KAPLAN CLOSES with a sketchy, half-formed vision of a “neo-medieval” future with small but autonomous and economically strong city-states and other micro polities after the fashion of Singapore. In this vision, the Gulf states play a role akin to the city of Venice’s medieval maritime trade network, or of the Hanseatic League of commercial city-states in the Baltic in late medieval and early modern Mitteleuropa. Vision or pipe dream? At the moment, the conventional, old order of Western democracies seems to be more vigorous than it was in the aftermath of the Soviet collapse, thanks in large measure to Putin overplaying his rather rusty iron hand in Ukraine. And there is no evidence that the “mystic chords of memory,” as embodied by a sense of place, a common language, and shared values, will prove evanescent. Europe is back, and Kaplan’s erudite and humane study offers an exemplary guide to it.
Aram Bakshian, Jr. served as an aide to Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Reagan, and has written extensively on politics, history, gastronomy, and the arts for American and overseas publications.