Cold War inevitability: Be careful what you wish for,

Daniel Larison, contributing editor at

Are China and the United States doomed to engage in a Cold War-like rivalry? There is a growing belief in the U.S. that a second Cold War is inevitable whether we want one or not, but it is not yet too late to choose a different path for Washington that steers clear of a contest for supremacy in East Asia that we do not need to have.

It is the embrace of this imagined “inevitability” that is fueling the rivalry and leading both countries towards an avoidable conflict. […]

George Kennan studied this question of the inevitability of conflict closely in his history of the creation of the Franco-Russian alliance before WWI, The Fateful Alliance. As he put it, “The assumption of the inevitability of a war is allowed to rest exclusively on the fact that ‘we’ and ‘they’ are both preparing so intensively for it. No other reason is needed for the acceptance of its necessity.”

Kennan wrote these words in the shadow of U.S.-Soviet rivalry and the possibility of nuclear war, and he was concerned that another great power conflagration would be far more catastrophic than the world wars. Luckily, the first Cold War ended without that disaster unfolding, but it was this good luck that has blinded us to the dangers of courting new great power conflict through rivalry with another nuclear-armed state. Having avoided a war with the Soviets that was also once believed to be inevitable, the U.S. is in danger of rushing into a contest with China that likewise risks potentially devastating armed conflict. Läs artikel