Literature / Debt of Honor

Debt of Honor is the seventh Jack Ryan book written by Tom Clancy. It is the eighth book chronologically, was published in 1994, and takes place around 1995.

Two years after stopping a nuclear war and leaving government service, Ryan is once again called to duty, this time by Bob Fowler's successor Roger Durling. Because the administration has failed to successfully deal with many global issues in the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union, Ryan is appointed as Durling's National Security Advisor in order to set things right.

However, unknown to him and the rest of the world, a Japanese conglomerate owner, Raizo Yamata, plots to destroy the United States and turn Japan into a global superpower in its place. Conspiring with powerful military and political figures in India and China, Yamata aims to bring ruin to the United States now that the US military has been greatly downsized due to the diminishment of the Soviet armed forces.

Debt of Honor is notable for being the first Tom Clancy book in which the Russian Federation acts as an ally, rather than as the primary antagonist, and where the Soviet Union is not the primary nation-state antagonist. It also introduces the "Northern Resource Area" plot line, which would be continued up until The Bear and the Dragon.


This novel contains examples of:

  • Action Duo: Continuing the tradition begun in Clear and Present Danger, John Clark and Domingo Chavez perform operations under Ryan and the Foleys' direction, playing major roles both prior to the beginning of hostilities and after.
  • Actual Pacifist: Prime Minister Koga. He even laments the death of Kaneda, despite the fact that Kaneda was under orders to kill him.
  • Apologetic Attacker: Sato apologises to the copilot he kills before executing his suicide run.
  • Artistic License – Ships: One of the Japanese destroyers is named Mutsu after the World War II battleship. In reality, there's no JMSDF destroyer actually named as such, though there is a nuclear-powered merchant ship of that name, now renamed Mirai.
  • Back from the Dead: Invoked by Clark. "Portagee" Oreza, who was retconned as being an old friend of John Kelly, is taken completely by shock when Clark shows up at his house more than twenty years after his "death" in Without Remorse.
  • Black Helicopter: The Comanche is depicted like this: a helicopter so stealthy it can be used to assassinate major corporate figures in Tokyo and get away none the wiser.
  • Brick Joke: Of a somewhat morbid kind. In Clear and Present Danger, when Ryan had to brief then-presidential candidate Bob Fowler on intelligence matters, his brutally honest way of presenting facts makes Fowler joke that Ryan should never enter into politics. Sometime after resigning his own presidency, Fowler advised President Durling to appoint Ryan as his National Security Adviser which eventually leads to Ryan being appointed Vice President and, after Durling's death, becoming President. Meaning Ryan will be the one to actually finish out the term Fowler was elected to.
  • Buzzing the Deck: Near the end of the novel, US B-1 bombers buzz an Indian aircraft carrier and her escorts at near-supersonic speeds, causing damage to their superstructures, as a warning and show of force to prevent their moves toward annexing Sri Lanka.
  • Cassandra Truth:
    • Early on, Ryan warns Durling not to press the Japanese too hard on the Trade Reform Act, citing Sun Tzu's advice that an enemy should always be given a way out. Durling refuses, with unpleasant eventual consequences.
    • A US Air Force sergeant warns a colonel leading a flight of B-1s that, despite all indications to the contrary, his planes may already have been made and advises him not to test the Japanese air defences a second time. The colonel refuses, which costs him one plane, the lives of the four crew on board, and two of the engines on a second.
  • The Chessmaster: Yamata personally engineered the collapse of the US stock markets and the leaking of the rape case against Vice President Kealty, in a bid to attack the political center of the United States, as well as the attack on US Navy warships during a training exercise and construction of nuclear ballistic missiles in order to prevent retaliation against his later objectives.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The ending of the novel brings together most of the US government at a single time and place—something that is never done for exactly this reason—so that The Plot Reaper can wipe them all out and catapult Ryan into the Presidency.
  • Cool Plane: Numerous.
    • The Japanese E-767, an AWACS on steroids, is this for the Japanese. Not only is it superior to an E-3 in virtually all categories, it can actually direct missiles at targets for its fighters, effectively making it an airborne Aegis cruiser.
    • The F-22A "Rapier" makes its first debut in the novel as a prototype, with only four of them available for use.
  • Corrupt Bureaucrat: Christopher Cook, who sells government secrets so he can get a lucrative job as a lobbyist. Comes back to bite him in the ass when he gets arrested by the FBI during wartime.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Yamata effectively is this.
  • Corrupt Politician:
    • President Durling is a very downplayed and sympathetic example. He interferes with the FBI investigation into Vice President Kealty and agrees to let Kealty quietly resign rather then face impeachment. The only reason he does so is because America can only handle so many national crises at once and he decides the economic meltdown and war with Japan are more important.
    • Ed Kealty is a straight example. He raped at least two of his aides during his time in the Senate and essentially blackmails President Durling into letting him off the hook.
  • Culture Clash: A lot of emphasis is placed throughout the book on how, like back in 1941, the inability of the Americans and Japanese to understand each other contributed to the disaster.
  • Dating What Daddy Hates: A minor example, combined with a hint of Overprotective Dad and Like Father, Like Son. Chavez dates Clark's daughter, Patsy, starting in this novel, and while Clark doesn't actually object, he can't help but notice the similarities between Chavez and himself.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Debt of Honor is the first novel where the Russian Federation and United States start cooperating, both militarily and in espionage. The cooperation actually begins after all the ballistic launchers for both sides are destroyed, as a direct result of the previous novel.
