Book: Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power

A waterproof book. Great for a weekend of waterborne piracy off the coast of Somalia.

Optimistic & Illuminating. Makes me as excited about the Indian Ocean as I am about the Chinese coast.
374 pages, ★★★★

How relevant! Monsoon, a book about the Indian Ocean, is waterproof. Its cover is coated in a special plastic sleeve which would probably look fascinating under the microscope (I’m imagining it looks like an orderly micro-Karst topology with rounded hilltops). This book’s cover is probably strong enough to survive a short stint on a Somali pirate ship. By reading Monsoon with my feet soaked in a tropically hot foot bath, I ensured that this engineering nicety was not squandered.

Monsoon illuminates one part of the world I knew almost nothing about (the Indian Ocean). Trading has occurred across this ocean for centuries between east Africa, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent and China; and all countries have benefitted as a result. The Indian Ocean’s magic winds allow for predictable travel in one direction at almost double the speed that could be achieved by similar ships in the North Atlantic. Many people talk about the rise of “India”, when they should actually be talking about the rise of the Indian Ocean coastline (including Oman, Pakistan, Burma and Indonesia) because that’s where we’ll see most development in the next few decades. Oman’s island topology is fascinating. Pakistan’s developing western region is a future global trading hub. And I even learned more about China.

Many people talk about the rise of “India”, when they should actually be talking about the rise of the Indian Ocean coastline (including Oman, Pakistan, Burma and Indonesia) because that’s where we’ll see most development in the next few decades.

China’s building stuff all over the world. They’re building a huge port in Iran, an ambitious railway to Afghanistan, and oil fields and pipelines in east Africa. China’s building military and political connections with its neighbours (Myanmar/Burma and Taiwan respectively), and watching its Malacca Strait with great scrutiny (as are the Americans).

Monsoon is overwhelmingly bullish on the prospect of the Indian Ocean region. The author even describes the benefits of the 2004 tsunami and compares it to Pinochet’s Death Squads of Mao’s Cultural Revolution (with something like “great suffering paved the way for miracles”). Monsoon predicts a strong Indian Ocean region, a strong inland Middle East, a strong China, a strong mainland India, and touches on a declining United States. The author is correct to note that scarce, renewable resources (such as the Malacca Strait) can promote alliances; while scarce, non-renewable resources (such as oil or gold) can promote war. The author outlines thousands of reasons to be optimistic in the Indian Ocean coastal regions.

This is a very pleasant book full of description. My feet are warm, and my mind has wandered. Forget the battle between Imperial American Hegemony and Kantian Postnationalism. Monsoon assumes that the latter will reign superior—and with unwavering cultural flattery, welcomes the underdog (the Indian Ocean coastline) to the collective throne. ★★★★

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