Red Storm Rising: Historically and Strategically Accurate?

[(Essay date 8 June 2011) In the following essay D.M. explores the historical and military strategic accuracy of Tom Clancy’s Red Storm Rising. D.M. makes the claim that Tom Clancy did a magnificent job and large amounts of research prior to the publishing.]

Red Storm Rising is of the genre known as techno-thriller, and that is exactly what the story is. From the Kremlin of Moscow to the desolates of Iceland to the military bases of America to the country side of Germany, Tom Clancy takes the reader on an adventure that is unparalleled by any other novel. Muslim extremists destroy a Soviet oil refinery, and the Soviets are faced with an ultimatum on how to make up for their lost oil. The only way is war. Tom Clancy uses his personal experiences and research to go along with the aid of military historian Larry Bond in this techno-thriller that brings about World War III.

Just how historically accurate is the fictitious bombing of the Russian oil refinery at Nizhnevartovsk? Well, to start off, Muslims had a deep hatred for the Soviet Union. Although, not too many lived in the Soviet Union, the ones that did experienced a hatred oh so deep. The Soviet satellite of Azerbaijan is where the terrorists hailed from, and as of today Azerbaijan is 99% Muslim. Why did the Muslims hold the Soviets in such contempt? Well for one, Communism, the political practice of the Soviets, barred the existence of religion, so heads were bound to collide. Another reason is the Soviet unjust invasion of the sovereign Muslim state of Afghanistan. That left deplorable sour tastes in the mouths of Muslims worldwide toward the Soviets. So while this event did not actually occur, the scenario was definitely plausible. To this day, provinces such as Chechnya and Dagestan have widespread terrorism, and even some groups such as Al-Quada, the group responsible for 9-11, has declared a Jihad. So Tom Clancy hit the nail on the head here. If he wanted to start a realistic international crisis, he sure made a believable one.

Shortly after the explosions at the Nizhnevartovsk Oil Refinery, American satellites quickly send fear to the Americans when they see the massive explosions. They are not sure if it is missile launch, or some other distraction, either way, it sends fear into the US Air Force intelligence officers. Their reaction of relief is clear when they find out it is just an oil refinery. “Sir, that’s an oil refinery fire. Jeez, and it looks like a real pisser! Colonel, we got a Big Bird pass in twenty minute...”(Clancy 16) The relief is not only shown, but the terminology used in which the officer described it to the colonel is very accurate. While it may not be exactly “formal” the term Big Bird is actually slang for the KH-11 spy satellite. The KH-11 spy satellite was the most sophisticated spying method that the US’s intelligence possessed. Tom Clancy clearly would not put any inaccuracy into his novels.

Shortly later in the novel, there is a scene in Politburo, which is the executive committee for a number of Communist states, including the Soviet Union. This is where the first idea of war was discussed. “Do we have the ability to defeat NATO?” “Of Course,” the Defense minister answered(Clancy 33) This shows the beginning stages of the Soviet’s master plan to defeat NATO and regain oil that they had lost. The first order of business would be to take out NATO. In order for that plan to ever come full circle though, the Politburo would have to approve of it. On the Politburo were ministers such as defense, agriculture, industry and the head Soviet. The Politburo voted, with the result of 11-2. Only two were against the war, one of which being Pyotr Bromkovskiy, who happened to be a soldier during World War II. “Comrades, this is madness! Yes we have a grave economic danger. Yes, we have a grave danger to the security of the State--- but do we replace this with a greater danger.”(Clancy 34) Free speech like this in the Soviet Union was barred from almost everyone, unless you were the political elite like this man. Well into his 80’s this man had the respect of the rest of the Politburo. The scene that occurred inside is almost as close to being at the actual meeting as one could possibly, so yet again, Clancy shows just how much research and how accurate he truly is.

