Author Robert Kaplan speaks at VMI Convocation

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LEXINGTON, Va. (WDBJ) -- Journalist and author Robert Kaplan is known for his work on the Balkans and his recent book on “The Revenge of Geography,” a subject he wanted to talk with the cadets about at VMI's Convocation.

“A deep appreciation of geography allows you to see something very unpleasant, something very hard to admit, but something very necessary for leadership," he said, "Which is that a lot of the problems of the world have no solutions.”

Much of the world, Kaplan explained, is trapped by the forces of geography and culture that drive each country and group to act from their own, unique point of view. “Different countries operate under different constraints,” he said.

A valuable lesson for the slightly more than half of VMI cadets who will graduate with a commission in the military. Or even for those looking at a civilian career. "I had never thought about geopolitics and I honestly didn’t know what it was," Cadet Brittany Woychak said. "So for him to kind of explain that and go deeper into that was very interesting.”

“I think it’s key that we know where others come from," explained Cadet Andrew Bradshaw, "Not just what we are.”

It's a lesson that Kaplan thinks can’t be learned by just floating on the pop culture sea. “You know," he cautioned, "They have to be ambitious in their reading.”

“We have to get away from the things that distract us: the 24-news-hour cycle, the constant sports on television, the constant shows, just the mindless goop that’s out there,” Bradshaw agreed.

It's reading and study that, Kaplan hopes, will allow America’s future military and civil leaders to approach the world’s problems with a greater understanding of how other countries see us.