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In this provocative, startling book, Robert D. Kaplan, the bestselling author of Monsoon and Balkan Ghosts, offers a revelatory new prism through which to view global upheavals and to understand what lies ahead for continents and countries around the world.   In The Revenge of Geography, Kaplan builds on the insights, discoveries, and theories of great geographers and geop In this provocative, startling book, Robert D. Kaplan, the bestselling author of Monsoon and Balkan Ghosts, offers a revelatory new prism through which to view global upheavals and to understand what lies ahead for continents and countries around the world.   In The Revenge of Geography, Kaplan builds on the insights, discoveries, and theories of great geographers and geopolitical thinkers of the near and distant past to look back at critical pivots in history and then to look forward at the evolving global scene. Kaplan traces the history of the world’s hot spots by examining their climates, topographies, and proximities to other embattled lands. The Russian steppe’s pitiless climate and limited vegetation bred hard and cruel men bent on destruction, for example, while Nazi geopoliticians distorted geopolitics entirely, calculating that space on the globe used by the British Empire and the Soviet Union could be swallowed by a greater German homeland.   Kaplan then applies the lessons learned to the present crises in Europe, Russia, China, the Indian subcontinent, Turkey, Iran, and the Arab Middle East. The result is a holistic interpretation of the next cycle of conflict throughout Eurasia. Remarkably, the future can be understood in the context of temperature, land allotment, and other physical certainties: China, able to feed only 23 percent of its people from land that is only 7 percent arable, has sought energy, minerals, and metals from such brutal regimes as Burma, Iran, and Zimbabwe, putting it in moral conflict with the United States. Afghanistan’s porous borders will keep it the principal invasion route into India, and a vital rear base for Pakistan, India’s main enemy. Iran will exploit the advantage of being the only country that straddles both energy-producing areas of the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea. Finally, Kaplan posits that the United States might rue engaging in far-flung conflicts with Iraq and Afghanistan rather than tending to its direct neighbor Mexico, which is on the verge of becoming a semifailed state due to drug cartel carnage.   A brilliant rebuttal to thinkers who suggest that globalism will trump geography, this indispensable work shows how timeless truths and natural facts can help prevent this century’s looming cataclysms.


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In this provocative, startling book, Robert D. Kaplan, the bestselling author of Monsoon and Balkan Ghosts, offers a revelatory new prism through which to view global upheavals and to understand what lies ahead for continents and countries around the world.   In The Revenge of Geography, Kaplan builds on the insights, discoveries, and theories of great geographers and geop In this provocative, startling book, Robert D. Kaplan, the bestselling author of Monsoon and Balkan Ghosts, offers a revelatory new prism through which to view global upheavals and to understand what lies ahead for continents and countries around the world.   In The Revenge of Geography, Kaplan builds on the insights, discoveries, and theories of great geographers and geopolitical thinkers of the near and distant past to look back at critical pivots in history and then to look forward at the evolving global scene. Kaplan traces the history of the world’s hot spots by examining their climates, topographies, and proximities to other embattled lands. The Russian steppe’s pitiless climate and limited vegetation bred hard and cruel men bent on destruction, for example, while Nazi geopoliticians distorted geopolitics entirely, calculating that space on the globe used by the British Empire and the Soviet Union could be swallowed by a greater German homeland.   Kaplan then applies the lessons learned to the present crises in Europe, Russia, China, the Indian subcontinent, Turkey, Iran, and the Arab Middle East. The result is a holistic interpretation of the next cycle of conflict throughout Eurasia. Remarkably, the future can be understood in the context of temperature, land allotment, and other physical certainties: China, able to feed only 23 percent of its people from land that is only 7 percent arable, has sought energy, minerals, and metals from such brutal regimes as Burma, Iran, and Zimbabwe, putting it in moral conflict with the United States. Afghanistan’s porous borders will keep it the principal invasion route into India, and a vital rear base for Pakistan, India’s main enemy. Iran will exploit the advantage of being the only country that straddles both energy-producing areas of the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea. Finally, Kaplan posits that the United States might rue engaging in far-flung conflicts with Iraq and Afghanistan rather than tending to its direct neighbor Mexico, which is on the verge of becoming a semifailed state due to drug cartel carnage.   A brilliant rebuttal to thinkers who suggest that globalism will trump geography, this indispensable work shows how timeless truths and natural facts can help prevent this century’s looming cataclysms.

30 review for The Revenge Of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate

  1. 4 out of 5

    Riku Sayuj

    The Revanche of the Geographers There are books one turn to sometimes, not for improving knowledge but to be reminded of the extent of one’s ignorance. This has turned out to be one more of such books even though I had gone in thinking I was ready. Many times in my overzealous nature, I have jumped into books which I was unable to appreciate fully because of a lack of background. In such cases, usually I end up grasping the full implications of many of the ideas only later - when some other author The Revanche of the Geographers There are books one turn to sometimes, not for improving knowledge but to be reminded of the extent of one’s ignorance. This has turned out to be one more of such books even though I had gone in thinking I was ready. Many times in my overzealous nature, I have jumped into books which I was unable to appreciate fully because of a lack of background. In such cases, usually I end up grasping the full implications of many of the ideas only later - when some other author educates me on the foundations from which the ideas I had rejected earlier emerge and make sense. I have quite some experience in this humbling exercise, if I may say so myself. And now I have been developing an instinct for noticing when I am being skeptical about a book and examining if it comes from my own reasoned arguments or just from ignorance of the author’s arguments. With this developing knack, I cant shake the feeling that Kaplan’s book is going to turn out to be one more of those books. What right now sticks me as thinly-veiled war-mongering and a very unhealthy revanchist framework might well turn out to be an uncomfortable truth that my berlinesque education is finding hard to accept. But I have been telling myself to keep open to even contradictory ideas - my aim is not ideology, that is what comes easily if one doesn’t put efforts towards developing a steady aversion to easy rejections. I do commend Kaplan for shocking me so thoroughly with this book and for the strategic insights into the genesis of much of today's geopolitics - at least his version of them. While I am sure Kaplan cherry-picked extensively by only selecting those geographers who can claim vengeance in the present context of world geopolitics, which strikes me as a possibly manipulative exercise, I am still going to grant the possibility that he might be right. Especially on Iran and Mexico and their interplay with the USA where Kaplan projects a purpose onto history and a possibly bright future, but not so much with the strategic views/recommendations on containing China which unfortunately reflect the “Yellow Peril” mindset of the patron geographers that Kaplan builds upon. But, of course, that is not to say that they are wrong. The geographers might indeed be getting their revenge. But, in 40 years I wish I would get to read another, more positively enthymemetic book about the revenge of the humanists.

  2. 4 out of 5

    James

    A disappointing read, almost painful at times, and a missed opportunity. There is useful content here but it is poorly organized. The book reads like a series of rambling lectures. The text is verbose and repetitive; brace yourself for frequent appearances of the phrases, ‘as noted’, ‘as we have seen’, and ‘as I have explained’. Was there no editor for ‘Revenge’? And forget about using this book as a reference text for there is no index. Much space is given over to describing national and geogra A disappointing read, almost painful at times, and a missed opportunity. There is useful content here but it is poorly organized. The book reads like a series of rambling lectures. The text is verbose and repetitive; brace yourself for frequent appearances of the phrases, ‘as noted’, ‘as we have seen’, and ‘as I have explained’. Was there no editor for ‘Revenge’? And forget about using this book as a reference text for there is no index. Much space is given over to describing national and geographic features since fewer than 10 maps are included, one of which is a map of the Persian empire in 500 BCE. And the book is mis-titled: it should have been called ‘The Revenge of Geography and History: What History and the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate’ since lengthy portions are given over to historical precedents dating back millennia. I was looking for a useful text on contemporary geopolitical trends but I am still looking. Kaplan's is not the one.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    I read all kinds of books and seldom really dislike one. But Kaplan's simplistic geographic determinism, vast generalizations, and location-dropping in this one really drove me crazy. India's monsoonal cycle makes people meditative and religious? Seriously!? He seems to be trying to win an argument about whether geography's still important. But who's he arguing against? Who seriously thinks geography is no longer relevant? It seems like this book is part of some silly intramural argument with pe I read all kinds of books and seldom really dislike one. But Kaplan's simplistic geographic determinism, vast generalizations, and location-dropping in this one really drove me crazy. India's monsoonal cycle makes people meditative and religious? Seriously!? He seems to be trying to win an argument about whether geography's still important. But who's he arguing against? Who seriously thinks geography is no longer relevant? It seems like this book is part of some silly intramural argument with people who claim geography's passe because we have the internet and airplanes, which is a point of view so absurd I wouldn't bother to seriously engage with it -- much less write a book to refute it. I read George Friedman's "The Next 100 Years," which relies heavily on geography to predict the future of international affairs, and I found it at times interesting and always amusing. I'd recommend reading that instead of this. "The Revenge of Geography," seemed to be an not-particularly-well-informed catalog of places Kaplan's visited and his impressions of how the landscapes there shaped the racial characteristics of the exotic peoples he encountered there.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Krishna

