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Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power
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Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power

3.93  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,393 Ratings  ·  148 Reviews

On the world maps common in America, the Western Hemisphere lies front and center, while the Indian Ocean region all but disappears. This convention reveals the geopolitical focus of the now-departed twentieth century, but in the twenty-first century that focus will fundamentally change. In this pivotal examination of the countries known as “Monsoon Asia”—which include Ind

Kindle Edition, 384 pages
Published (first published 2010)
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Riku Sayuj

Again, the high rating is for the scholarship and the presentation, not for the views or the conclusions. Full review might follow, but my essential view on Kaplan's world vision can be found here.
Feb 18, 2011 Tripp rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Robert Kaplan is the anti-Thomas Friedman. Where Friedman bounces around the globe looking at globalization and spins visions of future wonder, Kaplan ambles down dark streets seeing the worst of globalization. Both are travel writers with a strong interest in international affairs of course.

Kaplan is a far better travel writer than Friedman. You really get a feel for the vistas he takes in from his perches. His descriptions are wonderful, even if they are of tragic places and times. The book i
This in intended to be a slightly more useful review than my first pass (below).

Kaplan presents a survey of the Indian Ocean littoral – from Oman to Zanzibar - moving clockwise about the Sea in conscious imitation of the ancient periplous ( , which were descriptions of the Mediterranean, originally as seen from the side of a ship, moving clockwise around the Sea from the Straits of Gibraltar and back round again). Kaplan focuses on the geographical aspects,
Apr 15, 2012 Bridget rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
Another thorough and thought-provoking book from Kaplan. Monsoon had a very personal feel for me. Although it is only very peripherally about the UAE, it is also somehow ALL about the UAE. The nations of the Indian Ocean (Oman, Pakistan, Iran, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, and to a lesser extent, Burma) are all heavily present in the population of the UAE. They run this place. Ever since we moved here, I've thought that the UAE represented a kind of future where national bou ...more
May 28, 2012 Max rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Most of the political economy books are very boring. 300 pages to prove a point that can be explained in 5 pages are the standard. I remember F.Zakaria's 'The Post-American World' was so boring I had to put it away after 50 pages. Hence, I took a gamble by picking up Monsoon, and it proved to be the black swan: 300 pages of entertaining and informative study of the geo-political situation in countries surrouding the Indian ocean.
This book is a study that takes the reader on a journey through a t
Apr 27, 2011 Liam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Believing themselves a chosen people destined to be the sword of the faith, the Portuguese show us a religious nationalism as doughty and often extreme as any in history. Portugal's spectacular and sweeping conquest of the Indian Ocean littoral falls into a category similar to that of the Arab conquest of North Africa nine centuries earlier." (57)

"Empires arise and fall. Only their ideas can remain, adapted to the needs of the people they once ruled. The Portuguese brought few ideas save for th
Natesh Manikoth
Dec 12, 2012 Natesh Manikoth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lot of good reviews of the book here. My (short) 2c. The actions by the Obama administration in the years since the book was written seems to be have been clearly influenced by folks with sentiments similar to the author. That is a good thing.

