Sunday, July 8, 2007

Tom Clancy: Patriot Games

This novel was written in 1987, after The Hunt for Red October became a major success. It is supposed to be set before that book, and in here is described the series of events that would turn Jack Ryan into a major character, and get him to enter the CIA. The book is pretty tautly written, and I have read it a number of times.
This time when I was reading it, there are so many passages in this book that are relevant now. The description of terrorism, human rights, how society should fight terrorism without becoming a ruthless instrument itself, all these are very eloquently mentioned in this book. It was worth reading just to get a feel of all this discussions, and the book talks about Irish Republican terrorists, who are not known for mass murders. In the current context, we deal with terrorists who are inspired by the more violent teachings of Islam and do not shirk from mass murder, on a scale not seen before from terrorism.
In addition, there are passages about how to counter international terrorism, with an event where there is cooperation between French, British and American intelligence to hunt down terrorism, and how such international cooperation is necessary. There is also a mention of a French military tribunal secretly convicting some anti-French terrorists whose capture was also a secret, and even though this sounds illegal, it seems necessary. When the French had tried to do an open trial, the terrorists had subverted the trial through illegal means, and hence the tribunal. Sounds somewhat similar with the current plans to have a military tribunal to convict the Al-Qaeda detainees. And this is where we have a clash - the concept of rule of law and justice is deeply ingrained, but it is also realistic that the terrorists do not respect any of these. As the movie 'The Siege' so eloquently put it, you need information to stop a bombing, there is a guy who knows it but is not going to disclose, and as per current law, you cannot force him to do this. I am sure that no one would want to be a decision maker in such a case, what do you do ?
This book is about Jack Ryan, a historian and former marine, also involved with CIA in a small way. He is in London for research, when he sees an attack by terrorists. He jumps in, kills one, wounds another and the third escapes. Jack also gets injured. Turns out he saved the Prince, Princess of Wales and their baby from a kidnapping plot by the ULA (Ulster Liberation Army), an offshoot of the IRA. After some time, the wounded terrorist escapes while being transported.
After being much feted, he returns to the US and back to his regular job; somewhat uneasy about the terrorists coming to the US to get back to him. However, logic says that foreign terrorists have never attacked the US inside the country (thanks to the FBI as well) and their funding will be impacted if they do so.
Well, they do, and Jack's wife and daughter are severely injured, but recover. This pushes Jack over to the CIA for getting back at the terrorists the way he can, and soon makes a name for himself. In another major section of the book, the Prince and Princess want to visit Jack at his home when they are in the US. The terrorists, aided by a local terrorist group, manage to attack the heavily guarded home and kill off most of the defenders and temporarily capture all the inhabitants. However, they manage to get free and are chased by the terrorists over water, eventually reaching a naval base where the terrorists are all captured.
This is a very gripping book, and the section about Jack's unease with regard to society and its interaction with the terrorists is very gripping indeed.

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