Academic journal article Military Review

The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us about Coming Conflicts and the Battle against Fate

Academic journal article Military Review

The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us about Coming Conflicts and the Battle against Fate

Article excerpt

THE REVENGE OF GEOGRAPHY: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate

Robert D. Kaplan, Random House, New York, 2012, $27.95, 428 pages

ROBERT KAPLAN'S THE Revenge of Geography is a worthy addition to his body of work. The author is, if nothing else, the contemporary poet laureate of geopolitics. As in his previous books, Kaplan displays a rare ability to capture vivid images in simple but incisive prose and filter them through his sensitive and cultivated mind to offer the reader keen insights into current political and social problems based on his understanding of history, social context, and geography. Kaplan has given intellectual respectability and new life to both travel writing and geopolitics, two genres that have fallen into scholarly disrepute for some time.

In Victorian times, travel writing combined descriptions of landscapes, people, and cultures with philosophical musings, narratives of the adventures of travel, and particularly revealing or colorful incidents. Many authors carried the genre to the level of high art while at the same time making significant contributions to geographical knowledge. The field of geopolitics, which initially gained respectability as a more scientific approach to international politics, failed to secure a stable position in academia because it came to be viewed as reactionary, imperialistic, deterministic, and pseudoscientific.

Kaplan's position on world affairs might be described as that of a nondogmatic realist. His views on currently intractable geopolitical problems are balanced and sober, and they are tied to a realistic assessment of human nature as neither naturally good nor evil. …

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