Earning the Rockies: How Geography Shapes America's Role in the World

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An incisive portrait of the American landscape that shows how geography continues to determine America’s role in the world

Book Club Pick for Now Read This, from PBS NewsHour and The New York Times • “There is more insight here into the Age of Trump than in bushels of political-horse-race journalism.”—The New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)

At a time when there is little consensus about who we are and what we should be doing with our power overseas, a return to the elemental truths of the American landscape is urgently needed. In Earning the Rockies, New York Times bestselling author Robert D. Kaplan undertakes a cross-country journey, traversing a rich and varied landscape that still remains the primary source of American power. Traveling west, in the same direction as the pioneers, Kaplan witnesses both prosperity and decline, and reexamines the history of westward expansion in a new light: as a story not just of genocide and individualism but also of communalism and a respect for the limits of a water-starved terrain. Concluding at the edge of the Pacific Ocean with a gripping description of an anarchic world, Earning the Rockies shows how America’s foreign policy response ought to be rooted in its own geographical situation.

Praise for Earning the Rockies

“Unflinchingly honest . . . a lens-changing vision of America’s role in the world . . . a jewel of a book that lights the path ahead.”—Secretary of Defense James Mattis

“A sui generis writer . . . America’s East Coast establishment has only one Robert Kaplan, someone as fluently knowledgeable about the Balkans, Iraq, Central Asia and West Africa as he is about Ohio and Wyoming.”Financial Times

“Kaplan has pursued stories in places as remote as Yemen and Outer Mongolia. In Earning the Rockies, he visits a place almost as remote to many Americans: these United States. . . . The author’s point is a good one: America is formed, in part, by a geographic setting that is both sanctuary and watchtower.”The Wall Street Journal 

“A brilliant reminder of the impact of America’s geography on its strategy. . . . Kaplan’s latest contribution should be required reading.”—Henry A. Kissinger

“A text both evocative and provocative for readers who like to think … In his final sections, Kaplan discusses in scholarly but accessible detail the significant role that America has played and must play in this shuddering world.”—Kirkus Reviews
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About the author

Robert D. Kaplan is the bestselling author of seventeen books on foreign affairs and travel translated into many languages, including Earning the Rockies, In Europe’s Shadow, 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 senior advisor at Eurasia Group. For three decades his work appeared in The Atlantic. He held the national security chair at the United States Naval Academy and was a member of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board. Foreign Policy magazine twice named him one of the world’s Top 100 Global Thinkers.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Random House
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Published on
Jan 24, 2017
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Pages
224
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ISBN
9780399588235
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Language
English
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Genres
History / United States / General
Political Science / Geopolitics
Travel / United States / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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In this New York Times bestseller, an award-winning journalist uses ten maps of crucial regions to explain the geo-political strategies of the world powers—“fans of geography, history, and politics (and maps) will be enthralled” (Fort Worth Star-Telegram).

Maps have a mysterious hold over us. Whether ancient, crumbling parchments or generated by Google, maps tell us things we want to know, not only about our current location or where we are going but about the world in general. And yet, when it comes to geo-politics, much of what we are told is generated by analysts and other experts who have neglected to refer to a map of the place in question.

All leaders of nations are constrained by geography. In “one of the best books about geopolitics” (The Evening Standard), now updated to include 2016 geopolitical developments, journalist Tim Marshall examines Russia, China, the US, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Japan, Korea, and Greenland and the Arctic—their weather, seas, mountains, rivers, deserts, and borders—to provide a context often missing from our political reportage: how the physical characteristics of these countries affect their strengths and vulnerabilities and the decisions made by their leaders.

Offering “a fresh way of looking at maps” (The New York Times Book Review), Marshall explains the complex geo-political strategies that shape the globe. Why is Putin so obsessed with Crimea? Why was the US destined to become a global superpower? Why does China’s power base continue to expand? Why is Tibet destined to lose its autonomy? Why will Europe never be united? The answers are geographical. “In an ever more complex, chaotic, and interlinked world, Prisoners of Geography is a concise and useful primer on geopolitics” (Newsweek) and a critical guide to one of the major determining factors in world affairs.
Having reported on some of the world's most violent, least understood regions in his bestsellers Balkan Ghosts and The Ends of the Earth, Robert Kaplan now returns to his native land, the United States of America. Traveling, like Tocqueville and John Gunther before him, through a political and cultural landscape in transition, Kaplan reveals a nation shedding a familiar identity as it assumes a radically new one.
        An Empire Wilderness opens in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where the first white settlers moved into Indian country and where Manifest Destiny was born. In a world whose future conflicts can barely be imagined, it is also the place where the army trains its men to fight the next war. "A nostalgic view of the United States is deliberately cultivated here," Kaplan writes, "as if to bind the uncertain future to a reliable past."
        From Fort Leavenworth, Kaplan travels west to the great cities of the heartland--to St. Louis, once a glorious shipping center expected to outshine imperial Rome and now touted, with its desolate inner city and miles of suburban gated communities, as "the most average American city." Kaplan continues west to Omaha; down through California; north from Mexico, across Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas; up to Montana and Canada, and back through Oregon.
        He visits Mexican border settlements and dust-blown county sheriffs' offices, Indian reservations and nuclear bomb plants, cattle ranches in the Oklahoma Panhandle, glacier-mantled forests in the Pacific Northwest, swanky postsuburban sprawls and grim bus terminals, and comes, at last, to the great battlefield at Vicksburg, Mississippi, where an earlier generation of Americans gave their lives for their vision of an American future. But what, if anything, he asks, will today's Americans fight and die for?
        At Vicksburg Kaplan contemplates the new America through which he has just traveled--an America of sharply polarized communities that draws its population from pools of talent far beyond its borders; an America where the distance between winners and losers grows exponentially as corporations assume gov-ernment functions and the wealthy find themselves more closely linked to their business associates in India and China than to their poorer neighbors a few miles away; an America where old loyalties and allegiances are vanishing and new ones are only beginning to emerge. The new America he found is in the pages of this book. Kaplan gives a precise and chilling vision of how the most successful nation the world has ever known is entering the final, and highly uncertain, phase of its history.
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