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The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate Paperback – Illustrated, September 10, 2013
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“Robert D. Kaplan, the world-traveling reporter and intellectual whose fourteen books constitute a bedrock of penetrating exposition and analysis on the post-Cold War world . . . strips away much of the cant that suffuses public discourse these days on global developments and gets to a fundamental reality: that geography remains today, as it has been throughout history, one of the most powerful drivers of world events.”—The National Interest
“Kaplan plunges into a planetary review that is often thrilling in its sheer scale . . . encyclopedic.”—The New Yorker
“[The Revenge of Geography] serves the facts straight up. . . . Kaplan’s realism and willingness to face hard facts make The Revenge of Geography a valuable antidote to the feel-good manifestoes that often masquerade as strategic thought.”—The Daily Beast
“[A] remarkable new book . . . With such books as Balkan Ghosts and Monsoon, Kaplan, an observer of world events who sees what others often do not, has already established himself as one of the most discerning geopolitical writers of our time. The Revenge of Geography cements his status.”—National Review
About the Author
- Item Weight : 11.7 ounces
- Paperback : 448 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780812982220
- ISBN-13 : 978-0812982220
- Dimensions : 5.17 x 0.98 x 7.98 inches
- ASIN : 0812982223
- Publisher : Random House Trade Paperbacks; Illustrated edition (September 10, 2013)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #75,596 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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I wasn't certain, when I began Robert Kaplan's The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate, just who Kaplan was or if I would have to do intellectual battle throughout this book with a point of view too contrary to my own. The above statement relieved my mind. Here, I suspected, might be someone worth listening to. Here might be someone from whom I can learn.
Throughout Part I, he summarizes and expands upon a group of writers he calls Visionaries, chief among them Halford Makinder.
For Makinder, Kaplan says, geography is
"…an old story…Europe versus Russia: a liberal sea power—as were Athens and Venice—against a reactionary land power—as was Sparta and Prussia. For the sea, in addition to the cosmopolitan influences it bestows by virtue of access to distant harbors, provides the sort of inviolate border security necessary for liberalism and democracy to take root. (The United States is virtually an island nation …)"
He makes clear that Russia, which he considered the heart of Makinder's “World Island,” has suffered since its beginning, from borders that are easily traduced, from a landmass that crosses 170 degrees of longitude (almost halfway around the globe), but lies almost entirely north of the 50th parallel (the northern border of the U.S. lies at 49 degrees north), and that historically has gone to great lengths to procure open ports for trade. The United States, on the other hand, is protected on two sides by large oceans, by treaty with a friendly power on a third, and threatened only by the demographics of population and economics on the fourth. We lie in the largest expanse of temperate zone productivity in the world, rivaled only by China. And we have two seaboards indented with year-round harbor facilities.
And yet we jeered (this is my take, not necessarily Kaplan’s) for decades about Russia’s paranoia and the inability of Russian communism to make a living for its people, much less produce affluence. We have had, from the beginning, the right geography in which liberalism and democracy could take hold. Our history has, however, proven, time and again, Kaplan’s bald statement that "Democracy and morality are simply not synonymous."
Part II goes deeper into the specifics of Europe, Russia, China, India, Iran, and the countries of the former Ottoman Empire.
Speaking of the relatively new fundamentalism in Iran (but I would extend it to the possibilities inherent through the U.S. as well), he posits that in an increasingly urbanized world, the city, which once fostered creativity and innovation impossible back in the village, now accounts for much
"intensified religious feeling. For in the village of old, religion was a natural extension of the daily traditions and routine of life among the extended family; but migrations to the city brought Muslims into the anonymity of slum existence, and to keep the family together and the young from drifting into crime, religion has had to be reinvented in starker, more ideological form."
"Traveling from Saddam’s Iraq to Assad’s Syria, as I did on occasion, was like coming up for liberal humanist air." At this time, Kaplan regards Syria as having a better chance post-Assad than Iraq did post-Saddam because Syria seemed, at the time, to be a "less damaged society".
Published in 2012 (2013 in paperback), Kaplan writes, with almost eerie foreshadowing, "…following Iraq and Afghanistan, the next target of Sunni jihadists could be Syria itself…"
In Part III, America's Destiny, his final argument, vis a vis the U.S., is one I didn't expect. He paraphrases, and then expands favorably upon, Andrew Bacevich's "impolite observation," at a 2009 conference. "What have we achieved in the Middle East with all of our interventions since the 1980's?...Why not fix Mexico instead?"
