The Return of Marco Polo's World
War, Strategy, and American Interests in the Twenty-first Century
A bracing assessment of U.S. foreign policy and world disorder over the past two decades from the bestselling author of The Revenge of Geography and The Coming Anarchy
“[Kaplan] has emerged not only as an eloquent defender of foreign-policy realism but as a grand strategist to whom the Pentagon turns for a tour d’horizon.”—The Wall Street Journal
In the late thirteenth century, Marco Polo began a decades-long trek from Venice to China along the trade route between Europe and Asia known as the Silk Road—a foundation of Kublai Khan’s sprawling empire. Now, in the early twenty-first century, the Chinese regime has proposed a land-and-maritime Silk Road that duplicates exactly the route Marco Polo traveled.
Drawing on decades of firsthand experience as a foreign correspondent and military embed for The Atlantic, Robert D. Kaplan outlines the timeless principles that should shape America’s role in a turbulent world that encompasses the Chinese challenge. From Kaplan’s immediate thoughts on President Trump to a frank examination of what will happen in the event of war with North Korea, these essays are a vigorous reckoning with the difficult choices the United States will face in the years ahead.
Praise for The Return of Marco Polo’s World
“Elegant and humane . . . [a] prophecy from an observer with a depressingly accurate record of predictions.”—Bret Stephens, The New York Times Book Review
“These essays constitute a truly pathbreaking, brilliant synthesis and analysis of geographic, political, technological, and economic trends with far-reaching consequences. The Return of Marco Polo’s World is another work by Robert D. Kaplan that will be regarded as a classic.”—General David Petraeus (U.S. Army, Ret.)
“Thoughtful, unsettling, but not apocalyptic analyses of world affairs flow steadily off the presses, and this is a superior example. . . . Presented with enough verve and insight to tempt readers to set it aside to reread in a few years.”—Kirkus Review (starred review)
“An astute, powerfully stated, and bracing presentation.”—Booklist
“This volume compiles sixteen major essays on America’s foreign policy from national security commentator Kaplan. . . . An overview of thoughtful, multilayered positions and perspectives evolving through changing circumstances.”—Publishers Weekly
This volume compiles 16 major essays on America's foreign policy from national security commentator Kaplan (Earning the Rockies). All but one were originally published in outlets such as the Atlantic and National Interest. The title essay was originally written for the Department of Defense's Office of Net Assessment. In the first section, entitled "Strategy," Kaplan argues that, since the end of the Cold War, the globe's map has fundamentally changed: "Europe disappears, Eurasia coheres." The result is an "increasingly crowded and interconnected world" whose linkages are becoming so complex that the U.S. will be unable to exert pressure in the ways it has since WWII. Kaplan applies and supports these ideas in case studies of Vietnam and Iraq, asserting that the extravagant cost of maintaining maritime supremacy in the new world structure is leading to the "elegant decline" of America's military might. Further sections delve into the experience of soldiers ("War and Its Costs"), appreciatively profile political scientists ("Thinkers"), and comment on the developments of the last few years ("Reflections" and "Marco Polo Redux"). Such wide horizons, and Kaplan's decision not to update the previously published essays, preclude a central line of argument. The result is instead an overview of thoughtful, multilayered positions and perspectives evolving through changing circumstances.)