Red Storm Rising in My Mind

Andrew Donaldson

Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire and his writing website Yonder and Home.

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150 Responses

  1. Mike Dwyer says:

    “Many living through the cold war thought open conflict with the Soviet Union was not only a possibility but a probability.”

    This was my childhood until the fall of the USSR. I was born in 1975 and the prospect of nuclear war or conventional war weighed heavily on me throughout the 1980s. My pediatrician was a prominent member of the local anti-nuclear movement and was often on TV being interviewed at rallies. My mom would make sure we saw these because she thought it was neat that our doctor was on television, but it just made me worry. I was absolutely convinced for all of my pre-teen years that we would eventually nuke each other into oblivion. On top of the threat of nuclear war, I was also fed a steady diet of 80s action movies which also made a conventional war seem possible. Every boy in my class had a plan in his head for when a real-life Red Dawn came to Kentucky.

    With all of that said, we are certainly heading into a period of heavy 80s nostalgia. As Andrew points out in his OP, Stranger Things is doing good work there. The next Wonder Woman movie will be set in the 80s. I’m consciously choosing to use it as an excuse to exorcise my childhood fears and focus on all of the fun stuff. I’m not wistful for my childhood, but I do have a deeper appreciation for the explosion of pop culture that happened with the MTV generation. Lots of great music, cultural touchstones, etc.

    I realize my comments are a bit off-topic here, so pardon that, but this post certainly got me thinking… I’d buy a ticket to Red Storm Rising, no doubt.Report

    • @mike-dwyer I appreciate your thoughts here. It brought to mind the famous Faulkner quote about every southern boy thinking of it being just before Picketts charge at Gettysburg; I think of our age (Im slightly younger than you) WW3 with Russia was the thought most of us had playing war with our friends and so forth. It was an odd thing that at my age just about the time I was understanding what the cold war was the wall comes down and it ends, sort of jumbling the whole thing together into a complicated formative experience. It may just be a cycle thing, but it does seem the 80’s are very popular, and in some ways the culture and music of that time has held up better than the early 90’s stuff that was made to rebel against it. Perhaps the 90’s will have their own time in the future. I would definitely love some 80’s cold war film, and selfishly would love the adaptation of the book I love to be prominent in that.Report

      • For pure entertainment, check out Atomic Blonde. It is set right during the fall of the Berlin Wall and pretty enjoyable as a snapshot in time.

        The Berlin Wall fell a few months after I started high school and then we had the first Gulf War, so suddenly the Middle East became a thing. It was a weird shift in world views to go through.Report

        • I will.

          I almost went there in my first reply but tried to stay concise. The end of the cold war and Desert Storm seemed to come so fast and changes so much of what you thought was going on in the world. Thinking back on it it’s amazing that watching Desert Storm on TV as a kid I had no idea at the time I was watching the beginnings of world events that would dominate my life, especially as I would be in Iraq myself several times as an adult, among other places.Report

          • I agree. I was 15 when the Gulf War started and basically became a pacifist. I thought the whole thing was a terrible idea. Since then I have oscillated back and forth at times. I realize now that the last 30 years of Middle-Eastern-centric foreign policy has really affected my world view in a big way (no surprise there).

            I also think a lot about how the world changed for the Greatest generation and the Boomers. They fought three wars back-to-back against Asians. Then there was a decade of true Cold War and suddenly we were focused on the Middle East. Obviously it shouldn’t have been a complete surprise, given that terrorism really rose during the 80s (Beirut bombing, Lockerby bombing, etc) but it still must have been jarring.

            Occasionally I think about the next area of the world that we will need to really worry about. My vote is for Central and South America. Brazil is growing fast and you have a de-stabilized Venezuela, not to mention all the perennial problems in Central America.Report

            • Very well could be. Chinese investment and open warfare against terror might well increase our African commitment. Although we’ve been involved there for over 30 years doing things quietly, the potential for an explosion is very real. Southeast Asia is the most volatile its been in years, and if you include Korea the Pacific Rim has no shortage of hotspots. It’s a complex, violent world.Report

              • I just finished the first part of Dan Carlin’s latest on the rise of Japan leading up to WWII. He talks a lot about Pan Asianism and I learned a lot of new details about the period that I wasn’t familiar with. Certainly there is an enormous amount of people to be leveraged in that part of the world.Report

              • Zac Black in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                I just listened to that recently myself, and yeah, that was fascinating stuff. Especially the idea of the Second Sino-Japanese War being the real start of World War II, which I think is a pretty sensible analysis.Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

          Second for Atomic Blonde, and stay for the twist at the end.Report

          • Mike Dwyer in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            Agreed. I really hope they do a sequel. Also, some of the fight scenes (specifically the one on the stairs towards the end) were so dang good I actually hit rewind and watched them twice.Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

              I really appreciated how she took hits and it showed throughout the movie. By the end, she looked (and moved) like she’d been run over by a truck. Twice.Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Yep. That was an aspect I really liked about the Indiana Jones movies. You felt the collective physical effects of his adventures by the end of the movie.

                That last fight scene I was mentioning, I also liked it because it looked like a real fight. It was clumsy, it was ugly, it truly looked like people fighting for their lives.Report

    • My high school was seven miles off the end of the main runway at Offutt Air Force Base, SAC headquarters. We had a bunch of officers’ kids in the school. A bunch of those officers and a for-then supercomputer filled the role of WOPR in WarGames, playing out a zillion MAD scenarios*. Assuming that the kids’ opinions reflected what they heard from their dads over the supper table, exactly zero of those officers believed there would be a direct military confrontation with the Soviet Union, simply because the probability that it would escalate to strategic nukes was 100%, and both sides knew it.

      The chance that a rogue commander in the Soviet Union would get some launch codes, that they worried about.

      * Somewhere around 1973-74 I got to tour that part of the computer center at SAC. The war gaming software ran on an IBM System 360 Model 195, one of only two ever sold.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Michael Cain says:

        Decay probably means that that software will never be effectively declassified… but, man, I’d love to play with that stuff in an emulator someday.Report

        • Ina a similar vein I’ve wondered why they haven’t done more gaming of controlling the ww3 apocalypse from a bunker. Sim gamers would be into it. After touring the Greenbriar bunker many times, and more to the point the Kindsbach ADOC “cave” which was built to run the air war against the Soviets that never came. Link is in German but the pics speak for themselves. Cool place to visit.Report

        • Michael Cain in reply to Jaybird says:

          It would be interesting to read the code (assuming PL/I or Fortran, rather than assembler). I suspect I’d be disappointed in the results of running it. The Model 195 cranked out about 10 MIPS; the Raspberry Pi in my (evolving) bedside appliance clocks in at about 2400 MIPS.

