Monday, September 26, 2005

The Teeth of the Tiger by Tom Clancy

Yes! I admit it! I'm a Tom Clancy fan. I have been since I was a teenager. Is that soooo baaaaaad?

But, seriously, though. I'm a foreign policy/politics fanatic who enjoys James Bond and big explosions, so Clancy has always been a draw. While he comes from a stance to the right of center (and I definitely do not), his books are still very reasonable, articulate, and exceedingly detailed. While many have criticized his prose, I actually enjoy it. Some of his best books (Clear and Present Danger, Patriot Games) artfully manage numerous sublpots, and then magically draw them together for a big climax.

Now, on to his latest. It was clear from Clancy's last few books that he took his Jack Ryan character as far as it could go - to the Presidency during a time of world war. Where to go next? His SON of course.

"Teeth" stars Jack Ryan, Jr. and two of his young cousins as they become part of a secret intelligence unit set up by Jack Ryan, Sr. before leaving office. The unit is completely "off-the-books" and begins carrying out assassinations in response to a terrorist attack on U.S. soil. I won't give away any more in case you decide to read it.

Overall, the book is a good read - better than "Red Rabbit" which I felt came up short. However, I kept getting the feeling that Clancy was less interested in establishing a new character or in creating a masterpiece, than in showing the current Administration how an effective War on Terrorism should be fought.

You see, the title of the book comes from a phrase: "if you kick a tiger in the ass, you better have a plan for dealing with it's teeth." And that pretty much sums up the point of the novel, and Clancy's own view towards the Bush administration's attempt to deal with the threat of international terrorism: we kicked the tiger in the teeth with our attacks against Afghanistan and Iraq and had no plan for dealing what would come next.

Clancy clearly favors a clandestine approach, identifying and eliminating terrorist targets - and nobody, not even most of the government or fellow terrorists, knowing it happened. It's an old spy story: bad guy is made to look like he had a heart attack. This has the advantages of not stirring up additional anti-U.S. fervor, keeps terrorists off-guard, and keeps the general public from having to live with the daily fear of terrorism.

Clancy picks apart the current approach of the War on Terror with criticisms disguised as dialogue. This is an excellent read, if not just for the story alone. It will get you to think about what we are doing wrong in today's foreign policy, and how we might do it right. Whether or not you agree with the Clancy Solution, you will certainly be forced to think about it.



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