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India recently opened an $8 billion naval base south of Goa, procured $40 billion in weapons and plans to float the third-largest naval fleet in the near future. In the words of one Chinese analyst, “India is perhaps China’s most realistic strategic adversary.” All the more reason for a U.S.-India alliance.

Indonesia meanwhile proffers an alternative to the predicted “clash of civilizations.” Mr. Kaplan argues that Indonesians by and large already view America as it will need to be seen in a future multipolar system: as an indispensable, benevolent outside power. A strong U.S.-Indonesian partnership will be a model of cooperation between the United States and a democratic, Muslim-majority country. Indonesia is the future of Islam; Iraq is the past.

It is worth noting that Mr. Kaplan has become one of the leading lights in national security circles, which helps explain why this work is addressed to the nation’s power brokers. Both his “Balkan Ghosts” and “The Coming Anarchy” were read widely in the White House, even if the results were not what the author intended. Together with “Warrior Politics,” this represents Mr. Kaplan’s most policy-orientated work.

Nevertheless, one would be hard-pressed to find a reader who won’t enjoy it. Only the most blinkered specialists will grumble at Mr. Kaplan’s wide-angle depiction of the Indian Ocean world, which weaves journalistic investigation and interviews, frank travelogue-style impressions, evocative historical background and futuristic predictions.

Whether a global recession that highlights the decline of American clout will be enough of a shock to the system for political leaders to alter the current course of U.S. foreign policy remains to be seen. If it is, Mr. Kaplan's “Monsoon” could end up supplying the map.

Matthew Kustenbauder is a doctoral candidate in history at Harvard University.