          The coolest thing about the war gaming setup for a casual visitor (for the definition of casual that includes arranging weeks in advance, and under armed guard) was the one-off flatbed plotter. 8 feet by 10 feet active area, max head speed about 30 inches/sec. Large-format flatbed inkjet printers that big are fairly routine in some settings these days, but back in the day it was amazing.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      I was born in 1980 in a liberal suburb of New York. The Cold War was part of my childhood because Free Soviet Jewry was a big issue in my Jewish suburb but not that much. People my age or a little older who grew up in more conservative corners of the United States seemed to have more serious Cold War exposure. They also had DARE come to their elementary schools and talk about the evils of drug. I don’t remember DARE coming to my elementary school at all.Report

  2. Burt Likko says:

    I suspect the portrayal of America as an army of ethical warriors under the direction of an apolitical government responding to an aggressive faction taking over in a rival nation has an audience and could find makers, as the OP suggests.

    Much more likely would be plot modifications to make the morality of the USSR-US war murkier. That, also, is the style today. The political side is easy to imagine: the Cold War really was a chess game with each side probing and pushing the other and many of those moves happened in the dark with plausible deniability, or when they did happen in daylight, with a pastiche of justification and blame-mirroring.

    Hollywood, I predict would be unable to resist the temptation to trickle that “both sides do bad things too” ethic down to the level of the soldiery. We’ve lived through more than two generations since My Lai and the audience today is well aware that U.S. troops can (though mostly do not) do bad things under stress and in positions of power. So we’d see portrayals of both Soviet and U.S. forces doing things portrayed as morally bad even in the context of war.

    That would change the story in an important way, I think: a theme running through Clancy’s work has always been that warriors achieve honor. Seeing too many individual soldiers, whether they be Soviet or NATO, dishonoring themselves would very much change the story. A story of armies with both honorable and dishonorable members might be a good and important story to tell, but it’s not the story Tom Clancy told.Report

    • I had a lot of similar thoughts to yours. I re-read large chunks of it writing this; my original red covered paperback of my youth is long since destroyed from use and the kindle version is on my phone. I wondered in my own mind how my natural cynicism would read the text with my own life experiences being far down the road from being a kid the first couple times I read it. I assure you after my own service I know there are bad actors on our own side.

      But my well entrenched cynicism didn’t penetrate to enjoying the story like I always have. Maybe its a fair criticism to say nostalgia and my own worldview cloud this, but as you mention Clancy told the story a certain way for a reason. Instead of both sides do bad things and taking it dark, as I agree my fear would be in an adaption, Clancy quite purposefully went the other way with “the other side has good people too,” and climaxes the book with a shared humanity that, while no doubt is borderline plot gimmicky optimistic, is quite welcomed with the way things are these days. Just my opinion of course.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Many Americans have gotten a lot more radicalized during the time period between 9/11 and the present. There are going to be lots of Americans who are very for a series that depicts Americans as a bunch of ethical warriors under an apolitical president. Others are simply not going to have it because they will interpret this as trying to paper over the excesses in American military adventurism and recent political disputes in the United States. The general reaction to Red Dawn is that most Americans love it uncritically and without irony and many others think that it is a campy joke at best. Red Storm Rising will have an even more decisive reaction if it gets popular enough.Report

      • Chip Daniels in reply to LeeEsq says:

        The tale of a contemporary war between Russia and America would have so many levels of irony it would be like some art-house, post modern Rashomon:

        There would be the Fox version, where a brave American President partners with the handsome, manly and bare chested Russian President to thwart an uprising of genetically inferior Slavs, Jews, Negroes and Islamic homosexuals; Russian troops parachute onto a Alabama high school, where they are welcomed as liberators.

        There would be the Politico version where the savvy Beltway insiders deduce who the new power players in the new world order will be and who wins the morning news cycle.

        There would be the Wall Street Journal version where the defense industry squares off against the consumer goods interests in a battle for control of the government;

        There would be the Ken Burns version, where Ashokan Farewell plays softly as veterans read Tweets from President of the Confederate States of America Donald Trump, and President of the United States Kamala Harris.

        The underlying message of the film would be that truth is unknowable, but can be described in 280 characters.


  3. Kolohe says:

    By happenstance (and my age), the War and Rememberance mini-series aired shortly before I read Red Storm Rising. I definitely see, both then and now, how RSR could be given the miniseries/short run series treatment in the same way that Winds of War/War and Rememberance was. (I would read the actual Wouk books much much later, sometime in the late 90s).

    Though Wouk was dealing in historical fiction – alternate history historical fiction, which this would be, hasn’t been anything anyone to my knowledge has taken on, except to make a dystopian premise. (or dark comedy satire, or both)

    By the way, Clancy’s technical accuracy is way overrated. Janes Fighting Ships (an invaluble reference, to be sure) only gets you so far in telling you how things actually work.Report

    • Funny you mention that because references like Jane’s came to my attention through Clancy, and being the voracious reader I am ended up tearing through a lot of his source and reference material like Janes myself. Clancy also collaborated with a lot of folks, (Larry Bond comes to mind who may or may not have helped write RSR depending on which story you believe), so it’s not to make the man out as the be all end all. But as a starting point, it was a pretty good.

      Your point of historical fiction is well taken. It would be glaringly fresh to have a non-dystopian alternative history portrayed for once. As Burt and others mention though, IDK if the makers to be could resist the well worn path of politicizing it up or turning it down the path of making it darker that Clancy did in his original premises.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Andrew Donaldson says:

        War movies/tv shows are always political because wars are political. (H/t Carl)

        Now, there are some versions that are more hero’s journey than tackling the political dimension. But those tend make the political dimension pure black and white.

        A fictitious war is going to double down on the political dimension, because that’s basically the entire point of making up a war. Unless one is going to also double down on the hero’s journey, as well as making everything black and white. Like, for instance a war among the stars.Report

        • Kolohe in reply to Kolohe says:

          I can’t think of a single Vietnam based movie/TV show that didn’t have the theme of tragic waste and/or outright horrible evil, and I can’t think of one WW2 based movie/TV show that didn’t have the theme of sometimes tragic, but always noble sacrifice. (Except maybe The Thin Red Line)Report

          • greginak in reply to Kolohe says:

            Kelly’s Heros? Slaughter House Five?

            Been a while since i read/saw either. In general you are correct just trying to think of the few, at most, counter examples.Report

        • I agree that they almost always are, which is why it would be refreshing to have one that is not. It would be a tremendous temptation to resist, probably impossible. But would be nice to see just as a change of pace if nothing else.Report

          • Kolohe in reply to Andrew Donaldson says:

            You risk (or maybe there’s no risk, a guarantee of) making war a sporting event.

