Ah, Wilderness!rnby Scott McConnellrn”Oh, for a lodge in some vast wilderness,rnSome boundless contiguity of shade,rnWhere rumor of oppression and deceit,rnOf unsuccessful or successful war.rnMight never reach me more!”rn—William CowperrnAn Empire Wilderness: Travels IntornAmerica’s Futurernby Robert D. KaplanrnNew York: Random House;rn393 pp., $27.50rnHaving written books on the Balkansrn{Balkan Ghosts) and the mostrndisorganized parts of Africa (The Ends ofrnthe Earth), Robert Kaplan, contributingrneditor to the Atlantic Monthly, hasrnturned his eye on the western half ofrnNorth America. Such bastions of MiddlernAmerican stability as Omaha, Nebraska,rnand Tucson, Arizona, are subjectedrnto the author’s characteristicrnscrutiny: that of an observant travelerrnwell informed by history who takes duernnote of the social fissures in whateverrnplace he happens to be visiting. Theserncracks—usually foreshadowing more seriousrnsocial fragmentation and oftenrnused by the author to explain seeminglyrnunavoidable cycles of conflict and failedrnleadership —provide Kaplan with thernnarrative thread by which he is able tornconvey his own, generally pessimistic,rnworldview.rnThe idea for such a book about thernAmerican West is itself arresting. AnrnEmpire Wilderness is an unambiguousrnsign that concern about the impact ofrneconomic globalization and mass immigrationrnon America’s long-term cohe-rnScott McConnell writes from New York.rnTTJJ^W^rn.M*rny^^\ >x.uV^’- Vv>^,i ], M’ •^’ [M. . …Mr.,}’.rnsion—which has preoccupied realist andrntraditional conservatives for years—is beginningrnto affect the center and left of thernpolitical spectrum as well, having bypassedrnthe more established Beltwayrnright and its mainstream journals withrntheir notorious reluctance seriously tornentertain such issues. Kaplan exploresrnhis subject with detached understatement,rnalways aware that he is speaking ofrn(and to) a nation that has not experiencedrna major national tragedy since thernCivil War and whose leaders behave as ifrnit enjoyed a permanent exemption fromrnthe condition of being human. Yet inrnthe graceful writing and the half-alarmedrnasides, there is insight and painful realism;rnas a portrait of half a continent undergoingrnrapid and generally wrenchingrnchange. An Empire Wilderness is firstrate.rnKaplan begins his journey at thernArmy staff college in Ft. Leavenworth,rnKansas—the departure point for hundredsrnof wagon trains and the cavalry’srnIndian campaigns, the base where Eisenhowerrnstudied war and Colin Powellrnserved as commander. Sitting awestruckrnin the Protestant memorial chapel, goingrnover the names of those fallen in battle,rnKaplan feels himself at the “core of nationhood.”rnToday’s officers are adept atrncomputer modeling (urban warfare, possiblyrnon the American continent, is a hotrnsubject), conversant with history, wellrnread, and personally disciplined. A selectrngroup by measure of achievementrnand, quite often, bravery, they cannotrnhelp but be conscious of the culturalrngaps separating them from the elites onrnboth coasts. Whether black or white,rnLeavenworth’s officers usually have ruralrnand blue collar roots-backgroundsrnwhich, though once well represented atrnthe higher levels of American governmentrnand business, are now marginalrnnearly to the point of quaintness. Kaplanrnnotes, in an almost off-hand way, that thernliving conditions at Leavenworth arernSpartan by contemporary standards, thernconsumption of modern creature com-rn28/CHRONICLESrnrnrn