"...human beings operate under constraints imposed by geography and the vast and varied phenomena that emanate from it: everything from persistent, albeit changeable, national characteristics to the location of trade routes to the life-or-death requirement for natural resources...And while the advance of electronic communications may make the world smaller, rather than negate geography, the Internet and other new media only make geography more precious, more contested, more claustrophobic."
.There are no grand conclusions to The Revenge of Geography. No thrilling climax. No Walking Dead. No Sharknados. But there is a lot of food for thought for long winter evenings, and I recommend it wholeheartedly.
Kaplan's greatest achievement here is his ability to explain the effects of geography on our past, present, and future. In the first of three segments, he provides the historical background to his study, tracing the work of historians and geographers from Herodotus through the twentieth century. In the second section, he analyzes the early twenty first century map,describing the ways in which gogrpahy influences the development of Europe, Russia, China, India, and the Middle East. Finally, the third section examines the fate of the United States and Mexico, two nations inevitably bound together by the map and whose futures will inevitably see us growing more intertwined.
Throughout this meticulously researched work Kaplan provides "local color" through a series of fascinating anecdotes, many of them based on his own travels through the regions under discussion. These enhance what is already an impressive and scholarly account, one that I believe and hope will become essential reading for diplomats and strategists around the world.
Top reviews from other countries
The broad subject is geography, but modern warfare is constantly alluded to. How modern weapons should be designed to succeed in various terrains. What considerations are needed before sending in ground troops? How the geography of the war zone affects plane, tank, ship, troop decisions.
Quite straightforward you would have thought, fighting in the mountains is different from fighting in the dessert, or jungle. But, perhaps if we review closely the strategy of modern Western armed forces, we realise that this book needed to be writen. Have technology rich generals actually forgotten that geography plays a massive part in the 'theatre' of war.
If so, it is a scary thought. Thanks to Kaplan for writing this manual and hopefully it will be force fed to current and future decision makers.
If not, it is a book which is common sense to almost anybody who stayed awake in geography class.
Otro punto negativo a destacar es su excesivo amor a Estados Unidos (su país), ya que el autor entiende que allí dónde éste vive un retroceso de su influencia puede haber amenazas a la estabilidad y la democracia. De hecho en varias partes del libro se expresa con cierto pesimismo sobre el presente y futuro de Estados Unidos, dando casi siempre como resultado (para él) una amenaza para la convivencia.
Otro sesgo claro es su desprecio a América Latina, región que no existe para él y que apenas es nombrada en el libro. De hecho es la zona del planeta en la que menos tiempo repara, dedicándole alguna linea, no más. Ya que hablamos de geografía, podría haber comentado el porqué del gran tamaño de Brasil (Amazonía y Andes impedían al Imperio Español expandirse a través de sus colonias, siendo el Río Amazonas la clave para Portugal); cómo los Incas desarrollaron grandes comunicaciones y terrazas en los Andes o el gran desarollo comercial de los aztecas y mayas...o la cercanía genética de algunas tribus en Chile con otras de Polinesia, algo único en el continente.
Por último, su ignorancia sobre Europa: ¿en serio puede hablarse de posible amenaza para la estabilidad de Europa la unificación alemana y su recuperación económica? creo que hay una variable que el autor apenas comenta pero que modifica todo lo dicho por él en el capitulo dedicado al Viejo Continente y sobre las relaciones Alemania - Europa de Este: La Unión Europea.
Por supuesto hay un elemento que no destaca y que condiciona bastante la importancia de la geografía en sus análisis: la cultura, pero eso ciertamente ameritaría otro libro.
En todo caso, es un libro que se recomienda leer como afición por las relaciones internacionales y mejora del inglés. Ha cosechado muchas críticas positivas en Estados Unidos, aunque creo que precisamente allí por su particular ausencia de conocimientos de Europa y América Latina, así como por su preocupación ante el desarrollo de China y la siempre lenta integración europea.
Otro punto negativo, es el último capitulo, abiertamente xenófobo contra México, al considerar la migración mexicana como uno de los mayores enemigos para la cultura de EUA y su futuro...