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Surrender or Starve: Travels in Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, and Eritrea

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  270 ratings  ·  34 reviews
Robert D. Kaplan is one of our leading international journalists, someone who can explain the most complicated and volatile regions and show why they’re relevant to our world. In Surrender or Starve, Kaplan illuminates the fault lines in the Horn of Africa, which is emerging as a crucial region for America’s ongoing war on terrorism.

Reporting from Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia
Paperback, 240 pages
Published November 11th 2003 by Vintage (first published 1988)
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Community Reviews

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Sean Mccarrey
My big issue with this book was the blatant bias Kaplan shows towards the Reagan administrations and colonialism. Despite the obvious flaws in both, Reagan's inability to operate in any diplomatic form on the international stage, and the ills of colonialism, such as murder, systematic destruction, segregation, etc. Kaplan chooses to look past these things. In Eritrea Kaplan makes quite the hooplah over how Italians civilized the Eritreans and how grateful they are for it. Perhaps, Kaplan should ...more
Although Kaplan comes across as biased in some sections of the text (his description of the Amharas in Ethiopia as basically an inherently misanthropist race comes to mind as one example), the book is an excellent introduction to the politics of the Horn of Africa (and how the related to the rest of the world) during the 1980s.

Kaplan casts blame for the famine on all of the appropriate sources - from the corrupt African government officials caught up in war, to the naivete and misguided, yet lof
Anne-Marie Hodge
I picked this up expecting it to be a Theroux-esque travel book, but it is definitely not. It is, however, an eye-opening account of the political machinations that facilitated, and sometimes even created, the Ethiopian and Sudanese famines that the media largely attributed to drought in the late 70s and 80s. I love books that teach me "how much I didn't know I didn't know" about something, and this one definitely counts. Ethiopia is an incredibly fascinating place -- the only African country ne ...more
I love books that throw cold water in my face and change my perspective on an issue. Robert D. Kaplan, one of our great international journalists, verbally flays the news media and the Carter Administration in his expose of the Horn of Africa tragedy in the 1970/80's. The media reported the famine like it was a natural disaster--similar to the Japanese tsunami. In fact, as Kaplan reports, it was a political famine and the media was derelict by not making an effort to explain this to the western ...more
Patrick McCoy
When I bought the book on Rwanda, it was from a book display with books about Africa, I also picked up Surrender Or Starve by Robert D. Kaplan, since I was a fan of his writing for Atlantic Monthly and his other books (The Coming Anarchy, The Ends of the Earth, and Balkan Ghosts). His journalism reads like a travelogue with interesting asides about the history and culture of the region supplemented by political analysis. I find his writing extremely informative. This book is no exception. He set ...more
As someone who has been a fan of Kaplan's work for sometime, it was a pleasure to finally read his first book, and a decent entry into the literary world it is.
Concerning mainly Ethiopia, and what would later become the separate country of Eritrea, we are given essentially a journey through history, as Kaplan recounts the long history of divisions in what was then Ethiopia, reaching back to Italian colonial intervention, up to the present, with the Soviet sponsored Dergue government.
What is reve
Shiva Subramanyam
This is heavily biased book. Seems more like a cold war propaganda. Except some basic info on issues between ethiopia and eritrea, writes acts as a spokesperson for Regan administration. People who are interested in neutral reporting, please avoid this book.
The title of this book is very deceiving....Travels in Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea....OK so "Discussions of current affairs in Ethiopia, Sudan, Somlaia and Eritrea" probably would not grab too many eager readers but that in a nutshell was what this book was about. I for some reason was thinking it was a kind of travel book but I should have known what it would have been about since Robert Kaplan wrote it. Don't get me wrong I really found the book to quite interesting. I am not very fam ...more
Although a bit dated, ok really dated, this is an interesting read about Ethiopia's famine(s) in the 80s and the civil war. Kaplan crosses the Ethiopian, Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia borders to highlight why the famine was happening and the ill conceived politics behind it. He does a good job of highlighting why the US policy in Ethiopia in the 80s didn't work. There are points that he makes, like how the US was giving weapons to Afghans but not to Ethiopians or Eritreans, that now seem crazy.
This book was a useful history lesson, but the writing was relatively dry and I'm not sure the author has proven to be a credible journalist or writer. An interesting and informative critique of much of Kaplan's work can be found here: The Case Against Kaplan. Overall, I agree with the author of the linked article -- this isn't a bad book, but it isn't a great book either.
