Very recently, I tweeted: "An imperfect analogy from history – are we in a new drawn out Peloponnesian War – Athenian America vs Spartan China?"
So now, I'm going to explain a bit of how this random blurt came about.
1. Athenian navy = American navy
Naval power does not necessarily become the determining factor in a multi-dimensional conflict.
2. Sparta = China?
Clearly, an imperfect correspondence, and perhaps as more of an analogy. The victory of Sparta over Athens was due largely to Persian support and the sponsoring of revolts in Athen's sphere of influence – (Wikipedia article).
3. Afghanistan/Iraq – 'Athenian revolts'?
In an earlier age, one would wonder if Vietnam would qualify.
4. After the defeat of Athens, an oligarchy was established, although overthrown later. One can imagine a world where Chinese military would dominate, but that American ideals of materialism and some kind of faux democracy would remain.
5. One strategy to contain China would be, to provoke the establishments of conflicts in the Chinese sphere of influence. Could N.Korea be partitioned? Could Tibet/Uighur lead to more conflicts? What about Mongolia or Siberia? Or Central Asia quagmires? Or conflicts in S.E Asia?
6. How much would the East Pacific Rim resemble the Mediterranean? US is evidently maintaining/developing the capabilities of allies – S.Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, S.E. Asia. Either through direct partnerships, or perhaps, future arms transfers/tech transfers to the respective armed forces. Where basing is politically complicated, different kinds of military partnerships would be maintained.
7. Wild cards, external powers? In the world of the ancient Greeks, there was Persia. Doubtful if there could be, although one could argue that India, or Brazil look likely to be candidates for actors that need to be watched for. Could Brazil or Sub-Saharan Africa become the agricultural breadbaskets of the world? Could India become indispensable economically, technologically to either US, China?
8. Wilder cards – could the Indian Ocean be the real focus of conflict, involving a whole range of different actors, in an age where China's power wane? If this is true, then Robert Kaplan has one heck of a head-start already.