            Which I think is itself a slight moral mistake. (but one that is medium dependent, i.e. for a scripted medium. I don’t have a problem with war video games, which are also war as sport)Report

      • Chip Daniels in reply to Andrew Donaldson says:

        I honestly believe that, of all the world’s nations, Americans have a very naive lack of familiarity with war.
        Not since 1812 has the American homeland been invaded, and not since 1941 have we actually faced the prospect of it.

        There are almost no Americans left alive who can testify to that sense of vulnerability or fear.
        For us, war is an abstraction that we can choose to engage in on some faraway field where we can always just cut and run if things get too scary.
        “Losing” a war for us, means having an embarrassing spectacle where helicopters lift off from our embassy somewhere.

        I think Battlestar Galactica explored pretty well, what war is like when you are on the defensive, when you can’t just lob a few bombs somewhere then adjourn for a beer.Report

        • There is a “sally forth from the castle” mentality to us Americans when it comes to conflict, as we haven’t had a real genuine threat to the homeland in 200 years. There are plenty of vets who have had individual moments of stand and fight, but as a general concept you are correct that we haven’t really had an do-or-die conflict that threatened our very existence or way of life. In the darkest times deployed, even as a relative nobody, the thought was always, “get through it and you can go home” whereas most conflict is win or die throughout most of human history. It is something that we have failed to teach in leiu of experiencing it.Report

          • Chip Daniels in reply to Andrew Donaldson says:

            I remember my mom telling me about the fear she felt in San Diego in 1941, and how they actually were terrified of a Japanese invasion.

            At the time I scoffed but then read somewhere that a secret Pentagon assessment figured that an actual Japanese invasion would roll across America until maybe Chicago.

            Part of me wishes we did have that sort of sense of vulnerability, to know that war isn’t some video game of chest bumps and high fives.

            In particular this has been running through my mind recently- “Everything that has a beginning has an end.”

            American superpower hegemony is guaranteed to end at some point and we should, if we were smart, be thinking in terms of how to unwind it, to control our descent into being a secure peer nation, on par with Germany or the UK.

            But again…”if we were smart”.Report

            • We all assume we are Cincinnatus nobly leaving the plow to defend the country, and hope we are not Honorius watching Alaric approaching. But someday, someone will be.Report

            • At the time I scoffed but then read somewhere that a secret Pentagon assessment figured that an actual Japanese invasion would roll across America until maybe Chicago.

              I’d love to read it, because I suspect that the Pentagon kept it secret rather than reveal how badly some of their officers reasoned. Consider the position of a Japanese general looking east after making it through 700-800 miles of mountains/deserts to the east side of the Continental Divide. 500 miles of Great Plains, an armor commander’s dream (or nightmare, if outgunned). Your tanks are the only ones in WW2 that make the M3 Lee look good, and the M4 is ready to enter production. Every one of your tanks has to come from Japan. Your fuel supply has to come from Southern California (if you captured the refineries) and without a pipeline (unless you’ve built one).Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Cain says:

                Making it across the Rockies without the benefit of the Interstate system, mind you. How many tanks and APCs are you going to leave scattered along the roads and in ravines as you move? Add in the American enjoyment of long range hunting and causing general trouble, and that would be a purely miserable journey.Report

              • Kolohe in reply to Michael Cain says:

                Well, you always have to take the M3 Lee for granted.Report

            • greginak in reply to Chip Daniels says:

              The Japanese couldn’t invade and conquer Hawaii. Their navy wasn’t built for invasions like that. If they couldn’t take Hawaii they mainland was pretty darn safe.Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to greginak says:


                Wasn’t part of the reason they didn’t invade Hawaii an issue with the coast not being suitable in for amphibious landings in a lot of locations? I admit my history is a bit fuzzy on this point.Report

              • greginak in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                The Japanese didn’t have the logistic capacity to sustain a large ground/naval force that far from the home islands. They struggled, and failed, to support their forces in Guadalcanal where they had relatively close by support bases, no large local population to control and often times poorly supported US forces. Hawaii if far away from any Japanese bases. They wouldn’t have had any land based air support and had to ship huge amounts of supplies half way across the ocean.

                Even maintaining their naval striking force close to Hawaii would have been hard to support with spares, fuel and reinforcements.Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to greginak says:

                Ahhh…gotcha. That makes sense.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to greginak says:

                Guys, guys, I’m just the conduit here.

                I read it somewhere on the internet, that should be good enough.Report

              • greginak in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Hmmmm….just the conduit for secret pentagon reports….yeah sure….whatever you say Mr. Assange.Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to Chip Daniels says:

          There are lots of countries with much more direct experience of war than the United States and they still get into military adventurism. Europe is the exception and it took several thousands of years and a lot of social engineering to get it past them. The most pacifist European countries are the ones with the least experience in war but France still gets involved in military adventurism here and there. I do not think that there is much if any correlation between a citizenry’s appetite for military adventurism and their experiences as a nation with war.Report

          • Kolohe in reply to LeeEsq says:

            Here’s my take, as someone too young to remember the Vietnam War, as well as Beirut bombings and Grenada, asked our schoolteachers if bombing Libya meant we were at war, and got personally concerned and talked to friends about about them bringing back the draft in the run up to Desert Storm

            In the Desert Storm, Vietnam still loomed large in everyone’s mind. That’s what made Bush Sr and his advisors want overwhelming force before going in (i.e. the Powell doctrine) and motivated a lot of the opposition to a military invasion (i.e. “let’s give the sanctions time to work”)

            Then, after a month of bombing, it was over in a 100 hours of ground action. WIth fatal casualties in the 200s out of a half a million deployed personnel.

            Thus, Middle East Wars became simple and easy to win.

            Now of course, we’re on the opposite side of that curve. And for all his bs and bluster, the one thing I still for realz believe Trump knows intuitively, that if flag drapped coffins start coming back from Iran, that will destroy MAGA.Report

            • LeeEsq in reply to Kolohe says:

              We can certainly hope so. I’m of the opinion that Trump’s criticism of Iraq II was that we didn’t do a big smashing, nuke them war.Report

            • Mike Dwyer in reply to Kolohe says:

              “Thus, Middle East Wars became simple and easy to win.”

              Conventional wars are still easy to win. The problem is that, when was the last time we had a conventional war? I was adamantly opposed to what we did in Afghanistan, not because I didn’t want a military intervention but because I didn’t want a conventional one. Conventional wars usually mean you’re responsible for the country when the war is over. Unconventional wars mean you can kill the bad guys and then leave (I’m over-simplifying here, but that’s the jist of it).

              Mike’s plan for a new U.S. armed forces:

              – The bulk of our conventional forces are rolled into the National Guard and they are all stationed stateside. When they aren’t training, they are wearing a ‘peacetime’ uniform and doing public works. Disaster relief, engineering projects, etc.

