If I may offer a divergent view of this book, I would have to say that reading this book reminded me of a Neal Stephenson novel, if Neal Stephenson lacked insight, intellectual rigor, careful research and was a really boring, bad writer. Oh yeah, and if Neal Stephenson tried to pass off his fiction as non-fiction.
The basic thesis of this collection of scattered essays is that the majority of the world's people are poor, ignorant and violent, and that society will eventually disintegrate into various feuding clans and gangs, with the only exception to this chaos being a new system of interlocking corporate and national interestes in America and Europe. He does mention the phenomenea of gated communities and transnational gangs. He doesn't quite go as far as proposing mafia ran pizza delivery, however; probably because he is not creative enough.
All of this book seems rather interesting, and some of the ideas about the gloomy coming century are somewhat interesting, but I think Robert D. Kaplan doesn't really have the background to discuss them. They would be interesting ideas in dystopic science fiction, but I find his support for such ideas rather narrow. In some areas of the world that he speaks of, I don't have the back ground to judge his rantings, but when he says:
Large-scale population movements are under way, from inland China to coastal China and from villages to cities, leading to a crime surge like the one in Africa and to growing regional disparities and conflicts in a land with a strong tradition of warlordism and a weak tradition of central government-again as in Africa. Page 25-26
Thus, he neatly compresses the worlds largest and oldest nation's history down into a pat little sentence, which while true (in the past 4000 years, China has been ruled by warlords at times) very much ignores the traditional Chinese focus on education
and the social contempt for the military
in Chinese society
He does make some good points. He says, and I do believe, that certain areas of the third world's continued inability to lift themselves out of war and poverty is not due to the effects of capitalism and colonialism, but due in some part to the illiteracy and tribalism of various countries; and that those countries becoming "democratic" overnight is an idle dream, when what they need first is institutions to build an educated middle class.
However, whatever good points he makes are irrelevant due to his overwhelming inability (quite common amongst American thinkers) to realize the difference between a prescriptive and descriptive truth, and his inability to make a case that the world situation he describes makes it at all morally acceptable to engage in the types of war and politics he favors. In addition, his personal air puts me off: Mencius said: there is no difference between killing a man with a sword, and killing a man with a government policy. That Kaplan would suggest oppressing people in the ways he does, without realizing that he might as well be killing them personally (something he is probably incapable of doing) makes me discount his thinking.