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Destined For War Book Review

Graham Allison, in his book, Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides Trap? Discusses China’s rapid rise to success and the threat it poses to America’s dominance. Allison believes that unless Beijing is willing to curb its ambitions against the immovable America or Washington is ready to become number two in the Pacific, a cyber attack and sea accidents could escalate to an all-out war.

Navigating the Thucydides Trap

After explaining the Thucydides Trap – the friction created when a rising power challenges an established power – Allison meticulously analyses twelve historical examples that resulted in war, and four in which war was avoided. In excellent prose, Allison focuses on the examples he considers to be the most instructive, namely the Peloponnesian War, World War I, and the Cold War. Just like a sheath can not hold two swords similarly Graham believes that two superpowers can not coexist. He uses the Athens and Sparta war (which is one of the most studied wars in history) to depict this. The Trap is given its name because Thucydides said, “It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this inspired in Sparta that made war inevitable.”

In-depth analysis

Allison’s analysis is deeply researched, providing the reader profound understanding of the geopolitical landscape. The author translates an unfiltered Chinese view for his local audience, comparing it to America’s expansion in the Western Hemisphere under President Teddy Roosevelt. Through his research and arguments, Allison paints a vivid picture and provides readers with valuable insights into the factors that could potentially lead to a conflict between these two nations. His knowledge and research on the matter offer a deeper understating of the challenges and insecurities faced by nations on the brink of war.

Escaping the Trap

“To escape Thucydides’ Trap, we must be willing to think the unthinkable—and imagine the unimaginable. Avoiding Thucydides’s Trap in this case will require nothing less than bending the arc of history.” While the book delves deeper into the grim perspective of war it also offers a solution as to how the two nations could escape the inevitable. Allison offers policy recommendations that could help these nations navigate their relationship without relying on military support. By analyzing diplomatic strategies, communication channels, and international cooperation efforts, Allison provides a glimmer of hope amongst the dark shadows of war.

Notably, the weakness of Allison’s book is not his warning that the US and China are at risk of falling into the Thucydides Trap – a case he makes conclusively – but rather his relatively narrow focus on the U.S.-China relationship, which sometimes leads to an oversimplification of the complex geopolitical landscape. Some critics say that the book could benefit from discussion on further possibilities of avoiding war between the two sides. Some also argue that Allison’s ideas regarding the diversion of war are extremely US-centric.


The book beautifully vocalizes China’s perception of the rivalry and is an essential read for those looking forward to gaining a better understanding of the matter. The book has already been read in the white house and will certainly be added to the reading list of political science students around the globe.” Destined for War” sure is a timely contribution to the pursuit of peace in an increasingly interconnected world.

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