Only sporadically engrossing reminiscences from an ex-intelligence offficer and international banker--who too often carries circumspection to the point of innocuous, even tedious obscurity. A grandson of Theodore Roosevelt, the author (who turns 70 in February) enjoyed a privileged youth that prepared him for an apparently exciting career whose substantive achievements and/or setbacks have yet to be recorded. After graduating from Harvard, where he began studying languages, including Arabic, Roosevelt worked briefly as a newspaper reporter. When the US was drawn into WW II, his linguistic skills (and establishment ties) landed him a slot with G2, the Army's intelligence command, which promptly assigned him to a series of Middle Eastern billets. After his 1947 discharge, the author signed on with the CIA, then known as the Central Intelligence Group; save for a year on loan to the Voice of America, he remained there through 1974, leaving before the post-Watergate purges to join Chase Manhattan. Roosevelt offers a deliberately vague and decidedly terse accounting of his intelligence years, during which he served not only as chief of station in nameless posts throughout Western Europe and the Islamic World but also as head of two agency divisions. In fact, over half the episodic narrative is devoted to his unclassified service in North Africa and environs during and after WW II. Even more exasperating is the scholarly author's failure to make connections between his youthful experiences and encounters with great men (Hussein, Bourguiba, King Saud, the Shah of Iran, Ben-Gurion, et al.) and recent or current events. Only in a short concluding section on the craft of intelligence does Roosevelt provide incisive perspectives on US policy in Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, and other trouble spots. Also irksome is the blue-blooded Cold Warrior's bent for inane detail. Commenting on a bout with ""Tehran tummy,"" for example, he notes: ""I have always found yogurt an excellent preventative against bacterial dysentery."" Nor does Roosevelt shrink from banal solemnities as attested by this envoi for George Wadsworth, a notoriously bibulous and difficult diplomat: ""His like will not be seen again."" At best, a disappointingly selective and bland travelogue of interest mainly to members of Roosevelt's immediate circle. The lengthy (512-page) text includes photographs and maps (not seen).
Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1987
Page Count: -
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1987
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