Strategically, Clancy is as nearly accurate as he could get. The battle plan described in Red Storm Rising by the Politburo is actually exactly the speculated battle plans that NATO had prepared for. The Soviets knew that any attack on the Persian Gulf would be an attack on America, according to the Carter Doctrine. However, at this time, the Persian Gulf did not supply that much oil for the United States. It mostly supplied oil for Western Europe. The Soviet plan was to sweep into Western Europe and seize Iceland where there was a huge NATO air force base. It was a four pronged attack, one attack coming from northern Germany branching out into Denmark, a second attack going into central Germany eventually reaching France and the Netherlands if successful, a third attack going south, and a fourth attack coming from Czechoslovakia and Austria into the southern sector of western Europe. The Soviets knew that the Americans were not exactly fond being part of NATO, so their train of thought was that if they eliminated NATO, the US would not have to back states in the Persian Gulf because American Jews were very unhappy with the stance of supporting Israel and Muslim states both. With NATO out of the way, the US would not object to the Soviets taking the Persian Gulf oil. At least that is what the Soviets thought. Just how accurate is Clancy in describing this plan though? Almost spot on. Oliver North, a military hero, is on the record as saying that if the Russians were ever to invade western Europe, they would launch it from many different sectors. What they were wrong about however is that the US would just sit back and let them take the Persian Gulf oil. The US would fight for every last drop oil in that region if it meant the Soviets did not have it.

Another strategy that the Soviets implemented in this novel were the use of sleeper cells of Spetznaz, which were the elite of the Soviet military. Twenty teams were sent into West Germany four months prior to invasion, pretty much just to get established. On the day of the invasion, these teams were supposed to wreak havoc on any NATO instillation of defense or communication, and hopefully hold out until the actual military could reach them. “Turning right now, Car three, close in. Car one, turn left at the next intersection and get ahead of them.” Colonel Weber spoke over a tactical radio of the sort used by FIST, fire support team units.” (Clancy 159) The scene is set for the ambush to take place and bust one group of Spetznaz set to blow up a communications post at Lammersdorf. However, intelligence obtained from a captured Spetznaz officer set the ambush in place, and prevented almost all of the Spetznaz teams stationed through out West Germany from being successful. How accurate is Clancy in the Soviet strategy of placing Spetznaz teams in West Germany as sleeper cells? The Spetznaz were the fighting elite. They were the Navy SEALS of the Soviet military. No one wanted to mess with them. They could improvise, adapt, overcome, and destroy anyone in their path. This scenario very well could have been a realistic one. And just how realistic was the ambush? Beside the fact that it never happened, the intelligence gained from it was very real. In West Germany, on average, a spy was captured three times a week all the way up until 1989 when the Soviet Union began to collapse. So while the actual scenario of an ambush never took place, spies were captured all the time, and often a time they provided valuable information.

After the Soviets take Iceland, the United States Marine Corps is designated to take it back. They need some help first to soften up the Soviet defense instillations, which were all over the island. Why one might ask is Iceland so important? It was an island almost halfway between North America and Northern Europe. If war were to ever take place, Iceland would be a necessity to have. But anyway, the marines first needed help from the air force. B-52 bombers absolutely destroyed any defense left on that island, and it would almost be a cake walk for the Marines to take back. “Heavy enemy jamming activity to the west, plan three. Repeat: Plan Three. We are under heavy fire. (Clancy 402)” Just how accurate is this bombing? The B-52 is in fact a real plane. In fact, B-52’s are the longest serviced airplane in military history, still in use today. B-52’s are actually the plane that dropped the atomic bombs on Japan during World War II. To say they have been important to the United States military is an understatement. The crucial point on Iceland the US needed to take back was Keflavik air force base. Does Keflavik actually exist? Not only does it exist, it is the largest air force base in the North Atlantic. Once again, Clancy proves that his research and knowledge of history and military strategy is second to none.

While Tom Clancy wrote this novel as fiction, his vast knowledge of military strategy, military history, geography, and just history in general gives the vibe that Red Storm Rising is actually non-fiction. His knowledge is second to none, and nearly everything that he wrote about is 100% accurate.

