Sun, 23 July 2017
Graham Allison is a legend of international relations. He's the founding dean of the Harvard Kennedy School and former director of Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
His latest book, published in May, is called Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides's Trap? This book combines insights from the ancient greeks with his own historical research and analysis to posit that war between China and the United States is more likely than we think. And we kick off with a discussion of this book and what scenarios might lead to war between China and the USA.
If you are listening to this and you have ever taken an International Relations 101 class then you have most certainly read from Graham Allison's first book called Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis. The book, which was originally published in 1971, shattered several conventions of international relations and political science. Up to that point, the field of international relations was dominated by game theorists and by people who more generally posited that states make rational decisions that is, they are "rational actors." His analysis of the cuban missile crisis suggested something different. He introduced new analytic lenses, including what he called the " organization process model" in which he demonstrated how parochial bureaucratic pressures can drive decision making; and a "government politics model" in describes how insider politiking drives outcomes.
Now, the reason I explain this all is because in the conversation you are about to here we dont get too much into the weeds about Essence of Decision, but we do have an extended conversation about how he came to write this extremely influential book, its personal and intellectual roots. And how he came to some of his key insights, including how a glint of eye from Bobby Kennedy during an interview, that lead Allison to one key breakthrough moment.
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Bonus episodes for premium subscribers include:
#1: International Relations Theory, explained.
#2: A Brief History of Nuclear Non-proliferation
#3: A Brief History of NATO
#4: The Syrian Civil War, explained.
#5: Meet the Kim family of North Korea.
#6: Better Know Vladimir Putin
#7: How to Get a Job at the United Nations
#8: How to Pick the Right International Relations Graduate School