Graham Allison: Are the U.S. and China Headed for War?

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Jul 21 2017 33 mins  

That’s the provocative, timely, and somewhat scary question posed by one of America’s great authorities on international affairs: Harvard’s Graham Allison. Allison looks at the rising tensions between the two global competitors through a 2500-year lens in his new, important book: “Destined for War: Can America and China escape Thucydides’s Trap.” Don’t worry, Allison explains it very clearly, but it’s centered on a central principal that has resulted in 12 wars over the last 500 years: Situations when a rising power threatens to displace a ruling one. Indeed, on the one hand, from trade to North Korea and beyond, the U.S. and China seem to need each other. And yet on the other hand, from trade to North Korea and beyond, the two powers often seem at each others throats. Remember President Trump’s tweet from just a few weeks ago, and just months after the two leaders met and dined on chocolate cake at Mar-a-Lago: “Trade between China and North Korea grew almost 40% in the first quarter. So much for China working with us - but we had to give it a try!” Prof. Allison and I had a terrific, really interesting conversation. We talked about China, the U.S., North Korea, each country’s leader, the Peloponnesian War, and, simply because I couldn’t pass up the chance, a tongue-in-cheek beef I’ve had with the professor for many years. Suffice to say – we’re all good. As background, and in case you don’t know, Graham Allison is the Douglas Dillon Professor of Government at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and the Former Director of Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. He served as Assistant Secretary of Defense in the first Clinton Administration and Special Advisor to the Secretary of Defense under President Reagan. Professor Allison also has sole distinction of having twice been awarded the Department of Defense's highest civilian award, the Distinguished Public Service Medal, first by Secretary Cap Weinberger and second by Secretary Bill Perry. He served as a member of the Defense Policy Board for Secretaries Weinberger, Carlucci, Cheney, Aspin, Perry, Cohen, and Carter. He currently serves on the Advisory boards of the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and the Director of the CIA. And he’s written four books. Believe me, I could keep going on about Prof. Allison’s biography, but that’s enough. One last note: An ask, from me to you. I hope you like these conversations. If so, I’d appreciate if you’d take a moment, go to iTunes, and, if you’re so moved, leave a 5-star review. The ratings really matter. Of course, if you don’t like the conversations, please forget I ever mentioned it. Ok, no more bios or asks. Here’s my conversation with Graham Allison. I really think you’ll like it.