(D.M. 2011)


Patriot Games:
A True Good vs. Evil Story

In this essay K.N. will analyze the use of internal thoughts of characters that reveal each individual character’s true feelings on the events of the novel and their rationale behind their actions as well as their thought process during a tense situation. This essay will examine how these thoughts create a classic struggle between good and evil, placed into a believable story, that takes the struggle to a new level in Tom Clancy’s, Patriot Games.
Good vs. Evil. Everyone knows how the story goes. The bad guy hurts the good guy in one way or another and the good guy goes on a heroic journey to exact justice upon evil. And good wins. But there must be more to a good vs. evil story than that, right? Tom Clancy’s Patriot Games provides more than the cliché good vs. evil story. Clancy takes you into the depths of the minds of either side of the struggle. Patriot Games does contain a good defeating evil storyline, but provides insight into characters rationale for their beliefs, motives for why they believe what they do and how they plan to act upon their either good or evil nature, to create a raw modern day good vs. evil story.
The story begins with a common man being thrust into a very uncommon situation. The time period of the novel is current day, which at the time the novel was written is the 1980s. At this point in history several Irish terrorist groups were formed over what they claimed was British oppression of the Irish. The main character of the novel, Jack Ryan, is a Naval Academy history teacher on vacation with his wife Cathy and daughter Sally in London, when he witnesses a terrorist attack. Immediately his Marine Corps training allows him to identify details immediately, “Grenade, something in his mind reported” (Clancy 15). Ryan’s subconscious had been drilled to death during his time in the Marines to identify such an obscure detail. At this point his training takes over and he acts, he jumps the terrorist and takes his gun, then fires point blank killing another, and is wounded himself. Unbeknownst to him, Jack had just saved the lives of the Prince and Princess of Wales, next in line to the throne of England. Although he knows his actions were in defense of the innocent, he struggles with the fact he killed a man, “A man is dead because of you, Jack. All the way dead. He had his instincts, too, didn’t he? But yours worked better—so why doesn’t that make you feel good?”(43). Clancy makes it clear that killing a man, regardless of his character, was not easy for Jack to do. Jack continues to struggle with this reality,
Now if I could just make the dreams stop. Nearly every night Jack relived the shoot-out on The Mall. Almost three weeks now. Something else they didn’t tell you on TV. The human mind has a way of punishing itself for killing a fellow man. It remembers and relives the incident again and again. Ryan hoped it would stop someday.”
In the heat of the moment his instincts took over, now his humanity questioned his instinctual response. This is a testament to his good, righteous nature. Although he saved the lives of the innocent, something within him cannot allow him to be content with killing anyone.

