Another military techno-adventure book by Tom Clancy
Debt of Honor has a wider scope than most of the preceding Jack Ryan tales, and with good reason. Ryan is the National Security Advisor to U.S. President Roger Durling. As the NSA, Ryan is the cabinet level advisor responsible for intelligence issues all over the planet. There are many intelligence issues for Ryan to deal with in the events of Debt of Honor.
Yamata is a wealthy Japanese industrialist and the most powerful of the keiretsu (referred to as zaibatsu throughout the book) chiefs who actually rule Japan. He harbors an overwhelming hatred of the United States for their victory in WWII. Yamata's entire family killed themselves by leaping from a cliff near their home in Saipan to avoid capture by the American invaders. This initial reason is reinforced by a perceived American unfairness in rebuilding the Japanese economy, but restricting Japanese expansion and growth. Yamata's obsession drives him to formulate a plan to punish America and liberate Japan.
Ryan is called out of private life arranging tech IPOs for Wall Street to head the U.S. Intelligence establishment. He has got a lot on his plate, Yugoslavia, Russia, China, Japan, Africa, the Middle East. Ryan frequently and loudly bemoans budget cuts to the military and intelligence as leaving America undefended. One of his first actions is to send John Clark (nee Kelly) and Ding Chavez to capture a warlord, General Corp, who was complicit in the Somalia ambush and send him to his home country for trial and execution. The Russians and Americans reach a major breakthrough in arms negotiations and eliminate all ballistic missiles from land-, sea-, and air-based launchers.
Yamata's plan is simple but ambitious, stealthily attacking both America's economic system and military capability. Yamata bribes the software guru behind the recording program for all of the American securities and equities markets to insert an Easter Egg that will delete all copies of selected records when activated. He also acquires a major share and directorship of a trend-setting New York mutual fund, the Columbus Group. One of his Japanese subsidiaries has secretly constructed 20 nuclear ballistic missiles using Russian delivery rockets bought for supposedly civilian purposes. His agents cultivate a source of privileged information, an advisor to a Deputy Secretary of State. He meets with head members of the Chinese and Indian military-industrial complexes to ensure their cooperation. He installs a political puppet of his, Goto, as Prime Minister of Japan, but makes contact with key members of the Army, Navy and Air Force himself.
A simple manufacturing error in Japan causes a gruesome auto accident in the U.S. and precipitates a trade war. Congress passes legislature that matches the Japanese tariffs on imports and essentially ends Japanese exports of cars and electronics. It is in this increasingly hostile environment that Yamata launches his attack.
Yamata's new firm, the Columbus Group, starts selling and shorting key stocks in the several U.S. exchanges. These stocks are selected to cause uncertainty and pessimism in U.S. brokers and investors. More importantly, the specific stocks are key pieces of data in the automated trading programs used by firms. These automated programs are tricked into a feedback loop and stocks plummet very far. Yamata and other Japanese and Chinese allies make a fortune by shorting the U.S. Dollar and buying Yen. The Easter Egg in the recording software is triggered, wiping out all trading records from Friday afternoon onward.
Meanwhile, Japanese paratroopers capture and secure Guam, Saipan, and the Northern Mariana Islands (all U.S. territories in name and practice) in a virtually bloodless operation. They shut down all communication to and from the island to keep the invasion secret. Japanese surface ships "accidentally" launch torpedos at the two U.S. aircraft carriers in the Pacific, the Enterprise and the John Stennis. The ships do not sink and casualties are minimal, but the propulsion screws of both are badly damaged and flight operations off of the carriers is impossible. The same cannot be said of the two submarines torpedoed by the Japanese that are lost with all hands in unretrievably deep waters. Since the only other aircraft carriers available are busy in the Indian Ocean preventing an Indian invasion of Sri Lanka, it seems that the U.S. will have no way of reclaiming the lost territory.
John Clark and Ding Chavez were already in Japan at the time of the attack, undercover as Russian journalists. They were investigating Goto's mistress, a blonde American runaway who they thought might be held against her will. She was murdered by one of Yamata's henchman to avoid political embarassment. Clark and Chavez remain in Japan and activate an old Russian economic spy network in Japan that was created by a KGB defector. Ryan and his Russian counterpart begin a close collaboration and share information, learning that the ultimate Japanese goal is a dual invasion of Siberia (the "Northern Resource Area") by China and Japan.
U.S. diplomats desparately try to resolve the situation peacefully, but the Japanese Ambassador is unable to change his position. The American Air Force probes the air defense of the Home Islands, but has several planes shot down. The Japanese AWACS planes (E-767) are found to be superior to the American version because of superior electronics.
The former director of the Columbus Group returns to his firm and pieces together what happened. He calls Ryan and together they convince President Durling to reset the markets to their pre-crash levels. The European central banks and financial firms agree that the artificial attack requires an artificial remedy. Trade resumes on Wall Street as if little had happened.
Clark and Chavez shoot down two of the AWACS E-767s by blinding the pilots with a high intensity strobe light and stealth helicopters that are snuck into Japan and next-generation fighters shoot down several more. The loss of these planes forces the Navy to move their Aegis destroyers from the Marianas north to defend the Home Islands. This gap in defense is exploited by the revitalized U.S. attack group. The nuclear missile silos are mostly destroyed by conventional weapons delivered by stealth bombers, then buried under the water from a bombed dam for good measure. The John Stennis was secretly repaired and sent to sea and all 8 decommissioned Ohio class ballistic missile submarines were dispatched as super-quiet attack subs.
The John Stennis group attacks the islands and totally destroys their air defense and most of their aircraft. The former Prime Minister forces Goto to resign and takes control of the government. Yamata is taken into custody and not permitted to take the "honorable" way out. The Americans retake the islands and again rule the Pacific Ocean. Sri Lanka is kept safe.
Cathy Ryan, Jack's wife, is given the Lasker Award for her development of an innovative eye surgery technique. Jack is selected to be the Vice President, on the condition that it is only for two months until the election. The previous VPOTUS had been forced to resign because he was a filthy pervert who drugged and raped his aides. Ding proposes to Clark's daughter, Patsy, who accepts.
Jack Ryan is introduced as the new VP at a joint session of Congress. He is taken to another room to be sworn in when Sato, a deranged Japanese airline pilot, crashes a 747 into the Capitol, killing everyone inside including the President, Supreme Court, and most of the Cabinet and Congress. Sato's brother, an admiral, had been killed when his ship was sunk and his only son was killed in the air battle over Saipan. Secret Service agents get Ryan and his family to safety. He is sworn in as President and addresses the shaken nation, urging all to be strong.
Review: This book is 765 pages in hardcover, but it felt like about 3 times that long. It just goes on and on. Virtually every living character from previous Clancy books makes an appearance and not just a cameo. Unless you take a lot of plane flights or are a huge Jack Ryan fan, I do not recommend this book. Fortunately, I got it at the library for a quarter. Read the last ten pages in the bookstore, it is pretty prescient and creepy. Give yourself a break (and save a lot of time) and pass on buying it.
Source: Debt of Honor by Tom Clancy