Destined for War

Destined for War

Can America and China Escape Thucydides's Trap?

Book - 2017
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CHINA AND THE UNITED STATES ARE HEADING TOWARD A WAR NEITHER WANTS. The reason is Thucydides's Trap, a deadly pattern of structural stress that results when a rising power challenges a ruling one. This phenomenon is as old as history itself. About the Peloponnesian War that devastated ancient Greece, the historian Thucydides explained: "It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled in Sparta that made war inevitable." Over the past 500 years, these conditions have occurred sixteen times. War broke out in twelve of them. Today,as an unstoppable China approaches an immovable America and both Xi Jinping and Donald Trump promise to make their countries "great again," the seventeenth case looks grim. Unless China is willing to scale back its ambitions or Washington can accept becoming number two in the Pacific, a trade conflict, cyberattack, or accident at sea could soon escalate into all-out war.

In Destined for War , the eminent Harvard scholar Graham Allison explains why Thucydides's Trap is the best lens for understanding U.S.-China relations in the twenty-first century. Through uncanny historical parallels and war scenarios, he shows how close we are to the unthinkable. Yet, stressing that war is not inevitable, Allison also reveals how clashing powers have kept the peace in the past -- and what painful steps the United States and China must take to avoid disaster today.
Publisher: Boston :, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,, 2017
ISBN: 9780544935273
Branch Call Number: 327.73051 All
Characteristics: xx, 364 pages : illustrations, map


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One of the absolute BEST BOOKS I have ever read. Eschewing any sensationalism whatsoever, the author describes the Thucydides Trap, and examines how it led to war in 13 out of 16 cases in the last 500 years. Then, he asks if the USA and China might fall into it. The answer: Very possibly.

Jun 28, 2017

I recommend reading this book if you wish to understand the major threat to World peace today: the USA-China competition for the domination of the Word.

"Thucydides trap" is severe structural stress caused when a rising power threatens to upend a ruling one. The Harvard Thucydides Trap project examines 16 major cases over the period of last 500 years, 11 cases of which ended with war.

Applying those lessons of history on the current situation of a rising Chinese power that will inevitably challenge US hegemony in world affairs, the author proposes a direction to follow.

Graham Allison argues that although war is not inevitable in this situation, history tells us that it can easily happens if the players get trapped in a serious of events leading to escalation. He explains different scenarios that can lead to escalation including for example a power vacuum in North Korea or a trade war. Meanwhile, out of the 5 major cases which did not end with war, he extrapolate "clues" that can guide policy makers to avoid the war path.

This is why the US today must understand very well the challenge, define a macro strategy, sort itself internally and then mobilize the resources to take the right actions. Allison is very clear that this task was far beyond the incompetent presidents that governed US starting from Clinton and ending with Obama.

This is an excellent book with a very convincing hypothesis. Unlike others (see my previous review on The Chessboard and the Web) it is about the real World.

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