“Who am I? Why am I here?” Vice Admiral (ret.) James Stockdale, asked those questions at the beginning of his opening statement in the 1992 vice presidential debate. It was said, in part, in self-deprecating jest, yet was misunderstood by the media and especially Saturday Night Live which used it to paint an unflattering caricature of an American hero who had a first-rate mind. Those questions have historically been the starting point for philosophers and even characters such as Jean Valjean in the musical version of Les Miserables.
“Who are we? What does it mean?” Those are the questions Robert Kaplan posed as he set out on his latest venture to discover America in his new book, Earning the Rockies: How Geography Shapes America's Role in the World.
Kaplan’s last book, In Europe's Shadow, gave readers a glimpse of his first assignments as a writer, but it is in his latest work that his readers can find an uncharacteristically personal history about a father who inspired his son’s wanderlust. As he has before, Kaplan heads west, this time exploring the work of early 20th century historian, of the West, Bernard DeVoto, best known for his continental trilogy about the emergence of a distinctly American nation.
Read the full review at War on the Rocks.