…a curious and compelling volume, part travelogue, part potted history, part journalism and part strategic analysis. It's a book that convinces the reader that what Kaplan calls Monsoon Asia is a profoundly interesting and complicated part of the world…Kaplan tells a good storyor rather, a series of good (if not always connected) stories.
The Washington Post
Kaplan (Balkan Ghosts), correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly, inculcates a paradigm shift when he suggests that the site of 21st-century geopolitical significance will be the Indian Ocean, not the northern Atlantic. The major powers of the future--India and China--fringe the ocean along with a host of other players--"the emerging and volatile democracies of East Africa," Indonesia, Oman, "anarchic" Somalia, placid Singapore, and Burma. These sea trade routes have historically borne commerce, colonialism, and faith, and Kaplan examines the nexuses of power, goods, and ideologies making their way across those waters today. Even if the writing on culture--especially India's--can devolve into cliché, the book's political and economic focus and forecasts are smart and brim with aperçus on the intersection of power, politics, and resource consumption (especially water), and give full weight to the impact of colonialism. An ambitious and prescient study equally at ease analyzing the work of the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore, the finer points of the Indian state of Gujarat's flirtation with fascism, and the economic impact of the Asian tsunami on Indonesia. (Oct.)
"The book's political and economic focus and forecasts are smart and brim with aperçus on the intersection of power, politics, and resource consumption (especially water), and give full weight to the impact of colonialism." Publishers Weekly Starred Review
The Indian Ocean has been a major commercial trading area for many centuries. Kaplan (Imperial Grunts: On the Ground with the American Military, from Mongolia to the Philippines to Iraq and Beyond) asserts that it is the most important such commercial area, carrying half the world's container shipments and even more oil trade. The littoral states on the southern edge of Eurasia are vital to U.S. interests because of the two current U.S. wars, the oil reserves there, and the large Muslim populations. Rising powers China and India rely on it for their trade. Kaplan takes readers on a tour of the region, including East Africa, Oman, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Burma, and Indonesia, explaining in each case the state's historical reliance on the Indian Ocean and relationships with neighboring states as well as its importance to vital U.S. interests. VERDICT The result is a rich portrait of geopolitical complexity—it is not policy prescriptive but emphasizes that the players in the region deserve increased attention from Western policymakers. Many pundits and sources can seem overly simplistic and bellicose in their foreign policy recommendations. This more nuanced discussion will appeal to thoughtful readers of current events and international affairs.—Marcia L. Sprules, Council on Foreign Relations Lib., New York