Bheeshma's wish list of desired qualities for a king, his priest and minister would have crystallised during Duryodhana's regime. Note also the importance he gives to family background while choosing men to administer the kingdom! One can ask what family? Was there layer of noblemen from which men of quality could be picked up? There would be, but the cast of characters we have seen so far does not give us any clue.
Imagine Bheeshma, a virtuous man, who would not break his promise at any cost, living as a dependent and an unhappy one. I wonder why he stayed on, he could have moved out! He could have stayed with the pandavas in Indraprastha. But for Bheeshma, Hastinapura was home and one can understand the reluctance to move when one is old! Also, it seems being part of a clan is important to a khsatriya, whatever the consequences. Add to that his nature, his inflexibility.
Bheeshma continues: 'A king should aim at victory only through dharma. His treasury should always be full. Going to war is not wrong. Punishing the evil is as important as protecting the good, harvesting does not destroy the crops, it helps. It is not dharma for a khsatriya to die on a bed. It is the brave who protect the world. He carries the world, like a child is carried, in his arms. You should not go on campaigns without making sure of a victory. If it is possible, try other means; negotiations, reward or creating dissensions among the enemy, to ensure victory. It is also good to yield a little, like a plant yields and bends in a flood, when it is necessary to do so. You need to be intelligent, Manu has said that it is the brain which is chiefly instrumental in a victory. Brain power is superior, The power of your arm is medium and that of the leg is the lowest. Character is very important! Dhritharashtra used to praise your character. A man without character may get rich, but it will not last.
He narrates many stories and anecdotes to emphasise his views. There is a story which tells us that Prahlada defeated Indra and ruled the three worlds. The wily Indra succeeds in pleasing Prahlada and asks for character as a boon! As the story goes, once character leaves Prahlada, he looses gradually everything!
Yudhisthira describes a scenario, 'Let us assume that a king is facing bad times, he has become inactive, his conscience does not permit him to send his friends and relatives to war and get them killed! He has no faith in the leaders of the people. Ministers do not offer well thought out advice, people are frustrated, there is no money, friends have become distant, there is a rift amongst ministers and added to this a powerful enemy is after him, what should he do under these circumstances?
We can do many things here, we can draw parallels and conclude that nothing has changed or see what Bheeshma has to say. He advocates a peace move if the enemy is trustworthy. If the king is inclined to fight, he can fight and attain veera swarga, Or he may find ways to stay alive, as there is hope in getting everything back if one is alive! A king should learn to anticipate dangers to his kingdom and be proactive. He tells a story from the animal world. An anglophile would say 'Tom and Jerry'! The mouse gets better of the cat!
There is story which teaches one to be beware of soft spoken enemies! A king and a bird have offspring at the same time. The bird brings a very special fruit for her chick and out of generosity, one more for the child. But the child grows well because of the fruit and as it gets bigger, kills the chick. The bird, very angry pierces the eyes of the child in revenge. The king, a kind person is shocked, but the bird declares that the enmity beween them is timelesss, as humans have always been cruel to birds.The bird has also has some harsh words about humans and the inability of the king to protect. Remember the movie 'Birds'!
Yudhisthira has one more question! 'What do we do, if with the passage of time dharma declines and we are attacked by enemies and thieves?
If dharma totally declines and there is drought, What should the brahmins do and the king do?
The answers are complex and again in these stories there is an interaction between animals and humans! They could converse wth each other and with humans.