Graham T. Allison

American political scientist (1940-)

Graham Tillett Allison, Jr. (born March 23, 1940) is an American political scientist and professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. He is renowned for his contribution in the late 1960s and early 1970s to the bureaucratic analysis of decision making, especially during times of crisis.

Graham T. Allison in 2017


  • Fifty years ago, the Cuban missile crisis brought the world to the brink of nuclear disaster. During the standoff, US President John F. Kennedy thought the chance of escalation to war was "between 1 in 3 and even," and what we have learned in later decades has done nothing to lengthen those odds. We now know, for example, that in addition to nuclear-armed ballistic missiles, the Soviet Union had deployed 100 tactical nuclear weapons to Cuba, and the local Soviet commander there could have launched these weapons without additional codes or commands from Moscow. The US air strike and invasion that were scheduled for the third week of the confrontation would likely have triggered a nuclear response against American ships and troops, and perhaps even Miami. The resulting war might have led to the deaths of 100 million Americans and over 100 million Russians.
  • When a rapidly rising power rivals an established ruling power, trouble ensues. In 11 of 15 cases in which this has occurred in the past 500 years, the result was war.
    The great Greek historian Thucydides identified these structural stresses as the primary cause of the war between Athens and Sparta in ancient Greece.
    In his oft-quoted insight, “It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this inspired in Sparta that made war inevitable.”
    • As quoted in "The Coming War with China", by Bill Bonner, [1] (April 6, 2015)
  • Unless Xi Jinping fails in his ambitions to ‘Make China Great Again,’ China will continue challenging America’s accustomed position at the top of every pecking order. If Xi succeeds, China will displace the U.S. as the predominant power in East Asia in his lifetime. Unless the U.S. redefines itself to settle for something less than ‘Number 1,’ Americans will increasingly find China’s rise discombobulating.
    • As quoted in "China: Destined for Conflict or Cooperation? We Asked 14 of the World's Most Renowned Experts",

[2] (July 30, 2018)

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