While Jack is recovering in the Hospital room, meditating over his choices, his adversaries fume with anger over their failed operation. The head of the Irish Terrorist group, the Ulster Liberation Army (ULA), Kevin O’Donnell angrily thinks about the failed operation, “Who are you Yank? he wondered. John Patrick Ryan. Historian—a bloody academic! Ex-Marine—trust a damned bootneck to stick his nose where it doesn’t belong” (57). The mission was supposed to be a firm political statement, and ended up with one of his men dead and another, Sean Miller, captured, all because of some “Bloody Yank.” O’Donnell and the other ULA members do not have the same response to their actions. They too had killed two men, the driver of the Royals car and their bodyguard, yet there is no regret. This is a clear distinction between the two parties, Ryan cannot live with the fact that he killed a man who happened to be a heartless terrorist, while the ULA does not even think for one second that they killed an innocent driver and a man dedicated to the protection of others. They are too busy planning their next operation. Previously the ULA never thought about conducting terrorist operations in America, but this recent failed op causes O’Donnell to reconsider. O’Donnell rationalizes a possible operation in America with the thought “You don’t hate trees, he told himself. You ignore the things until you have to cut them down” (80). Here Clancy uses O’Donnell’s thoughts to give a symbolic insight into his feelings on America. He does not hate them, he ignores them. But now he feels as if he needs to cut them down,
“Mustn’t offend the Americans, he thought to himself again, this time with surprise. Why? Aren’t they the enemy, too?...Patience is the most important quality in the true revolutionary. One must wait for the proper moment—and then strike decisively .” (82)
O’Donnell knows it is dangerous to operate in America, but his devote dedication to what he refers to as “The Cause” drives him to ignore all dissenting thought.
In every good vs. evil story, the evil side is clearly displayed as wicked and heartless. But oftentimes the physicality of an evil person is illustrated as being physically warped, deformed and ugly. But Clancy bypasses this cliché depiction of evil, and characterizes it in a different way that is more disturbing then the classic image of evil. When Ryan attends the trial of the captured ULA terrorist, he sees the true identity of evil. Sean Miller planned the operation and was captured. Ryan was puzzled when he first sees Miller. He expects to be face to face with pure evil, but initially he sees that “Miller could have been an executive trainee at Merrill Lynch…Why are you different? What makes you what you are?” (115). This is a key insight in the novel. Evil is not always as obvious as storybooks make it out to be. It is often cloaked behind a seemingly humane outer shell. But as Jack meets eyes with Miller he sees right through him,
“Then he looked at Miller’s eyes. He looked for…something, a spark of life, humanity—something that would say that this was indeed another human being. It could only have been two seconds but for Ryan the moment seemed to linger into minutes as he looked into those pale grey eyes and saw…Nothing. Nothing at all. And Jack began to understand a little.” (115)
Miller had no humanity. Of course all humans have physical humanity, in flesh, but that is not what Jack was looking for. He was looking for a man, a heart, a soul, and only found “pale grey eyes”...“Nothing”. Jack’s further examination of Miller convinced him that the man was not human at all,
“Miller was sitting…A smile started to take shape at one corner of his mouth…It was a smile for Ryan alone…Sean Miller’s didn’t blink…What’s behind those eyes?...There was strength in there, like something one might encounter in a predatory animal. But there was nothing to mute the strength. There was none of the softness of morality or conscience, only strength and will…He wasn’t thinking about prison, Jack knew. He was thinking only about something name Ryan, something he could see just out of his reach.” (125)
Miller reveals that he has no conscience, no remorse, no morality; his sole concern was the man who had foiled his plan. Clancy uses this exchange of looks and thoughts between Jack and Miller to portray the struggle between good and evil. Initially Jack cannot see or understand Miller’s evil nature. It is said that “The eyes are the mirror to the soul.” Miller’s eyes revealed an animalistic, predatorial animal, bent on revenge. Jack had seen the identity of evil and it disturbed him deeply, “A wounded animal will always seek out its tormentor, Jack told himself. And this wounded animal has a brain. This one has a memory…Ryan was frightened in a way that he’d never known before” (126). Jack, a genuinely good person, was not accustomed to such evil and it penetrated his tough, Marine Corps fearlessness. But Jack reassures himself, “Not a wolf—a weasel. Nasty, but not that much to worry about” (126). Jack tries to shake off his fear, but Miller has truly left a mark on Jack.
