For anyone familiar with Robert D Kaplan's previous writings on the Indian Ocean in Foreign Affairs, or the changing nature of geopolitics, one would at first assume that this was merely an expansion of the aforementioned subjects. However, Kaplan's Monsoon is much more than such an impersonal academic treatise, it is both a journey through the history and the present of the Indian Ocean countries.
The central premise of Monsoon is that the Indian Ocean, rather than the Pacific and Atlantic, will be the new theatre of power rivalry in the 21st century as a result of the rise of China and India, and the ever growing importance of commerce along this sea route. At its heart is the continuing importance of Persian Gulf commerce, coupled with the growth of the Hydrocarbon market in Central Asia, and the desire of all powers to reach the sea. Particular flash points Kaplan outlines are Burma, where India and China are competing for influence with the regime for access to gas reserves and expanded trade routes, and the strait of Malacca, essentially the gateway between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. In the 21st century world military power still counts, and this is indispensable when faced with piracy off the horn of Africa, and stability of commerce routes, but so does economic power and economic interconnectedness.
While one would assume Monsoon to be a study of Globalization, it is in fact a historical study that reveals globalization is much older than commonly assumed. From the first chapter of the book, studying Oman's far reaching sea faring activity, to the final chapter exploring Zanzibar's microcosm of the global village, Monsoon reveals that Globalization has featured many different incarnations, whether it was the seafaring Omanis, the crusade minded Portuguese, the Dutch, and later the English, the Indian Ocean was paramount in the expansion of global power, and will indeed return to pre-eminence.
Robert D Kaplan is by trade a travel writer and security analyst par excellence, and his travel writing expertise is evinced within Monsoon as one is not simply recounted data upon the countries in question, rather one is transported there in person through Kaplan's beautifully worded prose that fleshes out the various locations of his travels.
Monsoon is not only a study of the changing face of geopolitics, it is both a beautifully worded travel memoir and historical journey that is both a pleasure to the senses, and a treat for the inquisitively minded.