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Monsoon
Cover of Monsoon
Monsoon
The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power
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On the world maps common in America, the Western Hemisphere lies front and center, while the Indian Ocean region all but disappears. This convention reveals the geopolitical focus of the now-departed twentieth century, but in the twenty-first century that focus will fundamentally change. In this pivotal examination of the countries known as "Monsoon Asia"--which include India, Pakistan, China, Indonesia, Burma, Oman, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Tanzania--bestselling author Robert D. Kaplan shows how crucial this dynamic area has become to American power. It is here that the fight for democracy, energy independence, and religious freedom will be lost or won, and it is here that American foreign policy must concentrate if the United States is to remain relevant in an ever-changing world. From the Horn of Africa to the Indonesian archipelago and beyond, Kaplan exposes the effects of population growth, climate change, and extremist politics on this unstable region, demonstrating why Americans can no longer afford to ignore this important area of the world.

On the world maps common in America, the Western Hemisphere lies front and center, while the Indian Ocean region all but disappears. This convention reveals the geopolitical focus of the now-departed twentieth century, but in the twenty-first century that focus will fundamentally change. In this pivotal examination of the countries known as "Monsoon Asia"--which include India, Pakistan, China, Indonesia, Burma, Oman, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Tanzania--bestselling author Robert D. Kaplan shows how crucial this dynamic area has become to American power. It is here that the fight for democracy, energy independence, and religious freedom will be lost or won, and it is here that American foreign policy must concentrate if the United States is to remain relevant in an ever-changing world. From the Horn of Africa to the Indonesian archipelago and beyond, Kaplan exposes the effects of population growth, climate change, and extremist politics on this unstable region, demonstrating why Americans can no longer afford to ignore this important area of the world.

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Excerpts-
  • Chapter One

    CHINA EXPANDS VERTICALLY, INDIA HORIZONTALLY

    Al Bahr al Hindi is what the Arabs called the ocean in their old navigational treatises. The Indian Ocean and its tributary waters bear the imprint of that great, proselytizing wave of Islam that spread from its Red Sea base across the longitudes to India and as far as Indonesia and Malaysia, so a map of these seas is central to a historical understanding of the faith. This is a geography that encompasses, going from west to east, the Red Sea, Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal, and Java and South China seas. Here, in our day, are located the violence- and famine-plagued nations of the Horn of Africa, the geopolitical challenges of Iraq and Iran, the fissuring fundamentalist cauldron of Pakistan, economically rising India and its teetering neighbors Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, despotic Burma (over which a contest looms between China and India), and Thailand, through which the Chinese and Japanese, too, may help finance a canal sometime in this century that will affect the Asian balance of power in their favor. Indeed, the canal is just one of several projects on the drawing board, including land bridges and pipelines, that aim to unite the Indian Ocean with the western Pacific.

    On the Indian Ocean's western shores, we have the emerging and volatile democracies of East Africa, as well as anarchic Somalia; almost four thousand miles away on its eastern shores the evolving, post-fundamentalist face of Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country in the world. No image epitomizes the spirit of our borderless world, with its civilizational competition on one hand and intense, inarticulate yearning for unity on the other, as much as an Indian Ocean map.

    Water, unlike land, bears no trace of history, no message really, but the very act of crossing and recrossing it makes this ocean, in the words of Harvard professor of history Sugata Bose, a "symbol of universal humanity." There are Indian and Chinese, Arab and Persian trading arrangements creating a grand network of cross-oceanic communal ties, brought even closer over the centuries by the monsoon winds and, in the case of the Arabs, Persians, and other Muslims, by the haj pilgrimage. This is truly a global ocean, its shores home to an agglomeration of peoples of the fast-developing former "third world," but not to any superpower: unlike the Atlantic and Pacific. Here is the most useful quarter of the earth to contemplate, pace Fareed Zakaria, a "post-American" world in the wake of the Cold War and the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Rudyard Kipling's turn of phrase "east of Suez"-from the 1890 poem "Mandalay," which begins in Moulmein in Burma, on the Bay of Bengal-applies more than ever, though few may realize it.

