Clear and Present Danger takes as a premise that there are people in the world who are utterly evil. Ernesto Escobedo is one such character. He considers himself to be a man of honor, but his sense of honor is twisted. He gives a follower the "honor" of executing a traitor to the drug cartel because he feels he owes the man a favor. The execution involves the rape of the traitor's wife and daughter before his eyes; then the family members are murdered one at a time, the traitor last. Escobedo remembers with satisfaction when he did the same thing in his youth; rape and torture are to him honorable ways to assert dominance over one's enemies. This is sickening, but Escobedo's rationalizations are frighteningly plausible.
Betrayal is another significant theme in Clear and Present Danger. Much of the novel's suspense hinges on the fact that any mistake can bring on immediate retribution; so schemers are constantly in danger. Escobedo schemes to become a political leader. His aide Felix Cortez schemes to kill Escobedo and the other leaders of the drug cartel and take control of the drug operation to undermine the United States with a flood of drugs.
There are schemers on the other side of the conflict, as well. The nastiest of these is Vice Admiral James Cutter, who urges the president to launch a secret war against the Colombian drug cartel. But soon after the clandestine American force begins to operate in Colombia, Cutter finds...
(The entire section is 578 words.)