Book Review: The Return of Marco Polo's World: War, Strategy, and American Interests in the Twenty-first Century


by Robert D. Kaplan, editor

New York: Random House, 2018. Pp. xiv, 292. Notes, index. $28.00. ISBN: 0812996798

The Rise of Modern China and America’s Role in the World

Robert Kaplan very much engages with American perspectives, reprinting pieces from American periodicals, although adding an essay written for the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment.

There is nothing wrong with this, but the grasp of non-American perspectives and concerns might not be what it should be. The pieces from thinkers – Kissinger, Samuel Huntington, and John Mearsheimer – lack the depth of Vaisse’s treatment of Brzezinski, while that on China’s “New Silk Road” has nothing particularly original to add.

I am uncertain whether it is sensible for writers to publish their occasional pieces as a book. It can work, but also has weaknesses unless these essays are luminous. Moreover, while some of Kaplan’s pieces repay reading, others, such as his 2006 item on North Korea, deserve rewriting rather than simply reprinting as they stand.

Few essays on international relations merit the latter treatment. Nor is it helpful always to search for historical analogies that are banal, as in “Certainly America should reach, but not – like Darius - overreach.”


Note: The Return of Marco Polo’s World is also available in several e-editions.


Our Reviewer: Jeremy Black, a professor of history the University of Exeter, is also a Senior Fellow of the Center for the Study of America and the West at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. The author of a goodly number of works in history and international affairs,  frequently demonstrating unique interactions and trends among events, his books include The Great War and the Making of the Modern World, Combined Operations: A Global History of Amphibious and Airborne Warfare, and The War of 1812 in the Age of Napoleon.


Reviewer: Prof. Jeremy Black   

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