According to Robert Kaplan, a Stratfor analyst and former correspondent of The Atlantic, the geopolitical future of the world in 21st century will be formed in the Indian Ocean region. His latest book – “Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power” – is a must read for everyone who is interested in global affairs, and for everyone who is still dreaming about the global power of European Union.
Stunning with dynamism and wonderful language, “Monsoon…” is a book which introduces the reader into the world of ever newer cultures and areas of the Indian Ocean basin, depicting their past, present and geopolitical background of their future. Even if we do not agree with some of the author’s views, his work captivates us by details, immensity of his knowledge, and the story about fantastic voyages he has undertaken. Kaplan proposes daring theses, searches for paradoxes and points out the new trends, which may change the geopolitical future of the world. He describes the authoritarian regime of Oman, ruled by the sultan Kabus Ibn Sa’id, who in Kaplan’s opinion is more enlightened, ascetic, and caring about civil rights and good relations with the West than dozens of countries with democratic political system. He also writes about the democratically elected governor of Indian province, Narender Modim, who has on his conscience pogroms of the Muslim minority, and it does not prevent him from holding office in the biggest democracy of the world. Kaplan is a proponent of democracy, who points out that there are no absolutes in geopolitics and nothing is as obvious as it seems. The author frequently emphasizes that moral politics of USA bans sustaining relations with some undemocratic, ruthless countries, and yet opens their door for Chinese expansion. Ignoring the bloody ethnical conflict in Sri Lanka, Beijing is building in this country, in Hambantota, a great port which is to constitute a potential Chinese naval base, aim whereof is to check India. USA made efforts in many ways to cooperate with Pakistan; however, strategic from the trade perspective, the new port on the west coast of this country is also built by the Chinese. Kaplan’s thesis that any authority is better than no authority or than anarchy, which threatens whole regions of weak states, is an interesting evidence for evolution of American strategic thought after experiences in Iraq and cooperation with unpredictable Pakistan, a country impossible to rule. The book is a proof of the change of thinking on the role of the USA in the world, which is taking place among influential American strategists. Kaplan writes about the inevitable forthcoming of the multipolar world, wherein USA should look for the balance of power, and alliance linked by common intention of maintaining stability in the area of the Indian Ocean. He does not rule out prospective cooperation of American and Chinese navies in order to stabilize the region, though in fact he recognizes China as the potential main rival.
What is particularly painful to our Old Europe, Kaplan does not leave any hope for us – the time of Europe is up and the USA will be one of a few superpowers. The future depends on Asia, its new dynamic middle class and increasing wealth in the interface of great superpowers’ businesses. Even if Kaplan is wrong, it is time for Europe to discern the trends, to face the fact that it is no longer the centre of the universe, and eventually to draw proper conclusions.
Translation: Anna Żelichowska