Executive Orders by Tom Clancy

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(Masterpieces of American Literature)

In Debt of Honor (1994), in an event in which art anticipates eventual reality, a deranged Japanese terrorist crashes a 747 into the Capitol, killing the president, all of the members of the Supreme Court, as well as most members of Congress. In Executive Orders, Jack Ryan, who had been sworn in as vice president after the resignation of the elected vice president (who was accused of sexual battery), survives the destruction and assumes the presidency. This is an office that he did not desire, but as a patriot, he accepted the responsibility. Ryan guides the creation of a new national government, while facing numerous challenges, both domestic and international.

The Ayatollah Daryaei, the radical Islamic leader of Iran, arranges for the assassination of neighboring Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, and quickly unifies Iran and Iraq in the United Islamic Republic. Daryaei’s long-term goal is to invade and capture Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and create a single Islamic state throughout the Middle East and Central Asia. An outbreak of Ebola fever in Africa allows Daryaei’s clique to develop Ebola as a terror weapon, importing it secretly into the United States in aerosol shaving cream cans, which are eventually released simultaneously into the air in convention halls in many American cities. The same Iranian group also plots to kidnap Ryan’s youngest daughter from her preschool and possibly kill her, as well as to have a secret service bodyguard, a Muslim, assassinate Ryan himself. In typical Clancy fashion, the convoluted but page-turning plot also involves the prime minister of India and officials from the People’s Republic of China, who support the Iranians in a concerted attempt to weaken the United States, the world’s sole superpower after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

A no-nonsense, nonpolitical president, Ryan leads the American counterattack, but in Executive Orders , it is a different Ryan than readers are used to. As president, Ryan is at the center, making the decisions and...

(The entire section is 487 words.)