As might be expected, diplomatic and bland. The UN secretary-general tells a little something of himself (the post-WW I impoverishment of his Austrian family, his legal and consular studies, inescapable German military service, post-WW II diplomatic posts), He cites the difficulties for the secretary-general in having nominal responsibility and the power only to persuade, and answers charges of ""passivity"" by referring to quiet, ""preventive diplomacy."" He defends the UN itself on familiar grounds that it provides a forum for airing diverse national interests, and ascribes its shortcomings not only to fiscal and administrative constraints and intramural rivalries but to ""the contradictions that characterize the world community itself."" Most of the book, however, is devoted to accounts of the UN role in Southern Africa (chiefly Namibia), Cyprus, and the Middle East, which in each case clarify a tangle of events and demonstrate the patience, tact, and resourcefulness required to make the most minute progress. (Apropos of the Arab-Israeil impasse, he is obviously unhappy with Israeli intransigence.) He writes sympathetically about the Third World, noting that Western democracy may not be practicable ""in a social order based on tribal principles or among groups that have not yet achieved a minimum of national cohesion."" (He also finds Third World leaders as qualified and competent ""as their colleagues from the developed countries."") And he details the UN sessions devoted to establishing a new international economic order--which will come, he believes, when both sides are willing to compromise. Back of his hopes for the future are the UN success in providing ""the means and the pretext to retreat from a dangerous confrontation""--with utmost discretion, in southern Lebanon. The word ""pretext"" is about as close as we come here to an observation that would not appear in an official document (Waldheim's 1979 annual report is also appended); but the book, however circumscribed, is not without reference value.