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by Stanton E. Samenow

As the first guest entered, Anne Muphy O’Neil, the hostess lit up, embraced him, remarking heartily, “Great to see you.”

There was no fakery there!  Anne’s delight was genuine in encounters with the many friends who visited her home.

She glowed as she ushered them into the great room
The overall lighting was subdued, but there was nothing subdued about Anne (who may not have known what the word meant)

Candles glowed at place settings with gleaming crystal and dazzling, but understated, dinnerware.

The O’Neil home was abuzz with light and life.
The hostess was party organizer, cook, and often the entertainer

Anne O’Neil lit up her home with a booming voice singing songs from Broadway shows while playing the piano.

Life, light, paying attention to detail — this was Anne (or at least part of her marvelous multi-faceted personality).

The giver of the light is no longer physically here.

Nonetheless, that light endures and will never be extinguished.

Five decades and more

My love lies beside me in our bed softly, so softly sleeping.
Five decades and more has it been so, fifty-six years,
And all that while the flame has never gone out, held in her keeping,
Through rejoicing and woe, through laughter and tears.
I reach out to touch her warmth, and start awake, weeping.

——William D. O’Neil, 10 December 2022

On the death of Anne

Good night, my princess, good night!
You fly now to a place beyond pain, beyond sorrow, where there is only light.
I would gladly soar too but I must stay in this barren wilderness of blight
Until at last time comes to join in your flight.

Good night sweet princess!
May flights of angels bear you to your rest!

[This simple verse came to me on the evening of Anne’s death, Nov 22, as I wrote the notice. I think it is worth saving.]

Anne Murphy O’Neil (1939-2022)

Biographical sketch by Will O’Neil (revised Nov 27, 2022(

[This is a memorial biographical sketch of Anne’s life written by her widower, William D. “Will” O’Neil III. It is based largely on my recollections of what she told me, and I will welcome any corrections or additions by anyone with better knowledge. As corrections are received I will edit previous entries if need be, in contradiction of my usual blogging practice.]


Anne Frances Murphy was born in Appleton, Wisconsin, on August 9, 1939, to Elvira Johann Murphy (1904-2004) and her husband, Leo Joseph Murphy, DC (1901-1981).

Elvira had been the next-last of numerous daughters (and one son) in a farm family which had immigrated from Alsace. She identified as German but whether German (or Alsatian) had been spoken in her home I do not know. Her father had died when she was 6, throwing the burden of farming on his widow and children in an era long before any organized public assistance. In Elvira’s recollection, as recounted by Anne, the father’s death had cast a chill shadow over her childhood, as is all too easy to imagine.

Leo was from Russell, Minnesota, a “city” in the southwestern part of the State, which was incorporated in 1898 and in 1910 had a population of 262. (Population briefly exceeded 500 in 1950 before declining to today’s 348. It is somewhat poorer than average now and no doubt was then.) His mother was Annie O’Connell Murphy (1865-1933), who proudly claimed close kinship with Daniel O’Connell, the towering 19th century champion of Catholic emancipation in Britain as well as of Irish Catholic nationalism (and abolition of slavery in the United States, among other causes anathematic to conservatives). In Leo’s proud recollection, as recounted to his daughter, she had reigned over a local political soirée, convened regularly in her parlor. But she had been an invalid, afflicted by “fits” perhaps of epileptic origin, and her adoring son (one of 8, plus 2 sisters, with 6 boys and another girl having died in infancy or early childhood) had quit school after the sixth grade to help her. It was no doubt significant that Anne had been named for her Irish grandmother.

Both parents were proud American strivers, upwardly mobile, seeking the blessings of firmly middle-class status. Elvira, Anne recalled, looked down on her sisters, who all married “working men.” She graduated from high school and went to a “business college,” qualifying as a fully skilled secretary.

Leo followed his own upward path. This depended in part on his formidable athletic skills and particularly on his excellence on the baseball field. Hoping to find a way to help his mother with her health problems, he studied chiropractic while earning money as a player on a semiprofessional baseball team. This was in the 1920s when chiropractic was struggling to gain a place in the sun in the face of implacable hostility from the the medical profession, which itself had only scaled the heights of full respectability within living memory (as related to me by my own dear uncle, James Bryant Mason, MD, Brigadier General, AUS (1898-1980), himself the son of a physician). In many states chiropractors had faced severe pressure and even prosecution for practicing medicine without a license, and one of these was Wisconsin.

The great strategist/promoter of chiropractic’s growth was B. J. Palmer, son and heir of chiropractic’s founder, D. D. Palmer. When Leo graduated and gained his doctor of chiropractic (DC), B.J. urged him to set up practice in Wisconsin, where chiropractic had encountered so much difficulty in establishing itself, telling him (often-repeated account of his loving daughter), “They’ll never put you in jail, Leo, you’re just too damn good a ballplayer!”

Whatever the stimulus, Leo ended up in Appleton, Wisc., then a thriving city of about 25,000 between Green Bay and Milwaukee, one of the Fox [River] Cities and thus a center of papermaking. He played catcher for a time with the Appleton Papermakers baseball team and with his lithe athletic figure and Irish good looks no doubt cut a fine figure. In one way or another he and Elvira came together and decided to marry. Both came from thoroughly Catholic backgrounds, thus obviating what was then still a major potential marriage obstacle for many.

Elvira had suffered from problems with her thyroid gland and it had eventually been removed, or so she reported to Anne. Thyroidectomy patients even then were encouraged to take supplements of thyroid hormones to avoid major potential health problems, but Elvira never would, relying instead on the healing powers of Leo’s treatments, exposing her to severe hypothyroidism, with unpredictable effects.

She and Leo had their first child, Patrick Leo Murphy, on July 10, 1932, suggesting that they had married in 1931 or perhaps 1930, near their 30th birthdays. (Pat died earlier in 2022.) Then came Mary Therese Murphy (1933-2016) and next, James Michael Murphy, who died aged about 6 months. This was of course before antibiotics (just before) and children were still vulnerable to a number of serious infections which had no cure.  Another boy was soon born, Leo Jr. (1937-2022).

Finally in 1939 came Anne, fourth of what would eventually be 7 siblings. Even by the standards of that day it was a notably large family. No Catholic could admit to practicing birth control of course (save by the generally ineffective “rhythm method”) but Anne was to note that none of her childhood friends (almost all Catholic, at her mother’s insistence) had families nearly as large, and her mother was vocally critical of Catholic women who stopped having children with two or three or four. Altogether, Elvira gave birth 9 times.