Jack is not the only one who is effected by the soulless Miller. British C-13 agent Bob Highland is assigned to Miller while he is in prison. Now Highland was transporting Miller to a different prison location, “Miller just sat there…his eyes closed…What are you thinking about Mr. Miller?” (184). Miller has yet another man under his almost spell like control. Highland had saved Miller from an attack by another inmate in prison, and felt sympathy for him at that one moment. But now he sees the same thing Jack did at the trial, “Only for a brief few minutes had he been a victim, a human victim. Now he was an animal again. Highland was hard-pressed to think of him as a fellow man” (185). Highland realizes as Jack did that evil may appear to be human at first, but Miller’s dedication to his cause had given him strength and cloaked his humanity in pure evil. When Highland’s van is attacked by Miller’s men to liberate their comrade, Miller unveils his heartless depravity,
How did they know—how did the bastards know we’d be here!...He turned again to look at Miller. The terrorist was staring at him now. The Seargeant would have preferred a cruel smile to the empty expression he saw on that young, pitiless face.” (187-188)
Highland’s being was permeated by Miller’s villainous depravation. He had experienced what Ryan had, but was now face to face with death. Although Miller seems to have Highland under his devilry, the C-13 agent stares death in the face and says to Miller, “I should have left you in that cell” (189). (That comment referred to him saving him from attack in prison). This takes true courage, to stare the personification of evil in the face and defy him in front of his cohorts. This gives Miller an opportunity to possibly display humanity. Highland had saved him from a brutal prison attack, and here he had him under a gun. This is a key moment in the novel. At this point Miller can go one of two ways, he can shoot Highland and completely alleviate himself of all humanity, or he could spare him, giving himself a chance for a merciful person to rise up. He chooses the former, “He raised his gun. ‘Gratitude, Mr. Highland…is a disease of dogs.’ He fired…” (189).
The British law enforcement whose responsibility is to re-capture Miller along with his comrades, are of course on the side of the good, the law abiding. But these circumstances raise thoughts in their mind that are similar to those they are trying to catch. Several of their police officers had been killed or wounded including Bob Highland and the natural reaction is to want to exact revenge upon the murderers. Clancy yet again brings up an aspect of classic good vs. evil storyboard. The good guy has lost a friend or loved one, and their initial reaction is to get revenge, and an internal conflict ensues. This happens with the British agents, there is now a conflict between their desire to kill and their sworn oath to uphold an established justice system. One of their own had to have leaked information to the ULA, and the C-13 Commander Owens, fumed with anger as he dwelled on the fact one of his own betrayed him,
“This was treason—it was worse than treason…And someone, probably someone very close to them, was quite willing to betray them to a small band of terrorists. Owens wanted that person. Wanted to see him dead, wanted to watch him die. There could be no other punishment for this kind of crime.” (202)
Owens and the other C-13 all thought the same thing, they wanted the leak, and they wanted him to suffer. But the British justice system, of which they swore to uphold, will allow him a trial. Owens knows this and fantasizing about the death of the leaker wouldn’t help anything, “We won’t find the bastard by wishing him dead. Finding him means policework—careful, painstaking, thorough investigation” (202). Owens conquered his desire for revenge by convincing himself the only way justice can be achieved is to do it the right way, by the book.
Miller’s depravity continued to haunt Jack, even more now that he had escaped. Evil was now free and Jack knew he was the next target, “How would Cathy react to having a loaded gun in the house?...How will she react to that? What if the bad guys are interested in going after them too…?” (228). At this point Jack allows his fear to consume a large part of his life. He buys guns, goes for weapons training and starts working with the CIA to track down Miller and the other ULA members. Although it is consuming him, his desire, as of yet, is not to kill them, but to bring them to justice. That all changes after Miller and the ULA’s failed attempt to kill him and the attack on his wife and daughter, both of whom become seriously injured, but survive. Similarly to the British officers, Jack must now struggle with his desire for revenge and the need for justice. His initial response is one of hatred and desire for blood, “His world had not ended, not quite. But some else’s will, Ryan told himself.” Ryan was out for blood. His internal conflict continues as he works at the CIA office continuing to research the ULA and gather intelligence on their operations. Jack’s gathered intelligence indirectly identifies a member of a French terrorist group, which is raided and several of them are killed, the rest executed later. Jack’s internal struggle becomes reality when he sees video of them being killed, as a result of his own investigation, “I condemned these people to death” (403). Just as he did after the shootout in London, Jack cannot succumb to the fact he killed someone, whether directly or indirectly, did not make a difference to him. He had caused the death of others, who were terrorists, yes, but he could still not feel at ease with the reality of what he caused. This yet again reveals his righteous nature of hating to kill anyone.
