Professor Athanassios Platias addressed the Mackinder Forum Seminar on Sunday, May 15, 2022, 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Eastern US Time. The title of his talk was “The Thucydides Trap Revisited: Fate, Entrapment, or Intent?”
Abstract: This presentation is divided in three parts: First we will address what we see as serious inaccuracies and misrepresentations of Thucydides original work in Graham Allison’s argumentation on inadvertent escalation and hegemonic transition. Our main argument is that the Peloponnesian war did not erupt after a process of inadvertent escalation. It was rather the outcome of a dynamic rational cost-benefit strategic evaluation which the two antagonists performed when assessing the expectations to win the war. Second we will heavily draw on Thucydides History of the Peloponnesian War to present his theory of hegemonic transition. Thucydides was a complex realist and not a structural determinist who saw an all-out war of annihilation as inevitable. He was a strong believer on the impact of political leadership in statecraft and stressed the domestic determinants on strategy within the structural imperatives. It is on this ground that he endorsed Pericle’s grand strategy of attrition and Archidamus’ prudent restraint. Lastly, having presented the basic theoretical tenets of Thucydides’ complex realism we draw six strategic corollaries that may offer prudent policy advice as Sino-US competition intensifies.
Biography: Athanassios Platias is Professor of Strategy at the University of Piraeus. He is also the Chairman of the Department of International and European Studies.
He holds a Ph.D in International Relations from the Department of Government at Cornell University (1986); and he has been a Ford Foundation Fellow with the Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University, and a MacArthur Fellow in International Peace and Security at the Center for International Affairs at Harvard University.
Professor Platias held several senior policy advisory positions in various Greek Ministries during the last 35 years. He was also a member of the Supervisory Council of the University of Piraeus (2012-2017) and Director of the graduate program in International and European studies (2008-2020).
Professor Platias is the author of numerous books and articles. He has written in five principal areas: i) Grand Strategy and Strategic Theory, ii) Geopolitics and Geoeconomics, iii) International Security, iv) Theory of International Relations, and v) International Relations and Strategy in Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War. His most recent books on strategy are: Thucydides on Strategy: Grand Strategies in the Peloponnesian War and Their Relevance Today, The Art of War, an analysis of the ancient Chinese treatise Sun Tzu’s Art of War, and the The Art of Strategy, an effort to develop a holistic theory on strategy.
Reading: Athanasssios Platias and Vasilis Trigkas, “Unravelling the Thucydides’ Trap: Inadvertent Escalation orWar of Choice?” The Chinese Journal of International Politics, 2021, 219–255.