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The Ends of the Earth: From Togo to Turkmenistan, from Iran to Cambodia, a Journey to the Frontiers of Anarchy Paperback – Jan 28 1997

4.2 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 498 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; First Vintage Departures Edition edition (Jan. 28 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679751238
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679751236
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 3.1 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 318 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #142,171 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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"The future here could be sadder than the present," writes Robert Kaplan in a chapter about the African nation of Sierra Leone. From Kaplan's perspective, the same could be said of virtually the entire Third World, which he spends the bulk of this book visiting and describing. Kaplan, an acclaimed foreign correspondent and author of Balkan Ghosts, is congenitally pessimistic about the developmental prospects of West Africa, the Nile Valley, and much of Asia. This traveler's tale offers dire warnings about overpopulation, environmental degradation, and social chaos. We should all hope that Kaplan's forecast is wrong, but we ignore him at our peril.

About the Author

Robert D. Kaplan is the bestselling author of sixteen books on foreign affairs and travel translated into many languages, including Asia’s Cauldron, The Revenge of Geography, Monsoon, The Coming Anarchy, and Balkan Ghosts. He is a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and a contributing editor at The Atlantic, where his work has appeared for three decades. He was chief geopolitical analyst at Stratfor, a visiting professor at the United States Naval Academy, and a member of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board. Foreign Policy magazine has twice named him one of the world’s Top 100 Global Thinkers.

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Format: Paperback
Robert Kaplan sought to achieve a rather ambitious aim when he set out to research and write this book; he wanted to find a new paradigm to understand the early decades of the 21st century. Kaplan noted that some experts focused on the effects of overpopulation and environmental degradation as the dominant forces (particularly in the developing world), while others spoke of a "new anarchy" (such as former UN secretary-general Perez de Cuellar, he and others noting that of the eighty wars between 1945 and 1995, forty-six were either civil wars or guerilla insurgencies). In 1993, forty-two countries were involved in major conflicts and thirty-seven others were suffering some lesser form of political violence (sixty-five of these seventy-nine nations were in the developing world). Kaplan journeyed through sub-Saharan West Africa from Guinea to Togo and through Egypt, Turkey, Iran, former Soviet Central Asia, Pakistan, India, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia in his research for the book.
He found a predictably bleak situation in Africa. While 13 percent of the human race lives in Africa, they contribute only 1.2 percent of the world's gross domestic product. Crime - particularly violent crime - is soaring in much of Africa; for a time the United States suspended direct flights from the U.S. to Lagos, Nigeria due to the rampant violent crime at the terminal and nearby, the first time any such embargo had occurred for non-political and non-terrorist reasons. Soaring malaria in Africa is intensifying the spread of AIDS (as malaria can result in anemia, which requires blood transfusions), just as AIDS and tuberculosis are helping each other's spread.
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Format: Paperback
Those familiar with Kaplan’s work know the author doesn’t exactly travel to the world’s vacation spots. When most Americans go abroad, they explore prefer to Paris or sip espresso in a warm villa in Tuscany. When Kaplan goes abroad he finds himself traveling in countries where underpaid soldiers shake him down for bribes to pass their checkpoints and people live in appallingly squalid conditions. “Ends of the Earth� will give the reader a vivid feel for life in the Third World.
Kaplan’s “Atlantic Monthly� article, “The Coming Anarchy�, is kind of a primer for reading “Ends of the Earth� (portions of it re-appear): much of the world depicted by Kaplan is nasty, brutal and harsh, as the collapse of law and order leads to a repeating circle of violence and chaos. The more the state collapses under the strain of violence, the more the violence increases. Environmental decay, in turn, makes natural resources scarce, which causes people to fight over these ever-dwindling resources. Kaplan concentrates on Africa in the original article but he has expanded on that point in “Ends of the Earth�, by pointing out that his thesis is applicable to other problems in the world: China, India, Egypt, Turkey, etc.
Kaplan basically backpacks around each of the countries, staying in slummier hotels and living with local families. Like any good travel writer, Kaplan gives the writer a vivid feel for the places he goes to. A lot of travel readers might find Kaplan’s focus on history uninteresting, but I appreciate it because I agree that where we’ve been is the closest indicator of where the world is going.
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Format: Paperback
I read this on my flight to Turkey, as I experienced my first entry into a truly foreign country. Although I didn't take the risk of travelling outside of the "bubble" that Kaplan talks about, sections of this book definitely pertained to my trip. It altered the way I perceived the world around me. Instead of seeing some Istanbul neighborhoods as helplessly impoverished, I looked for signs of the middle-class ambition that Kaplan spoke of. I also realized that my standards of living are not available to most of the world, and The Ends of the Earth was a good introduction to this concept.
I find particularly interesting the political context in Kaplan's travel writing. Not only do you get the direct visceral experience of travelling through so-called "third world" countries, but you get the political history. My friend said that the book itself is a journey through thought as it is a journey through countries. There is no final answer to why certain cultures develop in one way and others develop in other ways - but you'll certainly appreciate the process as Kaplan visits developing nations across the world and attempts to analyze the past's impact on the present.
This book is highly readable. You simply do not get bored, and I can't think of another non-fiction book that I didn't want to put down at some point.
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Format: Paperback
This book is not your average travel memoir. It is an introspective analysis of the social and political conditions of developing countries from West Africa to Thailand. Typical travelogues can be titillating, but because the authors actually know so little about the cultures that they are visiting for a short time, readers learn more about the authors themselves than about the countries being described. However, this book is quite different in that respect--Kaplan obviously knows this region well, having worked as a journalist in the region for years. As a journalist, he knows which questions to ask and from whom. He describes conversations with high government officials (many of which wish to remain anonymous), as well as tidbits that he picks up from traveling companions and encounters with ordinary people. He backs up all of these personal anecdotes with hard facts and statistics footnoted to hundreds of resources listed in the bibliography. What he has to say can about the countries and cultures that he visits can be quite disturbing.
One of Kaplan�s goals for his trip is to try to discover why some regions of the developing world are bordering on anarchy, or have actually slipped over the edge, and others seem to be working well for the community. By observing societies and talking to leaders as well as ordinary people, he attempts to discover what works to build a civil world. He considers the varying influences that tradition, religion, education, government, and environment may have on a society. While he points out that education, particularly literacy, seems to be vital for maintaining civilization, he finds that there are no absolute factors that can predict which societies will succeed and which will devolve into barbarism.
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