Re: Ned Stark: Commander? Politician? Neither? Both?
Great points, all. Ned was overconfident, but foolishly so. While I mean what I said about Ned "losing his wits with age" I hope it did not come across in a way that people would believe that I meant Ned had become the intellectual equivalent of Hodor.
What I meant by saying that was, that while playing the game of thrones, he was using checkers pieces, while everyone else was playing with chess pieces, and he never seemed to realize it. In politics, you don't have to be the shrewdest player in order to realize that others are playing at a much higher level than you are. That applies in war, sports, or any competition-based activity. You don't have to be a politician to realize, that under those circumstances, you will lose. I'm not faulting Ned for losing at the game of thrones. Someone has to win, and someone has to lose. I'm faulting Ned's incompetence in never realizing that, hey, I have no friends here, and I'm not giving anyone a reason to do what I want them to do. Ever since he accepted Robert's offer to be Hand of the King, Ned kept acting like Robert would support him, and that would be enough (If Robert had that kind of influence, he wouldn't need Ned's help at all. Robert needed Ned, because Robert had next to no influence) even though it became clear on the King's Road that Robert would not support Ned.
In such a situation, there aren't many choices a competent person can make. Any competent person, whether politically minded or not, would either begin making arrangements to support himself, or head back to Winterfell. (I should clarify the statement above) By supporting himself, I don't mean bringing an army with him to King's Landing. I mean he should have attempted to develop a system by which he could get things done. Varyse, Littlefinger, Cersei, and almost every other player had a network of people they could trust to accomplish their goals. At Winterfell, Ned had a network of people through which he was able to rule the North. When he finally arrived at King's Landing, Ned was forced to rely on his enemies to carry out his wishes, and expected the absentee king to make up for his lack of influence. Literally, Ned was like a child that can't take care of himself, unfortunately, he was responsible for real children and servants who expected him to protect them. Ned knew he was in a dangerous situation in King's Landing. He told Arya as much. So, while it's great that he made arrangements to protect the North, and to protect the Riverlands, it was totally dimwitted that he made none to protect himself, and those he was responsible for. It was dimwitted for him to rely on his enemies to carry out his wishes for him. Really, who does that? Forget the fact that he showed Cersei all his moves in advance. Trusting Varyse, Robert, Pycelle, and Littlefinger, was worse. When he left Winterfell, he stopped acting like a ruler, because he couldn't support himself, or anything he attempted to accomplish. I personally can't see any excuse for that.