              – Augment the Coast Guard with some of the National Guard troops (similar to the Navy/Marines) and they help out overseas with disaster relief.

              – Split the Navy. Some of the fleet does coastal defense, while the other part stays mobile for world-wide security needs.

              – Air Force only operates stateside as part of the National Guard.

              – Roll all of the Special Forces into the Navy. These would replace the Marines and become the only forces we use overseas to prevent being dragged into another conventional war. This would include Green Berets, Rangers, SEALs, etc.

              – The Navy keeps their planes and helicopters in support of the Special Forces.Report

              • jason in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Replace the Marines? Screw you, buddy.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Dump all the Green Berets and Rangers, etc. Keep the Marines & expand the SEALs and Force Recon.Report

              • jason in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Did we just become best friends?Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to jason says:

                I was a gator, always preferred my jarheads and the SEALs I worked with to the Army pukes.Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                But what do the Marines do in these scenarios? Defend beachheads?Report

              • jason in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                while the other part stays mobile for world-wide security needs.

                Your quote refers to the navy–the ships alone aren’t enough for world-wide security needs. You need boots on the ground.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to jason says:

                You may fly over a land forever; you may bomb it, atomize it, and wipe it clean of life – but if you desire to defend it, protect it,and keep it for civilization, you must do this on the ground, the way the Roman Legions did – by putting your soldiers in the mud.

                -T. R. Fehrenbach


              • Mike Dwyer in reply to jason says:


                I didn’t say anything about no boots on the ground. I said limited boots on the ground in foreign countries i.e Special Forces.Report

              • jason in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                @mike-dwyer That would be too limited–there aren’t that many special forces troops and training them takes a lot of time, especially when you consider how many don’t make it through the training. And the special forces types of troop are trained for very different scenarios.Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to jason says:

                Very different scenarios than what? Limited warfare is the only thing I would agree to use them for.Report

              • jason in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                That’s nice, but saying “we’ll only do limited warfare” is kind of a fantasy: once people start shooting it’s hard to say what will happen. I don’t think we’d be able to control how limited any warfare would be. Not in every case.

                That said–I don’t disagree with your principle of limiting conflicts and wars. Let’s only use military force when absolutely necessary.Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to jason says:


                I come at this from the idea that to a hammer, everything looks like a nail. I want to retain much of our military capacity, as an international deterrent to messing with us or our allies, but I want to keep them at home. There is a lot of good that can be done having that many well-disciplined men and women here. At the same time, if we severely restricted our ability to easily engage in conventional wars abroad, with so many troops stationed in forward locations, then I think we would be forced to look at situations differently.Report

              • jason in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                That’s a good point. And since that’s the argument a lot of us about the militarized police, it’s persuasive to me. Keeping conventional forces, but at home is not a bad idea.Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to jason says:

                I think it also drives recruitment. My original plan was to join the military after college but when I (unexpectedly) became a father, I shelved those plans because I didn’t want to be deployed overseas, away from my daughter. If I could have joined and ben assured I would stay stateside, barring a homeland emergency, I would have signed up.Report

              • I, for one, am unwilling to foot the tax bill to maintain a half-million active-duty Army personnel, plus the toys, who stay at home and train with a once-a-decade or once-in-20-years deployment. Nor to pay for 2,000 F-35s at $100M apiece, knowing that the vast majority of them will be retired without every flying anything but training. I’m probably unwilling to pay for most of the current 11 carrier strike groups so that I can deliver a modest number of special forces, or conduct a (very) limited air campaign.

                If you want the capability to send a “don’t mess with us” message, sufficient cruise missiles should be enough. Mess with us once, lose every highway bridge in your country. Mess with us twice, lose your electric grid. Mess with us a third time, lose all your industry. Those are possible against anyone that you could take on with a half-million-person Army that takes most of a year to deploy.Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to Michael Cain says:


                I don’t disagree with any of your logic. I think where I like the idea of a new Homeland Defense force is that it funnels people into public works, discipline and physical fitness while using patriotism as the driving motivation.Report

              • My own prediction is that you will live to see much of what you describe, less the paying Army prices for public service positions part. I have a bet with @kolohe that the US will not be capable of conducting an Iraq-like action outside of the Western Hemisphere by the end of 2039.Report

              • Kolohe in reply to Michael Cain says:

                Thank you. I was trying to look up the exact terms of the bet and wasn’t able to find it.Report

              • Michael Cain in reply to Kolohe says:

                I cheated. (Old programmer anecdote ahead — you’ve been warned.) 30-some years ago I got tired of losing things I’d jotted down on scraps of paper, so I wrote a little C program called “scraps” to use instead. Ported it to a stupid range of hardware and OSs since. I still keep it open in a terminal window on my Mac and use it far more days than not. I was flipping through the scraps the other day, and there’s still data that’s more than 30 years old in there. Any way, I have a scrap where I keep unresolved bets, and you’re on it. Hmm… come January, I may owe Will Truman and Stillwater a beer, or at least half a beer, if the legislative filibuster still exists in the US Senate.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                The Army’s current version of an amphibious landing is to arrive via cargo ship at either a friendly port, or one the Marines have captured and control, and perform a heroic offload and muster without taking any fire, then move on.

                The Marines, on the other hand, get to establish a beach head largely using the Army’s cast off vehicles, and then move on toward whatever port they have to take and hold for the Army.

                Might as well just grow the Corps until it can handle the Army’s mission as well, and call it a day.Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to Oscar Gordon says:


                In my scenario, we wouldn’t need to move enough troops to make it necessary to capture a whole port. No conventional wars.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Well, in that case, Army is gone, and we keep the Corps as is while bolstering the SpecOps.Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Right. Army stays stateside as Homeland Defense.Report

              • I would only add that without forward deployed troops and equipment, the mission statement for the US military becomes very different. Or perhaps I should phrase that as when forward-deployed troops and equipment are limited to what a carrier-strike group can carry, the mission statement is very different. Very little to no NATO participation, for example.

                You could cut the active duty Army and Air Force — the folks for whom training is pretty much a full-time job — by at least half. Any overseas deployment is going to be limited by the ability to move gear, especially. I think mixing them in with the “One weekend a month, two weeks a year” sorts of National Guard people would be a mistake.Report

              • jason in reply to Michael Cain says:

                When I was in (and I don’t think this has changed), we had cargo ships spread throughout the world–so we could unload them quickly in case of need. (My MOS frequently practiced unloading them.) It would be a good idea not to cut those.Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to Michael Cain says:


                Anytime we do a large-scale conventional war it takes months to build up the capability, even now. I understand the need for rapid deployment but those are usually non-conventional forces anyway. What I’m talking about is limiting our forward troops to Special Forces and Navy and keeping the rest of the military stateside. National Guard might still have weekend warriors but would absorb the full-time troops, formerly in the Army and Marines, only they no longer go abroad.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Unconventional wars mean you can kill the bad guys and then leave

                Hows that working out for us?Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                I think our unconventional wars have been hampered by the ancillary conventional wars.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                What happens after “killing the bad guys”?