[Part II, et seq., will follow]

She Was Old

She was old, past bloom of glorious youth
But not too old, not for the love of an old man
Who needed only her radiant warmth
To remind him that even the dying embers of his life
Still could mean something, could still suffice
To stoke the glowing passions of his still-lovely wife.

——William D. O’Neil, 26 Nov 2022

Blues for Anne

Stop all the clocks, shut down every phone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the speakers and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let jet planes circle shrieking overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message She Is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the policemen all wear black cotton gloves.

She was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

(Adapted by Will O’Neil from W. H. Auden’s “Funeral Blues”)

Pearl Harbor in Context: Article

Pearl Harbor in Context” is an extended article which was published in 2022, in the new De Gruyter journal, Open Military Studies. This is an abstract:

Objectively, Japan was under scarcely any compulsion to initiate the Pacific War. However, many Japanese themselves saw the conflict as made unavoidable by the West’s existential threat to the empire’s economic, physical, and spiritual essence. Such views commanded wide popular support and held profound appeal for many in the military, particularly among mid-grade officers of the elite general staffs of the army and navy. Many did recognize that the great economic and geostrategic imbalances between Japan and the West seriously lengthened the odds against Japan, but patriotic-religious fervor convinced them that the risk had to be run and moreover that if they were resolute the justice of their cause would bring heaven’s blessing to their arms. These convictions were strong enough to bridge the otherwise great gulfs among various nationalistic factions and unite them in pressing more cautious elements to plunge into war. Nazi Germany’s early military successes played an important role in persuading the hesitant of the need not to “miss the bus.” In this context, both the policies of appeasement and deterrence tried by the Americans and Europeans were foredoomed. Despite reasonably accurate strategic warning, the U.S. government could find no way to avert war.

Who is Going to Win, and Why [2020 presidential election]

We won’t really know who is going to win the presidential election until November 4, and possibly not until the Electors cast their ballots on December 14. But if we think about the structural factors in conjunction with poll results we can gain a much clearer idea of the possibilities.

I start with the principle that however hard or easy it may be to chose one candidate or another in the first place, once we have decided and declared our decision — even if only to ourselves — we grow very unlikely to switch to another candidate. And the starker the contrast between the candidates appears to be the less likely we are to switch. In today’s highly polarized environment, switching from Trump to Biden, or the other way, is all but unthinkable.

The next thing to think of is the polls. A lot of people feel badly burnt by the 2016 polls and are inclined to ignore them in 2020. That’s pretty unrealistic. The polls in 2016 were as good or bad as they have ever been. The problem was the unthoughtful meanings people tried to impose on the numbers. The polls as a whole said that Clinton was ahead in the popular vote, and indeed she was. If you analyzed the polls well, you came up with an estimate of her popular-vote lead that was very close to the actual results. But of course U.S. presidential elections are not decided by national-level popular vote. For reasons that made sense in the 1780s, “electoral votes” were apportioned to the States by a formula that made voters in, say, Wyoming a great deal more equal than those in California. Since it is written into the Constitution it is far from easy to change, much as many people would like to. Until then, it is necessary to look at the polls State-by-State to translate human votes into electoral votes.

One of the things that led to some of the surprise in 2016 was that a lot of voters remained undecided until very late in the process. Both of the major candidates were widely disliked and distrusted, making the choice unusually difficult for many people. At the very end, polls were showing 13% or so undecided, or planning to vote for third-party candidates. (People who say they are going to vote third-party are often not deeply reluctant to switch to main-party candidates, experience shows.) At the last minute, even on Election Day itself, quite a lot of these people decided to vote for Trump — well over half of those who voted at all chose Trump, which was enough to flip several critical States into the Trump column. The lesson is, watch that undecided percentage.

As I write, the election is just over six weeks away, and things are not looking terribly bright for Trump. It’s not that he’s really all that far down in the polls, but the patterns present problems. He remains popular in States which are relatively overrepresented in electoral votes, as he was in 2016, and might win the electoral vote even if he lost the popular vote by 3% or even 4%. (He lost it by 2.1% in 2016.) But Nate Silver’s presently projects that Biden/Harris will win 331 electoral votes, meaning that Trump/Pence would need to take away 62 of these in order to turn the tables. Most other serious analysts are pointing in the same direction — see the Cook Report Electoral College forecast, for example. If Trump & Pence held on in all the States where they currently lead (by Silver’s count) and also win in NC, FL, and PA, they they could get just enough electoral votes to win. So let’s look at these States.

North Carolina (15 electoral votes). Biden’s lead over Trump in NC is quite narrow, little more than 1%, although it has been remarkably consistent throughout the whole campaign. With 6% undecided, gaining that extra 1.5% does not seem totally out of Trump’s reach, but something is going to have to change for it to happen. Of course North Carolina has an especially rich history of election chicanery. One way or another, it’s really pretty early to count on NC going for Trump or for Biden.

Florida (29 electoral votes). Biden has led since early April and currently has a margin of 2.0%, with 5.4% undecided. In order to win, Trump has to pick up a very large fraction of the undecideds — two out of five at very minimum (with none voting for Biden), and probably a lot more. Election chicanery is far from unknown in the Sunshine State, and Gov. Ron DeSantis is very beholden to Trump, but this still looks like a pretty big lift.

Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes). The Keystone State could very, very easily be the one that decides the election. Biden has led significantly throughout the entire campaign in PA and right now polls at 49.7%. Trump is at 45.1%, so undecideds amount to 5.3%. That is to say that virtually all of the undecideds have to go for Trump if he is to win. Watch for lots of action in Pennsylvania, as well as North Carolina and Florida.

I want to draw attention to the consistency of the Biden lead in these States. That’s historically unusual, and quite different from 2016, and it suggests that a great many people made up their minds — generally as to whether to vote for Trump or against him — a very long time ago, and are not very likely to switch votes. It really is likely to be up to the undecideds, and Trump has to convince an awful lot of them if he is to win.

The first presidential debate comes up on September 29. The first debates have generally drawn big audiences and generate a lot of comment. But whether they or the subsequent debates exercise much real influence is far from clear.

That gets us to the October Surprise. It’s not even October yet and already we’ve had a major surprise in the death of Justice Ginsberg. As we see, Trump and Mitch McConnell at once decided to attempt to exploit this for advantage. It’s not clear what the outcome will be in terms of confirming or not confirming a new justice, but it is hard for me to see the Republicans extracting much electoral advantage from the spectacle in either case.