One question goes begging - the author makes a great case for how the history of the Indian Ocean is one of trade and its consequences. But rarely is the potential role of the American corporations mentioned in this mix. Clearly globalization is not purely
Mar 15, 2016 Bou rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: geography
A travel of discovery around the nations along the Indian Ocean and the growing importance of this area in the future. It basically reads as a National Geographic article.
Apr 21, 2011 Jon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-read-2011
What started off slow with me, gained in momentum. By the end of this book, I really enjoyed myself and appreciated that the author covered such a vast scope of landmass and provided such visual history. Essentially in the author's view the ocean of importance in the 21st century and on onward will be the Indian Ocean from East Africa to Indonesia. His analysis is very erudite all the while lucid and thankfully not over the top scholarly. He provides the reader a virtual and very descriptive his ...more
Jan 12, 2013 Krishna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kaplan's book is a well-informed and entertaining exposition on the rising importance of the Indian Ocean region in global politics due to a confluence of factors: the continuing reliance on Middle East oil, the presence of internationally active terrorist groups in a broad swathe of the region ranging from Yeman, Afghanistan, and Pakistan to Indonesia and the Philippines, and the rise of China and India, and their competition for resources and influence in Africa and the Indian Ocean littoral. ...more
Mar 20, 2011 Barrett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
With a couple of his earlier books, I really enjoyed Robert Kaplan's mix of travelogue and political commentary. Unfortunately, that mix is a lot less present in Monsoon, with a few chapters feeling like they were taken straight from the lecture podium, possessing an overly academic air. The personal travel experiences he does reference in this book feel slight and more sheltered than his previous forays. This book also feels significantly more driven by a partisan political agenda than other ef ...more
Jul 27, 2012 Adrian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For anyone familiar with Robert D Kaplan's previous writings on the Indian Ocean in Foreign Affairs, or the changing nature of geopolitics, one would at first assume that this was merely an expansion of the aforementioned subjects. However, Kaplan's Monsoon is much more than such an impersonal academic treatise, it is both a journey through the history and the present of the Indian Ocean countries.
The central premise of Monsoon is that the Indian Ocean, rather than the Pacific and Atlantic, will
Nick Alessandro
Jul 28, 2014 Nick Alessandro rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Monsoon (noun) \män - sün; män-.\

1) a seasonal change in the direction of the prevailing, or strongest, winds of a region

Monsoon winds can be very powerful and deadly, but are very predictable. It is their predictability that has helped the Indian Ocean and the surrounding countries become pivotal in history. These winds are so predictable, in fact, that sailing merchants were able to gauge when the perfect opportunity arrived to ride the winds and cover as much distance as possible.

The impor
Dec 29, 2015 E rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Robert Kaplan strikes again. He travels clockwise around the Indian Ocean basin: Oman, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Calcutta, Bangladesh, Burma, Indonesia, Zanzibar. This book draws fewer geopolitical lines and makes fewer predictions than the one on the South China Sea. It focuses more on the history and economy of the various sites he visits (although not neglecting geography, by any means). China is the constant specter in the background, although Kaplan is optimistic that the need for coopera ...more
An excellent travelogue/geopolitical book looking forward. Some of the analysis is a little light but this is a very useful primer for a deeper investigation of the Indian Ocean region and the competing interests at work there. Ultimately, a hopeful/realistic analysis of the future...without ever descending into the sophomoric or saccharine...nor the blithely cynical.

Highly recommended.
Joe Chernicoff
May 09, 2011 Joe Chernicoff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of a series of books which anyone (and that should include all of us) interested in current geopolitics should read. I include Fareed Zakaria's 'The Post American World' and Michael B. Oren's 'Power, Faith, and Fantasy' in that grouping. One point - anyone person who never enjoyed reading history will surley be awakened to the value of such reading, once reading these books.
Sep 03, 2014 Trav rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ir
This book is part travelogue, part biography and part geopolitical treatise, and totally enjoyable.