                Consider Afghanistan-
                We killed a lot of Taliban, then killed a lot of AQ, then killed Osama Bin Laden.
                Now, some 15 years/ thousands of deaths/ trillions of dollars later, Afghanistan is in almost exactly the same place it was on 9-10-2001.

                I’m trying to see how this is anything other than an unmitigated catastrophe for America.

                It would literally have been cheaper, and led to a better outcome for our geopolitical standing, had our President groveled before Bin Laden, signed a surrender agreement to withdraw our forces from the Holy Land and pay a tribute of one trillion dollars personally to Osama Bin Laden.Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                The problem in Afghanistan is we should have ignored the Taliban. They weren’t our enemy.Report

              • Kolohe in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Chip Daniels: Afghanistan is in almost exactly the same place it was on 9-10-2001.

                It’s a different place than it was on 9-10-2001

                But it is in almost exactly the same place (with ebbs and flows) as it was on 9-10-2002.

                The best case in hindsight would have been to do a Libya thing. Completely wreck the Afghan Taliban government’s stuff, and arm the opposing side in the existing civil war.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Kolohe says:

                And then what happens?

                What happens when our preferred side in the civil war starts to lose? More weapons? Trainers? Advisors? Air support?
                And what happens when one of our pilots is shot down and paraded in front of cameras?

                See, the problem is that in almost none of these conflicts, does there exist a coherent goal by which we can measure progress.

                What would “victory” in Afghanistan look like, and how could we measure whether we are closer or farther away?

                Isn’t a weak and unstable Afghanistan, which is unable to police its territory and prevent terror organizations like oh, say, Al-Queda from using it as a staging ground, exactly the problem we wanted to solve in the first place?Report

              • Kolohe in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                There is the premise that ungoverned areas are inevitably staging grounds for terrorism against the United States (on US territory). It is a premise that underlies most of US policy for near the last 20 years. It is also a premise that I am not convinced is correct.

                Also, I do thing there is a difference between a weak government that *enabled* Al Qaeda, such as the Taliban, and a weak government that nonetheless opposes them, even if mostly ineffectually.

                The direct answer to the question as to what comes next when we go in and break things is: nothing. Or at least, maintain a standoff with all the Clancyesque weapons and break things again if the threat is reconstituted.

                But we definitely don’t ‘own’ it, nor try to.

                Like how we took out Bin Laden without touching the Pakistan systemic problems at all.Report

              • greginak in reply to Kolohe says:

                There was also, in the bush/cheney years, the belief that anything that had a slight chance of harming us, 1% i think, had to be treated like an imminent threat. That led to the urgent need to control and takeover everything.

                I never bought that theory of ungoverned areas as staging grounds. One of the strong points of terrorism is not needing, or having, conventional forces and all that goes with them. Terror groups have repeatedly struck in occupied countries where there were no staging grounds. Especially in the internet age, internet/cell access is probably more valuable then real estate. I’m sure they like having friendly territory, but they dont’ need it.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Kolohe says:

                Well, which is it?
                Do nothing after we break things, or continue to break things for eternity?

                The second option is our current strategy.

                We like to pretend that the is a difference between war and limited strikes but the people we kill don’t see it that way.

                For people in at least 4 countries, they at war with America and any tactic-hijackings, assassinations, suicide bombings at the Super Bowl-are fair game.
                We’re creating a situation that we can’t kill our way out of.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                A New Report Highlights Torture Amid U.S.-Backed Crisis in Yemen

                So lay down this marker.
                At some point in our future, a Yemeni who was radicalized by torture or the deaths of familiy, will get his hands on a bomb, a machine gun, a vial of chemicals or whatever, and stage a spectacular attack in America.

                And America will react with bewilderment, frantically asking “Alexa, where the hell is Yemen?”
                This guy never got the memo that we didn’t want a war, we only wanted to blow shit up and kill some bad guys.

                Because he is at war, and for him it is existential.Report

              • Kolohe in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Torturing people is pretty much the exact opposite of doing nothing after you break things from a distance.

                I also don’t see how a strategy of break things from a distance is something we’ve been currently doing more than not when we have boots on the ground in Syria. (as well as Iraq and Afghanistan) (& I’m not even counting special forces that are everywhere from the Sahel to the PI, & probably some of the out-USA Americas too)Report

            • Burt Likko in reply to Kolohe says:

              You may recall from such wars as Afghanistan, complaints from USAF pilots that after about 100 hours of bombing, there was simply nothing left for them to blow up.

              Which resulted in a war that was quick and easy to win, right?Report

              • Kolohe in reply to Burt Likko says:

                It’s probably not an accident that the institutional military didn’t push back too hard on the ramp up to OIF (w some exceptions) and, in contrast, slow rolled Afghanistan until around 2007. Doing a conventional air/armor/infantry invasion is something army leadership had trained all their lives for at that point, while the asymetric nation building project in Afg was usually someone else’s problem.Report

    • Richard Hershberger in reply to Kolohe says:

      By the way, Clancy’s technical accuracy is way overrated.

      Very much this. He was a great bullshitter. That isn’t a criticism, in the context of writing fiction. He used what information he had and filled it out with fictional material to create a world that seemed plausible. This is not, however, at all the same thing as its being accurate. This is only a problem if people confuse the two.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Kolohe says:

      He also got a *LOT* of mileage of being visited by the CIA once (I heard the urban legend that it was for Red October, but it was really for CARDINAL) and he parlayed that magnificently.

      (And also wasn’t hurt by the “CIA visited because of Red October!” urban legend.)Report

  4. Mike Siegel says:

    When the first Gulf War started in 1991, many of us had read Red Storm Rising and it became a bible for understanding the war. Much of the technology we used was ably depicted in the book.

    It really struck a cord with me because my dad did the War College in the mid-80’s in an (ultimately futile) effort to get promoted to General. I was his research assistant and he wrote a lot about the Central Europe theater. Two suggestions I remember specifically. One was to build the North-South running highways in Germany so that the western side was elevated above the eastern side, creating a defensive barrier to advancing Soviet armor. The other was to completely declassify technological secrets because he thought classifying tech stifled our progress more than it stifled the Soviets. If we didn’t classify it, their closed society would never be able to keep up with our open one.

    And it would make a dynamite TV series.Report

    • Mike Dwyer in reply to Mike Siegel says:

      “One was to build the North-South running highways in Germany so that the western side was elevated above the eastern side, creating a defensive barrier to advancing Soviet armor.”