    Cold War military maps highlighted the Arctic, owing to the geography of the Soviet Union and its principal ports. Former president George W. Bush's so-called war on terrorism underscored the Greater Middle East. But the geopolitical map of the world keeps evolving. The arc of crisis is everywhere: a warming Arctic could even become a zone of contention. Because the entire globe is simply too general an instrument to focus on, thus it helps to have a specific cartographic image in mind that includes the majority of world trouble spots, while at the same time focusing on the nexus of terrorism, energy flows, and environmental emergencies such as the 2004 tsunami. Just as phrases matter for good or for bad-"the Cold War," "the clash of civilizations"-so do maps. The right map provides a spatial view of world politics that can deduce future trends. Although developments in finance and technology encourage global thinking, we are still at the mercy of...

About the Author-
  • Robert D. Kaplan is the bestselling author of sixteen books on foreign affairs and travel translated into many languages, including Asia's Cauldron, The Revenge of Geography, Monsoon, The Coming Anarchy, and Balkan Ghosts. He is a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and a contributing editor at The Atlantic, where his work has appeared for three decades. He was chief geopolitical analyst at Stratfor, a visiting professor at the United States Naval Academy, and a member of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board. Foreign Policy magazine has twice named him one of the world's Top 100 Global Thinkers.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from July 5, 2010
    Kaplan (Balkan Ghosts), correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly, inculcates a paradigm shift when he suggests that the site of 21st-century geopolitical significance will be the Indian Ocean, not the northern Atlantic. The major powers of the future—India and China—fringe the ocean along with a host of other players—"the emerging and volatile democracies of East Africa," Indonesia, Oman, "anarchic" Somalia, placid Singapore, and Burma. These sea trade routes have historically borne commerce, colonialism, and faith, and Kaplan examines the nexuses of power, goods, and ideologies making their way across those waters today. Even if the writing on culture—especially India's—can devolve into cliché, the book's political and economic focus and forecasts are smart and brim with aperçus on the intersection of power, politics, and resource consumption (especially water), and give full weight to the impact of colonialism. An ambitious and prescient study equally at ease analyzing the work of the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore, the finer points of the Indian state of Gujarat's flirtation with fascism, and the economic impact of the Asian tsunami on Indonesia.

  • Kirkus

    July 1, 2010

    An ambitious, somewhat amorphous look at the many "transition zone[s]" comprising traditional trading posts along the Indian Ocean that are now emerging as important strategic flashpoints.

    A well-traveled author and fellow at the Center for a New American Security, Atlantic Monthly national correspondent Kaplan (Imperial Grunts: The American Military on the Ground, 2005, etc.) hops among the countries making up the "rimland" of the Indian Ocean for a busy look at the ethnically rich "central theater of conflict and competition," of intense interest to the United States, China and India. This is the ocean to which Marco Polo devoted his Travels; where Vasco da Gama's voyage in 1498 inaugurated important sea routes for the Portuguese; where Prince Henry the Navigator dreamed of "outflanking the Muslim world" and Lord Curzon, viceroy from 1899-1905, presided over a powerful Greater India, influencing affairs from Aden to Malacca to London. Today, with the Indian Ocean comprising nearly one half of the world's container traffic—and 70 percent of the traffic in the world's petroleum products—this is a strategic swath indeed, where "China expands vertically, India horizontally," and America, happily ensconced between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, barely grasps the geography. Kaplan gives a smattering of history and contemporary issues for each hotspot, touching on the separatist rebellions of Balochistan and Sindh, which make up Pakistan's 400-mile Makran coast, also the scene of Arab conquests in the eight and ninth centuries. The author also provides a mini-biography of Pakistan's founder, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, and examines the troubled histories of Gujarat, Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) and densely populated Bangladesh, beset by monsoons, now a "perfect place for al-Qaeda affiliates"; and how China is keeping its strategic eye on Sri Lanka and Burma.

    A useful, teeming point of departure for exploring these up-and-coming Eurasian dynamos.

