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HKSDC hosts Graham Allison

Members of the HKSDC community were treated to an appearance by Professor Graham Allison, Founding Dean of Harvard's Kennedy School and longtime national security professor and scholar.

The topic: “Destined for War? Can America and China escape Thucydides' Trap?" Allison's new book, heralded by the likes of Kissinger to Ki-moon, Petraeus to Power, Carter to Campbell - and many others.

Ancient Greek historian and general Thu·cyd·i·des - what Harvard Professor would be worth his salt if his talk did not begin with a lesson in history and pronunciation - is remembered for his history of the Peloponnesian War, most specifically his statement that it was the rise of Athenian power and the fear it inspired in Sparta that constituted the true cause of the war. Allison admonishes the United States and China not fall into the "Thucydides Trap.” That is, allowing events to perilously spiral into a war when a rising power - China - begins to challenge an existing power, the United States.

Allison asserted three points to launch the conversation:

1. The rising power of China--so far, so fast and on so many dimensions is the primary geopolitical event over the past half century;

2. the geostrategic challenge will be how to manage its impact on the U.S. and the international order.

3. Those who refuse to study history are condemned to repeat it.

In his book, Allison studied sixteen cases in the past 500 years of history and a dozen of them--seventy five percent--ended violently. He warned not of the inevitability of a bloody conflict, but its likelihood without attention.

The lecture was punctuated by stimulating comments and questions by David Ignatius, Washington Post foreign affairs columnist (AB ’72 and HKS Senior Fellow), who moderated the overall discussion. Then in true HKS style, there were a number of thought provoking questions from the audience, to which Allison provided thought provoking responses.

Following the discussion, councilors David Rosenberg and Barbara Zadina presented Dr. Allison with a gift on behalf of HKSDC, honoring him for his many years of distinguished service at the Harvard Kennedy School and leadership at its Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs -- recognized as the “best university affiliated research center in the world” for the past four years. Allison then signed books and engaged individuals, including many of his own former students. All enjoyed a lovely reception and connected with each other.

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