The Revenge of Geography, by Robert D. Kaplan

About the Book

From the bestselling author of Monsoon and Balkan Ghosts comes a revelatory new prism through which to view the latest global upheavals. In The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate, Robert D. Kaplan argues that in order to understand today’s current events—religious conflict, war, political instability—one need look no further than a map. Kaplan states that when the political ground shifts rapidly under one’s feet, it is the map that provides the first step towards discerning an historical logic about what might come next.

In The Revenge of Geography, Kaplan uses the map as the beginning of wisdom and explains current affairs as varied as:

  • Why the borders of Arab countries such as Syria and Iraq may not be as artificial as they seem and how Assad's extreme pan-Arabism and hatred of Israel was always a substitute for Syria's weak identity as a state
  • Why Tehran has influence from the Mediterranean to Afghanistan and how the current Iranian regime will fall because it is out of sync with Iranian history
  • How geography helps explain the European debt crisis
  • Why Russia and Vladimir Putin are so cynical and paranoid
  • Why Chinese power is inexorable, why it may become Asia's superpower, and why it faces internal upheaval at the same time
  • Why India is bedeviled by its immediate neighbors
  • Why United States might rue engaging in far-flung conflicts with Iraq and Afghanistan rather than tending to its direct neighbor Mexico

A brilliant rebuttal to thinkers who suggest that globalism will trump geography, in The Revenge of Geography Kaplan brings to life the great geographers and geopolitical thinkers of the near and distant past. He lucidly outlines their theories, and then brilliantly applies their ideas to the present crises in Europe, Russia, China, the Indian Subcontinent, Turkey, Iran, and the Arab Middle East.

By engaging with such tools as relief maps and population studies, Kaplan puts forth a straightforward argument—the more one knows about the history and geography of any particular Middle Eastern country, the less surprised one will be about events there. Take, for instance the current turmoil in Syria, whose truncated shape on the map harbors divisions within it based on ethnicity and sectarian identity: or the turmoil in Yemen, where a sprawling and mountainous topography has weakened central government, has corrupted attempts at unity by the demographic core of the Arabian Peninsula and consequently has raised the importance of tribal structures and separatist groups. Indeed, forces of culture and geography are more likely to prevail when a man-made border does not match a vulnerable natural frontier zone.

The Revenge of Geography is an indispensable work that shows how timeless truths and natural facts can help prevent this century’s looming cataclysms. In the midst of a turbulent world’s increasing unmanageability, Kaplan argues that geography offers a way to make some sense of it all – even while he never gives in to fate.

Videos: Robert D. Kaplan discusses topics from his new book


“Robert Kaplan’s fascinating, prodigiously researched and important new book shines light on an ancient truth: geography has been the predominant factor in determining the fate of nations, from pharaonic Egypt to the Arab Spring.”
—Dr. Henry Kissinger

“Kaplan sagely plots global territorial transformations from the United States to China…A solid work of acuity and breadth.”

“In this fascinating blend of geography and history Robert Kaplan puts forth a compelling look at economic and political trends that will shape our future. Well-written and brimming with insight and historical anecdotes this smart book is a refreshing call to reconsidering the pivotal role of geography in global strategy and how to understand American interests in it.”
—Vali Nasr, author of Shia Revival and Rise of Islamic Capitalism

About the Author

Robert D. Kaplan has authored 14 books on foreign affairs and travel, including Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power and Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History. He has been a foreign correspondent for The Atlantic for more than a quarter-century. In 2011, Foreign Policy magazine named him among the world's "Top 100 Global Thinkers." He joined Stratfor as Chief Geopolitical Analyst in 2012.