May 30, 2014

Power and Resilience in Asia

The following blog post was written for the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) on May 30, 2014. An excerpt is below. The full text can be accessed here.

Why do strategists miscalculate the balance of power with such alarming frequency? In the 1860s, planners in Paris and Vienna woefully underestimated Prussian power, resulting in crushing defeats for their armies. Major powers’ attempts at naval arms control in the 1920s, meant to preserve the balance of power, did not ensure peace in their time. And, during the 1980s, US assessments of Soviet capabilities failed to anticipate the sudden end of the Cold War. As an era of possible Chinese supremacy or Sino-American bipolarity looms, it is worth asking whether something crucial is missing when we think and talk about the balance of power.

 Part of the problem is that power, while central to international politics, is frustratingly difficult to define and conceive.