*The Revenge of Geography*

The author is Robert D. Kaplan and the subtitle is What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate.  I thought it was an excellent and also highly readable book, though without agreeing with every claim or the rather relentless method.  Here is one excerpt:

China’s solution has been notably aggressive.  This may be somewhat surprising: for in many circumstances, it can be argued that naval power is more benign than land power.  The limiting factor of navies is that despite all of their precision-guided weapons, they cannot by themselves occupy significant territory, and thus it is said are no menace to liberty.  Navies have multiple purposes beyond fighting, such as the protection of commerce.  Sea power suits those nations intolerant of heavy casualties in fighting on land.  China, which in the twenty-first century will project hard power primarily through its navy, should, therefore, be benevolent in the way of other maritime nations and empires in history, such as Venice, Great Britain, and the United States; that is, it should be concerned mainly with the free movement of trade and the preservation of a peaceful maritime system.  But China has not reached that stage of self-confidence yet.  When it comes to the sea, it still thinks territorially, like an insecure land power, trying to expand in concentric circles in a manner suggested by Spykman.

Here is one of the book’s bottom lines:

There is an arms race going on, and it is occurring in Asia.  This is the world that awaits the United States when it completes its withdrawal from both Iraq and Afghanistan.

That point doesn’t get enough attention.  My favorite parts of the book were those about China, the South China Sea, India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.  The sections on Turkey and the United States were less interesting.  Here is a good critical review of the book.


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