Clear and Present Danger

Clear and Present Danger is a novel by Tom Clancy, written in 1989, part of his series featuring the character Jack Ryan. In the novel, Ryan becomes unwillingly involved in a covert war against drug barons in Colombia.

Many of the central characters from Without Remorse reappear in this story, which is set about 15 years later, but actually published 4 years before. Clancy’s interweaving of the storylines is quite comfortable, without the inconsistencies that sometimes occur when authors try to connect two separate stories.

The central theme in this book is the ethics of use of military force; for what purpose is use of military might appropriate, what are the proper checks and balances, and lastly what can happen in a scenario where military force is used for personal gains? The topic of military force naturally flows into the more controversial issue of collateral damage. This is raised on all levels, from Ding Chavez shamefully considering that he just killed a peasant, not a trained enemy soldier, to the President realizing the potential political costs of having killed the wife and children of one of the drug lords.

The second theme permeating the story is loyalty. How can one choose whom to be loyal to in an imperfect world with no black and white, only shades of gray? While believing in radically different ideologies, these questions are central to the thoughts of Ryan, who is being kept in the dark, and his counterpart on the other side, Cortez, who receives much less respect than he believes he deserves from his criminal masters.

The book was made into a movie (1994), starring Harrison Ford as Ryan, with several significant alterations to the plot.

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