Peter Cutler is a respected Princeton professor living a quiet academic life when an old college friend makes him an offer he can't refuse: The position of foreign policy adviser for Democratic presidential candidate Wayne Kent. Cutler takes the job and eagerly jumps into the political fray. When Kent wins the election, Cutler's thrilled to find himself Under Secretary of State. But he soon discovers that the power politics of Washington are a far cry from the comforts of university life. In order to survive, he...
Peter Cutler is a respected Princeton professor living a quiet academic life when an old college friend makes him an offer he can't refuse: The position of foreign policy adviser for Democratic presidential candidate Wayne Kent. Cutler takes the job and eagerly jumps into the political fray. When Kent wins the election, Cutler's thrilled to find himself Under Secretary of State. But he soon discovers that the power politics of Washington are a far cry from the comforts of university life. In order to survive, he must participate in a ruthless tug-of-war in which everyone struggles to promote his own agenda. As Cutler becomes increasingly absorbed in the underhanded tactics of bureaucratic survival and the charms of an old girlfriend working in the Pentagon, his initial foreign policy goals recede into the background. Ultimately, the allure and hypocrisy of political life cause him to alienate everyone he cares about—and to make one life-altering political miscalculation.
In this Washington novel of political intrigue, ultimate insider Nye, a Harvard professor and former deputy to the undersecretary of defense for international security affairs, eschews the action/adventure route to portray the rise and fall of one Peter Cutler, a likable, mild-mannered Princeton professor who helps out an old law school friend on a presidential campaign and finds himself rewarded with a job offer as undersecretary for security affairs. He takes the offer, of course, and therein lies the tale of his eventual ruin. We know from the beginning that the job is going to end badly: "Less than a month earlier, I was riding high. Now I was out. Fired." Cutler's downfall comes after he mishandles delicate negotiations involving Pakistan's transfer of nuclear weapons to Iran, a policy condemned by the U.S. government. Though he acts in what he considers the best interest of his country, the people of the world and a close Pakistani friend, his actions lead to death and disaster. This is a realistic, entertaining, thought-provoking novel in a genre not widely read these days, written by a respected author with an engaging style and an intimate knowledge of the territory. Agent, Rafe Sagalyn. (Nov.) Forecast: Nye's fiction debut is getting a dignified push from the likes of political bigwigs William S. Cohen and David Gergen, but the limited appeal of the genre might slow sales. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Debut fiction, set in the near future, from Nye (The Paradox of American Power, 2002, etc.), Clinton's Assistant Secretary of Defense: a bland mix of turf wars, marriage wars, and the threat of religious war. At the start, protagonist Peter Cutler hears he's been fired as Undersecretary for Security Affairs at State; this is also the story's climax, so there's no suspense about his destiny. Thereafter, the chronology is straightforward. We get a quick look at Peter's childhood in Maine, then it's on to grad school at Princeton, where Peter studies political science and makes a couple of enduring friendships: with Jim Childress, aspiring politician, and Ali Aziz, a Pakistani studying nuclear engineering. Peter will also fall in love with Alexa, a stunning blond who's not looking to commit; power is her thing. So Peter marries another looker, Kate Ling Chen, who will work for the university press while he becomes a Princeton prof (his field is nuclear proliferation). Raising two kids, they're a happy family-until Peter gets Potomac fever. By then, Jim is managing the presidential campaign of Senator Wayne Kent, charismatic westerner. Peter joins the effort without consulting Kate and, after Kent's election, accepts that plum job at State. Meanwhile in Pakistan, where Ali is running a nuclear research lab, Musharaff has been ousted by another general with radical Islamist sympathies. In DC, Peter scores some victories in the furious bureaucratic infighting but allows himself to be seduced by Alexa, also a big-time Washington player. Personal and political crises erupt simultaneously, and glibly: Kate, tipped off to Peter's adultery, insists on a temporary separation, while Pakistan decidesto transfer nukes to Iran. A CIA covert operation to pre-empt the transfer goes awry, Ali is among the victims, and Peter is made the fall guy. Another superficial treatment of Washington as a sinkhole for careers and marriages. Meanwhile, the moral issue of pre-emption is obscured by operational details. Agent: Raphael Sagalyn/Sagalyn Literary Agency
Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, was Chairman of the National Intelligence Council and an Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Clinton administration. He is the author of several books, including Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics, The Paradox of American Power: Why the World's Only Superpower Can't Go It Alone, and Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power.