    Kaplan argues that geography still matters for the way societies and nations organize themselves and project power in their neighborhoods and beyond. This is a necessary corrective to post-modern, 'the world is flat,' vision of globalization that seems to hold sway at the moment. As usual, Kaplan delivers an insightful, thought-provoking work marked by a deep knowledge of the peoples and states he talks about. Kaplan first reviews in part 1, a number of theories of geopolitics, including Mackinde Kaplan argues that geography still matters for the way societies and nations organize themselves and project power in their neighborhoods and beyond. This is a necessary corrective to post-modern, 'the world is flat,' vision of globalization that seems to hold sway at the moment. As usual, Kaplan delivers an insightful, thought-provoking work marked by a deep knowledge of the peoples and states he talks about. Kaplan first reviews in part 1, a number of theories of geopolitics, including Mackinder's heartland hypothesis, Spyker's rimland thesis, Hodgson's 'oikoumene,' and Mahan's arguments in favor of sea power. All agree essentially that the main 'action' is on the Eurasian continents (the "world island") because historically and even now, they accounted for the majority of the world's population and natural resources. The power that dominates the world island naturally dominates the world, but theorists differ on what factors lend a power control of the world island. For Mackinder, this was the heartland, the vast unpopulated but resource rich interior of Asia; any power that controlled it, will control Eurasia and thus the world. For Spyker the focus was on the rimland, the four densely populated peripheries of the heartland -- Europe, West Asia, India and China. Rimland powers are threatened from both land and sea, but have the potential to break out in either direction. Incidentally, Spyker claims it is no coincidence that each of the four rimlands produced unique civilizational/religious cultures. Hodgson focuses on the 'oikoumene, the 'inhabited zone' for the Greeks, the vast quadrilateral bounded by the Nile and the Oxus, the Arabian Sea and the Caucasus. It is from this region, always prone to conflict because it is at the cross-roads of three continents and with no defensible natural borders, that all world changing phenomena originate, be they city states, empires or world religions. Mahan in contrast prioritizes sea power. Nations able to project power through control of the sea gain the advantage of mobility and access, denied to their land-bound counterparts. In a telling example, Kaplan says that the Roman victory in the Punic wars was due primarily to naval power that made the Mediterranean a Roman pond, forcing Hannibal to take the long route and overextend his supply lines. Kaplan's part 2 is devoted to the analysis of the geopolitics of specific regions -- Europe, Russia, China, India, Iran, Turkey and the former Ottoman regions, and finally the United States. It is interesting how borders, even when they seem totally arbitrary, often have a deep geographic/historic logic behind them. For example, during the cold war, the border dividing Germany was considered a totally accidental construct where two armies came to a standstill. But Kaplan, always the master of the telling detail, says that the border coincided almost exactly with the historical dividing line in central Europe, between the western maritime half, and the eastern, Prussian land powers. Similarly, Russia's national temperament is attributed to the vast indefensible borders to the south and east from where the invasions of the nomadic steppe peoples came. In China's case, Kaplan explains why the imperatives of trade and resource extraction have made the nation's strategic thinkers increasingly Mahanian -- aiming to extend naval control over the inner island chain, and then into the blue waters beyond. The image of Taiwan as an unsinkable battleship positioned at the center of the island chain is evocative. Iran's historical coherence as a nation and a civilization is traced to the well-defined, defensible borders of the Iranian plateau, which constituted the heartland of successive Iranian empires -- from the Achaemenid, Parthian, Sassanian, and on to modern times. Turkey similarly has well-defined borders that make it almost an island -- seas on three sides and mountains on the fourth. In contrast, Iraq's borders are artificial and conflict goes back to ancient history, between the Sumerian south, the Akkadian center and the Assyrian north (different time periods though). Syria is cleft between a Mediterranean Aleppo and an east-facing Damascus, with Homs and Hama in between. Kaplan's fine book has only a few flaws. One is a certain incoherence in part 1, where possibly in an attempt to enliven the presentation, Kaplan moves back and forth between various theories when devoting full attention to each might have been better. Also, Kaplan for a scholar with an ecumenical vision, sometimes lapses into the tired language of the orientalist thinkers of the nineteenth century -- at one point comparing Westernized Greece and Asiatic Persia. The Greeks were Westernized? At a time when the West was a vast barbarian wasteland? And does Kaplan suggest that there is something common to all Asia that might be labeled Asiatic? Perhaps the choice of words was unintended and acquired by osmosis from the old geopolitical treatises in which he was immersed while writing the book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ken

    "Revelatory prism?" No. Frankly, I read a lot of geopolitics and there aren't any new revelations here. I was fairly disappointed in this book, written by someone with tremendous expertise in the field. Although it contains some interesting and even exciting ideas, the text is not well-conceptualized and I am left with the belief that an awful lot was left on the table. The first concern is that it is not clear what audience Kaplan is writing for. On the one hand, the style assumes a significant "Revelatory prism?" No. Frankly, I read a lot of geopolitics and there aren't any new revelations here. I was fairly disappointed in this book, written by someone with tremendous expertise in the field. Although it contains some interesting and even exciting ideas, the text is not well-conceptualized and I am left with the belief that an awful lot was left on the table. The first concern is that it is not clear what audience Kaplan is writing for. On the one hand, the style assumes a significant amount of familiarity with geography and geopolitics. He throws around ideas and people without adequate introduction or explanation for a reader new to the field. This is a particular problem in the first few quagmiresque chapters in which he outlines some of the field's major thinkers and their place in history. Someone with expertise might find this an interesting analysis and be able to parse some finer points in his argument, but the section is a barrier to anyone without a base familiarity. I myself only held on because of the prospect of something better. After a brief period in the middle which seems promising but lacking in the presentation of evidence, the book becomes a fairly superficial exercise - so much so that anyone with knowledge in the field would likely find it a pointless restatement of fairly common information. Thus, some portions assume too much knowledge for most readers, and the remainder would be a waste for those with the knowledge to tackle the beginning. In general, the book feels under-researched. It is lean on citations and evidence, so that while his descriptions of phenomena may be accurate, he does not provide a basis to conclude that his causal inferences are sound, nor does he take any real risks in predicting the future. If this is the best that geography can offer then the title is poorly chosen, for if that is true then geography does not offer a great deal. My view is that this is a fialure of the author, not the field. Oddly, it suffers from a pronounced lack of adequate maps, which seems like a careless oversight in a book that discusses them on virtually every page.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lyn Elliott

    I was resolved to read this book to get a better understanding of some of the long term structural issues underlying international politics and it took all my resolve to persist through the meandering first chapters. It was worth it in the end. Despite the clunky style, statements of the obvious and sometimes circular arguments, I now have a much better idea of the pressure points for each of the major global pressure points (though Africa remains virtually unknown territory). That's why I've giv I was resolved to read this book to get a better understanding of some of the long term structural issues underlying international politics and it took all my resolve to persist through the meandering first chapters. It was worth it in the end. Despite the clunky style, statements of the obvious and sometimes circular arguments, I now have a much better idea of the pressure points for each of the major global pressure points (though Africa remains virtually unknown territory). That's why I've given it 4 stars. I have marked many passages for contemplation and can imagine that I will revisit individual chapters from time to time. I will look out for future bosky him but don't think I'll read any of his region-specific works. Most surprising for me is the theory that a major threat to the United States is a potentially failed-state Mexico, with all that flows from that. I can understand why Kaplan is described as one of the leading 100 global thinkers.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Wanda