Kaplan's always a good read. This is one of his first books, dealing with the 1980's famine and the original Eritrean war. He seems to have been a bit more conservative politically than he later became, and there are a lot of annoying digs at "humanitarianism." Still, his writing is excellent, as always, and he always manages to incorporate more points of view than most people calling themselves journalists. I learned a lot from a pretty short book.
Theresa Leone Davidson
This was written a while ago, in 1988, and although it has new comments at the beginning and end by the author, journalist Robert Kaplan, it is still a bit dated, with a lot more misery having been inflicted on these countries since. On the other hand, what it does tell about the crippling famine, regional conflicts and general strife in these countries is incredibly sad, very well written, and worth the time and emotional investment.
I wouldn't recommend this to my worst enemy. STAY AWAY FROM THIS BOOK IF YOU CARE AT ALL ABOUT THE PEOPLE OF THE HORN OF AFRICA. On the other hand, if your a casual western reader wanting to learn about far away peoples whom you will probably never encounter... knock yourself out. You probably won't care enough and will gladly overlook the offensiveness of Kaplan's portrayal of the people and leaders of this region.
This book was an incredibly valuable snapshot of the on-the-ground realities and political intricacies of the Horn of Africa in the 1980's. However, if I hadn't read What is the What and wasn't moving to Ethiopia in August, I might not have been able to read it all cover to cover because it's so heavily laden in comments on the Soviets and Ronald Reagan that aren't affecting the region two decades later.
Not at all what I was anticipating. Instead of a first hand travelogue, this was much more an analysis of the political and historical climate surrounding the famine of the mid 80's. Unforgiving to both the US and African nations governments, this reporter paints a grim picture of the causes of famine and the results of relief efforts.
Aaron Crossen
Straight-up journalism from Kaplan this time around, with a side of pontification, as always. From the field, Kaplan explains the politics behind the famine that plagued Somalia in the late 80s. The foundations of his discomforting, overridding anarchy thesis are to be found here. His most focused work, and highly recommended...
I have my issues with Kaplan and his odd arguments and conclusions (he cites Alan Keyes as a voice of Black American in one passage), nevertheless, his descriptive writing is at its best here and this is one of only three major books about the region and time and political/security situation it describes – it’s basically a must read.
Although I usually enjoy Kaplan, he wore me out with this one. He digresses from his forte of providing, in one book, sanpshots of history, travel, and analysis from diverse places. Instead, this book covers the history and analysis of just one (okay, 2) countries across a long timeline. The result is tedious.
This was brilliant. A really interesting insight into the Horn of Africa during the 80's and 90's when the worlds perspective on Ethiopia and surrounding countries was set by World Vision ads of starving children. What really happened? What still happens? Check this book out for sure!
Roman Ginzburg
Author tells a very pro-Eritrea story concerning the last forty years in the horn of Africa. To confess, I read about 2/3rds of the book skipping around after the first half because I felt the book became a bit repetitive.
Wow- I knew nothing of East African politics and famine issues. Though not as well written and enjoyable to read, it taught me alot about America and Russian politcs in Ethiopia and Eritrea and other East African states.
David Smith
Words don't come easy on this one. There's a lot of Robert Kaplan in the book, and, while refreshing to know what the author thinks, I need time to digest, and wouldn't mind talking to others about it.
Jul 11, 2009 Renata marked it as to-read
Shelves: abandonded
I never really got into this book and then Keane told me it was a "major colonial apologist work" and then I got some new books and anyway, I guess I'm breaking up with this book. THE END.
Politically, this is a timely book that we ought to read.

In a similar vein, at my age I probably should get a colonoscopy.

...but I'm not likely to do either this weekend.
i quit. i'm 75 pages in and i have no idea what is going on. this could have potentially been an important book, but it came out as drivel. do not recommend.
Although written several years ago, and much has since changed in the region, this book still offers insights into current events in the Horn of Africa.
Politics. Politics. and that Robert Kaplan is mainly speaking from the perspective of refugees, rebels, and other citizens treated negatively in Ethiopia.
After the first chapter, I seriously thought about not finishing this book, but I'm glad I kept reading.
A history of strife and struggle in Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, and Eritrea
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Robert David Kaplan is an American journalist, currently a National Correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly. His writings have also been featured in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The New Republic, The National Interest, Foreign Affairs and The Wall Street Journal, among other newspapers and publications, and his more controversial essays about the nature of U.S. power have spurred debate ...more
More about Robert D. Kaplan...
Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate The Ends of the Earth: A Journey to the Frontiers of Anarchy Imperial Grunts: On the Ground with the American Military, from Mongolia to the Philippines to Iraq and Beyond Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power

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