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December 31, 2006 » 5:45 pm

Tom Clancy on War

I read Tom Clancy‘s Debt of Honor over the holidays. It was a guilty pleasure, although it wasn’t that pleasurable. I hadn’t read Clancy since high school, and Debt of Honor — the eighth of the Jack Ryan franchise — felt stale. It was 400 pages too long, there was too much exposition, there were too many series characters who didn’t need to be in the book, and the plot was just too outrageous in the end. Yes, Jack Ryan is awesome, but in this book, he’s Superman. Kind of ridiculous.    (LMA)

That said, I read the whole damn book. All 990 pages. Pages 500 through 900 are classic Clancy. Clancy writes about war like no other, and the level of detail was, as always, extraordinary. Clancy, incidentally, is proof-positive of how effective Open Source Intelligence can be.    (LMB)

I especially enjoyed this exchange between Jack Ryan and the President on the nature of war:    (LMC)

“There’s something big we don’t know.”    (LMD)

“The why?”    (LME)

“The why may be it. First I want to know the what. What do they want? What is their end-game objective?”    (LMF)

“Not why they’re doing it?”    (LMG)

Ryan turned his head back to meet the President’s eyes. “Sir, the decision to start a war is almost never rational. World War One, kicked off by some fool killing some other fool, events were skillfully manipulated by Leopold something-or-other, ‘Poldi,’ they called him, the Austrian Foreign Minister. Skilled manipulator, but he didn’t factor in the simple fact that his country lacked the power to achieve what he wanted. Germany and Austria-Hungary started the war. They both lost. World War Two, Japan and Germany took on the whole world, never occurred to them that the rest of the world might be stronger. Particularly true of Japan.” Ryan went on. “They never really had a plan to defeat us. Hold on that for a moment. The Civil War, started by the South. The South lost. The Franco-Prussian War, started by France. France lost. Almost every war since the Industrial Revolution was initiated by the side which ultimately lost. Q.E.D., going to war is not a rational act. Therefore, the thinking behind it, the why isn’t necessarily important, because it is probably erroneous to begin with.” (535)    (LMH)

“Almost every war since the Industrial Revolution was initiated by the side which ultimately lost.” Something to think about, especially with what’s going on in the world today.    (LMI)

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