ON WATCH: A Memoir by

ON WATCH: A Memoir

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An informally elegant memoir and policy critique by the 1970-74 Chief of Naval Operations. Zumwalt, since his retirement a prominent advocate of a ""tough"" stand toward the Soviets, makes it clear that he is an inveterate cold warrior (with a White Russian wife to boot) but no traditional right-winger. A disciple of the sophisticated Pentagon advisor Paul Nitze, Zumwalt gained an acquaintance with intelligence matters and foreign policy debates denied to most Navy brass. The book consists of a series of witty, extensively documented, and of course self-justifying reconstructions of bureaucratic intrigues and alleged US failures. Zumwalt, considered by the Navy majority a young whipper-snapper because he allowed longer hair and upgraded minority-group members, zoomed downward on the Washington ""rollercoaster"" when the Nixon administration became a ""wreck."" A formidable enemy of Henry Kissinger from 1971 on, Zumwalt claims that the Secretary of State believes the Soviets have unbeatable superiority in conventional arms and the US must make the best of a bad deal. He further insists that the Kissinger years brought a combination of secrecy and weakness which undermined NATO, Congress, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff while handing the Soviets a triumph at SALT I. The book also indicts Kissinger's ""fatuous and ignoble"" effort to ""let Israel bleed just enough"" during the 1973 war to ""soften it up"" for his later diplomatic maneuvers. The guns-not-butter import of Zumwalt's views is left totally oblique, while his criticisms of '60s and '70s wheelers and bumblers are disarmingly persuasive. Like it or not, one of the major documents of the season.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1976
Publisher: Quadrangle/New York Times