    Stupid name for a trite book redeemed by a few good lines and an occasional useful insight. As for the title, the "influence" or the "significance" of geography would have made sense, but "revenge"? Kaplan, who served in the Israeli army but not in the American army (he is old enough to have served in Vietnam), seems to have lot more interest in and knowledge of the middle east than of America and its Latin neighbors, especially Mexico. V.D. Hanson's Mexifornia has a lot more interesting and use Stupid name for a trite book redeemed by a few good lines and an occasional useful insight. As for the title, the "influence" or the "significance" of geography would have made sense, but "revenge"? Kaplan, who served in the Israeli army but not in the American army (he is old enough to have served in Vietnam), seems to have lot more interest in and knowledge of the middle east than of America and its Latin neighbors, especially Mexico. V.D. Hanson's Mexifornia has a lot more interesting and useful to say about America and Mexico. About Asia he seems to know very little. Oh, yes, he yaks on about China in a pop journalism sort of way, echoing the currently fashionable obsession, even dredging up Mahan, an irrelevant 19th century Boston imperialist, to make himself sound deep. In that context, what he writes about the military build-up on Guam is overblown--for example, he talks about rows of F/A-18s, as well as Air Force bombers, lined up at AAFB, but when F/A-18s visit they fly down from Okinawa; none are permanently station on Guam. Ditto the handful of bombers that rotate in and out. The thing is...I know first hand about what's going on in Guam--and he's just winging it, mixing together hyperbole, outdated news reports and questionable extrapolation. So I can't help but wonder if the rest of the book is full of the same stuff. He scarcely mentions Japan, once as obsessed over by his sort as China is today. But Japan is like, you know, so 20th century. In any case, what he does say about the country seems off the mark, based on my personal experience. Indonesia gets short shrift although it is racing towards becoming the 4th largest economy in the world. And what about the Philippines? Why is that nation ignored while he raves on about some stupid 'stan? I could mention a half-dozen other countries that he never even mentions. In any case, who cares? All he does is arm wave about this and that, his paragraphs filled with conditional phrases. "Could," "should" and "must" seem to be his operative words. You could find a bore at a faculty cocktail party at any university who would pontificate in the same sort of way. Setting all that aside, the book reads like a cross between a padded-out op-ed page essay and filled-out notes from a lecture course in some aspects of geopolitics. And it's mostly based on really old secondary sources, some of them so old you can download them from Gutenberg or the Internet Archives. You should do that and read those sources, then decide for yourself how relevant they may be in today's world. Kaplan doesn't add much. Funny thing is, I watched a video interview with him in YouTube (Uncommon Knowledge, maybe), and he seemed smart, knowledgeable, interesting. So I decided to read his book. What a disappointment.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dale

    I don't quit reading books often, but I had to throw in the towel on this one, which is disappointing considering I've read so many of Kaplan's books in the past. The key here, evidently, being "the past," meaning a different period in my life. I found this book to be exhausting, as if Kaplan tries entirely too hard to come across as a scholar. I quickly grew tired of the endless citations and quotes with little actual insight from the author. A fascinating subject unfortunately presented in a I don't quit reading books often, but I had to throw in the towel on this one, which is disappointing considering I've read so many of Kaplan's books in the past. The key here, evidently, being "the past," meaning a different period in my life. I found this book to be exhausting, as if Kaplan tries entirely too hard to come across as a scholar. I quickly grew tired of the endless citations and quotes with little actual insight from the author. A fascinating subject unfortunately presented in a dull, sleep-inducing manner. I gave up about 100 pages in.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mal Warwick

    A Fresh and Thought-provoking View of Global Politics Geopolitics — the subject of this fascinating book — has literally been on my mind almost throughout my life. I had recently turned three when the Allies invaded Normandy, beginning the long, last phase of World War II in Europe. I have no active memory of the invasion, but I’ve been told that I learned to read by studying the news about the event and its aftermath. My father read the newspaper at dinner, and I sat opposite him, leaning over th A Fresh and Thought-provoking View of Global Politics Geopolitics — the subject of this fascinating book — has literally been on my mind almost throughout my life. I had recently turned three when the Allies invaded Normandy, beginning the long, last phase of World War II in Europe. I have no active memory of the invasion, but I’ve been told that I learned to read by studying the news about the event and its aftermath. My father read the newspaper at dinner, and I sat opposite him, leaning over the table so I could see the headlines — upside down — and ask him to tell me what the words meant. I loved the maps, too, those sketches of Europe and the Pacific with broad arrows pointing this way and that to indicate the movements of troops and ships at sea. Geography was long my favorite subject in school, and it’s probably not a stretch to think that my life-long fascination with the world outside the USA began with that experience. Through a geopolitical lens, Planet Earth, and the machinations and foibles of earthly leaders, look a lot different than they do in most history books. Stand a few feet away from a globe and squint: if the globe is properly positioned, what you’ll see is one huge, three-tentacled landmass (Asia-Africa-Europe); a second, much smaller one that consists of two parts joined by a narrow connector (North and South America); and several even smaller bits of land scattered about on the periphery (Australia, Greenland, Japan, Indonesia). That’s the world as the Joint Chiefs of Staff must view it. Has to view it. Understanding the globe from that perspective, current events become a lot easier to understand. Take, for example, the object of American preoccupation today: the Middle East. The true geopolitical center of the Earth lies in the Middle East, a region consisting essentially of three sections: the Iranian Plateau, running from present-day Iraq to Afghanistan and dominated by a resurgent Iran, the latest incarnation of the Persian Empire; the Anatolian landbridge (Turkey) that connects Asia and Europe, successor to the Eastern Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman Empires; and the oil- and natural-gas-rich Arabian Peninsula, unsteadily governed by the extended Saud family and a congeries of coastal emirates. Nestled between them and extending westward along the North African Maghreb is a long line of generally flat, low-lying states that are experiencing various degrees of instability, only a handful of which have a solid historical and demographic basis for nationhood (Tunisia, Egypt, Israel). Given the geography of this region, its perennial instability is no surprise. Constant turmoil is practically guaranteed, with the dominating Iranian and Turkish highlands above, and virtually flat, featureless plains below, divided among mostly weak states with arbitrary borders inherited from British and French colonial masters. As Kaplan notes, “the supreme fact of twenty-first -century world politics is that the most geographically central area of the dry-land earth is also the most unstable.” Of all the states in the Greater Middle East, the strongest of all, and most likely to dominate at some point in the decades ahead, is Iran, with a proud history (“Iran was the ancient world’s first superpower.”), a population of 75 million, a literacy rate of 80%, an industrial base, and an extensive network of universities. Iran is situated in an enviable position, straddling the region’s two principal oil-production areas (the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf), not to mention its own abundant hydrocarbon reserves. Is it any wonder, then, why Iran captures headlines with such frequency? In this fashion, geopolitics yields important insight about how the world works. To cite another example, Kaplan asks “Why is China ultimately more important than Brazil? Because of geographical location: even supposing the same level of economic growth as China and a population of equal size, Brazil does not command the main sea lines of communication connecting oceans and continents as China does; nor does it mainly lie in the temperate zone like China, with a more disease-free and invigorating climate. China fronts the Western Pacific and has depth on land reaching to oil- and natural-gas-rich Central Asia. Brazil offers less of a comparative advantage. It lies isolated in South America, geographically removed from other landmasses.” The Revenge of Geography is crammed with thought-provoking analysis — about the influence of geography on European history, about the role of megacities in our future, about changing demographic patterns, about the impact of latitude on the fate of nations. Oh, and do you remember Sacha Baron Cohen’s satirical treatment of Kazakhstan? Kaplan informs us that “Kazakhstan is truly becoming an independent power in its own right” (and proves it). Who knew? A word of warning, though: unless you’re familiar with both world history and ancient history, you may find The Revenge of Geography to be tough sledding through the innumerable mentions of long-lost empires and forgotten kings. Kaplan grounds his analysis not just in geography but also in history, and his knowledge of both clearly runs deep. Kaplan begins wrapping up his book with a troubling discussion about recent U.S. foreign and military policy: “while the United States was deeply focused on Afghanistan and other parts of the Greater Middle East, a massive state failure was developing right on America’s southern border, with far more profound implications for the near and distant future of America, its society, and American power than anything occurring half a world away. What have we achieved in the Middle East with all of our interventions since the 1980s? . . . Why not fix Mexico instead?” “America faces three primary geopolitical dilemmas,” Kaplan concludes. “[A] chaotic Eurasian heartland in the Middle East, a rising and assertive Chinese superpower, and a state in deep trouble in Mexico. And the challenges we face with China and Mexico are most efficiently dealt with by wariness of further military involvement in the Middle East. This is the only way that American power can sustain itself for the decades to come.” (From www.malwarwickonbooks.com)

