The End of Marco Polo’s World: War Strategy and American interests in the twenty-first century
Robert. D. Kaplan
Random House, 2018
Throughout this collection of essays, the quality varies wildly. The opening five essays under the title “strategy” are-with the exception of the essay related to North Korea which is clearly rather old-very insightful and provides an interesting view of how many in the US view the rise of states like China and India. In particular, the opening essay for which the book is named and which is by itself a worthwhile and insightful read (available here). while I disagree with aspects of this section I still find many parts of it worthwhile including the essay on Naval power (4).
Sadly, the quality of the essays in the following two sections is much the reverse. In particular essays 9 and 10. essay 9 entitled “no greater honor” is mostly an ode so US soldiers with very little knowledge to be gained from reading and Certainly seems out of place but it was the 10th essay which I thought was immensely flawed. “The defense of Henry Kissinger” is a poor attempt to defend one of the most controversial figures in US politics. However, rather than address many criticisms of Kissinger’s actions and the immense suffering caused by them, he proceeds to focus exclusively on Vietnam (ignoring his policy in countries such as Nicaragua and Honduras) and proceeds to decry the barbarity of the NVA and Vietcong with absolutely no sense of irony (one need only look at the civilian deaths caused by the US in Vietnam of torture operations carried out all over the world to discount this argument). He fails to envision the sort of Machiavellian world in which Kissinger’s actions could be justified and instead, presents a lucid one-sided argument and-through ignorance of indifference-ignores the aspects of the war that do not fit his narrative.
There are other essays in the book that I would praise (2,4,12,13) which offer interesting and new perspectives on issues. Along with some which I thought were downright negligent, revisionist and failed to present any sort of nuanced argument and instead promote old and long disproven myths(15, 16). Overall the book is a real mixed bag and unless one is an ardent Americophile, You will find yourself deeply frustrated by some of these essays.