A stunningly shallow and vapid memoir from a man whose lengthy stint as a midlevel official with various federal agencies coincided with the Cold War's beginning and end. For briefly stated reasons that don't ring true, Nuechterlein presents his own story as that of David Bruening and tells it in the third person, using fictitious names for most of the people he dealt with in the course of what appears to have been an uncommonly interesting professional life. Unfortunately, it's difficult to gauge the extent of the author's engagement or excitement because he writes with all the panache of a metronome. By way of example, accounts of his father's birthday observances are accorded the same matter-of-fact detail as momentous global events with which Nuechterlein is personally familiar. In once-over-lightly fashion, he recalls a career that began in 1946 with an editorial post at the official organ of the US Military Government in occupied Germany. He subsequently worked for the USIA in Iceland and Thailand and for the Pentagon during the Vietnam War. Burned out from 12-hour days by 1968, he accepted a professorship in international relations at the University of Virginia's Federal Executive Institute (which provides advanced training for senior civil servants). Retiring at 63 in 1988, he continues to work as a visiting professor and foreign-policy expert. But no particular insight that he might have gained is evident here. His deadly earnest statements range from the pronouncement (on William Casey) that ``it's dangerous to have a CIA director who's so powerful he can cut out the State and Defense departments from operations'' through the empty assurance that a tour of Mauthausen (a Nazi concentration camp) ``was an emotional experience as well as an educational one.'' Dispensable reminiscences from a low-level cold warrior unable to convey any real sense of what it meant or felt like to live in challenging times.
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