      I have never heard that one. Makes a lot of sense.Report

      • Its a great point, especially since one of the underlying ideas of the Autobahn was being able to move a German Army rapidly east and west, the exact opposite idea in that context.Report

        • In the same Dan Carlin podcast I mentioned in another comment he talked about how the Chinese strategy and the Russian strategy has always been to use space to their advantage (think French and German supply lines both being crushed under the distance from home). With places like Germany, you have to throw up defensive obstructions because they simply don’t have the space to manage that strategy.Report

          • Here is a good comparision to your point that will surprise some folks: Germany in comparison to UK, Japan, California/Nevada, and Dallas-area Texas. We think of Japan as a island chain, but in reality they have more land area than Germany. Imagine the bulk of the Red Army coming at you and you are defending a border roughly from LA to Reno, and cannot retreat further than Las Vegas or you lose. Interesting thought experiments, and some of the ones that gaming out WW3 in Europe dealt with.

            One thing about RSR, Clancy got a few things right about modern warfare that was later proven out: the burn rate of munitions being much higher than expected (every conflict of the last 30 years, or for that matter ever), the ineffectiveness of armor against air superiority and anti-tank missiles (Gulf War), and how much intelligence was going electronic and digital, among other things. He got some things wrong too, but still interesting to kick around.Report

          • Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

            There is space, but that space is called France and Germany. “We’re going to let most of your countries be overrun while we concentrate our forces near the English Channel” would not have been well-received.Report

            • And in fact that becomes a plot in RSR. The forces fighting in Europe, and the tank commander character that is one of the focuses of that part of the story, addresses how it would be easier and better tactically to just fall back and consolidate but the German’s wouldn’t retreat and the Allies could not just leave them to it. At one point he even muses something to the effect of understanding that if someone invaded the east coast he probably wouldn’t be ok with just retreating and giving up Pennsylvania or whatever. Great points to considerReport

  5. Richard Hershberger says:

    I have mixed feelings about Clancy. I read The Hunt for Red October when it first came out, and the subsequent books faithfully upon release for many years after, albeit with growing queasiness. This was partly at the politics and partly at the “too big to edit” prose bloat.

    The end of the Cold War did not serve Clancy well. He was great at Russians as honorable foes. Everyone else, not so much. Partly this was because he turned out to be a racist asshole. This was obscured by his racism not taking the form usual to white Americans. He regards his black characters very well (with the proviso that they are thoroughly acculturated to mainstream, i.e. white, America–think Bill Cosby). But Asians? Hoo, boy! Asian characters, from any part of the continent, can generally be assumed to be corrupt sexual degenerates. The sole notable exception is the Asian-American CIA officer, and Clancy goes through constant gyrations to emphasize how thoroughly American he is and how foreign he finds Asian culture (repeatedly comparing it to “Klingons”).

    Sadly, things went even further downhill. I quit with the one where it turns out that the Sierra Club is a bunch of sociopathic mass murderers, at least in waiting. Okey-dokey. I’m done here.

    Red Storm Rising was before all this, to its benefit. The writing was a bit rough. Clancy would never be great at characterization, but he hadn’t even hit his stride yet. But what he was good at, he was very good at. The book certainly was engaging, to those of us interested in military affairs.

    The problem is that it was predicated on a credible Warsaw Pact conventional threat: the Red Army rolling westward to the Rhine. We certainly worried about this at the time, but we learned just a few years later that it had been an empty threat. The Soviet Army, and just about everything else about the Soviet Union, was a complete mess. The army had, over the decades following 1945, been hollowed out. Any adaptation of the book today would be not merely relating events that didn’t happen, but would take place in a world that didn’t exist.Report

    • I take your point, and Debt of Honor was where my interest waned as it wasn’t nearly as tight, among the reasons your assessment that the Asians characters didn’t play well at all and came off stereotyped in a way the earlier Russian ones never did.

      As a transport and logistics guy by trade both in the military and civilian world, I completely agree with the assessment that the conventional war would have been far from the even match it gets portrayed as. Aside from the political problems within the Red Army they simply didn’t have the ability to deploy, sustain, and prosecute a war like that. Though it isn’t completely comparable, they are barely able to a fraction of what a land war in Europe would take into Syria at presence. Their logistics and transportation ability wasn’t not even in the same Galaxy as ours. Bloody as it may have been, and no doubt destructive, the Soviets could not have sustained it, which might have been as a big a deterrent as our mutual destruction was. Russians knew it better than anyone their limitations.

      One of my favorite lines in RSR, that we now know was pretty accurate, was a throw away bit of dialogue by an intel officers who said (paraphrase I don’t want to go digging at the moment, “The Russians would freak if they knew how good our (satellite) cameras are.” Thinking of Khrushchev disbelieving the modern American appliances during the “kitchen debate”, I wonder how much of the same was true of their knowledge of our technological advantage.Report

    • Kolohe in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

      Richard Hershberger: The sole notable exception is the Asian-American CIA officer, and Clancy goes through constant gyrations to emphasize how thoroughly American he is and how foreign he finds Asian culture (repeatedly comparing it to “Klingons”).

      Now that you mention it, he does this in Clear and Present Danger too. There are two main hispanic ‘good guys’ (the Ranger and the secretary) but all the other main hispanic characters are bad guys.

      And the coda where George Bush Sr stand in loses re-election to the first named (& clearly Democratic) President, is the pivot point for Clancy’s descent into Mary Suing & full bore hippie punching.

      (Also eerily prescient as it was written over 3 years before Bush would be kicked to the curb)

      (Which brings to mind a caller to Rush Limbaugh in late 1994 that suggested that Clancy should change the ending to Debt of Honor now that the Republicans had finally taken control of Congress. Limbaugh shut that down) (yes really. I don’t know if he do that now. It did take him a bit to get what the caller was getting at, because the caller to his credit(?) was trying to avoid spoilers if you hadn’t read the book yet)

      Oh, and it’s not an excuse (just the opposite) but the anti-Japanese anti-Asian thing was also Crichton’s jam at the time. As a bunch of others (it’s kinda even a oblique thing in the original Die Hard). It’s *really* unsavory in hindsight.Report

      • You’d be referring to Rising Sun, Crichton’s entry into the “Japan is buying up America” thing that was going around for a while.Report

      • pillsy in reply to Kolohe says:

        Now that I sort of think back to it, the politics in Die Hard are really weird and kind of all over the map.

        John McClane mouthing, “Asian Dawn?!” in confused disbelief is a bit of a self-referential metaphor for the whole thing.Report

  6. Maribou says:

    I read Red Storm Rising as a teenager (somewhere 13-16 – after I finally got that coveted adult library card, before I could drive – I read so many thousands of books in that period that the timeline blurs together). So right at the cusp of the 80s/90s.

    And I absolutely *loved* it. Why weren’t scifi people everywhere telling me to read this guy????

