looking at his foreign policy decisions as president, I guess he meant it."

(RISK is a game of world domination sold by Parker Brothers. The object is to acquire control of territories while wiping your opponents off the map.)

Pendergast described Bush as a poor RISK player. "He was so stuck on the Middle East. It was easy to beat him, especially if you were playing him one on one. All you had to do was take control of Australia or South America and let George fight it out with East Africa and Afghanistan [two territories bordering the Middle East territory on the RISK game board]. After we had placed our armies, the game was usually pretty much over."

Pendergast pointed to recent events to support his analysis: "You know how we went into Iraq, right? And now we’re talking about going after Iran, plus we’ve still got troops in Afghanistan? Well, it’s pretty obvious to me that George is going to try to hold the Middle East, and maybe expand into East Africa or the Ukraine from there. If I was [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, I’d be massing troops on the Ukrainian border right now."

Foreign policy expert Robert Kagan of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace was skeptical of Mr. Pendergast’s theory. "I find it difficult to believe that a 21st century superpower would base its foreign policy on a childrens’ board game. Moreover, President Bush is not the only person responsible for American foreign policy—there’s Secretary of State Rice, the Joint Chiefs, Vice President Cheney. In any event, what moron would try to hold the Middle East? What’s Bush thinking, that he’ll take over Asia and start getting 7 extra armies a turn? Yeah, right—like he’ll ever be able to hold Asia. He should fortify his borders in North America and maybe try to come into Europe through Greenland."

Pendergast expressed concern that the administration’s foreign policy might leave the United States vulnerable to attack. "Does [Secretary of Defense Robert] Gates know that Kamchatka can attack Alaska?" Pendergast wondered, referring to the fact that a RISK player can attack North America from a territory named after a peninsula on Asia’s far eastern coast. "I wonder how many troops we have up there? If it were me, I’d be transferring armies up there pretty damn quick, before someone figures out they can come at us that way."

The White House could not be reached for comment, although a reporter who called heard what sounded like dice rolling and excited shouts in the background.


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