Magazine article The Spectator

Provoking War

Magazine article The Spectator

Provoking War

Article excerpt

The Pacific countries have tended to look to the USA for protection in territorial disputes and general security, stimulating their peaceful economic expansion. But the more powerful China becomes, the more unacceptable it may find America's involvement in the region, and the question has been posed: will it be the Peloponnesian War (431-404 bc) all over again?

The great contemporary historian of that war, the Athenian Thucydides, produced an analysis of its outbreak that has a terrifyingly plausible ring to it: 'In my view the real reason, true but unacknowledged, is that the growth of Athenian [Chinese] power and the fear this generated in (the original super-power) Sparta [USA] made war inevitable.' But then - significantly - he goes on to give 'the apparent reasons expressed on both sides at the time', which had their origins much earlier.

In 446 bc the Athenians and Spartans, knowing that war between them was all too possible, had tried to preclude it with a 30-year peace treaty.

The consequence was that Greece was basically divided into two 'empires' - a land-based one, led by Sparta, and a maritime one, led by Athens. …

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