     

    (COPYRIGHT (2010) KIRKUS REVIEWS/NIELSEN BUSINESS MEDIA, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

  • Library Journal

    August 1, 2010

    The Indian Ocean has been a major commercial trading area for many centuries. Kaplan (Imperial Grunts: On the Ground with the American Military, from Mongolia to the Philippines to Iraq and Beyond) asserts that it is the most important such commercial area, carrying half the world's container shipments and even more oil trade. The littoral states on the southern edge of Eurasia are vital to U.S. interests because of the two current U.S. wars, the oil reserves there, and the large Muslim populations. Rising powers China and India rely on it for their trade. Kaplan takes readers on a tour of the region, including East Africa, Oman, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Burma, and Indonesia, explaining in each case the state's historical reliance on the Indian Ocean and relationships with neighboring states as well as its importance to vital U.S. interests. VERDICT The result is a rich portrait of geopolitical complexity--it is not policy prescriptive but emphasizes that the players in the region deserve increased attention from Western policymakers. Many pundits and sources can seem overly simplistic and bellicose in their foreign policy recommendations. This more nuanced discussion will appeal to thoughtful readers of current events and international affairs.--Marcia L. Sprules, Council on Foreign Relations Lib., New York

    Copyright 2010 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    September 15, 2010
    An inveterate traveler and author, Kaplan recently toured the rim of the Indian Ocean to inspect its geopolitics. Perspectives on the balance of power vary from country to country and speaker to speaker, but most agree that India and China are the ascending powers in the region. As Kaplans passages about Indian Ocean history reflect, the two countries can refer to tradition (to the fifteenth-century fleets of Zheng He, in Chinas case) for their contemporary activities in the Indian Ocean, but the plain fact is they are busy for one reason: access to resources. As Kaplan journeys from Oman to Pakistan to Burma and Indonesia, the specific raw material comes into focus, as does the geopolitical angle of safely shipping it to the interested country. Touching on what could threaten maritime traffic, such as piracy, ethnic conflicts, or hostile control of choke points like the Strait of Malacca, Kaplan is guardedly optimistic that interested powers, including the U.S., can benignly manage their Indian Ocean affairs. A better-informed world-affairs reader will be the result of Kaplans latest title.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2010, American Library Association.)

  • ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI, former national security advisor "An intellectual treat: Beautiful writing is not incompatible with geopolitical imagination and historical flair!"
  • PAUL THEROUX, author of Ghost Train to the Eastern Star "Monsoon is a shining example of Robert Kaplan's ability to combine the most intrepid travel with scrupulous research and scholarship. He has been proven right many times before, in other ambitious books; given his conclusions about the future of South Asia, I do hope he is wrong this time."
  • JON MEACHAM, Pulitzer Prize--winning author of American Lion "For much of the post--Cold War era, Robert D. Kaplan has been an indispensable voice in our search for order in a time of chaos. This book on the inescapable new role of the Indian Ocean and its influence on America is another enlightening and engaging contribution to our understanding of what matters most as the twenty-first century takes shape."
  • JIM HOAGLAND, contributing editor, The Washington Post "The audacity of Robert Kaplan's approach to geography as fate is spellbinding. Whether you agree or disagree with his analysis and forecast that the Indian Ocean will occupy the center of global change and international politics in the coming decades, you will find this erudite study gripping and informative. It is a welcome and important addition to the debate about America's role in a rapidly changing world."
  • Publishers Weekly (starred review) "Kaplan . . . inculcates a paradigm shift when he suggests that the site of twenty-first-century geopolitical significance will be the Indian Ocean, not the northern Atlantic. . . . The book's political and economic focus and forecasts are smart and brim with aperçus on the intersection of power, politics, and resource consumption (especially water), and give full weight to the impact of colonialism. An ambitious and prescient study."
  • AHMED RASHID, author of Descent into Chaos "Kaplan is a landscape artist who covers the world with extraordinary perception and insight and paints brilliant portraits of people, places, history, geopolitics, religion, and big ideas. As usual, Kaplan is one step ahead of everyone else as he explores how global power is shifting."
  • AMY CHUA, Yale University, author of World on Fire and Day of Empire "Monsoon is another masterpiece by one of the most compelling writers of our day. Anyone interested in the balance of power in our world needs to read this book, and fast."
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