Original Proposal by June Taylor (aka UtahOwl)

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"Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power" by Robert Kaplan is available from your local library or from Amazon.com for $16.17 + shipping.

Robert Kaplan is a correspondent for Atlantic Monthly. His articles have also appeared in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New Republic and Foreign Affairs. In 2009, U.S. Defense Secretary Gates appointed Kaplan to his Defense Policy Board. This is his 13th book (obviously he is not superstitious).
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Original Proposal by June Taylor (aka UtahOwl)

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“Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power”
by UtahOwl » Sat Nov 20, 2010 10:53 pm
by Robert Kaplan.

Kaplan describes the Indian Ocean as containing the full "arc of Islam", as the religion was spread by merchants along sea routes. This is a welcome change from viewing Islam as an extremist desert ideology.

As reviewed by Andrew J. Nathan on foreignaffairs.comhttp://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/66985/r ... ican-power
Kaplan takes the reader on a tour around the rim of the Indian Ocean, from Muscat to Malacca, discoursing on history, geography, and strategy. Just as the Indian Ocean, with its two huge bays (the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal) and reliable monsoon winds historically forged economic and cultural links across huge distances, so today the rise of India and China intensifies interactions across a vast region that has been neglected in U.S. strategy. China’s search for energy security has led it to invest in ports and pipelines in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar (also known as Burma), while India seeks influence from Africa to the South China Sea. Pakistan is a mess, and radical Islam is a response to rapid change in many places. But Kaplan’s expectations are surprisingly upbeat. Asian investment may develop Africa, ethnic conflicts in Sri Lanka and Myanmar may soften as democracy takes hold, Indonesian democracy is strong, China and India will compete more with soft than with hard power since territorial expansion is an option for neither, and the U.S. Navy can engineer an “elegant decline” from hegemony by fostering cooperation with other navies to protect the maritime commons. The more China and India rise, the more welcome U.S. power will be in the region as a counterbalance to both.

The foregoing were the entire comments of Nathan/Foreign Affairs.

The NYTimes Book Review is at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/21/books ... oks&src=me


New York Times Book Review of Monsoon
by johnkarls » Sun Nov 21, 2010 12:07 pm
NY Times Book Review – Published Fri 19 Nov 2010

The New Great Game -- a book review of Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power by Robert D. Kaplan (published 10/19/2010 by Random House – available from Amazon.com for $17.72 + shipping)

Book Review by AARON L. FRIEDBERG, professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton. Friedberg’s new book, “A Contest for Supremacy: China, America and the Struggle for Mastery in Asia,” will be published next year.

[Reading Liberally Editorial Note = Friedberg never identifies Kaplan except to say that Monsoon is his 13th book. Kaplan is a correspondent for Atlantic Monthly. His articles have also appeared in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New Republic and Foreign Affairs. In 2009, U.S. Defense Secretary Gates appointed Kaplan to his Defense Policy Board.]

Maps often reveal more about those who draw them than they do about the reality they purport to represent. The Mercator projections that typically hang on the walls of classrooms and Pentagon offices place the United States in the middle, separated from Europe to the east by the Atlantic Ocean and from Asia to the west by the vast expanse of the Pacific. Our preference for this perspective no doubt reflects a certain national egocentrism, but for the better part of the last two centuries it has also made a good deal of strategic sense.

Through much of the 19th century these oceanic moats made possible what the historian C. Vann Woodward called an era of “free security.” As it grew stronger and stepped onto the world stage, the United States projected its power primarily toward Europe and East Asia. Over the course of the 20th century, Americans waged wars, hot and cold, to prevent these vital regions from falling under the dominion of hostile forces.

Whatever purpose they may once have served, yesterday’s maps have now outlived their usefulness. Since the end of the cold war, and with increased speed and intensity since 9/11, our focus has shifted toward the Middle East, and South and Southeast Asia, as well as toward the waters of the western Pacific. In “Monsoon,” Robert D. Kaplan argues that we need fresh ways of seeing the world, and especially these parts of it that, despite being split in two by the old projections, are actually integral elements in a single coherent whole.