    Then I read like a half-dozen more of his books before I turned 20, and while I enjoyed all of them, the magic was not quite there in the same way for me. (I definitely enjoyed them though. Worldbuilding is worldbuilding.)

    So I would welcome the series you are proposing, were it done well.Report

  7. Aaron David says:

    Well, I read Hunt for Red October, probably back in high school… Not sure. Never read anything else by him as he didn’t float my boat, so to speak. Much preferred Lothar-Gunther Buchheim. That man could tell a submarine story! But I never really liked military fiction.

    But as far as casting a favorite book, That would have to L.A. Confidential, mostly because the movie that was made picked the wrong actor for Dudley Smith. It should have been someone who both conveyed malevolent strength and intelligence. Not the dude from Babe.Report

  8. Michael Cain says:

    Early Clancy books were terrific airplane novels, straightforward and fast-paced. I acquired paperback copies of most of them in airport bookstores. OTOH, my ex-military friends all asked the same question about Red Storm Rising: “Where’s the million civilian casualties?”Report

  9. jason says:

    Yeah, I was in boot camp when the Berlin Wall fell. The class instructors were still talking about “Ivans” as our potential enemies. The Gulf War started about a month or two into my first duty station (I was working at K5–the Marine staging lot at Kadena Air Base).
    I read Hunt for Red October when I was in–during some deployment, maybe a westpac; I had already read RSR in high school. I remember liking RSR; I read one of his other books–the one about the atomic bomb in Denver. They were good genre novels. I tried Rainbow Six and it was garbage (the “sierra club” book @richard-hershberger mentioned above)–cardboard characters and more emphasis on weapons porn than story.Report

    • Andrew Donaldson in reply to jason says:

      When I read Rainbow Six, mid-teens for me, I wasn’t bothered by the thin plot device of eco-terrorist or the political implications as I was far more concerned with the other aspects, but telling that while I’ve re-read RSR repeatedly I’ve never revisted that one. I did enjoy the game series but that’s removed from the novel quite a bit.Report

  10. Kolohe says:

    Another thing I thought of that has to be addressed by the showrunners/storyboarders/screenplay writers

    Just about every epic I can think of that spans multiple locations and multiple simultaneous plot points has something tying everything together. Either it starts off with point of view characters in a single location that eventually take different paths (Lord of the Rings), or its destined to end with all the point of view characters in a final meeting/confrontation (Game of Thrones), or, as is the case of Winds of War/War and Remembrance, some other relationship that acts as a thru-line in all the locations, in this case, the extended Henry family and their loved ones.

    Red Storm Rising has 4(?) (Russia, Iceland, North Atlantic, Germany, any others?) main plot threads. They all do sort of relate to each other, because that was kind of the point of the book, but there really isn’t a single thing that really firmly attaches each part to every other part. You’re really telling 4 different stories, for the most part. So one possibility is just focus on one, or else, add some characters/build some relationships that give it a bit more coherence.Report

  11. Kolohe says:

    Clancy started to show his cards on his personal politics with Clear and Present Danger, but he hadn’t quite gone off the deep end at that point as Steve Coontz (probably most famous for Flight of the Intruder) did a about a year later

    UNDER SIEGE captures a chilling nightmare scenario, one that has already devastated Columbia and sent shock waves around the world. In a novel as immediate and gripping as tomorrow’s headlines, the war against drug lords is exploding within the borders of the United States–striking at the very center of American government.

    When the kingpin of the Medellin drug cartel is extradited to Washington, D.C. to start trial, President George Bush is severely wounded by a hired assassin. Vice President Dan Quayle assumes the responsibility for directing the fight against a criminal army that now rules the streets.

    Grafton is now member of joint service team that plan military aid for anti-drug campaigns. He is assigned to a local National Guard unit to battle the cartel, right in Washington DC. The president is shot down in his helicopter. Snipers shoot a senator, chief judge of the Supreme Court, and the attorney general. Worse, local drug dealers use the opportunity to battle among themselves with grenade launchers.

    Army, national guard, police, FBI, and secret service hunt the assassins. The cartel strikes back at a National Guard armory. Washington DC’s population, fed up with drugs, rally and lynch hundreds of addicts.

    (em added)

    (one definitely sees the prelude to Trumpism right here. And that the explanation that Trump voters still believe they’re living in 1990 in terms of crime holds water)Report

    • Richard Hershberger in reply to Kolohe says:

      I quite liked Flight of the Intruder. If if read any other books by Coontz, they made no lasting impression. I’m quite sure I didn’t read this one, and it sounds like that was a good decision.Report

    • pillsy in reply to Kolohe says:

      That was definitely a thing in the technothriller genre. I didn’t read that one either, but, along with Clear and Present Danger, I remember one where they finally had enough of drug smugglers and started sending V-22 Ospreys after them.

      It was a while ago. Don’t even remember who wrote it.

      (Also yikes at the literally Duterte in Washington DC thing.)Report

      • Kolohe in reply to pillsy says:

        It’s even more bonkers than a Duerte thing. iirc, the government has declared martial law, the jails are full, so they are just throwing everyone low level into the DC Armory (next to RFK stadium and only know by me because that’s where the circus used to peform).

        Then, in the last chapter the ordinary people of Washington (mostly from SE across the Anacostia) march across the bridge to the Armory and just open it up – to string everyone up. (including the skeezy cartel lawyer main character who had been rounded up into the armory because he was caught the previous day in his car with a prositute. Who was also hanged)Report

      • Josh Echt in reply to pillsy says:

        Hammerheads by Dale Brown. They put Stingers on them and hunted the bad guys’ speedboats. He tried his own “Clear and Present Danger.” After Noriega, anything anti-drug was big, around ’89-91 in the war fiction genres.
        Also, DEFCON ONE is a great book, not quite as good as RSR but better than Team Yankee, as it was a bigger world than Coyle’s work.Report

  12. Saul Degraw says:

    Late to the game here. I read Patriot Games in the 7th grade as part of a “read what you want” project for English class. I am now embarrassed by this because of the macho right-wing hackery.

    John Le Carre is probably the best and most realistic spy novelist. I will take him over Clancy everyday.Report

    • j r in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      If you’re really embarrassed by having read the wrong thing in 7th grade, then the macho right-wing hacks might be right about some things.Report

      • Richard Hershberger in reply to j r says:

        When I was in seventh grade one of my teachers had a book in the Dreadnaught battleships. I happily read that in my spare time, and he happily let me.Report

      • pillsy in reply to j r says:

        Absolutely. 7th graders should be reading overlong adventure stories with pictures of elves on the cover, not overlong adventure stories with pictures of tanks or submarines on the cover!Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to j r says:

        I think it shows I have matured and developed taste and sensibility but you be you.Report

        • Maribou in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          @saul-degraw Broadcasting to the world that you are embarrassed by 7th grade you having enjoyed something, in a comments section where many many people here have talked freely and without embarrassment about having enjoyed or still enjoying that thing?

