Book Review The Coming Anarchy

Book Review: The Coming Anarchy
The book “The coming Anarchy” is written by Robert Kaplan with the
main objectives of highlighting on the prevailing political, social,
conditions, economic, and religious issues that are likely to result in
an anarchical condition in the future. The author attempts to describe
how the social fabric of the society has been destroyed by a series of
factors such as scarcity of natural resources, increase in crime,
overpopulation, escalating tribalism, and diseases. Kaplan uses the an
example of six countries of West Africa (including Ghana, Guinea,
Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Liberia) to explain how the future
of the world will be in a few centuries to come. The future of the
world, as described in the book, will be characterized by exhaustion of
natural resources, cultural and racial crisis, waving geographical
destiny, and a series of wars. While the book contains the basic truth
about the situation in West Africa, the spread of these conditions in
other parts of the world (including the developed world) as the author
suggests may not be realistic.
Critique of the author’s thesis
The main focus of the author is demonstrating the impact of scarcity of
resources, crime, uncontrolled population growth, cultural and tribal
differences, and spread of disease on the strength of the social fabric
across the world. While addressing the theme of weakened social fabric
in West Africa, Kaplan attempts to forecast the future of the world and
convince the reader that West Africa is an illustration of how the world
will be in some years to come. However, the author assumes that the
emergence of West Africa as the world’s example of chaotic condition
can be explained simply by the scarcity of resources, chronic crime,
overpopulation, cultural and tribal differences, and spread of diseases.
The thesis presented by Kaplan fails to capture some important factors
(such neglect of the poor by the leaders, unequal distribution of
resources, overexploitation of resources from the developed world, and
historical injustices during the slave trade) that have resulted in the
antisocial groups of young men taking control over forces of law. If
Kaplan could have managed to integrate these factors into his thesis,
the book would have conducted an in-depth analysis of the situation and
identify the reasons why the developed world may not reach that level as
he tries to forecast.
Critique of the authors` main arguments
The author describes clearly he a series of events resulted in the
prevailing situation of lawlessness in West Africa. Kaplan interviewed a
West African minister and uses the interview to identify the fact that
the chronic crime prevailing in the region resulted from revenge taken
by unemployed and antisocial groups of youth against the benefactors of
the natural resources. However, Kaplan avoids the in-depth analysis of
this idea and focus on the depletion of natural resources as the major
cause of tribal war, geographical divisions, and dissolution of state
boundaries. The author’s main argument on scarcity of resources as the
primary cause of lawlessness and insecurity, but an element of
imbalanced distribution of resources cannot be overlooked. This is
because if the scarce resources (such as oil in Nigeria and cocoa in
Ghana) could be exploited to benefit the local people, then there would
be no one to envy the other.
Based on historian and environmentalist views, Kaplan forecasts that the
state and national boundaries will be dissolved by cultural and tribal
wars in the next fifty years. The author illustrates this argument by
the mass movement of refugees across the borders of war torn countries
such as Sierra Leon into the neighboring countries. The current
situation uncontrolled movement of refugees across borders) is a fact
that cannot be denied, but its probability of happening in other
countries with established democratic and security systems is not
possible even in the next fifty years. In addition, the natural
resources such the trees forming the rain forests have exploited and
exported as raw materials to developed countries through the coastal
ports with no value added by the local people (Kaplan, 2000). This
implies that the local people earn very little from their resources and
this is the major cause of dissatisfaction and the subsequent
Logical analysis and criticism of how Kaplan describes threats,
challenges, and opportunities
Kaplan describes vividly how things will unfold from environmental
scarcity, which will be followed by a cultural and racial crash,
followed by geographical destiny, and then transformation of war. The
author explains well how each of these factors will lead to the other
until the West African situation prevails in the world. For example, the
author managed to describe how the dangerous scarcity of water in some
regions (such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt) will emanate from the trends of
deforestation and soil erosion (Kaplan, 2000). In addition, Kaplan
describes how surging populations will present a challenge in control of
the international border control and an increase in the peasants’
movement to cities, thus increasing the problem of national security.
