This dangerous dynamic of a rising power that threatens to displace a ruling power is Thucydides’ Trap. It is one of history’s deadliest patterns. Over the past 500 years, this has occurred 16 times. In 12 cases, the outcome was war. Today, the contest between an irresistible rising China and an immovable America is the 17th case. If Beijing and Washington insist on business as usual, we are likely to get history as usual. That would mean a war that would be catastrophic for both.
Fortunately, it does not take a Wonder Woman to escape Thucydides’ Trap. But the magical prowess she demonstrated in overcoming daunting challenges should motivate us to stretch our strategic imagination about ways to secure America’s vital interests by avoiding war with China.
Perhaps Princess Diana’s decidedly female heroics inadvertently underscore the truth of Thucydides’ observation that history will follow its violent track “so long as men are men.” Or as the actress Gal Gadot said in an earlier movie, “Don’t send a man to do a woman’s job.”