We can scarcely doubt that Trump has Roger Stone and other seasoned dirty-tricksters, not to mention executive branch loyalists very ready to bend their offices to serve his political ends, working feverishly to come up with something. In 2016, after all, James Comey, violating FBI and DoJ policy, announced what turned out to be a baseless innuendo against Hillary Clinton on October 28 which very probably won the election for Trump. Surely Trump’s men will come up with more dramatic (and probably even more meretricious) accusations to hurl against Biden.

But the unstable conditions that gave Comey’s letter such effect in 2016 are very far from what we see today. Public confidence not only in Trump but in anyone even remotely associated with him is very low. Having been badly used in 2016, the major news media are more cautious. Anything the Trumpists come up with will be seized upon by Fox News and other elements of the far-right media, of course, but it is questionable how much they influence the views of the undecided voters. We cannot entirely dismiss the impact of any such surprises, but it is far from clear that they can be decisive.

Moreover, as Bob Woodward has recently demonstrated, surprises need not be favorable to Trump. And more books of a potentially explosive nature are due out in October. Yet although Woodward has Trump on tape acknowledging that he cynically misled the public on a life-and-death issue, the response in the polls has been scarcely visible. This too speaks to the difficulties of changing the balance in this election, even with dramatic and true revelations.

Finally, there is the question of the influence of Vladimir Putin. There is little doubt has set his troll troops to spreading disinformation and dismay in an effort to aid Trump to stay in the Oval Office. And indications seem to be that Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook are very open to their efforts. But even crediting Messrs. Putin and Zuckerberg with the very worst possible intentions, I don’t see the Web campaign as at all decisive. It did not seem to have much visible effect in 2016 and people have grown more skeptical in the meantime. How many of the undecideds get a lot of their news and views from the social media, after all?

But what about Internet sabotage of the voting process? There are a lot of structural reasons why that is quite difficult in the United States, and the State and local election authorities all seem to be on the alert. Moreover, U.S. Cyber Command is now very actively involved, including preemptively striking at hostile Internet sites.

Finally, voting is underway already. It seems likely that a very substantial portion of ballots will be cast well before Election Day, particularly those for Biden & Harris. Thus what we see in the polls today is in substantial part a measure of voting reality. Undecided voters are not going to vote unless and until they decide, of course, but whatever window there may have been for flipping Biden voters is closing fast.

My bottom line is that there is still room for Trump to win, but only narrow room. Absent something quite unexpected and dramatic, Biden will win the election.

Political Divisions and What Might be Done

It would not be really unreasonable to say that Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory was a fluke. He trailed his opponent by nearly 3 million votes, two percent of all votes cast, but gained office through a peculiarity of the complex U.S. electoral system. Yet even if Hillary Clinton had won the presidency the fact that Trump had received nearly 63 million ballots, 46.1 percent of the total, would still say something very striking about our politics. He did make some specific policy proposals and promises, but few even among his voters seemed to truly believe he would or even could make good on them (as indeed he has not with a few marginal exceptions). But the real core of his campaign was a series of scornful (and frequently untruthful) calumnies directed against a long list of “enemies” and declarations of war against them, together with promises to reverse immigration and trade imbalances. In office he has continued to campaign on the same bases while making little progress in fulfilling them, but his level of support generally hovers around where it has almost always been, about 40 to 45 percent of the electorate. His popularity is low compared to that of most first-term presidents, particularly in light of generally good economic conditions, but still very substantial. It seems particularly remarkable in light of his open and angry defiance not only of American political norms but of law and the Constitution. Nor is he unique. In this second decade of the third millennium, politicians with authoritarian ambitions have gained power in many countries by playing on popular resentments and xenophobia.

What is going on? Where is this headed? And is there anything to be done about it? Lots of people are chiming in on this and here I am going to survey some of the more notable and useful contributions before offering some proposals.

Achen & Bartels

Over the past few decades Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels have contributed greatly to expanding understanding of how political processes work in the United States (and elsewhere) through analyses of statistical data on elections and opinions. In a book entitled, Democracy for realists: Why elections do not produce responsive government, published early in 2016, they summarized the main findings, together with the evidence these are based on. First, they demolish what they refer to as the Folk Theory of Democracy, the notion that most people vote for the candidate who credibly promises to support the issues they care most about; in reality, they show, issue voting is distinctly uncommon—even though most people claim to be issues voters if asked. Instead, most voting is based strictly in group identity. Mr. X votes Democratic because his family is Democratic and he has always voted for Democrats. Or Ms. Y votes Republican because the pastor and all the members of her Evangelical congregation always vote Republican. As people will, X and Y and other group-identity voters can offer reasons for their choices that make them sound rational, but from the data it is clear that in most cases these are rationalizations rather than real reasons; X and Y have the illusion of thinking but not the substance. Group identities are largely fixed, at least in the near term, and this is why election results almost always are close to 50-50 Republican vs. Democratic.

The margin is small but very significant, and the fact that it shifts from election to election has a great deal to do with vague, unanalyzed feelings about the incumbent party. When things seem to be going well, and particularly their own personal economic fortunes, people give some credit to the political party in power—and conversely when they are not going too well. But of course things never consistently go as well as we would like or as we feel we deserve and as a result people store up a certain sense of frustration and resentment with the ruling party which grows slowly over time. Thus Achen and Bartels produce formulas that can reliably forecast the swing in the vote based on how long the party in power has remained in power together with the change in disposable personal income in the very final months of the campaign. Regardless of who the candidates might be or how they waged their campaigns these formulas predicted that in 2016 the Democratic candidate would have a 2.2 percent margin over the Republican—very close to the 2.1 percent by which Clinton actually beat Trump in the popular vote.