          That shows you’ve matured?


          Most of the definitions of maturity that I know include or assume tact among the social skills that are associated with it.

          But, y’know, I don’t have a lot of maturity in my personal makeup*, so I defer to your asserted expertise.

          *as demonstrated by this commentReport

    • pillsy in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      I think Clancy descended into macho right wing hackery later in his career [1], I really think you’re selling his earlier work short. Patriot Games was more of a straight-ahead action thriller, but his Cold War stuff really was pretty nuanced, and had some glimmers, even, of Le Carre’s sensibility, with the Soviet and American military and intelligence operatives being made up, largely, of the same sort of people.[2]

      Sure, I don’t think his best work is as good as Le Carre’s best work either, but that’s an extremely high bar to clear, and despite that I think that The Cardinal of the Kremlin and Clear and Present Danger, in particular, are fine spy novels.

      [1] His post-9/11 stuff like Teeth of the Tiger was particularly dreadful.

      [2] He lacked Le Carre’s pessimism, of course, with the professionals on both sides of the Iron Curtain being portrayed as mostly decent, with indecent exceptions.Report

      • I agree with @pillsy, for myself the original core Ryan books of Clear and Present Danger, Cardinal, Patriot Games stand out to me about the rest. Things like the big plot moments such as the nuclear bomb in Sum of All Fears and definitely the attack in Debt of Honor just seemed to get away from what he was best at. Like I said back in the comments, either by material or my own taste the “co-authored” and licensed titles just were not appealing to me and I had moved to other things.Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to Andrew Donaldson says:

          He had bought the hawkish lie that the next threat has to be bigger than the last if you want to keep the voters readers engaged.Report

          • I see what you did there Oscar…

            No, its a fair point. The Soviet Union made such a good Big Bad for plotlines that it was not really replaceable, which lead to reaching for something equally monsterous. Indiana Jones must fight the Nazi’s, anything else just doesn’t feel right. The intricacies of asymmetrical warfare are none the less dangerous, but require a lot of heavy lifting to turn into narrative. And once success has come and your fanbase is built in, hard to not just put it in cruise control. Not even a criticism really, most of us probably would do the same.Report

            • Aaron David in reply to Andrew Donaldson says:

              “Indiana Jones must fight the Nazi’s, anything else just doesn’t feel right.”

              Not just “not feel right” but it might prove problematic. But many authors succumb to the siren call of cash, riding it long after they have any interest in the main part. See Bosch, Harry and Michael Connelly.Report

          • Richard Hershberger in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            He also used the technique of taking the bulk of the American military out of the picture early on in the book. Combine this with implausible enemy alliances and you have a climax that it plausibly is a fair fight. He did this at least twice: the one where Iran and Iraq join together seamlessly, while attacking the US with ebola; and the one where all those inscrutable Orientals join together, with the Japanese making a surprise attack to take out the US Pacific fleet.

            From a dramatic viewpoint, this was his response to the dilemma of how to write military fiction involving conventional forces when there are no potential peer opponents. It also implicitly makes a political argument that it is impossible to spend enough on the military.Report

      • Richard Hershberger in reply to pillsy says:

        The descent into wingnuttery came well before 9/11. He suffered a clear case of Clinton Derangement Syndrome. When his Mary Sue became President, he made a point of replacing the carpet in the Oval Office: you know, the one where Monica gave Bill that hummer. Who paid for his delicate sensibilities was not stated: presumably the taxpayers. The thing is, the Ryanverse had no equivalent of President Clinton. This was Clancy taking his shot at Clinton, continuity be damned.Report

        • pillsy in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

          Yeah it was really going from bad to worse.

          It started getting noticeable with Sum of All Fears, I think, but I’m not sure how much I picked up on it in middle school.

          Couldn’t miss it with Executive Orders, though, which I mostly forget about because I want to forget about it.Report

        • Joshua A Echt in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

          I thought Fowler in Sum of All Fears was the weak-willed Clinton (at the time BC wasn’t elected though) dovish stand-in (or probably his version of Dukakis).
          Durling was the good R that died in the Congress attack.
          Debt still gives me chills. There was a scene where it showed the car failure and how it lead to the other events–that part was very Frantzen and very detailed and I’ll never forget that.Report

      • Joshua A Echt in reply to pillsy says:

        Without Remorse was a GREAT vigilante novel in ’93, but it was going up against Jurassic Park. Ouch.
        I do think his run was from ’84 to ’93. Last good book was WR. Although Six and Bear were ok.Report

  13. Slade the Leveller says:

    Late to the game here, but I’ll throw my 2 cents in nevertheless.

    I was an avid Clancy reader until he had a plane crash into the capitol building at the end of whatever novel that happened in. I put it down thinking what preposterous nonsense. Little did I know what was to come. That little bit of prescience did not lead me back, however. The characters were too black or white.

    By the ’80’s, I was in my 20’s. The Soviet Union, and nuclear war, for that matter, held no real terror for me. Both sides were rational actors, armed to the teeth with weapons they could never use. In fact, I made a bet with a high school pal that we wouldn’t see a nuclear war before 2000. I don’t know what he would have done with that $20 if he had won.Report

  14. Stefan says:

    Hi Andrew! I’m listening to Red Storm Rising now for the second time on audio-book (I have a long daily work commute). What a masterpiece! I completely agree with you, RSR would make a thrilling and exciting TV series if given a proper budget and a crew of writers that also have a passion for Clancy and the Cold War. Great article!Report

  15. Jimmy says:

    I came across your excellent post here while Google searching for the topic of a Red Storm Rising movie and wanted to offer my two cents.

    I read RSR in 1986 when I was 15 years old. At the time, I was in JROTC in high school, so everything in the book was very familiar to me. I joined the USAF after high school in 1989 and that book had a huge influence on me and my time in the military. It helped me pass the time on many nights on the flightline when we weren’t busy. I was such a book worm (still am) and had all of Clancy’s books that were published to that point in the early 90’s. RSR has always been one of my favorite books.

    I’ve always thought turning RSR into a movie or mini-series is a fabulous idea. In fact, Polar Glory could be a movie itself! I absolutely love that entire section of the book. Call me strange, but I actually took a paperback copy and put the different sections together to make mini books! It was fun to read those sections straight through. I’ve also thought about someone making a video game of Polar Glory or the other sections of the book. I believe the video game Harpoon has RSR parts that you can play?

    So, anyway, i’m two years late to the party, but it’s cool to see that I am not alone in thinking that now is the time for RSR to make it’s movie or TV debut!


    J. Jones
    Benton, ARReport