Fletcher Features

Best-Selling Author Robert Kaplan Kicks Off #FletcherReads with a Discussion of "The Revenge of Geography"

On January 23, 2014, The Fletcher School was delighted to host best-selling author Robert D. Kaplan for a discussion on his latest book, "The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate." The book talk is part of a new global community engagement initiative established by the Dean called #FletcherReads.

"This new initiative is designed to further strengthen our already strong community and intellectual ties," says Admiral Stavridis. "On a periodic basis, we will invite a noted author to the School to discuss his/her work. The opportunity to engage as a community around a common subject with our own varied perspectives should prove to be an enjoyable and rewarding endeavor."

"I'm delighted that my good friend Robert Kaplan could join us for the inaugural event," added Stavridis.

Speaking to a full ASEAN Auditorium at The Fletcher School in Medford—and the broader Fletcher community watching online—Kaplan explained the thesis for his book: "When I say, 'The Revenge of Geography,' what I mean is we thought we had escaped this—that we travel by business class 30,000 feet above the air from one continent to the other, and there is this sense that global elites can engineer reality from above."

"What I am trying to show is the constraints that exist at ground level in various places," he added. "And within these constraints, there is a lot of room for human choice."

Of course Kaplan, who is the chief geopolitical analyst for the private global intelligence firm Stratfor, does not mean that geography signifies determinism. "What I am writing about in this book," he argued, "is in no way an attack on human agency. It’s the rest, it’s the background that frames human choice.  And by limits, I mean first and foremost, geography.”  Kaplan’s definition of geography goes much further than cartography, but is rather “in the sense that it is the starting point for an explanation and a study of natural resources, of trade routes, of historical experiences of large groups.”

Following some brief introductory remarks, Kaplan took questions from the audience in Medford and participants around the world in a discussion moderated by Shelby Cullom Davis Professor of International Security Studies Robert Pfaltzgraff Jr. Questions ranged from current events in the Ukraine and Iran, to U.S. foreign policy in the seas bordering China, to Kaplan's formative career as a journalist, to a discussion of global threats.

View the entire event below, including opening remarks by Lee E. Dirks Professor of Diplomatic History Alan Henrikson (00:00), presentation by Robert D. Kaplan (11:01) and Q&A (18:53).

Visit this page for updates on future events.

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