In this sense the 2016 presidential election was a remarkably ordinary election which fully vindicated the Achen and Bartels model. Nevertheless the two authors felt called upon to do more than take a victory lap. In the paperback edition of their book, Democracy for realists: Why elections do not produce responsive government, with a new afterword by the authors, published in 2017, they review the results, finding little reason for surprise but much for disquiet. They show how our political systems are in disarray, at least in considerable measure because (with the best of ostensible intentions) …

we have drifted far from the view of the Founders that popular sentiment needs to be respected, but also tempered and refined by experienced, well-informed political judgment. The Founders were neither elitists nor populists; they sought a balance. In the current presidential primary system, that balance has tilted too far toward empowering popular sentiment. But we, the people, like the power, and we are resistant to sharing it with those more knowledgeable than ourselves. (p. 341)

Achen and Bartels are cautious about the cries that democracy is uniquely in crisis. Indeed, they observe, “the current political environment is probably more typical in the broad sweep of history than the mid-20th-century period that contemporary observers often think of as ‘normal.’ ” (p. 342) They nevertheless see a lot of danger in an environment in which “most politically engaged citizens are firmly committed to one party or the other, and they are willing to overlook a lot in order to feel good about ‘their’ politicians and opinion leaders…. [P]reserving constitutional democracy requires sound institutional structures and unfailing vigilance. At the moment, carelessness abounds, fueled in part by the folk theory of democracy. Foolish referendums and a slipshod procedure for choosing presidential candidates have had real consequences.” (p. 344)

I can testify that Achen and Bartels have been careful with their evidence and their analysis of it and its significance. Some of their conclusions, particularly regarding the implications of the 2016 election, do go beyond the strict limits of their evidence and rest instead on their considered judgement. But their judgement seems quite sound to me and I believe that they are right about the dangers in relying too much on the generally reactive and unreflective popular will. They do not really offer any proposals for remedies, at least not in this book.

Interestingly, the book makes many references to the work on authoritarianism, ethnocentrism, and democracy by Kinder and Kam, and also some to that by Stenner, which tends to buttress my view that this is a serious and comprehensive analysis.


Well-known political scientist Francis Fukuyama has recently published, Identity: The demand for dignity and the politics of resentment (New York: Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2018) which he says was written specifically in response to Trump’s election, while incorporating ideas he had long been developing. His central theme is the struggle for thymos (also seen as thumos, both transliterations of the Greek θυμός). To the Ancients, thymos represented the element of passion or drive in our souls, but for Fukuyama it is specifically the need for recognition of our identity and value as individuals and members of our primary identity groups. While this need is a human constant, Fukuyama believes that modern circumstances have brought it to the fore and made of it a focus for conflict. He sees a need to merge particularist identities into an integrative overarching national (but not nationalistic) identity and proposes various policies to further this.

The book is coherent and offers many interesting observations but it doesn’t seem terribly satisfying to me. While the resentments of Trump supporters come though clearly enough in news stories and interviews, I am still not really convinced that they are primary rather than derivative of other factors, and Fukuyama offers little to still my doubts. Nor am I convinced that there truly are 63 million people for whom these resentments are a factor strong enough to be the primary reason to vote for Trump. Finally, while many of the proposed remedies do seem like attractive ideas in the abstract I wonder both about their efficacy and political acceptability.

Fukuyama never mentions the work of Achen and Bartels, of Kinder and Kam, nor of Stenner. Clearly, it seems, he has not cast his intellectual net very widely.

Sides, Tesler & Vavreck

In their recent, Identity crisis: The 2016 presidential campaign and the battle for the meaning of America (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2018), John Sides, Michael Tesler, and Lynn Vavreck painstakingly dissect the campaign, drawing on a great deal of data from many different polls and studies. They do not engage in any formal statistical modeling or hypothesis testing in the main text but they do present their data in a series of a great many clear and well-conceived graphs, which I think adequately support their arguments. (Some more formal statistical work is summarized in appendices.) They do not take issue with the work of Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels (which they cite extensively) but seek to penetrate to the factors which determined, strengthened, and undermined party identifications in 2016 and since. 

The authors show that the key factors were immigration and race. (Both of course are tied to the work of Kinder and Kam, which they make extensive use of.) Republicans were more likely to express xenophobic and racist views than Democrats before Trump came along, but he played to and intensified these tendencies as the cornerstone of his campaign and was rewarded with a substantial and intensely loyal “base.” No other issues in the campaign had nearly equivalent potency, Sides, Tesler and Vavreck show. But these issues are so important to many Republicans that they forgive any and all other sins or lapses on Trump’s part. However, his continued efforts as president have not rallied any significant number of others to the banners of xenophobia and racism, at least in net (just as Kinder and Kam would predict).

For the moment that makes the Republicans the party of xenophobia and racism, at least in electoral terms. The Republican electorate is ready to support policies of grinding the faces of the poor (whom it identifies with racial minorities) but policies of enriching the rich have met with much less enthusiasm than the party leadership had hoped, however disguised, and trashing health care guarantees, a dearly-held objective of hard-line conservatives, has proved to be about as popular as ebola. Moreover, regardless of personal preferences any Republican who tries to run on a platform that does not prominently feature wholehearted support for Trump’s xenophobic and racist views is quickly made to repent the error of his ways, or else face ignominious defeat.

The authors tell their story in clear and engaging terms, supported by their wealth of graphs. They close with

What gave us the 2016 election, then, was not changes among voters. It was changes in the candidates. Only four years earlier, issues like race and immigration were not as central either to the candidates or to voters. The 2016 election was different because of what the candidates chose to do and say—and then, after the election, because of what Trump has chosen to do and say as president. Those choices have had consequences for voters.

Political leaders will always have those choices. They can call someone un-American or a “son of a bitch” or “deplorable.” They can call someone’s country a “shithole.” They can tell us to “beat the crap” out of someone they disagree with. They can also ask us to welcome others, to find common ground, and even to heal the country. These choices are what helped build the identity crisis in American politics. They are also what can help take it apart.

Thus Sides, Tesler and Vavreck show a picture of the political system with greater agency than that presented by Achen and Bartels, but it is agency on the part of the candidates and their handlers rather than the electorate—whose role is to have their latent tendencies activated or not by the candidate. And although they mention the role of the media and the disproportion in their coverage of various aspects of the campaign they do not really engage regarding the extent of media influence, or the role of right-wing agitprop entities such as Fox News, Breitbart, and Rush Limbaugh in activating popular resentments and fears.

Inglehart (again)

I’ve written before of the work of Ronald Inglehart, which I regard as some of the most significant social science of our time. My earlier post included a reference to a paper he co-authored with Pippa Norris, “Trump and the Populist Authoritarian Parties: The Silent Revolution in Reverse” (Perspectives on Politics 15, no. 2 (2017): 443–54.)

Recently Inglehart, with colleagues Jon Miller and Logan Woods, gave a talk along broadly similar lines at the American Political Science Assn. meeting, “The Silent Revolution in Reverse: Trump and the Xenophobic Authoritarian Populist Parties.” It has not yet been seen print but no doubt will and in the meantime is available in working paper form at the link.

