• 45°

D.G. Martin: Academic says war possible for United States

By D.G. Martin

While President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping were getting to know each other last weekend, a North Carolinian was warning that the United States and China are on the brink of war.

Graham Allison grew up in Charlotte where he was a football star for Myers Park High School. He later played at Davidson College before transferring to Harvard. He spent most of his academic life there, most recently as director of Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Based on a careful study of situations in which a rising power like China confronts a ruling or dominant power like the U.S., Allison says often war between the two powers results.

War can happen, he says, even when the ruling and rising powers are committed to avoid armed conflict.

Allison calls this conundrum “the Thucydides’ trap,” based upon the Greek historian’s analysis of the causes of the Peloponnesian wars between Sparta, the ruling or dominant power in the Greek peninsula, and Athens, a rising power challenging Sparta’s dominance. Neither power wanted war, but both were determined not to let the other interfere with its legitimate aspirations of greatness.

“It was the rise of Athens,” Thucydides wrote, “and the fear that this inspired in Sparta, that made war inevitable.”

Allison and his colleagues have studied 16 situations over the past 500 years in which a rising power threatened to displace the ruling power. War was the result in 12 of these times.

In recent news articles,  and his forthcoming book, “Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap?” Allison argues that the U.S. and China are on a collision course. That is because China is quickly overtaking us as the world’s dominant economic power and China’s firm aspirations will put it in direct confrontation with the U.S. For instance, China expects, over time, to reassert its historic dominance over Taiwan, the South China Sea, and territories claimed by Japan, the Philippines, and other allies to which we have specific treaty responsibilities for defense.

Allison notes that the current emerging crisis on the Korean peninsula could lead to a spark of armed conflict.

Trump strategist Steve Bannon says, “We are going to war in the South China Sea in five to 10 years.”

Allison disagrees, but he warns, “Based on the current trajectory, war between the United States and China in the decades ahead is not just possible, but much more likely than recognized at the moment. Indeed, judging by the historical record, war is more likely than not. Moreover, current underestimations and misapprehensions of the hazards inherent in the U.S.-China relationship contribute greatly to those hazards. A risk associated with Thucydides’ Trap is that business as usual — not just an unexpected, extraordinary event — can trigger large-scale conflict. When a rising power is threatening to displace a ruling power, standard crises that would otherwise be contained, like the assassination of an archduke in 1914, can initiate a cascade of reactions that, in turn, produce outcomes none of the parties would otherwise have chosen.”

As he writes in Time, “Thucydides’ trap does put the odds against us.”

But, he adds, a great power can escape the trap with subtle statecraft. Subtle statecraft. That is something all of us should be praying for.

D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch” on UNC-TV.

Comments

High School

North Rowan romps into second round of football playoffs

Nation/World

FBI had interviewed former FedEx employee who killed eight

Crime

Gastonia man sentenced for crash into restaurant that killed his daughter, daughter-in-law

Nation/World

Some call for charges after video of police shooting 13-year-old in Chicago

Business

State unemployment rate falls to 5.2% in March

Coronavirus

NASCAR approach to virus vaccine varies greatly

News

Judge rejects Cherokee challenge against new casino in Kings Mountain

Elections

Jackson tops NC Senate fundraising; Walker coffers also full

Local

Kiwanis Pankcake Festival serves thousands of flapjacks for charity

Coronavirus

Rowan remains in state’s middle, yellow tier for COVID-19 community spread

Crime

Blotter: Man faces sexual exploitation charge for images on Instagram

News

Defendant convicted in attempted murder case on the run after fleeing from trial

Business

Downtown Gateway Building to be renamed for late Paul Fisher

Coronavirus

Rowan County COVID-19 data for April 15

Local

Rep. Warren’s bill would prohibit parking in electric vehicle charging stations

Local

Historic Preservation Commission approves Integro Technologies expansion, Paint the Pavement project

Education

Faith Academy, RSS will negotiate over what goes, stays in elementary school

Crime

Teacher killed in Alamance County shootout with Mexican drug cartel

Coronavirus

Bill would give more tax breaks on COVID-19 loans

Nation/World

No response as divers knock on capsized ship’s hull

Local

Quotes of the week

Crime

Blotter: Man found on church property with litany of drugs

Crime

Man charged in connection to 2019 overdose death

Business

‘It’s our big time’: Salisbury Farmers Market reopens Saturday