The Barnes & Noble Review
Almost every page of this persuasively argued, intellectually stimulating book by foreign affairs correspondent Robert D. Kaplan has a passage or two that's worth underlining, thinking about, and rereading. Unlike most leadership tomes, which tend to be largely focused on facilitating the acquisition of particular skills, Kaplan's work is suggestive, wide ranging, and deeply rooted in a passionate concern with military as well as economic history. In fact, one of the book's major themes is the impossibility of divorcing our current "modern" dilemmas from the realities that created our past. As Kaplan notes, in a passage critiquing the notion that progress is synonymous with reform, "The more 'modern' we and our technologies become -- the more our lives become mechanized and abstract -- the more our instincts are likely to rebel, and the more cunning and perverse we are likely to become, however subtly." If progress and technological advantages aren't the answers to our contemporary ills, then what remains? Our history -- which, in Kaplan's vision, is both behind and before us, both our origin and, if we don't attend to it, our destination.
After a brief introductory chapter, Kaplan presents a series of chapters that discuss texts critical to our understanding of war and social upheaval. Churchill's The River War, Livy's The War with Hannibal, Sun-tzu's The Art of War, and Thucydides' The Peloponnesian War are considered, along with the writings of Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Kant, among others. The book's broad range may sound daunting to readers who aren't familiar with all of these writings. Don't worry -- Kaplan, a veteran journalist with The Atlantic Monthly and author of Balkan Ghosts, uses situations and themes from these writings to illuminate the current global situation, rather than discussing the primary texts in exhaustive detail; the only hazard here is that Warrior Politics may interest you in going back and reading all the great books you missed in college.
Anyone interested in history, the art of leadership, the political scene, or the future of our increasingly global society will find themselves picking up this provocative book again and again; it's one of the best books available on what Kaplan himself refers to as the twinned human yearning for conflict and community. (Sunil Sharma)
Robert D. Kaplan's Warrior Politics praises the wisdom of previous ages, their historians and political philosophers, and recommends their study to modern statesmen as a basis for making good decisions on the great problems of our day.
New York Times
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Years of reporting from combat zones in Bosnia, Uganda, the Sudan, Sierra Leone, Pakistan, Ethiopia and Eritrea have convinced Kaplan (Balkan Ghosts, The Coming Anarchy) that Thucydides and Sun-Tzu are still right on the money when they wrote that war is not an aberration and that civilization can repress barbarism but cannot eradicate it. Reminding readers that "The greater the disregard of history, the greater the delusions regarding the future," Kaplan conducts a brisk tour through the works of Machiavelli, Malthus and Hobbes, among others, to support his advocacy of foreign policy based on the morality of results rather than good intentions. From those classics, he extracts historical models and rationales for exploiting military might, stealth, cunning and what he dubs "anxious foresight" (which some may regard as pessimism based on disasters past) in order to lead, fight and bring adversaries to their knees should they challenge the prevailing balance of power. He also adapts this model to business, exploring the ways modern-day CEOs can benefit from history's lessons. Kaplan's discussion of the world's breeding grounds for rogue warriors out to disrupt daily life in bizarre new ways will strike a chord with most readers, as will his recounting of the brilliant statesmanship of Churchill and Roosevelt during World War II. Some readers, however, may take exception to the potshots Kaplan aims at (unnamed) media personalities and human rights advocates. This is a provocative, smart and polemical work that will stimulate lively discussion. Agents, Brandt and Brandt. (Jan.) Forecast: Kaplan's credentials, combined with his call for a strong and unambiguous foreign policy, should draw attention. Blurbs from Henry Kissinger and former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry will help. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Aiming to advise foreign policymakers confronting global capitalism in a politically fragmenting world, Balkan Ghosts author Kaplan surveys the literature of leadership from Herodotus to Gen. George Marshall. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Just in time for the post-World Trade Center era, a hardheaded, eerily prescient view of American geopolitics in a dangerous century. Journalist Kaplan (Eastward to Tartary, 2000, etc.) is unapologetically conservative in his diagnosis of what has, since he wrote, turned into the country's foreign-policy nightmare: the rise of media-amplified populism, premature and thus unstable democratic movements around the world, and concentrations of citizens in urban areas and economic power in regimes whose abundant targets are an open invitation to the terrorists and cybercriminals our soldiers have never been trained to fight. Looking as far back as Sun-Tzu and Thucydides for parallels and advice, he urges "power politics in the service of patriotic virtue"-a pragmatic choice of Churchill's "moral priorities" over absolutist idealism and of Machiavelli's "anxious foresight" over Marxist or fundamentalist determinism. The main ingredients of this internationalist realism are an old-fashioned sense of national patriotism, an "evolution from religious virtue to secular self-interest," and an acknowledgment that "international relations are governed by different moral principles than domestic politics." Hence, successful geopolitical strategies may require leaders, insulated from the assaults of a powerful multi-media press whose "moral perfectionism is possible only because it is politically unaccountable," to deceive even their own citizenry, as FDR did in piloting the Lend-Lease Act through a reluctant Congress and easing the nation closer to the Grand Alliance. Calling on such thinkers as Livy, Hobbes, Malthus, Kant, and Isaiah Berlin, Kaplan counsels a selective internationalism that neverforgets that "even the most dire situations can have better and worse outcomes." A timely brave-new-world primer almost impossibly rich in quotable maxims. Even readers who recoil from Kaplan's prescription for global governance based on a new American imperium will find this empowering instant classic essential ammunition for any debate about what to do next. Author tour
Read an Excerpt
There Is No "Modern" World
The evils of the twentieth century arose from populist movements that were monstrously exploited in the name of utopian ideals, and had their power amplified by new technologies. The Nazi party began as a crusade for workers' rights organized by a Munich locksmith, Anton Drexler, in 1919, before Hitler took it over the following year. The Bolsheviks also emerged amid emancipating political upheaval and, like the Nazis, exploited the dream of social renewal. Once the Nazis and Bolsheviks were in power, the inventions of the Industrial Age became crucial to their crimes. As for Mao Zedong, his push for labor-intensive industrialization, through the establishment of utopian communes, led to the deaths of at least 20 million Chinese during the Great Leap Forward from 1958 to 1962.
The twentieth century may be a poor guide to the twenty-first, but only fools would discount it, particularly because populist movements now permeate the world, provoking disorder and demanding political and economic transformation. Asia is a specific cause for concern. India, Pakistan, China, and other emerging powers pulse with new technologies, nationalistic zeal, and disintegrative forces within. Recall the words of Alexander Hamilton:
To look for a continuation of harmony between a number of independent, unconnected sovereignties situated in the same neighborhood would be to disregard the uniform course of human events, and to set at defiance the accumulated experience of ages.
Thus, the evils of the twenty-first century may also arise from populist movements, taking advantage of democratization, motivated this time by religious and sectarian beliefs, and empowered by a post-Industrial Revolution: particularly information technology. Hindu extremists who burned down mosques in India in the early 1990s and attacked Christians in the late 1990s belong to a working-class movement within India's democracy that uses videocassettes and the Internet to spread its message. Similar phenomena have occurred in Indonesia, Iran, Nigeria, Algeria, Mexico, Fiji, Egypt, Pakistan, the West Bank, and Arab Nazareth, to name but a few places where religious and ethnic groups, predominantly working-class and inspired by democratization, use modern communications technology to stir unrest.
Populist rage is fueled by social and economic tensions, aggravated often by population growth and resource scarcity in an increasingly urbanized planet. In the coming decades, 2 or 3 billion more people will live in the vast, impoverished cities of the developing world.
Global capitalism will contribute to this peril, smashing traditions and dynamically spawning new ones. The benefits of cap-italism are not distributed equitably, so the more dynamic the capitalist expansion, the more unequal the distribution of wealth that usually results. Thus, two dynamic classes will emerge under globalization-the entrepreneurial nouveaux riches and, more ominously, the new subproletariat: the billions of working poor, recently arrived from the countryside, inhabiting the expanding squatters' settlements that surround big cities in Africa, Eurasia, and South America.