The Ends of the Earth: From Togo to Turkmenistan, from Iran to Cambodia, a Journey to the Frontiers of Anarchy Paperback – Jan 28 1997
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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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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.Read more ›
Kaplanâ€™s â€œAtlantic Monthlyâ€� article, â€œThe Coming Anarchyâ€�, is kind of a primer for reading â€œEnds of the Earthâ€� (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 â€œEnds of the Earthâ€�, 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 Kaplanâ€™s focus on history uninteresting, but I appreciate it because I agree that where weâ€™ve been is the closest indicator of where the world is going.Read more ›
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.
One of Kaplanï¿½s 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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
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 morePublished on June 21 2004
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 morePublished on April 19 2004
Robert Kaplan succeeds in transporting the reader to East Africa, West Africa, Soutwest Asia, and Southern Asia all in one fantastically written. Read morePublished on Aug. 9 2003 by R. Weeks
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 morePublished on May 28 2003 by Sympa
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 morePublished on Feb. 28 2003 by William Apt
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 morePublished on Dec 11 2002 by Betsy C. Lamberson
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 morePublished on Sept. 4 2002 by Sheri
In The Ends of the Earth Kaplan shows how the world is falling apart. This is no ordinary travel book. Read morePublished on July 7 2002 by Glenn McDorman
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