Sunday, December 5, 2010

Robert Kaplan Pegs Indian Ocean Rim As Global Hub - Newsweek

Foreign policymakers distracted by recent history—the fallout from the end of the Cold War, the morasses of Iraq and Afghanistan—should shift their gazes from northern landmasses to southern seas. That’s the thrust of Robert Kaplan’s new book, Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power, which argues that the Indian Ocean “will demographically and strategically be a hub of the 21st-century world.”

Kaplan, who has written prolifically on how geography plays into national destiny, takes the “rise of the rest” theory one step further in Monsoon. It’s not just the BRICs that are worth watching, he says, but the whole ocean and its rimland, from Indonesia to the Horn of Africa, which is lined with billions of people in dozens of countries. The area already accounts for 70 percent of the world’s traffic of petroleum products, and it will be the setting for the new Great Game between China, India, and the U.S., as each country vies for naval dominance of its waters. Forget Europe and Russia; it is the Indian Ocean’s rim, says Kaplan, that will be the epicenter of the next generation of global issues, including climate change, access to energy, and extremist politics.

On its far West lies Somalia, the anarchic state responsible for piracy on Indian Ocean shipping lanes; on the far East, Indonesia, whose democracy “could become the lodestar of the Muslim world” and whose nearby Strait of Malacca “hosts” 50 percent of the world’s merchant fleet capability. As America’s influence slowly shrinks worldwide, the U.S. will have to engage these rim countries in order to legitimize its power in the region.

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