An engrossing memoir-cum-critique from a former civil servant who for nearly ten years played a key, if generally low-profile, role in America's national-security bureaucracy. In addition to an insider's view of the major events that engaged his attention as a Middle Eastern specialist during the 1977-87 period, Teicher offers censorious commentary on what he says has been Washington's unwillingness to do its own dirty work in the unstable lands of the region. In particular, he takes strong exception to Henry Kissinger's so-called ``twin-pillars'' strategy, which relied on Iran and Saudi Arabia to protect vital US interests (access to oil, containment of Communist expansion) in the Persian Gulf region. The author argues that this approach skewed quotidian decision-making; led to mistakes that, following the Shah's ouster, produced an unfortunate tilt toward Iraq; and made the Desert Storm campaign inevitable. Even as a young man, the precocious Teicher (who was drafting position papers for the State Department before he got out of grad school) found himself in the thick of some world-shaking crises. On his watch, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, Israel attacked Lebanon, and the US launched a reprisal raid against Libya's Qaddafi. Less constructively, the author was a party to the ill-fated Tehran mission whose exposure resulted in the Iran-contra scandal--and aborted his career in government. Though embittered by the rough treatment he received from the media and their anonymous sources for his peripheral participation in this enterprise, Teicher provides consistently evenhanded perspectives on the decade's consequential developments. Thoughtful observations on a crucial sector of the geopolitical landscape from a good soldier who, for credible reasons, believes he was shot in the back.