Buckley explores the role of the "anointed white man" in the modern world. The protagonist, really a Buckley alter-ego, Blackford Oakes has had every privilege — breeding, looks, wealth, health, intelligence, and entry into the homes of the elite. He is a respected war hero who is recruited by a friend to "help" his country during a time of "peace."
The questions that Buckley asks are important ones. He asks, what is the role of a citizen during "peace time?" What is acceptable behavior? What are the bounds of morality? What is the difference between Blackford Oakes and the dreaded agents of communism who feel that the end justifies the means? These questions are as valid today as when Buckley wrote this novel.