The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power
Random House, Hardcover, 9781400067466, 384pp.
Publication Date: October 19, 2010
On the world maps common in America, the Indian Ocean all but disappears. The Western Hemisphere lies front and center, while the Indian Ocean region is relegated to the edges, split up along the maps’ outer reaches. This convention reveals the geopolitical focus of the now-departed twentieth century, for it was in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters that the great wars of that era were lost and won. Thus, many Americans are barely aware of the Indian Ocean at all.
But in the twenty-first century this will fundamentally change. In Monsoon, a pivotal examination of the Indian Ocean region and the countries known as “Monsoon Asia,” bestselling author Robert D. Kaplan deftly shows how crucial this dynamic area has become to American power in the twenty-first century. Like the monsoon itself, a cyclical weather system that is both destructive and essential for growth and prosperity, the rise of these countries (including India, Pakistan, China, Indonesia, Burma, Oman, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Tanzania) represents a shift in the global balance that cannot be ignored. The Indian Ocean area will be the true nexus of world power and conflict in the coming years. 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 America is to remain dominant in an ever-changing world.
From the Horn of Africa to the Indonesian archipelago and beyond, Monsoon explores the multilayered world behind the headlines. Kaplan offers riveting insights into the economic and naval strategies of China and India and how they will affect U.S. interests. He provides an on-the-ground perspective on the more volatile countries in the region, plagued by weak infrastructures and young populations tempted by extremism. This, in one of the most nuclearized areas of the world, is a dangerous mix.
The map of this fascinating region contains multitudes: Here lies the entire arc of Islam, from the Sahara Desert to the Indonesian archipelago, and it is here that the political future of Islam will most likely be determined. Here is where the five-hundred-year reign of Western power is slowly being replaced by the influence of indigenous nations, especially India and China, and where a tense dialogue is taking place between Islam and the United States.
With Kaplan’s incisive mix of policy analysis, travel reportage, sharp historical perspective, and fluid writing, Monsoon offers a thought-provoking exploration of the Indian Ocean as a strategic and demographic hub and an in-depth look at the issues that are most pressing for American interests both at home and abroad. Exposing the effects of explosive population growth, climate change, and extremist politics on this unstable region—and how they will affect our own interests—Monsoon is a brilliant, important work about an area of the world Americans can no longer afford to ignore.
From 2009 to 2011, he served under Secretary of Defense Robert Gates as a member of the Defense Policy Board. Since 2008, he has been a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security in Washington. From 2006 to 2008, he was the Class of 1960 Distinguished Visiting Professor in National Security at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis.
Praise for MONSOON
“An intellectual treat: Beautiful writing is not incompatible with geopolitical imagination and historical flair!”
—ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI, former national security advisor
“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.”
—PAUL THEROUX, author of Ghost Train to the Eastern Star
“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.”
—JON MEACHAM, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of American Lion
“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.”
—JIM HOAGLAND, contributing editor, The Washington Post
“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.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“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.”
—AHMED RASHID, author of Descent into Chaos
“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.”
—AMY CHUA, Yale University, author of World on Fire and Day of Empire
“Monsoon captures vividly what many have believed for some time—that the twenty-first-century balance of power in the world will rest, more than anywhere else, on the fortunes of China, India, and the United States in the Indian Ocean. This is a superb book with important lessons for Americans.”
—NICHOLAS BURNS, Harvard University, former undersecretary of state