The Korean Peninsula and U.S.-China Relations: Lessons from Thucydides and the Cuban Missile Crisis

Graham T. Allison
Kevin Rudd
Wednesday, October 4, 2017 - 6:00pm
Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

2017 S.T. Lee Lecture
Graham T. Allison
Douglas Dillon Professor of Government, Harvard Kennedy School
Author, Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap?
Kevin Rudd
President, Asia Society Policy Institute
Prime Minister of Australia (2007–2010, 2013)

Professor Graham Allison, author of Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides's Trap?, examines the current tension between the United States and China over the issue of North Korea by applying the lessons learned from Cuban Missile Crisis. Prof. Allison examines how President Kennedy created the "third option" of closed-doors negotiations in order to avoid war, and how - if North Korea pushes the US and China to the brink of war - China and America might need to do the same. This forum was moderated by former Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd.

Speaker Biographies

Graham T. Allison was Director of Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs from 1995 until July 2017. Allison is a leading analyst of U.S. national security and defense policy with a special interest in nuclear weapons, terrorism, and decision-making. As Assistant Secretary of Defense in the first Clinton Administration, Dr. Allison received the Defense Department's highest civilian award, the Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service, for "reshaping relations with Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan to reduce the former Soviet nuclear arsenal." This resulted in the safe return of more than 12,000 tactical nuclear weapons from the former Soviet republics and the complete elimination of more than 4,000 strategic nuclear warheads previously targeted at the United States and left in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus when the Soviet Union disappeared.

His latest book, Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap?, was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in May 2017 and quickly became a national bestseller.  His 2013 book, Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master’s Insights on China, the United States and the World (co-authored with Robert Blackwill), has been a bestseller in the U.S. and abroad.  Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe, now in its third printing, was selected by the New York Times as one of the "100 most notable books of 2004."  It presents a strategy for preventing nuclear terrorism organized under a doctrine of "Three Nos:" no loose nukes; no new nascent nukes; and no new nuclear weapons states. Dr. Allison's first book, Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis (1971), was released in an updated and revised second edition (1999) and ranks among the all-time bestsellers with more than 450,000 copies in print.

As "Founding Dean" of the modern Kennedy School, under his leadership, from 1977 to 1989, a small, undefined program grew twenty-fold to become a major professional school of public policy and government.

Dr. Allison has served as Special Advisor to the Secretary of Defense under President Reagan.  He has the sole distinction of having twice been awarded the Department of Defense's highest civilian award, the Distinguished Public Service Medal, first by Secretary Cap Weinberger and second by Secretary Bill Perry.  He served as a member of the Defense Policy Board for Secretaries Weinberger, Carlucci, Cheney, Aspin, Perry, Cohen, and Carter.  He currently serves on the Advisory boards of the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and the Director of the CIA.

Dr. Allison was the organizer of the Commission on America's National Interests (1996 and 2000), a founding member of the Trilateral Commission, a Director of the Council on Foreign Relations, and has been a member of public committees and commissions, among them the Baker-Cutler DOE Task Force on Nonproliferation Programs with Russia, the IAEA’s Commission of Eminent Persons, and the Commission on Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Proliferation, and Terrorism.

Dr. Allison has served as a Director of the Getty Oil Company, Natixis, Loomis Sayles, Hansberger, Taubman Centers, Inc., Joule Unlimited, and Belco Oil and Gas, as well as a member of the Advisory Boards of Chase Bank, Chemical Bank, Hydro-Quebec, and the International Energy Corporation.

Dr. Allison was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina. He was educated at Davidson College; Harvard College (B.A., magna cum laude, in History); Oxford University (B.A. and M.A., First Class Honors in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics); and Harvard University (Ph.D. in Political Science).

Kevin Rudd is president of the Asia Society Policy Institute, a think/do tank headquartered in New York. He served as Australia's 26th prime minister (2007–2010, 2013) and as foreign minister (2010–2012). Rudd co-founded the G20 during the global financial crisis. He also served as chair of the Independent Commission on Multilateralism, a two-year review of the United Nations system. He is a distinguished fellow at Chatham House, a distinguished statesman with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a senior fellow at Harvard Kennedy School, and a distinguished fellow at the Paulson Institute. As a private citizen, he established the Australian National Apology Foundation to promote reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.