What do you think of the argument Pycelle uses to convince Eddard that Daenerys should be killed in order to avoid the wars in the future?
For reference, here’s exactly what Pycelle says:
“Yet I ask you this - should this war come again, how many soldiers will die? How many towns will burn? How many children will be ripped from their mothers to perish on the end of a spear?” He stroked his luxuriant white beard, infinitely sad, infinitely weary. “Is it not wiser, even kinder, that Daenerys Targaryen should die now so that tens of thousands might live?”
- Eddard VIII, AGoT
There are several problems with this argument.
At the broadest level of argumentation, Pycelle’s argument treats an invasion as a foregone conclusion. Ned himself rebuts this presumption ably.
“If you are wrong, we need not fear. If the girl miscarries, we need not fear. If she births a daughter in place of a son, we need not fear. If the babe dies in infancy, we need not fear.”
There’s a lot that needs to happen just so for the threat, as presented to Ned in this meeting, to materialise. An invasion in general is still very much an uncertain prospect, distant in time. Which is where we get into specific details of this scenario.
“But if it is a boy?” Robert insisted. “If he lives?”
“The narrow sea would still lie between us. I shall fear the Dothraki the day they teach their horses to run on water.”
Along with the argument that this supposed invasion may not happen at all, Ned here is arguing that assassinating Dany is still not the best way to deal with any threat the Dothraki might pose to Westeros. I’m largely with Ned, here, and I’d like to add the issue Ned didn’t address, but which we see come to pass later in the book - the risks of botching the assassination. Rather than killing Dany, this assassination attempt results only in motivating Drogo to start preparing for this invasion.
Attempting the assassination was, in hindsight, completely counterproductive. While the eventual plan shouldn’t be judged entirely on that hindsight, Pycelle’s argument does not take this risk into account at all.
Finally, consider the source.
With several more books’ worth of knowledge of Pycelle, I’m not inclined to think this argument was made entirely in good faith for two reasons.
First, Pycelle is Tywin Lannister’s #2 fan, ranking only behind Kevan, and Tywin Lannister is not a model of restraint in wartime. Or in peacetime for that matter. Pycelle’s got many, many flaws but he’s not so lacking in brains that he wouldn’t know this. Second, what Pycelle is, is a toady. Much like Renly and Littlefinger, Pycelle’s telling Robert what Robert wants to hear. It’s easier for him, and if it doesn’t work out, well, it’s not going to rebound on Pycelle himself. He’s very much part of the political corruption of King’s Landing.
Between Pycelle’s fervent and sincere admiration for one of the series’ biggest war criminals and his habit of sucking up, I find it hard to believe that sacrificing Dany for “the good of the many” was an intellectually honest argument on his part.
So basically, I don’t think much of Pycelle’s presumptions, I don’t think much of the argument on specifics, and I don’t think it was made in a spirit that requires me to deal with the basic moral argument of “kill one to save many.”