Robert Kaplan On The Tragedy In Geopolitics

The globetrotting reporter is sobered by what he’s seen over the decades.

Bob is a foreign affairs and travel journalist, and a scholar of the classics. For three decades he reported for The Atlantic and wrote for many other places, including the editorial pages of the NYT and WaPo — and TNR back in my day. He holds the Robert Strausz-Hupé Chair in Geopolitics at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and is a senior adviser at Eurasia Group. He’s the author of 21 books, including The Coming AnarchyBalkan Ghosts and Asia’s Cauldron. His new book is The Tragic Mind.

You can listen to the episode right away in the audio player above (or on the right side of the player, click “Listen On” to add the Dishcast feed to your favorite podcast app — though Spotify sadly doesn’t accept the paid feed). For two clips of our convo — why anarchy is worse than tyranny, specifically in Iraq, and the question of whether Taiwan is worth going to war over — pop over to our YouTube page.

Other topics: Bob’s working-class upbringing; his global travel as a young reporter; his complex views of humanity after visiting Soviet Europe and the Balkans; Reagan’s talent and good fortune; H.W.’s record of averting disaster; the optimism and hubris of the US after the Cold War; the series of US victories in the ‘90s — ending in Iraq and Afghanistan; the evil of Saddam; Obama’s love of Niebuhr and his overcompensation on Russia and China; Biden’s deft balancing act in Ukraine; how the Afghan exit actually benefitted the US against Russia; Greek tragedy vs. Shakespearean tragedy; Sophocles and Oedipus; the Christian understanding of tragedy; Hobbes and his Leviathan; Zionism as the lesser of two evils; Spengler’s Decline of the West; American decadence and the poison of social media; and Bob’s clinical depression after the Iraq invasion.

Browse the Dishcast archive for another discussion you might enjoy (the first 102 episodes are free in their entirety). Upcoming guests include Mark Lilla on liberalism, Susan Neiman on how “left is not woke,” Tabia Lee on her firing as a DEI director, Chris Stirewalt on Fox News, Nigel Biggar on colonialism, and John Oberg on veganism (recorded already but I’m sampling a variety of plant-based meats to comment on when the episode is released). As always, please send your guest recs and listener feedback to

Here’s a listener on our episode with Michael Lind on populism and elites:


Categories: Geopolitics

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