What these two articles have to say can best be conveyed, I think, in a merged paraphrase of their abstracts:

Growing up taking survival for granted makes people more open to new ideas and more tolerant of outgroups. Insecurity has the opposite effect, stimulating an Authoritarian Reflex in which people close ranks behind strong leaders, with strong in-group solidarity, rejection of outsiders, and rigid conformity to group norms. The 35 years of exceptional security experienced by developed democracies after WWII brought pervasive cultural changes and the spread of democracy. Postwar prosperity brought these changes with a substantial time lag, since they moved at the pace of intergenerational population replacement; and though high levels of security were conducive to these changes, short-term economic downturns brought temporary reversions to Materialist values rooted in security anxieties. During the past 35 years, economic growth continued, but virtually all of the gains went to those at the top; the less-educated experienced declining existential security, fueling support for Populist Authoritarian phenomena such as Brexit, France’s National Front and Trump’s takeover of the Republican party.

This raises two questions: (1) “What motivates people to support Populist Authoritarian movements?” And (2) “Why is the populist authoritarian vote so much higher now than it was several decades ago in high-income countries?” The two questions have different answers. (1) Support for populist authoritarian parties is motivated by a backlash against cultural change. From the start, younger Postmaterialist birth cohorts supported environmentalist parties, while older, less secure cohorts supported authoritarian xenophobic parties, in an enduring intergenerational value clash. (2) But for the past three decades, economic gains have gone almost entirely to those at the top, while a large share of the population experienced declining real income and job security, along with a large influx of immigrants and refugees. thus increasing support for xenophobic parties:. Cultural backlash explains why given individuals support Populist Authoritarian movements. Declining existential security explains why support for these movements is greater now than it was thirty years ago.

The same underlying dynamic is still at work, but it is now moving in reverse. For example, in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, pure Materialists (for whom anxieties about economic and personal security are primary) were nearly four times as likely to have voted for Trump as for Clinton—while pure Postmaterialists confident of their security were fourteen times as likely to have voted for Clinton as for Trump. This value-based cleavage has become much stronger than the once-powerful cleavages based on income, education, occupation or social class.

Also quite recently, Inglehart has published another book, Cultural evolution: People’s motivations are changing, and reshaping the world  (Cambridge U.P., 2018) which discusses these themes in greater depth. I have only just started it but so far so good.

Finally, Norris and Inglehart are due very shortly to publish yet another book that is clearly relevant to the issues discussed here, Cultural Backlash: Trump, Brexit, and Authoritarian Populism (Cambridge U.P., 2018).

What is to be done?

I want to go into this in greater depth in another post, but fundamentally I come away seeing two things to be done, one for the nearer term and one for the longer term.

Fundamentally we need to make our political system work better, and to make our electorate think more clearly. The latter is definitely a project mainly for the long haul, but something can be done more immediately on improving the functioning of the political system—and needs to be. Together, Achen & Bartels and Sides, Tesler & Vavreck provide the clue: we need to return to the ideas of the Founders (and specifically James Madison) about tempering popular passions through the influence of the pros who have the will and time to inform themselves and the motivation to exert themselves in favor of stability. In particular, the nominations processes need to be made less “democratic” and more subject to the guidance of the party “establishments.” The point (as Madison and his colleagues quite clearly understood) is not that the pros are smarter or more virtuous but that they have the motivation and means to try to keep the system on the Constitutional rails.

How is this to be done? The answer, friends, is leadership and politics. Those of us who care about such matters need to move to spread the ideas and persuade. Politics may be difficult but it’s unavoidable.

For the longer term project of getting a better, more thoughtful electorate it is Inglehart who provides the clues. It is the lack of security for much of our population over a period of several decades that has bred a generation or more of people who are fundamentally disposed to be hypersensitive to threats from foreigners, people of other races, and people with “strange” beliefs or cultural practices. No matter what happens many of these people will never be able to change this fundamental disposition, which will always be available for activation by unavoidable circumstance or through deliberate manipulation by the unscrupulous.

What can be done is to create an economic environment which essentially all children grow up in an environment of reasonable comfort and security, as well as a public order which makes good on the promise of equal protection under the law for all. Not to create Utopia but to make an environment which will not stunt the emotional development of children and will ready them to be truly independent and responsible adults.

Did I say that I had easy solutions? What this will require, first of all, will be to limit the  disparities in wealth that have grown so enormous over the past few decades, in the first instance by reinstituting heavy taxation for the very rich. It has been done before and it can be done again. Indeed, awareness of the need has already progressed so far as to infect the pages of Fortune magazine

More another time.

War with China: A real threat?

I’ve recently read a widely-noted new book by Graham Allison, Destined for war: Can America and China escape Thucydides’s trap? (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). The question that Allison addresses, whether the United States and People’ s Republic of China (PRC) might somehow go to war, is of supreme importance and I want to set down my initial thoughts in response to his treatment.

Graham Allison will long be remembered as a scholar. His 1971 book, Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis, is of enduring interest, not so much for its account of the history of the crisis as for its analysis of alternative models of decision making.[1]

In light of this I approached this book with positive expectations. But sadly, Destined for war, I believe, is not of that caliber. In fact, in many ways it seems quite peculiar. Fortunately, the best parts are the very final conclusions and recommendations. Less fortunately, the path to them is very frequently a matter of the proof of the obvious by means of the dubious.

Unless you seriously doubt that China is economically strong and growing stronger, or that the possibility over the next few decades of conflict between China and the United States can be disregarded altogether because it is less, say, than one in a million, then you will find nothing in the first three-quarters of this book that is worthy of your time and attention. If you read it and find that it contains novel and important information this will largely be because you have been misled.

I will explain.

Essentially, Allison’s arguments are

  • China is surging ahead of the United States both economically and militarily, so much so that nothing can stop it from achieving global dominance.
  • This situation of a rising power (China) overtaking a formerly dominant one (us) is very dangerous. It has frequently led to war in the past and could very well do so now.

He develops these points at some length, but in an easy, non-academic style. So non-academic, indeed, that in a number of areas he plays pretty fast and loose with the facts. Although Allison wants us to believe that he is dispassionately examining the issues the reality is that there is much more exhortation than analysis here.

One aspect of the problem is that, learned as he is in some areas, Allison is a political scientist specializing in IR (international relations) theory and expert neither in economics nor Asian history, nor has he more than very distinctly limited understanding of technology and military affairs. Sometimes he shows astute judgement in which sources to consult in these matters, but too often he doesn’t.

