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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]

Robert D. Kaplan
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 28 1997 Vintage Departures
Author of Balkan Ghosts, Robert D. Kaplan now travels from West Africa to Southeast Asia to report on a world of disintegrating nation-states, warring nationalities, metastasizing populations, and dwindling resources. He emerges with a gritty tour de force of travel writing and political journalism. Whether he is walking through a shantytown in the Ivory Coast or a death camp in Cambodia, talking with refugees, border guards, or Iranian revolutionaries, Kaplan travels under the most arduous conditions and purveys the most startling truths. Intimate and intrepid, erudite and visceral, The Ends of the Earth is an unflinching look at the places and peoples that will make tomorrow's headlines--and the history of the next millennium.

"Kaplan is an American master of...travel writing  from hell...Pertinent and compelling."--New York Times Book Review

"An impressive work. Most travel books seem trivial beside it."--Washington Post Book World

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The Ends of the Earth: From Togo to Turkmenistan, from Iran to Cambodia, a Journey to the Frontiers of Anarchy + The Coming Anarchy: Shattering the Dreams of the Post Cold War + Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History
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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 chief geopolitical analyst for Stratfor, a private global intelligence firm, and the author of fourteen books on foreign affairs and travel translated into many languages, including The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate; Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power; Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History; and Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos. He has been a foreign correspondent for The Atlantic for more than a quarter-century. In 2011 and 2012, Foreign Policy magazine named Kaplan among the world’s “Top 100 Global Thinkers.”
From 2009 to 2011, he served under Secretary of Defense Robert Gates as a member of the Defense Policy Board. Since 2008, he has been a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security in Washington. From 2006 to 2008, he was the Class of 1960 Distinguished Visiting Professor in National Security at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Uncovering the new threats of the 21st century May 12 2004
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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4.0 out of 5 stars A Realist's Take on the World Aug. 15 2003
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. ‚€œEnds of the Earth‚€� will give the reader a vivid feel for life in the Third World.
Kaplan‚€™s ‚€œAtlantic Monthly‚€� article, ‚€œThe Coming Anarchy‚€�, is kind of a primer for reading ‚€œEnds 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 ‚€œEnds 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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5.0 out of 5 stars now I'm hooked. July 5 2002
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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5.0 out of 5 stars This book will make you squirm April 14 2002
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 KaplanÔ¿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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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars a journalistic fraud
I bought this book for its rave reviews and thought I would learn something from it. When reading his chapters about Iran, I was quite disappointed to see that Kaplan does little... Read more
Published on June 21 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars A Provocative Travelogue
Kaplan presents more than a travelogue of some of the most inaccessible places in the world, he also makes a compelling case about why these forgotten pockets need to be of more... Read more
Published on April 19 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars An Intellectual Journey Through Turmoil
Robert Kaplan succeeds in transporting the reader to East Africa, West Africa, Soutwest Asia, and Southern Asia all in one fantastically written. Read more
Published on Aug. 9 2003 by R. Weeks
5.0 out of 5 stars Travels from hell and back
This is the kind of travel you don't want to do. Yet, you have to be grateful a Westerner is daring enough to do it on your behalf for the sake of enhancing your awareness in the... Read more
Published on May 28 2003 by Gaetan Lion
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the best . . .
This is the best sort of travel writing - a marvelously erudite synthesis of history, literature, geography, ethnology, political science, economic theory, and first hand... Read more
Published on Feb. 28 2003 by William Apt
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't Judge a Book by It's Cover!!!
While the story itself is amazing and I would highly recommend it, the hard back version that it listed for sale is more than unfortunate!!! It is a homemade hardback! Read more
Published on Dec 11 2002 by Betsy C. Lamberson
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Read
Having just travelled to a couple of former Communist Eastern European countries, I found this book to be an entertaining read and very informative. Read more
Published on Sept. 4 2002 by Sheri
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the end
In The Ends of the Earth Kaplan shows how the world is falling apart. This is no ordinary travel book. Read more
Published on July 7 2002 by Glenn McDorman
5.0 out of 5 stars gloriously and sublimely depressing
I was introduced to Robert Kaplan's work through his articles for Atlantic Monthly. His analysis of the world stage is so insightful and realistic it makes most of the other... Read more
Published on Feb. 4 2002 by Carl A Olson
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