According to one prominent Harvard professor and, briefly, much of the policy elite, history shows that powers about to be overtaken attack the rising power to preempt it. The locus classicus of this purported insight is one much-quoted sentence from Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War: “What made war inevitable was the growth of Athenian power and the fear which this caused in Sparta.” Graham Allison uses this highly doubtful judgment, plus pages of weakly supported statistics, to suggest in Destined for War that China will somehow soon overtake the United States (and, presumably, all our allies and the West in general) both economically and militarily, which would thus, according to the model, force us to start a preemptive war or face relegation.


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