I have been hard on Kaplan's geography work in the past because of his support of geographical determinism (geography predestines groups) instead of cultural determinism (culture defines a groups limits). However, Kaplan now introduces his article with
Precisely because geography is so overpowering and unchanging a factor in a state's destiny, there is a danger of taking it too far. So rather than believing that geography inevitably dooms states to failure, think of it as yet another complexifying factor for the weakest of countries. Their difficult geographies should spur us to action, rather than lead us to despair.
The article does a reasonable job explaining its thesis. However, the Africa bit ignores Ethiopia's involvement with the ancient and medieval worlds. The trade city of Timbuktu managed to bridge north and south Africa which did not need any major water system. Also, some cultures have managed to adopt to mountainous terrain while having governance without dictatorship. New Zealand and Switzerland are two prime examples mountainous freelands.