Some of the characters are familiar from earlier Clancy novels: Judge Moore, director of the CIA; Bob Ritter, director of field operations; Admiral Greer, director of intelligence analysis; Jack Ryan, who succeeds Greer; and Clark, the mysterious field agent. Both Moore and Ritter find themselves in a moral no-man's-land. Their jobs require them to be faithful to the president, but they think that what they have been ordered to do is wrong. They find themselves keeping secrets from their own subordinates and following the orders of Vice Admiral Cutter, whom they know to be a fool. When Ryan unveils the scheme, Moore and Ritter are relieved and move swiftly to save the American soldiers trapped in Colombia. Moore remarks that "it is good to feel like a man again."
Admiral Greer is hospitalized with terminal cancer, but remains a courageous servant of the government to the end, continuing to work in defiance of pain. He has groomed Ryan to succeed in the important position in charge of analyzing intelligence data, but Ryan feels too inexperienced. Greer encourages Ryan to get to the bottom of Moore and Ritter's clandestine operation. Still insecure in his new post, however, Ryan avoids a direct confrontation. Instead, he opens Ritter's office safe and reads the reports of the operation. Greer dies but leaves in the knowledge that Ryan will be a capable successor.
Ryan provides the moral center for Clear and Present Danger. For much of the novel he struggles to uncover the details of the secret war against the drug cartel, and his character serves to reveal the wrong-headedness of the American scheme. When he finally learns that U.S. troops have been left to die in Colombia, he knows instantly that they should be saved. As in earlier novels, he shows great physical courage. Although it is not expected of him, he goes immediately into the field to do what must be done, even to the point of riding a helicopter into combat to retrieve the American soldiers.
Sgt. Chavez and other soldiers in the American combat team share Clark's loyalty and patriotism, and are shown as unflaggingly heroic. They were selected for the operation because of their Hispanic backgrounds and their skills at...
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