His weaknesses in economics are on full display in his projections about the future relative economic strengths of the U.S. and China. The one thing we can be quite certain of about the economic future is that it’s highly uncertain. To be sure, there are things in which momentum or accumulated stocks play a very big role, permitting a degree of fairly confident prediction; population, for instance, or the size of naval fleets. But in things like GDP growth, technological innovation, or social trends, for instance, we are flying blind and a look back at the confident predictions of experts in the past is (or certainly should be) quite sobering.[2]

Instead Allison takes at face value PRC pledges of 6.5%/year growth for a number of years to come, contrasting this with the U.S. trend of little more than 2%/year, leading him to assert confidently that China will soon vastly outstrip the United States.

For the United States the risks are largely in policy. Immigration is a significant plus factor and if Trump Administration plans to cut it back severely go through there will almost surely be reductions to growth in both GDP and GDP per capita. In addition, some Republican officials have repeatedly indicated a real willingness to force a default on U.S. debt as a means to force through policy changes. Most economists believe that any real default (lasting more than a very brief period) could cause a worldwide financial collapse comparable to that of 2008, and leave a lasting residue of poor U.S. credit and high risk premia on U.S. debt, all of which could be expected to have severe impacts on economic growth.

The PRC leadership seems unlikely to stumble into such ruinous policy choices, but China’s economic risks are nevertheless serious. Sustained rapid growth has led to accumulation of imbalances and distortions in the economy. The government has proven adept and firm about managing the economy, but some problems are growing to levels that threaten to defy even the best management. (It’s interesting to note that many people who insist that government destroys everything it touches in the U.S. display a great deal of faith in the PRC government’s ability to manage the country’s economy.)

But China is well into the most dramatic example of the demographic transition ever seen, reflecting a confluence of natural forces associated with economic modernization exacerbated by the “one-child policy” the government insisted upon, with some exceptions, from 1979 to 2015. As a result the country’s working-age (and military-age) population will decline steadily and its old-age population will grow for decades to come, and its total population will start to shrink. Unless there is compensating strong growth in labor productivity this will result not only in rising social expenses but slowly rising GDP.

The United States by contrast enjoys higher effective reproduction rates (due largely to immigrant groups) as well as population growth due to immigration, which combine to provide a powerful support for GDP. While the U.S. too has an aging population problem is it not nearly as severe or progressive as China’s, and the influx of young immigrants (for as long as it’s allowed to last) provides a pool of people to work in caring for the old.

Allison throws out numbers in a fairly unsystematic way. He expresses projections in constant U.S. dollars (baseline usually not specified) at PPP, asserting confidently that PPP is the best way to compare national incomes for defense purposes. It’s widely agreed that PPP is best for comparing overall welfare, but that’s because it’s constructed for that purpose. It should be self-evident to anyone who thinks about it that this in general is not the best way to make military-potential comparisons. Just because a dollar spent in China will buy twice as many (say) haircuts or restaurant meals as it will in the United States doesn’t mean that it will buy twice as much military capability. Allison truncates a CIA statement in a way that significantly distorts its meaning, changing

The data derived from the PPP method probably provide the best available starting point for comparisons of economic strength and well-being between countries. … GDP derived using the OER [official exchange rate] method should be used for the purpose of calculating the share of items such as exports, imports, military expenditures, external debt, or the current account balance, because the dollar values presented in the [CIA] Factbook for these items have been converted at official exchange rates, not at PPP. One should use the OER GDP figure to calculate the proportion of, say, Chinese defense expenditures in GDP, because that share will be the same as one calculated in local currency units.[3]


PPP “provides [sic] the best available starting point for comparisons of economic strength and well-being between countries.”[4]

On his page 7 Allison casually suggests that China might double or even quadruple its levels of labor productivity over the next ten to twenty years. When I’ve put this to economists familiar with such matters I’ve always gotten the same reaction: a snort of laughter. As one says, if Allison knows the secret of productivity growth in a maturing economy (where services are rapidly displacing manufacturing as the principal employer) it would be nice to share. It’s reasonable to expect more rapid productivity growth in China than in the U.S. (since China can copy us in an effort to catch up). But the major obstacles to productivity in China are structural and at best will yield slowly and painfully to reform efforts. Corruption is clearly a very major problem and Allison speaks in upbeat tones of Xi Jinping’s drive to extirpate it. Yet Chinese regimes have been inveighing against corruption time out of mind and have periodically mounted draconian campaigns to sanction the malefactors with little fundamental effect. The social roots underlying corruption, known as guanxi, reach to the very heart of Chinese society — and the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) that Xi heads.[5] The CCP has waged war against guanxi since long before it gained power, but with quite limited success. Guanxi is changing but we will not soon see a China with even U.S.-levels of corruption, let alone those of Germany, the Netherlands, or the U.K. There can be little doubt that corruption will remain a major drag on Chinese economic efficiency for a long time to come.

For what it’s worth here are the OECD’s projections of GDP not just for China and the U.S. but for all of the large and middling powers active in the region, in 2005 U.S. dollars at PPP, out three decades in the future:

2017 2027 2037 2047
Australia 1.0 1.4 1.8 2.3
China (PRC) 15.1 23.7 33.2 43.3
India 5.3 9.5 16.0 24.8
Indonesia 1.4 2.4 3.7 5.4
Japan 4.2 4.7 5.3 5.9
Korea (ROK) 1.8 2.4 2.9 3.5
Russia 2.8 3.7 4.6 4.8
United States 16.4 21.0 26.0 30.9
Projections of GDP at PPP in 2005 U.S. dollars, trillions.
(OECD 2014)


Note that China has no allies other than North Korea (whose economy is too small to show up in this table). The policy of the Trump Administration seems to be to weaken U.S. alliances but if we assume that this does not become permanent the United States could reasonably be expected to be joined by others in any conflict. In the table it’s easy to see how the United States together with plausible allies might outweigh China in GDP measured at PPP.

To further buttress his case Allison summons a number of more or less striking anecdotes about Chinese economic expansion and some deep-sounding generalizations regarding Chinese historical trends. The anecdotes are all very positive, but anyone who has followed China’s development at all closely will know that it would be equally easy to assemble a parade of disasters and horror stories. It’s not impossible that China has at last found the clear path to unending successes without setbacks, but it’s not something to bet a great deal on, I should think.