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ana

    Whilst I am just at the beginning of my forray in and journey through the field of geopolitics, I get the distinct feeling that this book is not what it was supposed to be. The title has no tangible connection to the actual work (unless I am mistaken on the meaning of the word 'revenge'), there are some gross generalizations made in order to get points through and sometimes, what I consider to be blatant mistakes. What do you mean, the Chinese had 'no interest in exploring until the XIII Century Whilst I am just at the beginning of my forray in and journey through the field of geopolitics, I get the distinct feeling that this book is not what it was supposed to be. The title has no tangible connection to the actual work (unless I am mistaken on the meaning of the word 'revenge'), there are some gross generalizations made in order to get points through and sometimes, what I consider to be blatant mistakes. What do you mean, the Chinese had 'no interest in exploring until the XIII Century'? As far as I know, exploring is not only defined so if you manage to make it to another continent and 'discover' it. Anyways. Kaplan constantly assumes the reader is a well of knowledge with regards to the subject. In my opinion, no matter the calibre of the author and the subject in mind - no writer in the history of ever should write as if only intended for the experts or medium-to-high knowledgeable in the field. You want to educate people? Don't belittle them by constantly saying stuff like: 'as the reader knows", "as it is obvious", etc. You know what? Maybe it's not so obvious, and even though I am the type of reader predisposed to stop reading and open Wikipedia up to fact-check, many are not, and amongst them valuable minds are lost in the process. That being said, this book IS a very valuable source on the geography of the world, focusing on an area at a time, giving the reader the ability to visualize and understand certain political processes as they happend, with geographical specifications providing the backdrop. That part of the book I enjoyed very much and consider very well written. All in all, it's a good read if you are interested in the field, but I'll hold my horses for my future forrays in the subject.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Carol Smith

    Well, I won’t lie. That was more than a bit like eating my peas (with apologies to peas; I really like them). I knew it was good for me, but it wasn’t necessarily enjoyable. I had to approach this book in periodic bursts over a month's time. Many readers claim to have no problem with abandoning a book they don’t enjoy. I’m not one of them. I’m hell bound to finish my peas, even if they’ve gone cold because I keep walking away from the table for periods of time. Stubborn, I guess. It’s hard to iden Well, I won’t lie. That was more than a bit like eating my peas (with apologies to peas; I really like them). I knew it was good for me, but it wasn’t necessarily enjoyable. I had to approach this book in periodic bursts over a month's time. Many readers claim to have no problem with abandoning a book they don’t enjoy. I’m not one of them. I’m hell bound to finish my peas, even if they’ve gone cold because I keep walking away from the table for periods of time. Stubborn, I guess. It’s hard to identify what made this book such a chore to digest. It’s jam-packed with interesting and useful ideas that will serve me well, but it was perhaps too dense, too jam-packed. And a tad rambling, jumbly. Editing is a lost art. And it suffers from an absolutely unforgivable dearth of maps. How can a book about political geography be so lacking in maps? The first doesn’t appear until a good 130-odd pages in, despite densely packed descriptions of geopolitical regions. Maps, maps, my kingdom for a map. This puppy needed more maps. Kvetching aside, lots of good concepts are present for stubborn people determined to eat their peas. I’ve gained a lot of new ideas and perspectives to keep in mind while considering the longer-term implications of the daily news. I don’t quite buy all of Kaplan’s analysis; it sometimes felt like mumbo jumbo – as if one could apply geopolitical principles to argue for any possible outcome. The book is divided into three parts. The first part explores major geopolitical theories. The second part analyzes the major regions of the world in terms of those theories. The brief third part (far too brief, just one hurried chapter) looks to America’s future in broad, rushed strokes. I would have liked to have seen a few more chapters focusing on the different parts of the Western Hemisphere. I’ve been to South America several times in the past few years and can sense the beginnings of a future powerhouse. Like the nerd I am, I took notes. If you want the Cliff note version, I’m happy to supply them.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Phrodrick

    I enjoyed The Revenge of Geography by Robert D. Kaplan, even as I am mindful of some of the more critical of its reviews. Mr. Kaplan lays out a series of intelligent discussions built around the interrelationship between geography and history. It is part of my job to look at events and ask why here (not there) and will it be here again? As such geological determinism is an implied concept in my profession. Beyond my professional predilection to accept some degree of determinism, Kaplan uses geog I enjoyed The Revenge of Geography by Robert D. Kaplan, even as I am mindful of some of the more critical of its reviews. Mr. Kaplan lays out a series of intelligent discussions built around the interrelationship between geography and history. It is part of my job to look at events and ask why here (not there) and will it be here again? As such geological determinism is an implied concept in my profession. Beyond my professional predilection to accept some degree of determinism, Kaplan uses geography as persisting frame of reference in making his geographically based analysis of world history, politics and possible futures. He also admits to the need to be flexible in the application of determinism in the face of conflicting histories and alternate futures. His politics are apparent, but there is no need to agree with either his politics or his conclusions. The reader is free to ignore his specifics, but is making a mistake by preemptively shrugging them aside. Part I, Chapters 1-6 are the weakest part of the book. Here he presents his arguments in favor of geography as fate and gives himself the cover of saying this only mostly true. A more general statement of his thesis is that across history, where regional maps do not place political borders around obvious barrier features, mountains, oceans or desserts and the like, human history will be about the wars fought over who is to hold that land. Further these chapter identify the several geographic thinkers who help to organize and direct the shape of his argument. Next he posits, in broad terms, that within areas defined by natural barriers the culture and government of the people within are heavily influenced by the nature of the environment that encloses the inhabitants. Temperate climates help to promote a more temperate, less central, dictatorial government and less hospitable climates promote more disciplined centralized governments. Here Kaplan quotes Napoleon directly as having said: “Tell me about a nation’s climate and I will tell you about its culture.” Having defined, and defended this thesis, he cites geographically minded academics to define terms that divide the planet into areas like the “Rimlands” and to document his belief that the relief map rules. Given this view of the relief map of the world as a primary determinant of how local history and culture will be constrained or fated Part 2 cover the major division of the planet within this system. These six chapters look at, in sequence: Europe, Russia, China, India, Iran (Iraq) and Turkey ( the Ottoman Empire). The nations are not just the boundaries that we now recognize but centers of historic regions, including smaller, lessor border-states. For each nation/region we are given its history and something of a geographic strengths, weaknesses and opportunity analysis. This is the best of the Revenge of Geography. Again it is not a question of our agreeing with this history or analysis or even any absolute ‘rightness’ of his recitation and conclusions. It is about the value to be gained by thinking about people and places from this kind of geo-politics meets realpolitik meats manifest destiny point of view. Kaplan will give himself the right to be inconsistent. Is Korea or Taiwan the pivot region in Asia? Is the existence of Afghanistan illogical or the center of future oil distribution? Should America seek to make friends or even frienemies of Iran and thereby promote the relative liberality of Persian Sunni’s? Or is the Middle East a place where America, by dint of consistent failure to understand the place and its peoples accept the contradiction of our inability to force western values or withdraw? Also as his analysis moves closer to America and modern times he walks back on the primacy of geography in favor of the ability to apply technology in overcoming space in communications and logistics and therefore military power and diplomatic influence. Part 3 addresses the Americas and what he believes is the real problem facing the United States. He is highly concerned that the US is willing to commit vast resources in other part of the world, while being blind to the danger of Mexico as a failing state. He take on the threat of a Hispanic Reconquista of the American South west. It may happen but in itself it is not so much a tragedy as it is recognition that much of this area may naturally belong to a Catholic, Spanish speaking peoples. His concern is that a failed Mexico and especially one in aligned with other Central/South American narco-states could so destabilize the New World as to cost America the ability to deal with an obviously emerging China and a slowly reconstituting Imperialistic Russia. In recommending The Revenge of Geography, the point is not to accept Robert Kaplan as the final word on any region, aspect of his hypotheses or the particulars of his analyses. I do not have the depth of bibliography to begin to challenge him. What is more important to me is that the reader appreciate the value of his methodology and the importance of seeking out the detailed knowledge that would allow you to accept or reject particulars. Kaplan is addressing the kinds of high level, informed strategic thinking that should be part of being a knowledgeable member of twenty first century America.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn

