The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate

Robert D. Kaplan, Author
Robert D. Kaplan. Random, $28 (432p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6983-5
Reviewed on: 05/28/2012
Release date: 09/11/2012
Paperback - 414 pages - 978-0-8129-8222-0
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Geography is destiny, sort of, according to this overwrought map exercise. Journalist Kaplan (Balkan Ghosts) unearths and updates musty Edwardian treatises on the strategic importance of the Eurasian “Heartland” (roughly, the Soviet empire) and the surrounding “Rimland” of Europe, the Middle East, India, and China. His survey of these regions, strewn with diverting but feckless snippets of history, cultural lore, and economics, yields a “geographical” analysis that’s mainly a jumble of empty rotational metaphors; we learn that North Korea is “the true pivot of East Asia,” that “India is the global pivot state of the 21st century,” that Afghanistan could become “the hub... of Eurasia in general,” and that “the Iranian pivot” is “the Middle East’s very own universal joint.” Disputing blithe world-is-flat neoliberalism, Kaplan’s pitiless “realism” asserts that, as in ages past, geography will spawn territorial conflict, but he has no insights into who will fight where or why, just Malthusian pessimism, banal prognostications—China’s growing navy will rub against America’s and India’s—and vague geostrategic musings. (“Turkey,” he pronounces, “...along with Iran, has the capacity to neutralize the Arab Fertile Crescent.”) The result is an unconvincing reprise of an obsolete worldview. Agent: Carl Brandt, Brandt & Hochman Literary Agency. (Sept.)
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