In This Review

Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power
Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power
By Robert D. Kaplan
384 pp, Random House, 2010

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.