As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve spent a lot of time playing Sid Meier games, especially Civ 2 and Alpha Centauri. I probably learned more about social science from playing those games than in all my high-school coursew0rk. One of the game’s lessons is that offensive warfare is usually really expensive; in order to build chariots and elephant warriors and bomber jets, you need to stop building temples and libraries and manufacturing plants. This diversion of resources sets you back in the long run; building an impressive military now often leads to military disadvantage in the future.
Apparently, Matt Yglesias either also played his share of Civilization games, or found some other way to learn their lessons:
If you think about the national security landscape of 2035 what’s going to be really important isn’t the defense spending decisions of the United States. It’ll be the fundamentals. How rich are we? How many skills do our people have? How many people live here? How much science can we do? Insofar as expending resources on today’s security priorities prevents us from investing resources in building national capabilities for the future, we undermine our longer-term security.