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The Thucydides Trap and the Rise and Fall of Great Powers

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The Thucydides Trap and the Rise and Fall of Great Powers

Roughly 2,400 years ago, Thucydides, a Greek historian and author of “History of the Peloponnesian War,” expressed a view that resonates in strategic thinking to this day. He argued that the real cause of the Peloponnesian War was the rapid increase in the power of Athens and the fear this aroused in Sparta, which had dominated Greece thus far. Author Graham Allison used this concept in his book “Destined for War,” in which he described the relationship between the U.S. and China as an example of the “Thucydides trap” – the idea that the decline of a dominant power and the rise of a competing power makes war between the two inevitable.

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