This event causes Ryan to ponder over the conflict he was now fully infused into, the battle between Law and Order, and terrorists like the ULA. Good vs. Evil.
They can fight their kind of war, but we can’t recognize it as such without giving up something our society needs. If we treat terrorists as politically motivated activists, we give them honor they don’t deserve. If we treat them as soldiers, and kill them as such, we both give them legitimacy and violate our own laws.”
This train of thought of Ryan is a basic summary of many good vs. evil struggles. The evil side has no rules whatsoever to follow. They can conduct themselves in any manner they wish without reproof. Good, on the other hand, is held to a higher standard than that of evil. Good has a set standard of rights and wrongs that they must follow in order to simply remain good. This makes any struggle of good vs. evil much harder on the side of good. Jack realizes this. It is going to be very difficult for them to justly capture these terrorists. He is committed to get them without becoming them, “If we can do it by civilized rules, well and good—but if not, then we have to do the best we can, and rely on our consciences to keep us from going over the edge.”
Meanwhile the ULA planned another attack; they had evaded capture last time, but failed in their ultimate goal to kill Ryan and his family, but planned to finish it off. The Royals whom they missed in their first attack would be having dinner and Ryan’s house. This was their opportunity to kill “two birds with one stone.” They could take out the Ryans and the Royals. This is yet another aspect of evil included by Clancy, relentlessness. The ULA failed twice yet they are determined to quench their fiery desire to kill. Miller, O’Donnell and many other ULA attack the Ryan house while the Royals are there. They fight off the Security forces around the house and capture the Ryans and the Royals. But they escape and eventually turn the tables and Jack now has Miller under a gun, and he can end it all right here. This is the climactic moment of every good vs. evil story, the showdown between the hero and the villain, and Jack could kill his enemy but in doing so, become a villain. “I am Death, Ryan’s face told him. I have come for you.” (533) It is also at this point that the seemingly emotionless, depraved Miller, now faced with death, is crushed, “This is the little bastard who nearly killed my family…Miller looked into his eyes and saw…nothing.” (533) The roles were now reversed, for a moment Ryan had lost all humanity as he held his fearful enemy in his hands, “For the first time in his life, Sean Miller knew fear. He saw his own death…he feared the eternity in hell that surely awaited him.” (534) Jack’s revenge is stopped by Marine Sergeant Breckenridge. This is the moment in the novel where all the previous points come to a head. Throughout the novel Miller remained lifeless, without humanity. Jack had maintained his humanity through thick and thin, but is seeming to be losing it. Everything was different now,
“The spell was broken. Jack swallowed twice and took a breath. What he saw now was something less monstrous than before. Fear had given Miller the humanity he had lacked before. He was no longer an animal, after all. He was a human being, an evil example of what could happen when a man lost something that all men needed…I’ve won. I’ve defeated him and haven’t destroyed myself doing it.”
This key moment reflects the victory that good has over evil. It is not so much that the enemy dies, rather victory is achieved when good remains good throughout, and evil is exposed for what it truly is. In Patriot Games evil was a false cover, rationalized by “men with a cause.” Humanity is universally part of every person, but sometimes requires the looming possibility of death to be revealed.
Patriot Games ends with the heart felt moment that seems to end all good vs. evil stories. This is used to conclude the story in one joyful ending that leaves the reader feeling content when they close the book. The jovial ending of the novel is that Jack’s wife gives birth to a son, John Patrick Ryan Jr., and Jack thinks to himself as he hears the babies first cries, “And that too, Jack thought, is the sound of freedom.” (539)
Tom Clancy expertly created a classic good vs. evil storyline that at the same time is possible to happen in reality. Many good vs. evil stories seem to be rather unreal, like one man killing dozens of bad guys with his bare hands or doing some unbelievable act to save a beautiful woman of whom he hooks up with at the end of the story. Patriot Games is a genuine good vs. evil story because it is relatable. The novel provides insight into the mental process and mindset of good and evil. It does contain many aspects of good versus evil, but sets it in modern circumstances. It is much easier to relate to the fight between democratic governments and terrorists than knights and dragons or unreal superhero like characters. Patriot Games provides a raw, detailed story that removes all the fluff about the struggle of good vs. evil and presents the bare knuckles reality that people get hurt and die in the struggle, but as long as good maintains its humanity, it will always triumph over evil.




