The Tragic Mind


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Fear, Fate, and the Burden of Power

Robert D. Kaplan

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A moving meditation on recent geopolitical crises, viewed through the lens of ancient and modern tragedy
“Classical drama provides crucial lessons for policymakers. . . . A road map for effective, well-considered policy.”—Kirkus Reviews
Some books emerge from a lifetime of hard-won knowledge. Robert D. Kaplan has learned, from a career spent reporting on wars, revolutions, and international politics in Europe, the Middle East, and East Asia, that the essence of geopolitics is tragedy. In The Tragic Mind, he employs the works of ancient Greek dramatists, Shakespeare, German philosophers, and the modern classics to explore the central subjects of international politics: order, disorder, rebellion, ambition, loyalty to family and state, violence, and the mistakes of power.
The great dilemmas of international politics, he argues, are not posed by good versus evil—a clear and easy choice—but by contests of good versus good, where the choices are often searing, incompatible, and fraught with consequences. A deeply learned and deeply felt meditation on the importance of lived experience in conducting international relations, this is a book for everyone who wants a profound understanding of the tragic politics of our time.

Robert D. Kaplan, the Robert Strausz-Hupé Chair in Geopolitics at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, was twice named one of the world’s “Top 100 Global Thinkers” by Foreign Policy. A reporter with decades of experience writing for The Atlantic, he has written twenty-one books, including Adriatic, The Good American, The Revenge of Geography, Asia’s Cauldron, Monsoon, The Coming Anarchy, and Balkan Ghosts. He has served on the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board and the U.S. Navy’s Executive Panel.

“Classical drama provides crucial lessons for policymakers. . . . A road map for effective, well-considered policy.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Robert Kaplan has augmented his many penetrating studies of societies, regions, and strategies with The Tragic Mind. It deals brilliantly with the impact on the human mind of the changes wrought by conflicts and transformations in various historical periods. A moving culmination by one of America’s most thoughtful observers of international trends.”—Henry A. Kissinger, author of Leadership: Six Studies in World Strategy

“This is a brilliant and unique philosophical journey from the ancient Greeks through Shakespeare’s canon and on to modern existential literature. But above all, it is a meditation on geopolitics grounded in a lifetime of global reporting.”—Admiral James Stavridis, 16th Supreme Allied Commander at NATO and author of To Risk It All

“Robert Kaplan combines his knowledge of the classics with four decades of firsthand experience with wars and crises to wisely warn ahistorical Americans that all could have been helped by a greater tragic sensibility. He shows that tragedy is not fatalism or despair, but comprehension. A beautifully thoughtful essay.”—Joseph S. Nye, Jr., author of Do Morals Matter?

“Robert Kaplan has long been his own toughest critic. Now, in The Tragic Mind, he draws on Aeschylus, Euripides, and Sophocles for an unflinchingly courageous course correction: a deeply significant book for troubled times.”—John Lewis Gaddis, author of On Grand Strategy

“This is an author who has made it his business to see the world we live in. I have always read his work with awe. In this book, Kaplan takes the reader beyond the realm of information and knowledge and into the territory of wisdom. It is a profound must-read for all who wish to understand the world as it is.”—Ayaan Hirsi Ali, author of Prey: Immigration, Islam, and the Erosion of Women’s Rights
ISBN: 9780300263862
Publication Date: January 17, 2023
152 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2