Jelinas's Reviews > Clear and Present Danger

Clear and Present Danger by Tom Clancy
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Dec 30, 2009

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Clear and Present Danger is Clancy's fourth novel about CIA agent Jack Ryan. The book deals with a covert government operation sending a hand-picked and highly-trained group of soldiers into the hills of Colombia to fight a secret war on a ruthless drug dealer. Unbeknownst to Ryan, an enemy agent has compromised a CIA contact and is maneuvering to take down the leader of the drug cartel so that he can become its new leader.

In the meantime, Jack must figure out how to save the soldiers after the operation goes sour, how to bring the high-level government officials who set the plan in motion to justice, and how to keep it all under wraps so that the American people wouldn't lose faith in their government or the war on drugs.

Let me say one thing about Clancy up front -- he's a decent writer and he sure knows how to build a plot. It's not Shakespeare, but I can totally understand how he's sold so many books. It was fast-paced and exciting; I couldn't wait to see what happened next. The book reads like a solid action film -- good guys go up against bad guys; everything's shrouded in conspiracy; there are a few good gunfights and action sequences and then the heroes somehow save the day and tomorrow's sun will dawn yet again on a free America.

I guess my only real problem with the book is this: if you read too much Tom Clancy, you've got to be pretty discerning or else you're going to start seeing the world as US vs. THEM. If you buy into the view of the world that Clancy presents in his books, you won't bat an eye at the thought of the US secretly invading Colombia to fight a guerrilla war on drugs -- a "preemptive strike," if you will (sound familiar?).

It raised a red flag for me when I read the book and the characters were outraged that one of the characters had abandoned the soldiers in Colombia to save his own hide -- not so much that he had authorized their mission in the first place.

Sure, the characters are dismayed that this secret operation was given a green light. Sure, one of the characters (Domingo "Ding" Chavez -- another thing Clancy does really well is creating great characters. He gives you enough backstory to get you invested in them, too) a moment here of "Why are we doing this?" and a moment there of "The poor guy I just killed is probably only involved in this drug ring to feed his starving family."

But, for the most part, I thought that the message of the book was "protect America, no matter what it costs (the rest of the world)."

Personally, I just don't think the issue is that black-and-white. So remember, dear reader: it's just a book. It's fiction. Don't let a book you can buy at the supermarket form your entire stance on foreign policy.

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12/30/2009 page 442

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