    Kaplan here displays his usual depth and erudition, giving us a new view of geopolitics with the focus on geography, which he regards as far more important than we usually consider it. He starts in Section I with a summary of the thoughts of great minds on the topic, from Herodotus to Kissinger and beyond. In Section II he focuses on a number of significant states, civilizations, and empires past and present, including China, India, Russia, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Afghanistan. He refers to Euras Kaplan here displays his usual depth and erudition, giving us a new view of geopolitics with the focus on geography, which he regards as far more important than we usually consider it. He starts in Section I with a summary of the thoughts of great minds on the topic, from Herodotus to Kissinger and beyond. In Section II he focuses on a number of significant states, civilizations, and empires past and present, including China, India, Russia, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Afghanistan. He refers to Eurasia as the "world island" and points out how each country's nearness and accessibility to its neighbors contributes to or detracts from its power and influence. Geology, he says, can be surmounted by the actions of strong leaders, but because geology doesn't change, it remains highly relevant even in today's world of instant communication and reach of fast travel. Section III is called "America's Destiny" and discusses the U.S. role in world geopolitics. It is quite unfortunate, Kaplan says, that Americans have spent trillions of dollars on wars half a world away, when our most pressing and sensitive issue is our relationship with Mexico. Borders are inherently unstable when they separate rich countries from poor, and the U.S. has five times the per capita GDP of Mexico, putting increasing stress on the border. Since much of the U.S. Southwest belonged to Mexico not so long ago, many Mexicans on both sides of the border see reclaiming those areas as legitimate. Unfortunately the valuable ideas in this book are marred by poor editing throughout. Most sentences are too long and complex, forcing the reader to go back in search of the subject or the antecedent. Here's an example: Mexican Americans, who account for 12.5 percent of the U.S. population, not counting other Hispanics, and are, more or less, concentrated in the Southwest, contiguous to Mexico, are for the first time in America's history amending our historical memory. Colons and semicolons are tossed into the middle of sentences to break things up, but they are overused and often used incorrectly. It's a shame Kaplan's valuable insights are buried in such a stylistic bog.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Clement

    Reading this book was more like reading a poetic take on how geography affects geopolitics than a coherent and robust theory on why geopolitics are as they are. If you find the work of Jared Diamond compelling, then you will probably enjoy this too; but if you are like me, you will find the cherry picking and lack of counterfactuals quite jarring. To his credit, Kaplan isn't as bold as Diamond, in that he more strongly acknowledges the role of many factors, of which geography is just one. But at Reading this book was more like reading a poetic take on how geography affects geopolitics than a coherent and robust theory on why geopolitics are as they are. If you find the work of Jared Diamond compelling, then you will probably enjoy this too; but if you are like me, you will find the cherry picking and lack of counterfactuals quite jarring. To his credit, Kaplan isn't as bold as Diamond, in that he more strongly acknowledges the role of many factors, of which geography is just one. But at the same time that he says geography is not determinative, he kind of still argues that, and that's where the poetry comes in. It's so beautiful and simple to think that Europe, for example, is divided into such small countries way that it is because of its terrain, and then to contrast it with its flatter, more expansive neighbour Russia. But it is nearly impossible to tease out the role of the terrain from other social and biophysical factors, especially when you are just picking illustrative cases to prove your thesis. So while I found this a compelling read that made me think about the world in a different way, I have to admit that I didn't really buy into many of its arguments.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Arash

    In the current climate of politics around the world, this book is a must read piece. The book provides a wide ranging and entertaining coverage of world affairs; and it links geographical and historical facts and events with contemporary politics and power struggles. I did not agree with all the judgments and analyses, but appreciated Kaplan's way of thinking, his deep insights, and his use of personal experiences and in depth knowledge of different countries in the book. The author's predicatio In the current climate of politics around the world, this book is a must read piece. The book provides a wide ranging and entertaining coverage of world affairs; and it links geographical and historical facts and events with contemporary politics and power struggles. I did not agree with all the judgments and analyses, but appreciated Kaplan's way of thinking, his deep insights, and his use of personal experiences and in depth knowledge of different countries in the book. The author's predications, or anticipations, are likely to come true in many instances; as some have already materialized since 2012. One main reason for this seemingly high level of success in predicting political events is due to the nature of the analyses. Kaplan avoids recommending solutions or actions; and insists on a deep analysis that covers most potential courses of events. He should be congratulated for such an approach. The book should also be very interesting for academics of geopolitics - or perhaps for postgraduate students - because of the generous referencing of the scholars and scholarly works. While I found this educational and insightful, I found it boring on several occasions!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    I've been holding off on writing a review of this book for a bit now because I'm not sure that I can express my frustration properly. This book is an apologia for Western, even Victorian mindset in seeing the world. While Kaplan goes to great lengths to talk about how geography is not destiny and geostrategists have to avoid falling into the trap of determinism, his analysis of the world is still based on the philosphies of the mid-20th century and before, complete with disturbing discussions of I've been holding off on writing a review of this book for a bit now because I'm not sure that I can express my frustration properly. This book is an apologia for Western, even Victorian mindset in seeing the world. While Kaplan goes to great lengths to talk about how geography is not destiny and geostrategists have to avoid falling into the trap of determinism, his analysis of the world is still based on the philosphies of the mid-20th century and before, complete with disturbing discussions of control of the Heartland, a philosophy most often associated with Nazi Germany's invasion of Russia. I tried very hard to Kaplan the benefit of the doubt, figuring that discussions of Alfred Thayer Mahan and Halford Mackinder would give way eventually to more nuanced geographical thinkers like Jared Diamond. It was not to be. And it wasn't just a dependence on the philosophy of colonialist Europeans that colored the book. The language was very value-laden with discussions of mountains breeding "turbaned guerrilla forces" (so the Scots or the Basques don't count here?) or referencing areas of high population density and poverty as "demographic cockpits". The worries of the British Raj are reflected in the absolute certainty that the 1980 Russian invasion of Afghanistan was a play for the warm-water ports of Pakistan (has any Russian author ever obsessed over warm-water ports for Russia as the Brits did?). At it's most fundamental, I suppose Kaplan is tying to argue that the world is more than just Hot, Flat, and Crowded in the words of Thomas L. Friedman, but instead mountainous and with a coastline as well. However, I felt that the lines of race and religion were always lurking just below the text of the page. This volume is one of reaction, a worried white male of privilege looking at a world in the future with much more equality for all and being afraid for his own special position.