Kaplan does an excellent job of raising awareness of the growing importance of the Indian Ocean and its rimlands to modern geostrategic considerations. The key strength of the book is the style with which it is written. Kaplan draws the reader in through the personal nature of the journey he takes around the Indian Ocean. Providing vivid descriptions of Oman, India, Pakistan, Indonesia and Zanziba
Jennifer Aupke
Jul 29, 2012 Jennifer Aupke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A thorough analysis of the cultural histories of the regions from Oman to Burma; the battles in the region, the economic competition and how it applies to the US and other modern powers.
Avinash Pai
Apr 10, 2014 Avinash Pai rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
While I don't necessarily agree with all points of view of the author, I must say that this book is intelligently written and very interesting. Some chapters were unputdownable. This book takes the reader on a tour of the Indian ocean with a mix of history and politics. It look at how the region is so important now with the rise of China and India, presence of the US and the strategic outlook and interests of the countries in the region to China, US and India. For an almost scholarly treatise, t ...more
Apr 29, 2013 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had never thought of the Indian Ocean as a unifying geographic location, but this book makes a good case for it historically and in the future. Very interesting.
Booth Babcock
Nov 30, 2014 Booth Babcock rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was a huge fan of Kaplan's "travel writing" in the 90s, especially his early books "Ends of the Earth", "Balkan Ghosts" and "Eastward to Tartary." I really appreciated his combination of travel writing with serious history and always, an effort to seed current events in their historical and geographic context. We have drifted apart the last few years, so I'm happy to see him return to this writing style, in this case with a detailed account of the history of culture clash in the Indian Ocean, ...more
Allen Hill
May 09, 2015 Allen Hill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: geopolitics
This is a very interesting survey of select countries, economies, trade relationships, and politics around the Indian Ocean. The writing is fresh, enlivened with first-hand accounts of people and places. The author has three threads: the development of the countries around the Indian ocean, the importance of the ocean and those countries to world trade, and China's efforts in this vast area. The author frequently provides brief historical reviews, sometimes of recent history or of more distant h ...more
Kaushik Iyer
Jan 02, 2016 Kaushik Iyer rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2015
One of the best surveys of the Indian Ocean and the countries that will shape its future. In the running for the best non-fiction book I've read this year.
Diluted in rating slightly because it shows its age, Monsoon was published in late 2010 and shows its age in its discussion of areas like Indian politics (for example, Kaplan makes much of the BJP defeat in 2009, and argues that this is a reason to celebrate India's democracy with respect to Modi's rise. The argument falls pretty flat given th
Dec 29, 2014 Matthew rated it it was amazing
The most illuminating, well written and impactful book on international relations I have read since Samuel Huntington's Clash of Civilizations. Kaplan delves into the history of the littoral countries of the Indian Ocean, detailing the regions history of vibrant trade, violent conflict and imperial designs. In short, Kaplan theorizes that as American hegemony experiences slow, relative decline, the Indian Ocean will cease to be a region stabilized by a single power and instead will be host to a ...more
Daniel Carr
Feb 14, 2014 Daniel Carr rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Daniel by: Ash Bronsan
This book came to me via a friend with an interest in International Relations, and I originally thought I wouldn't find much interest in its contents. How wrong I was! For a non-IR junkie like me, this book was a great read. It canvasses a lot of strategic and macro trends in the Indian Ocean (East Africa, Arab Peninsula, India, Pakistan, SE Asia and China) with a blended form of travel journalism, academic research, field interviews (that the author was arrested while researching this book is t ...more
Mike Barker
Nov 26, 2013 Mike Barker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
I probably did myself and the book a disservice: I read it little bit by little bit while on the treadmill at the gym. On the other hand, when I was reading, it was very focused. But there were times I felt I was missing the large sweep of the book. Of the few books by Kaplan that I have read, this one seemed most intent on proving a political point. In the others, I enjoyed getting to know people and places; the same was true in the present book. But things seemed to move with more purpose towa ...more
Jul 07, 2011 Arjun rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting. The perspective here starts with the way we in the western world view maps - in almost all of them the Indian Ocean is lost to the edges, the result of our own bias for the Atlantic (for obvious reasons). Our attention has shifted much to the Pacific now (again, for obvious reasons). But the author makes a compelling case for the centrality of the Indian Ocean in the future, to the countries that border it (again, obviously) but also for the western world and America in particular. ...more
Nov 18, 2012 Thomas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I finally read this book after quite a while wanting to and never getting around it. I'm glad I did, but it wasn't quite the work of genius that I thought it would be.

As far as I can tell, Kaplan is a fairly balanced moderate, politically speaking, when it comes to world affairs. More importantly, Kaplan seems to have traveled extensively around the area and many of his country portraits are utterly fascinating.

However, the book's weakness is that sort of starts with an argument, the
Stoyan Stoyanov
Robert Kaplan has done it again. I find most of his books really informative, not simply because he travels to out of the way places (that I would love to visit myself) that are often out of the spotlight and not much in the news, but because he can shift effortlessly among his roles of master historian, grand theoretician and visionary, prophet, tourist, people watcher... I am sure I missed some.

The premise here is that the Indian Ocean has the potential to become the most important part of the
Dan Kramer
Kaplan surveys the countries of the Indian littoral and the effect that some of the changes in the power structures of the last 5 decades (and even further back in some cases) are influencing this extremely important region of the world. From religious and cultural differences of the countries to the effects that the end of the Cold War and now the end of American unipolar status to the rise of China, Kaplan discusses the context of the change that is ongoing in the broad arc of the Indian Ocean ...more
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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
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