Could the standoff "over something intrinsically worthless - the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands," drag Japan, China and the United States into a war? "It seems almost laughably unthinkable that the world's three richest countries - two of them nuclear-armed - would go to war over something so trivial," wrote Hugh White, a professor of strategic studies at Australian National University, in a recent op-ed article in the Sydney Morning Herald. "But that is to confuse what starts a war with what causes it. The Greek historian Thucydides first explained the difference almost 2,500 years ago. He wrote that the catastrophic Peloponnesian War started from a spat between Athens and one of Sparta's allies over a relatively insignificant dispute. But what caused the war was something much graver: the growing wealth and power of Athens, and the fear this caused in Sparta."