Op Center: State of Siege
Relatable Detail Makes for a Relatable Story
In this essay K.N. will discuss how the use of common known details and allusions in Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: State of Siege creates a shocking fictional story that seems oh so very real.
Op-Center: State of Siege I a fictional depiction of an attack on the U.N. building that lists the events of the attack in chronological order. A rogue group of former U.N. soldiers take capture the U.N. building with delegates inside to get ransom money. Op-Center’s elite Striker team eventually comes in and takes them out.
The story itself may seem like it could never happen. How could a small group of men capture such an important building without being killed immediately? Well, Clancy describes in detail the surrounding and the intricacy of the men’s plan. He makes frequent allusion to things in New York City and other settings that are commonly known and thus make this fictional story more of a reality. For example, as the rogue group drives toward the U.N. building to attack it, Clancy describes their route, “They passed the New York Public Library, Grand Central Station, and the Chrysler building” (Clancy 75).At this point in the novel the reader is privy to the plan to take the U.N. The suspense is built tenfold through this description. The NY Public Library, Grand Central Station and the Chrysler Building are all familiar allusions. By using these landmarks in describing the drive up to the attack, the fictional assault becomes reality.
Every chapter of this novel is titled in a form that tells the reader the setting. For example Chapter six is titled “New York, New York, Saturday, 6:45 p.m.”. Similar to the landmark allusions, by giving the location and a specific time, a greater connection to the setting is created. As you are taken through settings, you know the exact time and location of each and every event that occurs in the novel.
Finally, Clancy creates in this story what is known as “Op-Center”. It does not itself exist in real life, but Clancy describes it as though it very well could:
“Op-Center had helped Mirror Image prevent renegade Russian officers and politicians from throwing Eastern Europe into War.” (18)
“Delta Company, 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Op-Center’s Striker Division” (117)
Throughout the novel, Clancy gives details on Op-Center and places it’s located, things it had done and organizations it works with that exist in the real world. This gives the fictional Op-Center some real life credibiblity.
Tom Clancy’s use of detail and allusion in Op-Center: State of Siege is what makes the story one worth reading. Without the contemporary, real life allusions, the book would seem way too farfetched. But with the allusions and detail the book is compelling to any reader who can identify the allusions and understand that however unbelievable the possibility of the U.N. being taken over is, you never really know.
K.N. June 10, 2011



