Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Surprising Quote from Author Tom Clancy.

It may seem rather surprising to many who have read my politics related posts on my Google + profile that I have read a lot of books lately by military and spy author Tom Clancy. I am very much on the left wing politically, and I feel that war is unnecessary in most cases, and surveillance of people whom the government should have no reason to suspect are terrorists, like the NSA has been caught doing recently, is wrong. I also want US troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan now, and I feel that it should have been done a long time ago.

Considering my views, it may seem kind of odd that I read a lot of Tom Clancy, an author whose first book, The Hunt for Red October was heartily endorsed by Reagan, who was the president at the time, and Clancy's views are very right wing. I guess it's the action that draws me to them, as well as the rather odd and creative political scenarios that he can come up with as the background for his books.

I have been reading the book Debt of Honor, and I was rather surprised by a quote in the book, especially noting Clancy's political views. In this scene, main character and spymaster Jack Ryan, who is NSA director at the time (he later becomes the president himself under some rather bizarre circumstances), is trying to advise the president, Roger Durling.

President Durling has been rather blindsided by a surprise attack by Japan upon the US navy during what was supposed to be a friendly join military exercise.

Little does either Ryan or Durling know that the attack was planned by a group of billionaire businessmen in their government have taken over, and had their puppet prime minister order the attacks as retaliation over a trade dispute.

Jack Ryan is talking about modern history (the last 200 years or so), and how aggressor nations usually haven't done very well, and lost the war, when they decide to attack a rival nation that is equal to or greater than them in strength, when suddenly, he says this:
War is the ultimate criminal act, it's armed robbery writ large. And it's always about greed. It's a nation that wants something another nation has. And you defeat that nation by recognizing what it wants and denying it to them. The seeds of their defeat are usually found in the seeds of their desire.
That's a rather surprising statement for Tom Clancy to write, as right wing as he is, because he normally lets his views bleed through into his stories, and into the views and words of his primary characters. It seems to contradict his normal views and feelings. What do you think?

To see more of what I have been reading, check out my past posts on  Khaled Hosseini (best known for the book and resulting movie, The Kite Runner), and the alternate history/science fiction writer Harry Turtledove.


  1. I think your confusion comes from the fact that Clancy's views represent the 'real' Right and not the Insane Clown Tea Party kind of Right we see so much of today.
    Clancy is from the old school Right. They are not warmongers. They don't covet war. Rather they realize that sometimes it's the only solution to a problem and aren't afraid to use it when this is the case.
    I, like you, lean a little left and also really enjoy Clancy's books. When you read them you realize that one thing holds true about all of them. They are about honourable men trying to do the right thing. However, they are honourable men that realize that the bad guys don't play fair, and don't follow the rules and so sometimes good men have to do bad things to stop bad men.
    My one key issue with the left is the naive failure to recognize this reality. The idea that if we all just play nice, hug one another and follow the rules that the world will be a happy place. It's a worldview that fails to acknowledge the fact that evil exists and always will exist.
    The truth/answer lies somewhere in the middle between hugs and holocausts.

    1. I've noticed that the characters are often portrayed as not being very fond of what they do, but still finding it to be a necessary evil.

      I have noticed his views on torture in his books, he takes the view that torture should be rarely used, not because it's immoral, but because it's ineffective in most circumstances.

      I'm not a pacifist, pacifism will only work if everyone's a pacifist, and that day will probably never happen. What I take issue with in the "war on terror" is both the horrible ways it's been carried out, and the fact that it has gone on too long.

      I take issue with spying on innocent civilians en masse, restricting civil liberties, (which is rather hypocritical for a war that is supposedly about protecting freedom), and there's not enough being done to protect civilians in nations we are at war in. Also, there's the fact that Iraq should have never invaded in the first place, and Afghanistan should have ended a long time ago.

      People fail to realize that much of the terrorism is both a direct result of the US government using the CIA to knock around the Middle East for so many decades (the Ajax coup, our interference in the Iraq/Iran war, etc), then in the era of the war on terror, every civilian casualty just leads to more and more anger at us, and more support for terrorism. If we would have just left the Middle East alone in the first place, much of this wouldn't be happening.

      Would there still be Islamic fundamentalists who would want to wage war against us for religious reasons? Sure there would, they will always be around, but those terrorist wouldn't have found as much support there for them in their home countries if we wouldn't have screwed up the Middle East like we did.

      Had we left the Middle East alone, many of those people probably have been too preoccupied with their own wars among st each other, which have been raging for centuries to even be concerned about us.

    2. Jack Ryan as a character allowed the very classy Mr. Clancy to say things he wouldn't normally say. I love Jack Ryan as a character.

    3. Jack Ryan, despite my disagreements with him on politics, was a good character, despite his wealth and business savvy, he is very much your everyday American dad, a common man.

  2. World War One was a cluster fuck. The Russians lost although they weren't officially the aggressors (though they did attack the Germans before the Germans attacked them). The Austro-Hungarians lost and they were the victims of a terrorist attack made by Serbia. (The Black Hand was affiliated with the Serbia.) Arguably the Franco-Prussian War (1870 I believe) France was the aggressor (and lost), but the Prussians really wanted that fight and manipulated Napoleon III. Japan attacked first in the Russo-Japanese War and won. And Germany in WW2 was clearly outmatched in manpower and industrial strength when compared with the British Empire and the French Empire. The Germans were the "David" versus the Goliath in that combat. (One of the reasons why the Germans wanted a fast war.) I don't think the Clancy analysis holds up.

    1. Canadians as well as other non-Americans who fought in WW2 get very pissed off when we constantly hear, in books, articles and movies, that America won the war. In the Pacific yes no question, in Europe not so much, although their industrial strength did help, as did Canadian raw minerals and industrial capacity. The British and French Empires were spent forces and contributed little and depended on American armaments although when it came to tanks, for instance, the Sherman was vastly inferior to the German Tiger and Panthers. It was the numbers that made the difference. As many reputable historians, including British and American, have pointed out Hitler lost the war on the steppes of Russia. In fact, 80-85% of German casualties did happen in Russia and many of those we elite units. In Europe, fighting against mainly second-tier units, many composed of older men and teens; it still took the allies over six months to cross the Rhine. I always thought that if Mussolini hadn’t satisfied his ego by attacking Yugoslavia and then needed the German Army to bail him out the outcome of WW2 would be different. That operation delayed the German invasion of Russia by seven weeks. Those seven weeks were critical because it meant Germany would have been in Moscow before winter set in and Hitler could have moved armies to the west to counter the allied invasion. Gee, I sound like Turtledove here. I love his books.

    2. @ paikin Turtledove is great, though I find some of his scenarios a little unrealistic. ;)

      For instance, in his book, The Man with the Iron Heart, I just couldn't see Nazis becoming suicide bombers, Germans would have considered that cowardly and beneath their dignity to do.

      Thanks for the historical analysis, Andrew.


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