  17. 5 out of 5

    B G

    Finishing this book was bitter-sweet for me. I awaited the books arrival for so long and immediately dived head first. Upon finishing this book I feel both relieved and disappointed that it is not a hundred pages longer. As a geography student, I come to this book with significant knowledge on the subject matter already. However, I feel that to fully appreciate this book for all its merit, I would need a degree in Geography, Religion, Political Science, and History. Personally, I feel as though Finishing this book was bitter-sweet for me. I awaited the books arrival for so long and immediately dived head first. Upon finishing this book I feel both relieved and disappointed that it is not a hundred pages longer. As a geography student, I come to this book with significant knowledge on the subject matter already. However, I feel that to fully appreciate this book for all its merit, I would need a degree in Geography, Religion, Political Science, and History. Personally, I feel as though I just finished sitting through an extremely long lecture Mr, Kaplan does a thorough job of providing an encapsulating prelude, well-researched present time, and intelligible prediction for times to come in his salient countries. At times the reading seems to drag on and the conclusion of that section is reached with a sense of achievement. At others, the text rips by and the reader is left enamored with the section. Looking back, I suppose these differences are determined by how well the reader already knows the area and relations between the surrounding places. As a college senior I personally found several instances of unfamiliar words and terms that at times felt gratuitous. Key countries that are highlighted include: India, China, USA, Iran, Russia, The EU, The Ottoman Region and The Greater Middle East. Mr. Kaplan explains is great detail the role that geography has played in these regions for their development and their difficulties. Without prior interest in these subjects, the book promises to bore. With more interest in the topics, the book will be increasingly better. My advice is to power through the parts that don't particular spark your interest and slow down to really absorb the pieces that excite you.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jack

    What a thorough disappointment! An important topic that needs to be discussed, particularly after two decades (or more, according to Kaplan) of liberal institutionalism/responsibility to protect adventurism (or the often ignored call for it, followed by neoconservative adventurism (unfortunately less ignored). Bringing back into discussion the realist worldview is necessary, and the importance of geography as a major factor in determining why the world works (or doesn't work) as it does (or does What a thorough disappointment! An important topic that needs to be discussed, particularly after two decades (or more, according to Kaplan) of liberal institutionalism/responsibility to protect adventurism (or the often ignored call for it, followed by neoconservative adventurism (unfortunately less ignored). Bringing back into discussion the realist worldview is necessary, and the importance of geography as a major factor in determining why the world works (or doesn't work) as it does (or doesn't) needs a re-airing, particularly because the rise of technology has convinced so many - maybe TOO many - that it is easy to get over mountains and oceans. Mackinder and his heartland theory, and Spykman and his rimland (makes me giggle) theory need to be reconsidered. Kaplan attempts to do that. But, man, he does it in about as uninteresting a way as I could imagine. What a slow and unorganized read! A year ago I read Kaplan's Monsoon book, about the rising important of the Indian Ocean area, and it was fantastic. So I figured this would be likewise. But it's as if he wrote this book by speaking his random thoughts into a tape recorder. Ah well. Still worth two stars because at a few intervals, his analysis is quite informative.

  19. 5 out of 5

    CW

    The Revenge of Geography takes geopolitics to an entirely new level. Robert Kaplan splits the book into essentially three parts. The first part looks at geopolitics in general and specifically looks at the theories of well respected intellectuals of the past. The second part of the book looks at the various areas of the world (Russia, China, India, Iran, etc.) where there is potential for conflict with neighboring countries or political unrest within. The last third of the book deals primarily w The Revenge of Geography takes geopolitics to an entirely new level. Robert Kaplan splits the book into essentially three parts. The first part looks at geopolitics in general and specifically looks at the theories of well respected intellectuals of the past. The second part of the book looks at the various areas of the world (Russia, China, India, Iran, etc.) where there is potential for conflict with neighboring countries or political unrest within. The last third of the book deals primarily with the United States and what our future might hold if we continue with current involvement abroad and what that might mean at home. I have always enjoyed the writings of Robert Kaplan and this book did not disappoint. If you are looking for an easy read, this book is not for you. This book actually created more questions for me than answers and I had to stop reading several times to research events and people Kaplan referenced. The Kaplan quote I thought summed up this book the best was, "...we must never give in to geography, but must be fundamentally aware of it in our quest for a better world."

  20. 5 out of 5

    Karin

    The title is enticing and makes it sound like this book is going to be as interesting as it could be had it been better written and less political (I read it for current events and because I find the geographical importance interesting, but this book was very political). Also, I listened to some of this on audiobook, and the reader's voice combined with his style of reading and cadence I found irritating. Kaplan spends a great deal of time discussing history of the areas as it pertains to geograp The title is enticing and makes it sound like this book is going to be as interesting as it could be had it been better written and less political (I read it for current events and because I find the geographical importance interesting, but this book was very political). Also, I listened to some of this on audiobook, and the reader's voice combined with his style of reading and cadence I found irritating. Kaplan spends a great deal of time discussing history of the areas as it pertains to geography and politics, economics, etc, which is helpful. He also references and discusses the works of others over the past 100 years or so that relate to this topic. Had he taken his political views (it hardly matters which party, it just nauseates this for me, although it clearly shows his biases) out of it and handled the main topic and had he written in a more interesting way (which can be done without dumbing it down), I would have enjoyed this book. There certainly is a lot to learn. Rest assured, the only way I'll pick up another book by this author is if I forget he's the same author that wrote this one, Kaplan being a common enough name.

  21. 5 out of 5

    J. S. Turner

    Wow, this book was such a disappointment. Kaplan's writing and structure is very odd and dry. The book reads more like a doctoral thesis than a book. Kaplan spends so much time quoting others, I am not sure what he is trying to convey or who he is writing for. Geography hinders, got it. The opening is nothing more than name dropping and a collection of praises to the "liberal idealist intellectual elites" regarding their thoughts on the shaping of the world. Kaplan is long-winded and like any go Wow, this book was such a disappointment. Kaplan's writing and structure is very odd and dry. The book reads more like a doctoral thesis than a book. Kaplan spends so much time quoting others, I am not sure what he is trying to convey or who he is writing for. Geography hinders, got it. The opening is nothing more than name dropping and a collection of praises to the "liberal idealist intellectual elites" regarding their thoughts on the shaping of the world. Kaplan is long-winded and like any good politician, loves to hear himself speak. It is praised by Henry Kissinger on the cover, so I should have expected the gobbledygook. Kaplan has taken a subject that should have been very interesting, shifting geopolitical boundaries and the role terrain has played throughout history, and produced a bloviated snooze-fest. Bottom line, this book is terrible.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    Kaplan, oh Kaplan. Amongst the plentiful quotations, name dropping, and historical references to pre-modernity, the reader cannot follow your point of view. Try putting the thesis first and then substantiate with pounds of evidence. Should you make it (and perhaps even follow) through the longwinded Kaplan's arguments, you will still find "Why Nations Fail" more compelling and much more relevant. Kaplan, oh Kaplan. Amongst the plentiful quotations, name dropping, and historical references to pre-modernity, the reader cannot follow your point of view. Try putting the thesis first and then substantiate with pounds of evidence. Should you make it (and perhaps even follow) through the longwinded Kaplan's arguments, you will still find "Why Nations Fail" more compelling and much more relevant.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Bright

    Fantastic! This is one of those books that requires one to read a few paragraphs here and there a second time, just to make sure you got it, of course. I’ll never look at a map the same way!

  24. 5 out of 5

    John

    The deterministic qualities of physical geography are often debated. Some argue that geography is irrelevant in the face of ideas and the inherent qualities of man. Others would argue that geography is what ultimately shapes human interaction. Robert Kaplan, perhaps America's most well-traveled correspondent and commentator, takes a more central position. He argues that geography can be minimized, and indeed it repeatedly has, but ultimately it cannot be defeated. The qualities of the mankind-ge The deterministic qualities of physical geography are often debated. Some argue that geography is irrelevant in the face of ideas and the inherent qualities of man. Others would argue that geography is what ultimately shapes human interaction. Robert Kaplan, perhaps America's most well-traveled correspondent and commentator, takes a more central position. He argues that geography can be minimized, and indeed it repeatedly has, but ultimately it cannot be defeated. The qualities of the mankind-geography relationship: location of resources, natural barriers, ease of human migration and invasion, and so forth are qualities that existed before history and will continue to exist and matter far into our technology and globalization-driven world. I don't believe it would be a stretch to say that Kaplan's view of geography is really that of history in that the story of man's attempts to compete, govern, and even survive are fundamentally shaped by where that man chooses (or doesn't) to stake his claim. In that The Revenge of Geography is a very useful book. After detailing the general outline of geographical studies, Kaplan launches into examinations of the world's most important geographical crisis points in the modern era. These regions, however, are not facing anything that hasn't been faced in the past, as Kaplan's general theory would stipulate. Instead, they are facing the same issues their ancestors faced, but are grappling with them using new techniques, new technologies, and new ideas. In Europe, Russia, China, India, Iran, and the former Ottoman Empire, new governments are grappling with geography and its effects on people in ways that will underpin state competition for the 21st century and beyond. And in America the demographic changes underway on our southern border and our relationship with the Spanish-speaking countries to our south will shape our future and our ability to remain relevant on the world stage. For as Kaplan points out, the world might be shifting from the border-driven reality of a post-Westphalian world back to the pre-modern reality of frontiers, where divisions overlap, are more murky, and are rife with tension. As his seminal essay 'The Coming Anarchy' predicted 23 years ago, the future of geopolitics and conflict may be something unfamiliar to states and leaders used to cut-and-dry divisions and locations on a map, but to the long cycle of history, and geography, the future will be hold nothing new under the sun.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Anne Slater

