Back in the ’90s, I went through a phase of reading Tom Clancy novels. Even though he was a right-wing crank whose books were infused with militarism and macho, I loved his writing style. The guy knew how to set up a story and keep the reader engaged. Here are a few of his more famous books:
• The Hunt For Red October ~ About a Soviet submarine Commander who defects to the U.S. with a new hi-tech sub, with assistance from the CIA.
• Cardinal of the Kremlin ~ About the Strategic Defense Initiative, Soviet spies, American spies, double agents and spies who you can’t figure out whose side they’re on.
• Clear and Present Danger ~ A corrupt administration conducts a secret and illegal war on the drug cartels.
• Sum of All Fears ~ Palestinian terrorists build and detonate a nuclear bomb at a stadium in Denver during the Super Bowl.
• Debt of Honor ~ (possibly my favorite of Clancy’s books) Tensions rise between the U.S. and Japan over a trade war which culminates in a shooting war—I’m convinced the finale of this book led to the inspiration for 9/11.
• Executive Orders ~ (takes up where Debt of Honor leaves off) An Iranian Mullah unleashes a biological agent in the U.S.
These are all fiction of course, and all patently absurd. But Clancy’s forte was turning the absurd into something plausible. Which makes me wonder if he were alive today, what he’d think of this as a plot line:
An ex KGB Colonel from the glory days of the Soviet Union decides an upcoming American election poses an opportunity beneficial to his interests, so he takes traditional KGB action. Through the hacking of one party’s email servers, he tips the narrative in favor of his preferred candidate over the other.
But he’s KGB mind you, so he’s cautious with how he disseminates this stolen data. Since leaking it through their old surrogates the Bulgarians and East German Stasi is no longer an option, he funnels it to an Australian computer programmer; a fugitive from justice over a rape charge who’s been given temporary asylum in an Ecuadorian embassy.
Come Election Day, the constant drip, drip, drip of the leaked emails has had an undeniable effect on the electorate. Whether or not it made the difference between the two candidates is unknowable, but it certainly made a difference. And when his man was certified the victor that night last November, the KGB Colonel toasted his efforts over Champagne in the Kremlin.
Within days of the Russian dictator’s puppet being sworn in, the depths of the story began to unravel. Members of his cabinet, his immediate family, even his freshly sworn-in Attorney General were implicated in what soon suggested collusion with the Russian’s efforts. The FBI probed the story on the home front. The CIA was involved abroad. A British MI6 agent took his family and vanished. The out-of-power party called for Congressional investigations. The KGB puppet’s party initially pooh-poohed the necessity for any such investigations, but as the evidence mounted, some reluctantly acquiesced.
The KGB’s man in the White House freaked out. His paranoia and already tenuous connection with reality intensified, and he lashed out at the FBI, the CIA, the media, and then one day his predecessor, whom he accused of tapping the phones of his private office complex. All this, within the first five weeks of the administration of the Russian dictator’s anointed man.
Ladies and gentlemen, the average Tom Clancy novel is around 800 pages. The synopsis I just outlined above took less than five paragraphs, and we’ve only just scratched the surface of this story. If Tom Clancy were alive today to see this all unfold with his own eyes, he’d probably give up writing for another line of work. Because nothing in world history compares to this. You literally can’t make it up.