Kaplan’s goal is to provide his countrymen with just such a map, one centered on what he calls “the Greater Indian Ocean.” This is a region that stretches “eastward from the Horn of Africa past the Arabian Peninsula, the Iranian plateau and the Indian subcontinent, all the way to the Indonesian archipelago and beyond.” Thanks to monsoon winds that shift direction at regular six-month intervals the waters connecting these far-flung shores have long been readily navigable, even by relatively primitive sailing vessels. Linked first by Muslim merchants, the Greater Indian Ocean was later dominated by Portugal, then by the British and most recently by the United States.

Although it became something of a strategic backwater during the cold war, this maritime domain is emerging as the global system’s center of gravity. Through it pass huge tankers carrying a large fraction of the world’s energy. At its western end, from Somalia to the monarchies of the Persian Gulf to Iran and Pakistan along the shores of the Arabian Sea, lie the main sources of Islamist extremism. Most important of all, it is in the Indian Ocean that the interests and influence of India, China and the United States are beginning to overlap and intersect. It is here, Kaplan says, that the 21st century’s “global power dynamics will be revealed.”

“Monsoon” is Kaplan’s 13th book, and like much of his earlier work, it contains a special blend of first-person travel writing, brief historical sketches and wide-ranging strategic analysis. Proceeding clockwise from Oman at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, Kaplan comes ashore at various points along the coasts of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar (formerly Burma) and Indonesia before completing his journey in Zanzibar off the shores of East Africa. At each point along the way he finds varying mixtures of economic dynamism, cultural diversity, ethnic tension, ecological strain and political turmoil. He is most optimistic about those places (like India and Indonesia) that combine democratic institutions with decentralized administrative structures and cultures of tolerance. Those (like Pakistan and Myanmar) where authoritarian regimes seek to impose order on diverse populations will remain dangerously prone to radicalization, instability, violence and the possibility of internal collapse, external meddling or both. Some (like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka) could go either way.

Kaplan is at his best when he describes the “new Great Game” that is now unfolding across the Indian Ocean. As he correctly notes, it is China that is primarily responsible for setting this game in motion. Since the turn of this century, that country’s explosive economic growth has propelled it outward in search of markets, materials and, above all, energy. Thirsty for oil, Chinese tankers now ply the waters from the western Pacific, down through the narrow Strait of Malacca off Indonesia, across the Indian Ocean to the Persian Gulf.

In a world governed solely by the laws of supply and demand, China’s increasing engagement in global energy markets would pose no serious problems. But there are other forces at work. Despite their smiles and professions of good will, China’s leaders believe that the United States is threatened by their country’s rise and ultimately seeks to thwart it. Given the fact that the United States Navy dominates the world’s oceans, a growing dependence on seaborne energy imports represents a potentially deadly vulnerability in Chinese eyes.

Beijing has responded in two ways: first by beginning to build up its own naval power, and second by seeking alternative supply routes that are less susceptible to interdiction by the United States or other hostile powers. Included among these are overland pipelines to contiguous energy sources in Central Asia and a variety of ambitious engineering projects (including a new port at Gwadar in Pakistan, other ports and pipelines in Myanmar, and a possible canal across the isthmus of Thailand) that could shorten the route from Persian Gulf suppliers to Chinese consumers.

The pursuit of energy, Kaplan explains, has thus caused China to become much more active and visible in an area that a fast-growing India regards as its own backyard. In response, despite continuing worries over internal stability and the perpetual problem of a hostile Pakistan, Indian planners have begun to broaden their strategic horizons. New Delhi now seeks to compete with Beijing for influence in Myanmar and to counter its initiatives around the Bay of Bengal by strengthening ties with Vietnam and Indonesia in the South China Sea. A bigger navy will give India the means with which to defend its own expanding energy imports and perhaps to exert leverage in a future confrontation by threatening China’s. Finally, over the past decade, India has entered into a quasi-alliance relationship with the United States.

