After Kaplan: New Foreign Policy Plate Tectonics

When you hear from a foreign policy luminary such as Robert Kaplan about the Indian Ocean and what it means in terms of mega-21st century global affairs trends, you encounter the world of super-consciousness and higher thinking on a level not commonly encountered. It is no wonder he consults to the U.S. government and others around the world. He speaks not just of a region or regions in the world, namely from Southwest Asia to the Far East (and the borders interspersed about), but a novel, supra-geographical construct. Foreign policy minds were bent, I tell you.

On October 6th, author and foreign policy analyst Robert Kaplan was in Dallas visiting our organization in a DCFR-World Affairs Council joint program. One comment that caught attention: in Asia, there is a “shop-til-you-drop arms race for submarines.” And guess who is benefiting? The Russians. They are able to make advances technologically because of the demand for subs. He suggested that great navies and airpower will characterize this new world we are entering. He discounted the idea that China and India would ever go to war, in the conventional sense. They will compete, but not as powers did in the 20th century.

Also fascinating were comments about why China has been able to focus on economic growth, while other countries have not had the conditions align to focus their energies in the way that China has. It was the Nixon-Mao understanding, which offered China de facto protection, and China could then focus energies on economic growth. This sounds hauntingly familiar to the themes in the Khalilzad interview; that while the U.S. spends its energies on the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, Asian powers are and have been jockeying for position and setting up shop, like following some of the U.S.’s best capitalistic plays.

Kaplan, while presenting from his book, “Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power,” annihilates post-Cold War era constructs and makes us all move ahead. Thanks encore to DCFR member-hosts Pete Patel of CPY&I and Frank Kryza.

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