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THE COMING ANARCHY by Robert D. Kaplan


Shattering the Dreams of the Post Cold War

by Robert D. Kaplan

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-375-50354-4
Publisher: Random House

Nine highly uneven pieces on current and future international politics by the prolific contributing editor of The Atlantic Monthly (An Empire Wilderness, 1998, etc.). The clear highlight here is the fascinating, much-discussed and -reprinted title essay. In contrast to Frances Fukuyama’s view that the collapse of communism has heralded an ideological and political “end of history,” Kaplan warns that the early 21st century may be characterized in the underdeveloped world by urban overcrowding and disease, environmental degradation (which will be “the national security issue”), tribalistic warfare, the breakdown of central governmental authority, and a concomitant rise in crime. Unfortunately, Kaplan’s penchant for sweeping generalizations—for instance, his dubious claim that “the parliamentary system the West promoted was a factor in the murder of thousands of Tutsis by Hutu militias [in Rwanda]——too often undermines his other essays. In “Kissinger, Metternich and Realism” he follows his celebration of hardheaded realpolitik (“It is . . . likely that in prolonging the [Vietnam] war for the reasons they did, Kissinger and Nixon demonstrated more real character than do many of our present leaders—) by admitting that “some of Nixon’s and Kissinger’s actions were . . . spectacularly brutal and unnecessary.— In his final essay the author reveals that his great bugaboo is, of all things, peace, which he feels will make the average citizen self-absorbed, complacent, and forgetful of history: “The Cold War has been as close to utopia as we are ever likely to get. . . . Because the Cold War was a low-level extension of World War II, it also gave us a sense of the past. War does that, peace does not.” Such historical generalizations come so fast and furious, so isolated from such factors as politics, education, culture, technology, and the mass media, that they may well leave readers who persevere past the scintillating title essay unedified and disoriented.