    This is a very important book that I am not equipped to review properly. IE, not well enough educated. I can tell you that the text is easy enough to read, word by word. I can tell you that the book is arranged chronologically and logically. I can tell you that there should be a couple of maps in the first chapter. And I must be honest and tell you that I could not cope with the whole thing. To quote Mr Milne's favorite character, I am a "bear of very little brain" I quit after the third chapter and This is a very important book that I am not equipped to review properly. IE, not well enough educated. I can tell you that the text is easy enough to read, word by word. I can tell you that the book is arranged chronologically and logically. I can tell you that there should be a couple of maps in the first chapter. And I must be honest and tell you that I could not cope with the whole thing. To quote Mr Milne's favorite character, I am a "bear of very little brain" I quit after the third chapter and jumped to the last one I can tell you that what world history I know has come post-college from reading books like Barbara Tuchman's The Distant Mirror (history of the 14th century); Edmond Taylor's The Fall of the Dynasties: The Collapse of the Old Order: 1905-1922; The Strategy of Terror - Europe's Inner Front; and Richer by Asia ( WW2 reporting and CIA work). All of Taylor's books I have read avidly and recommend. But they are more journalistic than this, Kaplan's elegantly academic and historical study of the way actual geography has shaped the modern political world. It's all too vast for me BUT BUT BUT you should read the last chapter, which is a succinct wrap-up of the previous 400+ pages. The final paragraph insists that our leaders MUST pay attention to our southern border as well as to the conflicts in eastern Europe and in Asia. Our policy builders must "use the stability guaranteed by a balance of power in the Eastern Hemisphere to advance nothing less than the liberal intellectual cause of a Mitteleuropa [in italics] writ large across the globe......we must never give in to geography, but must fundamentally be aware of it in our quest for a better world......"

  26. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    This took me awhile to read as it is very academic, but as I studied geography and social sciences in college, I had an interest in finishing it. What continued to capture my attention throughout this book was that in reading it, I felt that Kaplan's interest (and passion) in geography felt similar to mine. To quote him: "Maps are crucial to any understanding of world politics...Geography is the backdrop to human history itself and can be as revealing about a government's long-range intentions a This took me awhile to read as it is very academic, but as I studied geography and social sciences in college, I had an interest in finishing it. What continued to capture my attention throughout this book was that in reading it, I felt that Kaplan's interest (and passion) in geography felt similar to mine. To quote him: "Maps are crucial to any understanding of world politics...Geography is the backdrop to human history itself and can be as revealing about a government's long-range intentions as its secret councils...connects the study of history and culture with environmental factors...a reminder of all the different environments of the earth that make men unequal & disunited, leading to conflict...even has some answers as to why Africa remains so poor & why feebler economies are generally located in tropical locations (23.45 degrees N/S latitudes)....." Kaplan also discusses human nature and the part geography played in certain events throughout history (things I remember discussing in college classes), such as the contention that statesmen & academics alike have argued that a true understanding of history & cultural geography were foolishly ignored - to our peril - in drawing the map of Europe post WWI (the Balkans & the Middle East, particularly Iraq). I was taken back to my college days as I read Kaplan's analysis of theories from others in the field, such as Spykman, Morgenthau, Braudel, and even Karl Haushofer (yes, THAT Haushofer {"Geopolitik"}!). He expounded on the strengths/weakness of their theories, explaining where some of their predictions proved true (or not), giving examples. He even explained how Malthus' theory on population growth & available resources (once scoffed-at) may, in some regions, or in some aspects, prove to be useful or at least worth discussing further. He then takes readers through each region of the world, discussing events and issues of the past, the present, and makes a few predictions (some rather startling) about what may come about in the future. I'm not sure about his predictions for the future of Europe and the EU, or that I entirely agree with him. His predictions or theories concerning the future of Iraq & Iran, as well as competition between China & India, and Turkey's possible role as mediator between East & West were fascinating. Kaplan also goes on to explain why it's been a mistake (and I agree with him on this) for the US to ignore the country on our southern border for so long. Our attention being drawn to what is happening in the Middle Eats so much at the expense of much attention (if any) at what is literally happening in our own global neighborhood, has been at our peril. And , while I agree with some of what he argues must be done within our own hemisphere, I don't agree with all of it.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Krista

