A couple of times, I tried playing this game in a pacifistic sense, throwing most of my resources into making friends with other countries and developing non-military civilization advances to share and trade with other countries, in effect, becoming a sort of benevolent Switzerland. Unfortunately, this has always failed because the other, less-advanced, but militarily stronger, civilizations always demand that I hand over money and technology, which leaves me in the position of either having to acquiesce or be destroyed. So I have to play their way and develop a strong military.
Another interesting situation which goes against my real-life wishes happened when I was playing France, and Russia was being attacked by Egypt and England. My first impulse was to stay out of it, but it occured to me that if I allowed these two countries to swallow Russia, they would both be so strengthened that I would have no chance of winning. So should I take Russia's side and defend them, or try to get a piece of the pie before it was all gone? This reminded me of the situation with the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century, when the European countries were in conflict over whether to support the failing Ottomans or to carve up their lands for themselves (the latter ended up happening). This led to the Crimean War, among other things.