Kaplan holds open the possibility that nascent great-power rivalry will lead to ever closer cooperation. Perhaps, as the two Asian giants grow stronger, and with America “in elegant decline,” the era of United States naval dominance in the Greater Indian Ocean will give way to “an American-Indian-Chinese condominium of sorts.” Pursuing their shared interests in peaceful trade and development, the three nations could collaborate to oppose piracy, preserve freedom of navigation and respond to natural disasters.

Perhaps. What seems more plausible at this point is that the competitive impulses Kaplan so accurately assesses will grow stronger. If that is what happens, then the United States and India are very likely to find themselves working harder and more closely in the years ahead to balance China’s growing power.


Remarks About Islam by Utah Owl
by johnkarls » Sun Nov 21, 2010 12:50 pm
I am puzzled by the second sentence in June Taylor's proposal = "Kaplan describes the Indian Ocean as containing the full 'arc of Islam', as the religion was spread by merchants along sea routes. This is a welcome change from viewing Islam as an extremist desert ideology."

Yes, I am also weary of so many of our recent meetings focusing on foreign policy in general, and radical Islam in particular. [It's not my fault since only other attendees vote each month for the topic/focus of the following month's meeting and I only vote in case of a tie which is virtually never.]

However, I don't understand why Kaplan's book about India would have much to do with Islam -- unless he is focusing on India's viewpoint of having two Islamic states on its borders. It should be noted that:

(1) Although India likes to claim that it is one of the largest Islamic states in the world in terms of total Islamic population (which is a small fraction of India's total population, most of which is Hindu), India's Islamic population is almost solely located in the portion of Kashmir that India controls. And India's control over that portion of Kashmir has been one of the largest threats to world peace since India achieved independence from Britain in 1947.

(2) Although Islamic Pakistan and Hindu India have been locked in this deadly struggle over Islamic Kashmir ever since the Brits partitioned India, before independence, into Islamic Pakistan and Hindu India, the dispute was caused by the Brit's arbitrary split of Islamic Kashmir by including part of it in Islamic Pakistan and part of it, incredibly, in Hindu India. [Though why is this surprising in view of the British Empire's worldwide record of almost always ignoring ethnicity and religion in drawing colonial borders!!!]

(3) The second Islamic state sharing a border with India is Bangladesh which used to be known as East Pakistan from 1947 until 1971 when East Pakistan won the national elections and was prevented by the Pakistani Army from forming the national government -- East Pakistan then declared its independence and, in the ensuing civil war, India effectively (though not directly) prevented the Pakistani military from subjugating East Pakistan. As Bangladesh, the area has been an economic "basket case" but has, nonetheless, been very peaceful on the international stage.

Also, I didn't realize that we had been associating radical Islam with desert culture!!!

After all, desert culture has always recognized that "we are all in this together" and obligates every nomad to share peacefully whatever s/he has with strangers encountered on the desert.

Indeed, we have always recognized that the Arab Empire which lasted a millenium and, at its height, stretched from Spain through North Africa and the Middle East, was the most advanced civilization of its time (Europe was a back water where an educated Arab could always become a court sage to some European King if the Arab couldn't hack it in the Arab Empire). And that algebra, astronomy, geometry, etc., were all invented by the Arab Empire in order to facilitate navigation over vast expanses of sea in performing the Hajj, or pilgrimmage to Mecca. Indeed, we always marvelled that Arab navigation was so accurate that Arab navigators had noticed by the 800's that the three angles of a triangle connecting distant ports added to slightly more than 180 degrees and surmised that this could be explained if the earth were a sphere rather than being flat -- and correctly calculated the earth's circumference as 25,000 miles and its diameter as 8,000 miles if it were a sphere (rather than an an irregularly-shaped mass).

However, it appears from the New York Times Book Review, that Kaplan is more interested in the future relationship of the United States and India, rather than India's quarrels with Pakistan.

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