Periodically through the book Allison tells the reader tales of the magnificence and uniqueness of classical Chinese civilization, including that it is 5,000 years old and continuous since then, and that until the rude intrusion of Britain followed by others in the early- to mid-1800s, China had only dealt with other nations on a lofty patron-client basis. While this is all a standard part of the PRC’s patriotic myth, taught to every Chinese schoolchild, it takes very little scholarly reading to discover the limitations and distortions in it.[6] For the regime, of course, these myths serve an understandable purpose, but their value for Allison is less clear. Naturally their falsity tends to diminish the impact of the “lessons” he derives regarding Chinese history.

The distortions of Allison’s view of China may derive, I suspect, from his friendship and admiration for the late Lee Kuan Yew (1923-2015), long the strongman autocrat of Singapore. Lee was part of the Chinese diaspora, his great-grandfather having emigrated in mid-1800s. But he was educated at Cambridge and practiced as a barrister before leading Singapore’s successful movement to persuade the British to bestow independence on a city that had actually been created by Britain in the first place. Over the next few decades Lee oversaw the tremendous increase in wealth in Singapore.

Allison, nearly a quarter-century Lee’s junior, wrote a very admiring book entitled Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master’s Insights on China, the United States, and the World. There’s no question that Lee was an exceptional man who had a good deal of reason and opportunity to study the China of his time, but of course there were limitations to his knowledge, and he had a particular perspective that may not serve all purposes. Nevertheless, Allison seems to have adopted Lee as his one authority on China except for occasional references to Henry Kissinger (who also has demonstrated limits to his understanding of Chinese history).

Allison is surely right that China has been growing at unprecedented rates, economically, for the past three decades, much as Japan did in the 1960s through the 1980s. When you start from a base as low as China’s it is possible to catch up at astonishing rates — for a while. But just as Japan did China faces some factors which can limit its rate of growth. Which ones it will encounter first and how severe they will be remains to be seen, but one thing we know without question is that high rates of exponential growth cannot continue forever.

Allison also warns that China will overtake the United States in science and technology (S&T). The issues are highly complex and Allison is scarcely the first political scientist to issue naïve summary judgements. There is a great deal that is not known about S&T, including how best to stimulate its growth. The Soviets devoted great attention and massive resources to it for decades, with spotty success. Scotland, a small country with relatively modest wealth, has been a major source for 2½ centuries. There are many hypotheses and not enough evidence to pass reasoned judgement on most of them.

One thing that is certainly clear is that over the longer run technology depends on a supply of scientific knowledge to permit significant advances. The United States throughout its history has never lacked for those ready and able to use the scientific knowledge of the day to create technological knowledge. But the U.S. record in consistently producing scientific knowledge has been much more uneven. With many of our brightest finding Wall Street more alluring than the laboratory and an increasingly anti-intellectual political establishment imposing arbitrary and ignorant restrictions on research while cutting funding there certainly are real clouds on our scientific horizon. It seems all too possible that we are eating our seed corn.

In addressing the bottom line in the balance of power Allison again quotes Lee Kuan Yew, who never fought a war or studied war, to the effect that economic power outweighs military power. He seems unaware of the extent to which the Allies used their maritime power advantage to destroy German economic power in World War I, and Japanese as well as German power in World War II. China’s economic power is vulnerable in very much the same way as Germany’s was. In any serious conflict with the maritime West her overseas trade would stop almost instantly as warships seized or if necessary sank ships bound to or from Chinese ports; what then of her economic power?

Finally, Allison speaks with rather cynical admiration of China’s “unique mastery in using hard instruments of ‘soft power’ ” in employing market power to damage trading partners in retaliation for political affronts. He gives as a major example China’s actions to withhold rare-earth metals supplies from Japan in 2010 in order to deliver a rebuke for the seizure of a Chinese fishing vessel. He fails to point out the costly longer-term damage this has done to China’s markets for its rare-earth metals as well as the caution it has engendered among those considering importing any critical goods from Chinese suppliers. Western firms regularly assess supply-chain vulnerabilities and are particularly wary about depending on Chinese sources. Such are the rewards of heavy-handed trade policies.

Allison also weighs in on the military balance, seeing China pulling ahead as the U.S. stagnates or declines. He shows here his lack of knowledge and understanding of military technology and capabilities and cites weak sources (virtually the only kind publically available, of course). The reality is a great deal more nuanced and complex. The PRC is moving ahead militarily but there seems no visible prospect that it will be able to seriously erode U.S. capabilities to do it very great damage in a conflict. While Chinese forces may increasingly be able to put U.S. forces at risk when operating in certain areas there is no way they can prevent them from continuing to exercise overall dominance over the ocean commerce that is essential for Chinese prosperity nor from maintaining robust support for those states in the region that do not wish to submit to Chinese control. China is inherently a land power and probably could, if it chose, come to dominate quite a large swath of the Eurasian continent, but it faces very different and more formidable problems in challenging so great a maritime power as the United States is.[7]

In the second section of the book Allison starts with his analysis of the lessons to be gained from Thucydides’ (c.460BCE-c.395BCE) magnificent history of the Peloponnesian War (431BCE-404BCE), in which Athens and Sparta alike were ruined. He keynotes this with two quotations from Thucydides

The final point was reached when Athenian strength attained a peak plain for all to see and the Athenians began to encroach upon Sparta’s allies. It was at this point that Sparta felt its position was no longer tolerable and decided by starting this present war to employ all energies in attacking and, if possible, destroying the power of Athens. —Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War

It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled in Sparta that made war inevitable. —Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War

Allison sees this as an instance of a general tendency for tensions and potentially conflict to arise out of a dynamic power (such as Athens was) to challenge the position of an established dominant power (e.g., Sparta), terming it the Thucydides trap.

IR specialist that he is, Allison has conducted a statistical examination, compiling a file of 16 cases which he sees as fulfilling the requirements of his Thucydides trap concept and showing that in 12 of them a war resulted. Here he explores the original Greek case in modest depth, based on Thucydides’ book (which is essentially the only source we have). Then he very briefly sketches five selected cases from the 17th to the 20th centuries, drawing sweeping conclusions about why each resulted in war. Finally he presents the case of the First World War, concluding that it too is a clear-cut example of the action of the Thucydides trap.

I’m going to focus on two cases which I happen to know something about — a good deal more about them, as it turns out, than Allison seems to.

