Academic journal article Parameters

The Improbable War: China, the United States, and the Logic of Great Power Conflict

Academic journal article Parameters

The Improbable War: China, the United States, and the Logic of Great Power Conflict

Article excerpt

The Improbable War: China, the United States, and the Logic of Great Power Conflict

By Christopher Coker

London: Hurst and Company 2005

217 pages

$29.95

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

This is an erudite but ultimately disappointing book. But a reader's initial reaction is likely to be confusion. A glance at the title could easily lead to the mistaken conclusion that the thesis of the volume is that war between China and the United States is highly improbable. In fact, the author's thesis is: "that war [between China and the United States] is not inevitable, but nor is it as improbable as many experts suggest." (181) A reader, however, should not have to puzzle over the title or trudge through five chapters and almost two hundred pages to learn this.

The book reads like a collection of thoughtful and well-researched essays written by a political philosopher. Themed chapters explore such topics as historical analogies and strategic narratives. Professor Coker writes in flowing prose and cites an extensive array of literature. This intellectual journey is always pleasant, frequently engaging, but lacks a significant final destination. The author states he has "sought to craft stories which the reader can explore," but a scholar of international relations should aspire to do more than weave together tales in a volume about the ominous and unnerving prospect of great power conflict between Washington and Beijing. …

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