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Knowing that Admiral Jim Stavridis was shortlisted as a vice-presidential nominee for both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s campaigns I was looking forward to this treatise from such a widely respected and experienced four star admiral who now serves as Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. The Admiral presents a vivid, entertaining, thoughtful and brilliant blend of maritime history, geopolitics and international affairs across the entire globe. The book is peppered with anecdotes and personal experiences during his service in the Navy, from midshipman to four star admiral, which adds life to the text and gives it a personal tone. So much is written about the quest for territory, but a greater understanding of the oceans and sea power has been sorely needed. The book gives a view of the world looking onshore from the seas and of how sea power has shaped our history, civilization and geopolitics. The chapters are divided by each of the globe’s major bodies of water, the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic, Arctic, etc., a fascinating journey where you would be well-served to have a map near at hand. Stavridis’ analysis provides the reader with valuable insights regarding the current state of security in different areas of the globe and prescriptions to address some of the ongoing threats in the different regions, such as China’s emergence as a global maritime power and muscle in the South China Sea or how to deal with North Korea. He even provides a fascinating view of the strategic and commercial importance of the Arctic Ocean and the positions of different stakeholders. As former Supreme Allied Commander in Europe for NATO (the only admiral to hold that post) he also provides some very valuable insights on the importance of cooperation and uses of soft and hard power. Stavridis is not just a military man, but also a consummate diplomat and student of history and culture. A Renaissance Admiral. Stavridis' extensive knowledge and personal experience make the book not only interesting and enlightening but thankfully an accessible and entertaining experience to listen.
11 of 12 people found this review helpful
I got about 80% of the way through this audiobook and couldn't listen to any more of it. Half history, half personal memoir, and half recommendation for future naval strategy, the book is unsatisfying on each count. The history is sparse with respect to strategy and better histories can be found elsewhere. The memoir is not nearly as interesting as the Admiral thinks it is (though it does provide insight to the mindset of a modern US Navy officer). But most importantly Stavridis is out of his depth (forgive me) when venturing into the world of geopolitics. This weakness is most exposed when he provides his opinion on what future naval and military policy should be without any understanding of the geopolitical forces that would underlie strategic decision making. Perhaps I expected too much from a book with the word "geopolitics" right there on the cover. At times you almost sense that an editor of this book pointed out geopolitical flaws in his reasoning, but it was too late to change the general thrust of the arguments - a good example is when he mentions, in passing and basically as an afterthought that essentially undermines an entire chapter that preceded it (though it does not appear he realizes this), the effect that domestic crude oil production in the United States in the age of fracking might have on US desires to continue to be the force that ensures (and pays for) stability in the Persian Gulf (which apparently is called the "Arabian Gulf" by people in the know like Stavridis). Geopolitical analysis in the second decade of the 21st century that does not account for the fact that the world is very different now than it was for the 50-60 years following the Second World War is not worth your time. Unless you are looking for a list of books and movies that Stavridis thinks are "brilliant," use your credits elsewhere.
5 of 7 people found this review helpful