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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

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  982 ratings  ·  122 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.
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,
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
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
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
Natesh Manikoth
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
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
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
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
Nick Alessandro
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
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
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
"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
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
Bart Thanhauser
An IR academic writes a travelogue.

In this book Kaplan doesn't build arguments, so much as he gives his impressions from travelling and mixes it with history lessons and IR opinions. Kaplan doesn't build a structured argument with multiple points to support his thesis. His writing isn't linear and it isn't the formal journal type of writing I expected to find. It curves a bit, bouncing from thoughts and sights, ranging from subjects as diverse as architecture to naval policy.

At first this made
Very interesting snapshots of the countries around the rim of the Indian Ocean. Appears to be a good job of integrating enough history in each chapter to understand the current situation (I don't know much independently about the area, so I can only say it felt like a good balance). He does have a bit of a habit of describing somewhat drastic situations and then saying: 'but, we shouldn't worry to much about it, there are countervailing factors and it may be okay.'

I was particularly interested i
Luis Arcadio
...nor assume as a matter of fact the decline of America's importance and influence on the world stage. China still has a ways to go before it can fill the moral, military, and economic space that America does today, though that position is visibly, and inevitably, waning. Yet, is China ready to fill the moral void that would ensue if America were suddenly too militarily or economically fatigued to influence, moderate, and bring order where needed? Does China's growing influence and power imply ...more
4/5; probably only Robert D. Kaplan could have done it-- circle the Indian Ocean and use it as the hinge point for an exploration of both history and futurology. will the monsoon ocean be flooded with three Indian flat-tops, 2 Chinese, as well as cruisers from Australia, Japan, South Korea, and the U.S.? Kaplan suggests one vision like this, and although at one point you're sort of wishing he had did the Pico Iyer thing and simply gone to Toronto (where Indian and Chinese immigrant communities m ...more
This book is an entertaining mix of travel book, geography, history, and policy analysis. His books combine depth with an ease of style and a lack of pretension that makes them fun to read. What makes this book especially interesting is the focus on the Indian Ocean, which is an area with which I have less familiarity and also which receives insufficient coverage in Western media. Given the continuing importance of the Middle East, oil, radical Islam, and war, that would justify the book by itse ...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
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 Eastward to Tartary: Travels in the Balkans, the Middle East, and the Caucasus

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