Published by
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2017-05-30)
Current material
MS: Complete Edited
Original language
English
Themas
Politics & government
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DESTINED FOR WAR

America, China, and Thucydides's Trap

by Allison, Graham

War with China is much more likely than anyone thinks...

When Athens went to war with Sparta some 2,500 years ago, the Greek historian Thucydides identified one simple cause: a rising power threatened to displace a ruling one. As Graham Allison explains, in the past 500 years, great powers have found themselves in "Thucydides's Trap" sixteen times. In twelve of the sixteen—from war between the French and the Hapsburgs in the sixteenth century to the two world wars of the twentieth—the results havebeen catastrophic. Today, the same structural forces propel China and the United States toward a cataclysm of unseen proportions, even as both sides insist that such a war could never occur.

In Destined for War, Allison compares the U.S.-China conflict to its closest parallel: World War I. There, a rising Germany threatened the supremacy of the British Empire. He sketches several scenarios in which America and China might slide, against their intent and better judgment, into a similar conflict. But he also examines the rare instances when two clashing powers have avoided disaster, and speculates about whether the current standoff could be one of those exceptions.

GRAHAM ALLISONis director of Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and the best-selling author of Lee Kuan Yew, Nuclear Terrorism, and Essence of Decision. Founding dean of the Kennedy School of Government, he has advised the secretaries of defense under Reagan, Clinton, and Obama.

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