In the case of the war between Japan and the United States, the Pacific War of 1941-1945, Allison treats it as a separate conflict in isolation from the other currents of World War II. But from such a false starting assumption, as Gerhard Weinberg has shown, it is possible only to reach erroneous conclusions[8], which Allison proceeds to do. In fact, at its roots, the Pacific War resulted not from Japan’s rise (which amounted to little at that time) but from Hitler’s. It was by allying itself with Hitler and tying its fate to his that it brought war on its head. The Pacific War was no instance of the Thucydides trap at all but rather one element of a much larger and more complex conflict.

Allison is far from alone in muddled thinking about the origins of the Pacific War, and there are many authors whose treatments are little better, so perhaps we can pass this over as an aberration — or at least we might were it not paired with a much less forgivably distorted account of the origins of World War I.

In Allison’s telling, the Anglo-German battleship-building race of 1898-1912 and the fears it evoked in Britain’s rulers and public was at the root of the conflict; everything else is secondary. He’s not the first person to advance such a view but it is not at all widely accepted. For his purposes, however, this serves to convert what most present as a multi-party, multi-origin conflict into a straightforward case that can be fitted into his Thucydides trap framework; but it certainly fails to impress me.[9]

Two years before this book was published Allison contributed a chapter stating some of its main arguments to a volume edited by two other noted scholars and including contributions by a number of others, whose theme is summarized in its title: The next great war? The roots of World War I and the risk of U.S.-China conflict.[10] Several of the other contributors to The next great war also are big names in IR or Harvard colleagues who are eminent in other fields. And yet The next great war receives no citations in Allison’s new work, which ignores many of its themes. It certainly seems odd at best.

Beware, be very aware!” is the theme of Allison’s third section. He warns that China is ten feet tall and growing, and that her leaders are supremely wise, patient, and calculating, while America’s are naïve louts who are putty in their masterful hands. Then he contrives several scenarios which he deploys to argue that they might easily be drawn into hasty and fantastically ill-considered decisions for war over trivial causes, with no gain whatever in prospect. All in all it’s a remarkable performance, all the more so from a man justly famous for his subtle and realistic analysis of the foibles and strengths of high-level decision-making.

Throughout he displays profound ignorance of U.S. military and defense technological capabilities and potentials, as well as a consistent tendency to take Chinese propaganda about Chinese capabilities at full face value. This sort of tendency to make sweeping net assessments founded in deep ignorance of the realities has historically been quite dangerous. It unquestionably contributed to the origins and both world wars, and to needless defeats and suffering.

The final, relatively brief section focuses on policies and practices to ameliorate the risks of conflict. Following as it does after 184 pages of frequently meretricious arguments based in often ill-founded factual claims, it comes as considerable relief to find that for the most part its recommendations are sensible and the claims made for them are modest.

It’s all quite odd, extremely so. Most people, I find, are entirely prepared to take it for granted that a great power with a very prominent chip on its shoulder, as China has, presents some risk of war that we must be wary of. Surely it doesn’t require 184 pages — more than three-quarters of this book — to establish that China is indeed a great power with a chip on its shoulder, and to point out that its growth presents challenges.

In the process it might be well to dispose of the two principal “impossibility arguments” that people raise in an effort to deny the threat:

  1. War is “impossible” between two nuclear powers, except in the form of a catastrophic nuclear exchange.
  2. War is “impossible” between two states that depend on trade between them for much of their prosperity.

Both are addressed very briefly in the final section, but not in the depth needed and never before the end.

It is well established (as has long been apparent to sellers of used books) that of buyers of blockbuster bestseller books, only a minority ever read as far at the halfway point. It’s easy to believe in this case, where the first 75% of the book is largely dross. Readers would be well served in this book by starting it on page 187. Ignoring the first parts would give them the added benefit of avoiding contact with much toxic intellectual waste to be found in its earlier sections.

To give so bad a report of a book by an author whom I respect and admire for his previous work gives me no pleasure, but I don’t feel I have much choice.


[1]       A 1999 revision coauthored with Philip Zelikow updates the history in light of much added evidence; its title is unchanged.

[2]       Regarding the unreliability of economic forecasts, even in the relatively short term, see Hites Ahir and Prakash Loungani, “There will be growth in the spring: How well do economists predict turning points,” CEPR,; Prakash Loungani, “How accurate are private sector forecasts? Cross-country evidence from consensus forecasts of output growth,” International Journal of Forecasting 17, no. 3 (2001); Kevin J. Lansing and Benjamin Pyle, “Persistent overoptimism about economic growth,” FRBSF Economic Letter 3 (2015).

[3]       For a different view as well as independent estimates see Peter E. Robertson and Adrian Sin, “Measuring hard power: China’s economic growth and military capacity,” Defence and Peace Economics 28, no. 1 (2016).

[4]       Allison pp. 10-11.

[5]       For a survey of guanxi and related issues see Thomas B. Gold, Doug Guthrie and David L. Wank, eds., Social connections in China: Institutions, Culture, and the Changing Nature of Guanxi (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).

[6]       Regarding the discontinuities in the 4,000 year history of Chinese civilization (not 5,000 years as Allison repeatedly insists) see John Keay, China: A History (London: Harper Press, 2009), or any other history informed by the discoveries of the past three decades. For the realities of shifts in China’s relations with the world as circumstances changed see Morris Rossabi, ed., China among equals: The middle kingdom and its neighbors, 10th-14th centuries (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983).

[7]       For a somewhat better informed debate about the evolution of critical defense capabilities see Stephen Biddle and Ivan Oelrich, “Future Warfare in the Western Pacific: Chinese Antiaccess/Area Denial, U.S. AirSea Battle, and Command of the Commons in East Asia,” International Security 41, no. 1 (2016) together with Andrew S. Erickson et al., “Correspondence: How Good Are China’s Antiaccess/Area-Denial Capabilities?,” International Security 41, no. 4 (2017).

[8]       See Gerhard L. Weinberg, Germany, Hitler, and World War II (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), pp. 205-06 as well as Gerhard L. Weinberg, “Grand Strategy in the Pacific War,” in Pearl to V-J Day: World War II in the Pacific, ed. Jacob Neufeld, William T. Y’Blood and Mary L. Jefferson (Washington: Air Force History and Museums Program, 2000), pp. 1-3.

[9]       For well-regarded recent treatments of the war’s origins see Christopher Clark, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 (New York: Harper, 2013) as well as Margaret MacMillan, The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914 (New York: Random House, 2013).

[10]      Richard N. Rosecrance and Steven E. Miller, eds., The next great war? The roots of World War I and the risk of U.S.-China conflict (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2015). I recommend it.