The Sum of All Fears:

Could the art of deception really cause a global war?

[(Essay date 8 June 2011) In the following essay D.M. explores the art of deception and if it could actually cause a global war between super powers.]

"Why, you may take the most gallant sailor, the most intrepid airman or the most audacious soldier, put them at a table together - what do you get? The sum of their fears."(Clancy 11) Winston Churchill best said the quote that gave The Sum of All Fears its name. In a book that is all about deception and the way countries perceive it, Tom Clancy yet again writes another masterpiece.


The plot begins in 1973 in Israel with a war between the Israelis and other Muslim states. When it looks like Israel is on the brink of defeat, they think nuclear weapons are the only option. However, the plane carrying the bomb crashes, and the nuke is lost for what seems forever. Fast forward to 1991, the US is on the brink of a groundbreaking deal to bring peace to the Middle East for the first time ever. Palestinians are obviously not happy about this, and they vow revenge and an end to the peace talks. They somehow find the lost nuclear weapon and recruit the help of three rogue Soviet nuclear scientists and a South African to aid them in this mission. They need a whole plan of deception though to ever get this off the ground. The plan: Have the Soviet Union fight the Americans, and then fill the void of power that will be left by the two greatly weakened super powers.


In order for the plan by these extremists to work, a lot of things will have to work out perfectly. The deception they attempt to cause will not be an easy thing to achieve. The beginning of their plan will involve exploding the tactical nuke on US soil. The target is the Super Bowl in Denver, Colorado. Shortly after this happens, Muslims dressed as East Germans are going to attack West Berlin. If they can keep it up long enough, it won’t matter if the US finds out it wasn’t the Soviet Union because both countries will already be in Total War.


During execution of the mission, the bomb appears to have a malfunction, and does not detonate properly. However the radiation does kill 4000 people in the stadium, including the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense. Shortly after, the fake East German soldiers attack West Berlin. Then the US goes into DEFCON-1. What is DEFCON-1? DEFCON is an alert system, 1 being the highest, 5 being the lowest. Usually the US is around a level of DEFCON-4. DEFCON-1 means war is imminent. This crisis is averted however when Jack Ryan, the main character, diffuses the situation when he receives information that the plutonium used in the nuclear weapon originated on US soil and directly communicates this new found information with the Soviets. The crisis has been averted. The question remains however, could this deception, if executed more properly, cause a global war between super powers? The answer to that question is yes.


Deception has led to many wars, so why would this chain of events be any different? The Vietnam War began with the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution under President Lyndon Johnson. He said that our boys over on American ships were being attacked at night. In reality, those attacks were just thunder, but this information was not revealed until after the war. The most unpopular war in the history of America began because of deception. Or what about World War II? Adolph Hitler, the leader of the Germans made alliances with the Russians, and promised he would not take any more land from Czechoslovakia. Six months after promising not to take any more land from Czechoslovakia, his army took it over. One year after making an alliance with Josef Stalin, he invaded Russia. In fact, look at almost any war of the 20th century to present. At one point in time, they were caused by deception. So the question should not be can the art of deception actually cause a global war, but when is the next time the art of deception will cause a global war.


Tom Clancy’s plot in The Sum of All Fears is a completely viable scenario. At first glance, it may seem farfetched, but when one examines it closer, the realization hits that all these events can easily happen and some have happened on a smaller scale. Tom Clancy has a nuclear bomb at the Super Bowl that was placed by Muslim terrorists that killed 4,000 innocent lives. Reality has planes that crash into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon that took 3,000 innocent lives. These acts of deception by the terrorists lead to a war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and although it is not a global war, many countries are feeling the effects of it such as the US’s allies and the whole Middle East. If DEFCON-1 stayed at that level, one can sure believe that nations worldwide would be feeling the effects of not just a war, but a nuclear war. So the plot Tom Clancy describes in this novel is not farfetched at all. Instead, it is very realistic.


Although the terrorists’ first act of deception fails, they employ a second one. For some reason, these Muslims have a deep hatred for the Iranian Ayatollah who lives in the holy city of Qom, Iran. When the terrorists are captured, they claim they are working for him, and President Fowler right away declares a nuclear strike against the city. However, another crisis is averted by Jack Ryan through the use of the two man rule. The reason the terrorists said they were working for the Ayatollah is because that would make America not just the enemy of extremists everywhere, but of all Muslims everywhere. The terrorists, who are of Saudi descent, are handed over to the Saudi military where they are then beheaded. So although in this novel deception is not successful, at times in history it has been. This master plan by the terrorists was a grand one and if it were not for the works of Jack Ryan, the hero of many Tom Clancy novels, probably would have been successful.


So the question beckons: could the art of deception really cause a global war? While in this novel, the crisis is averted, history shows that the answer to the question is definitely yes. Tom Clancy uses situations and settings that are familiar to the reader to make the situation seem even more real.

(D.M. 2011)