This book is an insider's account of two revealing episodes in America's Cold War-era foreign relations. A young American professor is caught up in a racially fraught crisis at an American White missionary-led university in the Congo and later publicly fired by a government cabinet minister. Several years afterwards, he becomes a key staff aide for a congressional committee battling to distance the U.S. government from the Congo dictator's corruption and human rights abuses. His journey, through two fascinating places and two separate life-stages, provides first hand insights into many of today's burning issues: as the dynamics of racial conflict, the paranoia and narcissism of authoritarian regimes and the hidden dysfunctions of the U.S. Congress (including corrupting relationships with narrow-based domestic and foreign lobbyists), the State Department (truth-shading and manipulation) and the pundit press (war room journalism).
At the same time, this is a reflective tale of the author's tortuous personal growth and political maturation. He comes to understand how elements of his own personality have hindered his perception of hard-to-read political realities. A child of the social change movements of the 1960s, he makes some dubious choices and tries to learn from them. The book's focus on individual agency in challenging environments resonates strongly today as increasing numbers of Americans study and work in authoritarian countries and strive to maintain democratic institutions at home.
Refreshingly candid, self-critical, well-documented and, in the end, hopeful, this is the rare memoir that opens new windows onto both America's foreign policies and its internal political disorders.