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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

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  2,267 ratings  ·  199 reviews
On the world maps common in America, the Indian Ocean all but disappears. The Western Hemisphere lies front and center, while the Indian Ocean region is relegated to the edges, split up along the maps’ outer reaches. This convention reveals the geopolitical focus of the now-departed twentieth century, for it was in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters that the great wars of
Hardcover, 323 pages
Published October 19th 2010 by Random House (first published 2010)
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Feb 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Riku Sayuj
Dec 05, 2011 rated it really liked it

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.
Jul 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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,
May 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Tariq Mahmood
A Very engaging political travelogue about a number of countries around the Indian Ocean. I enjoyed the historical references juxtaposed with current issues affecting the various regions covered. The two biggest power players besides America are India and China, while the most modern Islamic country is Indonesia. Both Pakistan and Burma are frontier states which along with Bangladesh have been branded as failed states. The author predicts a gradual take over of the Indian Ocean by China slowly o ...more
Mal Warwick
Apr 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Late in Barack Obama’s first term in the White House, his administration began to execute a foreign policy strategy known as the “pivot to Asia.”

The new policy was tacitly grounded in the realization that the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the long-standing primacy of the Atlantic Alliance, had distracted the country from the new emerging world order. No longer could the United States reflexively command respect as the world’s sole superpower.

The planet’s center of gravity was inexorably m
laurel [the suspected bibliophile]
Eh it was ok. Kaplan's views on imperialism feel dated and simplistic. Too tired to read a longer review.

Fun fact: in the audiobook, the narrator over-pronounces things like quasi (quay-sai).
Nov 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
James Murphy
Jun 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Monsoon is a book about the geography and geopolitics of the Indian Ocean region. It could be described as a travelogue, but Kaplan is deeply interested in the politics of South Asia as well. He travels from west to east, from Yemen to Indonesia, describing the histories, current political climates, and ambitions of the countries ringing this huge region. Kaplan doesn't say so but I think he must be one of those scholars who think the Indian Ocean will become the most important body of water in ...more
Jul 13, 2020 rated it it was ok
Kaplan's "Asian Pivot" doesn't quite pivot far enough.

In an attempt to distance itself from the anti- terror policies in the Middle East of his predecessor, the Obama administration attempted an "Asian pivot" to focus more on the rising strategic threat of China. Kaplan, reading the tea leaves (pun probably intended), offers up Monsoon which tries to make the Indian Ocean and surrounding states the next major strategic focal point.

It doesn't bear out. As with most Kaplan Lonely Plant-meets-For
Vicki NewMath
Aug 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Despite the book being 10 years old, Kaplan nailed it with a lot of predictions and projections.
Apr 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
"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 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 26, 2016 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.
Jul 31, 2018 rated it liked it
The Indian Ocean and her more local adjacent waters are perhaps the world's greatest melting pot of potential issues and opportunities, at least as far as Robert Kaplan is concerned. This thesis, however, is hard to reject given the compelling arguments that fill Monsoon. The Indian Ocean presents the problems of Islamist terror, energy politics, international trade and globalization, climate change, human movement, cultural exchange, piracy, and great power politics within a confined and increa ...more
Sreejith Puthanpurayil
Mar 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An extremely enjoyable book which discusses the history and geopolitics of the regions bordering the Indian Ocean. The book proceeds clockwise, starting from east Africa, then traverses through the subcontinent before finally reaching southeast Asia. It was eye opening to read about the history of globalization and cosmopolitan cultures that existed in these regions through history, connected by seasonally regular monsoon-wind backed trade, now preserved only in architecture and language before ...more
Parth Agrawal
May 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A 5 star book after so many days!! Who would've wondered it would be coming in the form of a book based on geopolitics which, now, has single handedly improved my understanding of why countries are doing what they are doing, which country falls where, what are the important water bodies for a particular nation, self-interests of nations in break up or patch up of their neighboring states. iF you are interested in these kinda stuff, not only I would love to have a lovely conversation with you but ...more
Aug 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Matt Ely
I define a two-star book as one that involved consistent eye rolling, consistent skimming or temptation to skim, and a weak sense of purpose while, at the same time, having some amount of compelling or intriguing material.

This is a selective travel book around an enormous population without much of a premise. You'd think this would have more to do with, you know, the future of American power. But that's addressed haphazardly, if at all, throughout the text. He spends the last few paragraphs of
Mar 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
May 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
While I appreciated the introduction to unknown histories of the countries discussed, the writing style was distracting. Kaplan often tried to introduce expert opinion and locals to prove his points but instead complicated the storyline and added unnecessary details. He also had a habit for run on sentences and contradicting conclusions. His best chapters were about broad policies in relation to the US Navy's future in the Indian Ocean region but his inexperience with certain countries was obvio ...more
Sep 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book is misnamed. It is not a book about the Indian Ocean or the future of American power. It is a travelogue and human geographical study. This was one of the very few books I didn't bother to finish. I kept it on my Currently Reading shelf for months, occasionally trying to force myself to finish it, but finally gave up. If you want to read a series of studies of places in the Middle East and South Asia, then you may find the book more interesting. I got tired of it even after adjusting m ...more
Apr 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.
Bongo Topi
Nov 20, 2015 rated it did not like it
Horribly and pitifully Amero-centric. Written in total oblivion to pre-existing Indian Ocean scholarship. Broad statements pronounced as fiats. Assumes total lack of African agency and involvement in the evolution, history and life of the Western Indian Ocean. Must assume this caused by ignorance rather than blinkered prejudice. The kind of narrative that generates further ignorance. A shame.
Blaine DeSantis
Very interesting travelogue and political commentary about the Indian Ocean countries. Very deep and not a simple read. Each chapter explores a different country in that region. Is a bit dated since things happen quickly, but nonetheless a very informative read. I particularly love the analysis that "Everyone is Oman" great read on some countries we know little about.
Jennifer Aupke
Jul 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Mar 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
George Siehl
Robert D. Kaplan here employs his observational skills to the Indian Ocean region and assesses how trends there are likely to affect the United States. His primary emphasis is on maritime issues, particularly the changing strength assessments of the navies of India, China, and the United States He believes that America's dominance in that region has peaked. China continues to grow its fleet with the objective of having a blue water navy with power in both the Pacific and Indian oceans. The U. S. ...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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