    But really two-and-a-half stars because the writing style was uber-annoying. Kaplan's favorite phrase seems to be "Let me explain." Well, duh. That's why I'm reading the book. Kaplan's thesis is that geography still matters, even in a world where environmental possibilism seems to be changing how we relate to the spaces we are in and the spaces we desire. I'm not sure he proved his thesis, really, but along the way, I at least learned a lot. Kaplan states that a "map is the spatial representation But really two-and-a-half stars because the writing style was uber-annoying. Kaplan's favorite phrase seems to be "Let me explain." Well, duh. That's why I'm reading the book. Kaplan's thesis is that geography still matters, even in a world where environmental possibilism seems to be changing how we relate to the spaces we are in and the spaces we desire. I'm not sure he proved his thesis, really, but along the way, I at least learned a lot. Kaplan states that a "map is the spatial representation of humanity's divisions." The names in Africa and the border lines, created by European colonization, tell us the history of imperialism. To understand history, we have to look at maps. Mountains and plains divide civilizations; Ottomans from Austro-Hungarians, Kurds from Iraqis, Sunnis from Shia. Western Europe has dominated world history because of wide, fertile plains, indented coastlines providing deep-water harbors, navigable rivers flowing north, and an abundance of resources and despite its harsh climate. In history, transportation and communication outweigh comfort. Looking at a northern polar map projections shows how close the continents of the northern hemisphere are to one another. A southern polar projection shows how far apart the southern hemisphere continents really are. This has been a driving factor to the dominance of the northern hemisphere in world history. Geography, according to Kaplan, has always driven history. And perhaps always will. One of the first pieces of evidence Kaplan cites is the fossia regia, a ditch dug in 202BC by the Romans to demarcate civilized territory (Roman) from uncivilized territory. In the 21st century, that line can still be felt, if not seen. Towns with fewer Roman remains tend to be poorer, less developed, and have higher rates of unemployment. Then Kaplan sets out to justify Mackinder's Heartland theory, which basically states that whoever holds the "heartland" (basically Central Asia, Russia, and Eastern Europe) controls the world. He argues that WWII was basically about Germany wanting to control the heartland and that the Cold War was about the Soviet Union wanting to control Eastern Europe. Russia, having been overtaken by Mongol Horde, has always valued the need for an empire; expand or die. Germany feels the same, with Raztel's theory of Lebensraum, or living space. The US, too, with the Monroe Doctrine and Manifest Destiny. Land means power. And the where of the land matters. One of the most fascinating discourses in the book falls in the chapter entitled "The Rimland Thesis" wherein Kaplan discusses the addition of Spykman's theory to Mackinder's. Spykman, and American, thought that control of the coastal edges of the heartland was as important as the heartland. Both Mackinder and Spykman's theories played out during World War II. "Even as the Allies are losing and the utter destruction of Hitler's war machine is a priority, Spykman worries aloud about the implication of leaving Germany demilitarized. 'A Russian state from the Urals to the North Sea,' he explains (in 1942), 'can be no great improvement over a German state from the North Sea to the Urals.' Russian airfields on the English Channel would be as dangerous as German airfields to the security of Great Britain. Therefore, a powerful Germany will be necessary following Hitler. Likewise, even as the United States has another three years of vicious island fighting with the Japanese military ahead of it, Spkyman is recommending a post-war alliance with Japan against the continental powers of Russia and particularly a rising China." In 1942, Spykman predicted how it would play out. Or, perhaps, it played out that way because he predicted it and the powers-that-were thought his ideas were sound. With the benefit of hindsight, you can always connect geography with history. An author named Braudel apparently does this very well. "Braudel’s signal contribution to the way in which history is perceived is his concept of “varying wavelengths of time.” At the base is the longue duree: slow, imperceptibly changing geographical time, “of landscapes that enable and constrain.” Above this, at a faster wavelength, come the “medium-term cycles,” what Braudel himself refers to as conjonctures, that is, systemic changes in demographics, economics, agriculture, society, and politics. Cunliffe explains that these are essentially “collective forces, impersonal and usually restricted in time to no more than a century.” Together the longue duree and conjonctures provide the largely hidden “basic structures” against which human life is played out. My very highlighting of geography has been designed to put emphasis on these basic structures. Braudel calls the shortest-term cycle l’histoire evenmentielle —the daily vicissitudes of politics and diplomacy that are the staple of media coverage. Braudel’s analogy is the sea: in the deepest depths is the sluggish movement of water masses that bear everything; above that the tides and swells; and finally at the surface, in Cunliffe’s words, “the transient flecks of surf, whipped up and gone in a minute." So I guess I should just read Braudel, who Kaplan describes as a "historian whose narrative has a godlike quality in which every detail of human existence is painted against the canvas of natural forces." Once in a while, though, I think Kaplan approaches this kind of writing. "Obviously, human agency in the persons of such men as Jan Hus, Martin Luther and John Calvin was pivotal to the Protestant Reformation and hence to the Enlightenment that would allow for northern Europe’s dynamic emergence as one of the cockpits of history in the modern era. Nevertheless, all that could not have happened without the immense river and ocean access and the loess earth, rich with coal and iron-ore deposits, which formed the foundation for such individual dynamism and industrialization. Great, eclectic and glittering empires certainly flowered along the Mediterranean in the Middle Ages—notably the Norman Roger II’s in twelfth-century Sicily, and, lest we forget, the Renaissance blossomed first in late-medieval Florence, with the art of Michelangelo and the secular realism of Machiavelli. But it was the pull of the colder Atlantic that opened up global shipping routes that ultimately won out against the enclosed Mediterranean. While Portugal and Spain were the early beneficiaries of this Atlantic trade—owing to their protruding peninsular position—their pre-Enlightenment societies, traumatized by the proximity of (and occupation by) North African Muslims, lost ground eventually in the oceanic competition to the Dutch, French and English. So just as Charlemagne’s Holy Roman Empire succeeded Rome, in modern times northern Europe succeeded southern Europe, with the mineral-rich Carolingian core winning out in the form of the European Union. All this is attributable, in some measure, to geography." Boom. If this book had been winnowed to engaging large-picture, connective discourses like this, I would have been much happier with it. I love that stuff. But Kaplan, predicting the critics, I suppose, over-writes in the attempt to premptively out-argue the arguments. And the reader grows weary. Peppered throughout the book are little nuggets of "oh, of course!" connections. Like the word "Cossack" comes from the word kazak. So Kazakhstan is really Cossackstan. Also, Turkey controls the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates. Now THAT is power. And "the rich forest soil of Northern Europe, which allowed peasants to easily be productive, ultimately led to freer and more dynamic societies compared to those along the Mediterranean where poorer, more precarious soils meant there was a requirement for irrigation that led, in turn, to oligarchies." And also, precarious agriculture led the Greeks and Romans to expand their empires in search of for fertile land. I don't think I would have enjoyed this book at all as someone completely new to the concepts Kaplan discusses. I am teaching Human Geography this year, though, so my brain is currently wired with a geographic bent and filled with geographic terms and trivia. That base knowledge certainly aided my overall enjoyment of the book. And a note about the maps in the paperback edition; so much is hidden in the spine crease that they were more annoying than helpful.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Steven Peterson

    Robert Kaplan contends in this book that geography matters a great deal in the unfolding of the human endeavor. Early on, he observes (Page xix): "I will introduce readers to a group of decidedly unfashionable thinkers, who push up hard against the notion that geography no longer matters." Ho notes that he does not contend that geography is destiny and is the only important factor in the world of human concerns. Nonetheless, once one finishes this book, he or she will realize that Kaplan thinks Robert Kaplan contends in this book that geography matters a great deal in the unfolding of the human endeavor. Early on, he observes (Page xix): "I will introduce readers to a group of decidedly unfashionable thinkers, who push up hard against the notion that geography no longer matters." Ho notes that he does not contend that geography is destiny and is the only important factor in the world of human concerns. Nonetheless, once one finishes this book, he or she will realize that Kaplan thinks that geography is of critical importance. In this, he is perhaps a bit too emphatic. His statement on page 30 says a great deal: "Indeed, geography is the preface to the very track of human events." His approach includes reference to some important geographic theorists such as McNeill, Hodgson, Mackinder, and so on. Included in this mix are the Nazi theorists who speak of geography, such as Ratzel and his invidious concept of "lebensraum," later used to justify Nazi conquest. Part I of the book explores the implications of the work of these men as well as Kaplan's own analyses. Part II is an analysis of the 21st century map, in terms of the implications for Europe, Russia, China, India, Iran, and the "former Ottoman Empire." This part of the book is breathtaking in the scope of Kaplan's analysis. At the same time, the role of geography seems to be almost reified. The final Part is composed of just one chapter--"America's Destiny." Here, the author notes the importance of Mexico and appropriates Fernand Braudel's perspective. Overall, thought provoking. But convincing? It seems to me that this is close the geographic determinism, although it does not--ultimately--fall into that trap.

  29. 4 out of 5

    MarcosKtulu

    To me, Kaplans work can be sumarized by the two unspecified goals of this book: to reapraise the discipline of geopolitics by outlining some of the theories and conclusions of some classical authors, mainly geographers and international theorists of the realist school of thought, as well as some naval experts. With the framework of geographical influence (yet not determinism) at hand, the other goal is to review and update the current state of international affairs, system by system, region by r To me, Kaplans work can be sumarized by the two unspecified goals of this book: to reapraise the discipline of geopolitics by outlining some of the theories and conclusions of some classical authors, mainly geographers and international theorists of the realist school of thought, as well as some naval experts. With the framework of geographical influence (yet not determinism) at hand, the other goal is to review and update the current state of international affairs, system by system, region by region. Rendering a good deal of historical analysis, Kaplan surveys how important are the classical factors of geography (demography, economy, resources, culture, military and the most focus on placement within a region or continent, and land/sea accidents) to reveal todays configuration of power and international agenda. 'Eurasian ' chapters on Russia, China, India and Iran are very detailed, perhaps because, except for Russia, he foreesees good future for these ancient civilizacions. I do not always agree with his predictions or state counseling (ie, if Usa doesnt want to decline any further, it must behave like Imperial Rome, but with better adaptation). Nonetheless, these informated opinions give good food for thought.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    8/10 Kaplan provides a convincing case for the importance of geography in power politics. He does so by showing the historical reign, and in many cases ebb and flow of certain regions of the world due to its position on the map. Moreover, he describes the way in which a society can be changed by its geography, either hardened or softened by the surrounding area. Lest he be accused of being deterministic, Kaplan says at least 12 times that he is not, so of that we can be sure. He also seems incre 8/10 Kaplan provides a convincing case for the importance of geography in power politics. He does so by showing the historical reign, and in many cases ebb and flow of certain regions of the world due to its position on the map. Moreover, he describes the way in which a society can be changed by its geography, either hardened or softened by the surrounding area. Lest he be accused of being deterministic, Kaplan says at least 12 times that he is not, so of that we can be sure. He also seems incredibly interested in the ages of societies, as in "53% of this country is below the age of 18" etc, and seems interested in the correlation between young men and uprisings. This is surely genuine, but might not have needed to be mentioned so often. What is impressive however, is the depth of knowledge and scholarship Kaplan brings. Every other page he appears to be citing source documents, and spent time in many of the countries he describes. For these reasons, if for no other, this is certainly a book worth reading. As an aside, his time spent on sea vs land power was interesting and enlightening, and will most likely be an area of further research for me.

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