However, the author presents the arguments in an exaggerated way because
he may not have had the prior experience of the living conditions in the
poorest countries. Bearing in mind that these countries gained
independence in the last few decades, democratic leadership may not have
Kaplan shares his travel experiences and the knowledge of history with
his readers by demonstrating the limitations caused by natural factors
on human abilities. The author describes how the existing regimes have
been overpowered by criminal groups. Kaplan states that cities in West
Africa are the most unsafe places at night implying that the government
has limited control over its territory during the day. The author
challenges present in West Africa to oppose the liberal utopianism
(including a democratic system of governance) suggesting that it is not
the appropriate approach to curtail mega-crises. Kaplan proposes that
the current regimes have an opportunity to adopt hybrid regimes, which
will help in ensuring the security of their people. This is demonstrated
by an example of the United States that is believed to have evolved from
a hybrid regime. By this suggestion, the author indicates that it is not
all over, but there is hope for a peaceful and prosperous West Africa.
The future of the military
The theorists projects a period characterized by transformation of war
within the next fifty years. Kaplan forecast that events will unfold
from scarcity of resources, which will lead to cultural and racial
crush, followed by geographical destiny, and finally the transformation
of war. This is a clear indication that military force will be needed
than any other time in the history of the world. Despite the high demand
for the military services during the error of war transformation the
theorist suggests that the powerful military machines such as the
Pentagon’s will extinct like the dinosaurs (Kaplan, 2000). The decline
in the military force will result in propagation of lawlessness in the
entire world since there will be authority to regulate criminal groups.
The theorist illustrates this scenario by the current situation in Ivory
where the military is too small to control the increasing non-Ivorian
population. Kaplan describes this situation by saying “there is
neither an obvious force to maintain order nor a sense of nationhood
that would lessen the need for such enforcement” (Kaplan, 2000).
Therefore the future of the military is at risk of extinction and be
unable to contain widespread of chronic crime.
Points of agreement
I partly agree with some parts of the theory presented by Kaplan. A
agree with the author that the future security, both at national and
international will continue to deteriorate. In addition, the author`s
projection of the state of insecurity in West Africa is true to some
extent. Research has shown that inadequate resources, limited
institutional capabilities, and inadequately trained forces in the West
African countries are the major cause of insecurity in the region
(Portugal, 2012). This suggests that unless the international community
intervenes, the military forces and the rule of law will eventually be
completely replaced by terror groups and anarchy respectively as the
author projects.
Points of disagreement
Although I agree with Kaplan’s opinion about the future increase in
insecurity and war, I disagree with the projection that anarchy will
take place in the entire world in the next fifty years. This is because
the criteria used by the author to make these projects with an example
of West African countries are cannot be generalized to all parts of the
world. For example, lack of defined regimes, inadequate distribution of
resources, and the presence of a large number of unemployed youths who
compose the criminal gangs is not the situation in all states. Moreover,
the author’s suggestions are partly consistent with the current
research about the uncertainty of the future Killer (2012), but Kaplan
fails to take into account the interventions taken by different states
to counter the emerging threats and challenges. According to Tan (2004)
the military capacity in the Asian countries is currently prepared to
handle emerging security threats than before. This has been accomplished
through an increase in military staff and military innovation. This
implies that the future of the world military is certain and will not go
to extinct as Kaplan attempts to project.
Kaplan, D. (2000). The coming anarchy: Shattering the dreams of the post
cold war. New York: Random House Incorporation.
Killer, P. (2012). The ADF: Set for success. Australian Defense Force
Journal, 188, 6-103.
Portugal, M. (2012). The combating financing of terrorism: The African
experience. African Journal for the Prevention and Combating of
Terrorism, 2 (1), 1-212.
Tan, A. (2004). Force moderation trends in Southeast Asia. Nanyang:
Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies Singapore.

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