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Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power Hardcover – October 19, 2010

4.4 out of 5 stars 126 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

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 Kaplan’s passages about Indian Ocean history reflect, the two countries can refer to tradition (to the fifteenth-century fleets of Zheng He, in China’s 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 Kaplan’s latest title. --Gilbert Taylor


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

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 366 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; Later prt. edition (October 19, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400067464
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400067466
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (126 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #828,985 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jijnasu Forever VINE VOICE on October 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In a very deft manner, Kaplan provides a treat for any political or history buff - a well-researched (& cited) account of the greater Indian ocean juxtaposed with a political analysis. Kaplan's main contention is that the "greater Indian ocean" will be as "iconic" to the future as Europe was for the past one. The meticulous historical account and often times direct projection of that history allows Kaplan to substantiate that assertion. The author then attempts to further argue that America's own destiny lies in understanding (and adapting to) the greater Indian ocean. These dual theories/hypotheses drive the entire book.

Weaving through the histories of each of the countries in the region, and articulating political, religious and more importantly, commercial contexts, Kaplan provides a rigorous treatment of the first hypothesis. [Reading India's history (my motherland)in mostly non-political context was a real eye-opener and was well worth the book in itself for me.] The sections describing the Portuguese influence on maritime trade, the aggressive stance against Islamic traders by Europeans, the volatile politics in the Indian heartland reflect a very thorough analysis.

Oftentimes, the intertwined trends Kaplan is trying to delineate, tend to overshadow the focus he tries to bring in each chapter - perhaps fittingly, but unwittingly. Moreover, considering that terrorism-infected Pakistan is central to most countries political machinations, a detailed discussion on its current role may have been a worthwhile addition to the book. While the author adopts a fairly non-pedantic narration style, mixing first-person travelogue-like accounts with almost scholarly essays, often times, he leaves the reader hanging dry...(for example, one of the chapters end "..
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Bob Kaplan is an intellectual Marco Polo. He sets forth on adventures with a cheerful attitude, a shrewd eye and an historian's sense of breadth and mystery. In Monsoon, as in all his earlier books, the result is a thoughtful, balanced and refreshing blend of fascinating sea stores (historical tidbits we hadn't heard before) and bold projections about the future. In focusing on the Indian Ocean, he is ten years in front of the rest of us. Despite political rhetoric, global reliance upon oil will not decrease and geopolitical collisions among the US, China, Iran, Pakistan and India - all nuclear armed - are inevitable. Kaplan provides a framework for understanding the monsoons to come.
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Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power is another in a long line of travel logs from Robert Kaplan. In this book Kaplan travels through Oman, Baluchistan (the coastal portion of Pakistan which stretches into Afghanistan and India as well), India, Bangladesh, Burma, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia and Zanzibar. He gives a boots-on-the-ground view of the people, politics, geography and culture as it is right now. What concerns the people and their leaders, their attitude towards American economic hegemony (even as it wanes), their views on nationalism and religion in their own countries and the economic and environmental challenges their societies face. But where Kaplan shines is the historical perspectives he adds to each place he travels. He will go back as far as written records exist to understand how successive invasions, empires and wars have shaped the people, culture, language and boundaries of the nations as they now exist. This is the eleventh book by Kaplan I have read. Soldiers of God: With Islamic Warriors in Afghanistan and Pakistan inspired me to read Rudyard Kipling, The Ends of the Earth: From Togo to Turkmenistan, from Iran to Cambodia inspired me to read the excellent novel The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene, Mediterranean Winter deceived me into believing I should tackle Edward Gibbon. This book has convinced me I should give the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore a try. Kaplan deftly interweaves his descriptions of the people and landscapes (over the course of twelve novels and numerous lectures and articles his prose has steadily improved) with quotes from other authors about the same areas.Read more ›
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After listening to a radio interview of Kaplan I purchased Monsoon and was very excited to read it. The topic is fascinating, and of course timely, but there seems to be an alternative viewpoint lurking beneath the surface of Kaplan's work that causes me to question his objectivity, and earnestness when possibly presenting opinion as fact.
For example, on page 98 in his discussion of Gujarat he describes the 2002 atrocities between Hindu and Muslin initiated in the town of Godhra that resulted in the deaths of over 1,000 people. By accounts at BBC to name one source, it began when 57 Hindus were "incinerated" in the train that was set fire after a conflict at the Godhra train station, a Muslim city. Kaplan spends three lines describing the incident noting "The Muslims that started the fire were apparently the victims of taunts from other Hindus" Kaplan omits allegations that Muslims had preplanned the incident, forcibly stopped the train, and had stockpiled 140 liters of petrol to drive the fire. However he follows this with three pages of great detail describing the Hindu reaction, including allegations that the Godhra government was actively involved.
This is only one example, but this biased presentation of a key event, combined with repeated gratuitous swipes as US policy, particularly in Iraq, leaves me uneasy about accepting anything in the book at face value. Personally, I simply do not know the subject matter well enough to know when else Kaplan might be taking poetic license. After about 250 pages, I set Monsoon aside to seek other books on the subject, and I have ordered several of the source books he sites. So I would only recommend this book if you plan to read it has part of a much broader review of the topic.
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