  • Dirty Business: The US does some ambiguous things to get the better of the Japanese, but several of the characters involved regret the necessity of it.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Invoked in the death of Kimberly Norton, where drugs were used in her murder as a cover.
  • Endangering News Broadcast: Torajiro Sato is a broken man at the end of the story. And then he notices a copy of USA Today, where the headline is showing that the majority of the US government is gathering at Capitol Hill to swear Jack in as vice president, and is inspired to take a course of action that will let him go out with a bang rather than a whimper.
  • Enemy Mine: The "Northern Resource Area" turns out to be a plot by historical enemies China and Japan to annex Eastern Siberia and its resources, while India uses the distraction to annex Sri Lanka.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Inverted: real cars don't blow up in normal crashes, and the fact that this happened was a clue to a major safety defect in Japanese cars, or so various characters are led to believe, which was one of the major driving factors behind the Trade Reform Act.
  • Fair Weather Friend: China are quick to throw Japan under the bus once Yamata's plan starts unravelling.
  • Feed the Mole
    • The US news outlets were used to this extent. The Japanese believed that they had completely crippled both Enterprise and John Stennis, but Stennis was still able to conduct operations after some repairs, so Ryan used the news outlets against Japan to make them think that they had no carriers available when in fact they still had one.
    • Also used against the Japanese during negotiations, where Chris Cook is tricked into giving the Japanese delegation false information that is used to place them at a tactical disadvantage for another US operation.
  • Foreshadowing: Midway through the book, a Japanese admiral gets annoyed at low-flying planes because they might damage his ship. See Buzzing the Deck above for what happens later.
  • Godzilla Threshold: To revive the US economy after the stock market collapses, the antitrust regulations are temporarily suspended.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Yamata's plan of wiping out the records of all stock trades past a certain point, intended to deplete the confidence of traders, ended up working against him when the US government fiats that, because there were no records, none of the junk trades in question happened and they can just "reset the clock" to before the collapse.
  • Honest Corporate Executive: George Winston, who would later play important roles in future novels, was first introduced in Debt of Honor. He was the one who sold his controlling interest in his mutual-funds institution, the Columbus Group, to Yamata, allowing the latter to make his attack on the US economy. He later plays a major role in countering the attack.
  • History Repeats: Several characters make In-Universe comparisons between the present situation and 1941. The same coded phrase, “Climb Mount Niitaka”, is even used here the same way as it was back then.
  • Hot Sub-on-Sub Action: Besides the Japanese surprise attacks, Debt of Honor is the second novel in which an Ohio-class boat is used as an offensive platform (albeit because Pac Fleet had been stripped down to minimal reserves due to the closing of the Cold War).
  • Humiliation Conga: More or less what happens to Torajiro Sato at the end of of the novel. Not only content with having the Americans win at the end of the book, Clancy subjects Sato to several consecutive traumatic experiences, all in more or less the same day. First he watches his brother drown when USS Tennessee plants two torpedoes in his Aegis destroyer, then he has to identify his son's body immediately after the Americans destroy most of Saipan's fighters, then he watches as Robby Jackson lands on the island to request a surrender, then he has to fly his retreating countrymen back to Japan, including Yamata, who has been arrested, and then he comes to the realization that flying passengers to and from a Japan that has lost its honor in a war is all that remains of the rest of his life. This ultimately culminates with Sato parking his 747 on top of Capitol Hill, with most of the United States government in it.
  • Identical-Looking Asians: Inverted; Clark and Chavez, who are American, are able to pass for Russian journalists in Japan. Though their Russian is very good.
  • It's Personal
    • It's revealed at the beginning of the novel that Yamata's reason for starting a war with the United States was because he was orphaned during World War II when his family chose to commit suicide during the invasion of Saipan rather than be captured by the Marines.
    • Ron Jones says this of his motivation for fighting against Japan, as the son of his mentor when he was a sonarman aboard USS Dallas was aboard USS Asheville when it was sunk.
  • It Won't Turn Off: Inverted — a zaibatsu watching his television in his apartment in Japan can't change the channel because the laser being used by a Comanche to guide a missile into his room is using a frequency that causes the television to stay on a certain channel.
  • Japan Takes Over the World
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Vice President Kealty, who drugged and raped at least two of his aides, escapes conviction due to a combination of political maneuvering, expediency in a time of war, and what is strongly implied is falsified evidence.
    • We never learn if the automobile factory worker whose negligence allowed the defective fuel tanks to be installed, directly causing five deaths and indirectly starting the war that led to hundreds more dead, was ever found out, much less punished.
  • Kavorka Man: Vice President Kealty, back when he was a Senator, to the point that he drugged and raped at least two of his aides.
  • Kicked Upstairs: At the end of the novel, Ryan gets nominated for Vice President as a gift from Durling, because he wants out of the government, and being VP means he can never be recalled to government service again. Naturally, that doesn't work quite as planned.
  • Leave Behind a Pistol: Subverted. Yamata, with his plans un-done, asks his arresters to give him some time alone first. However, Koga, now Prime Minister again, explicitly gave orders that he be taken alive so that he could not escape from his punishment.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: An assassin shoves his target into traffic, causing him to become the victim of Car Fu.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Yamata and his fellow zaibatsu are the sponsors behind all of the ministers of the Japanese government, who largely act as puppets for them. In particular, Hirosho Goto, the Prime Minister who succeeds Koga, was chosen by Yamata mainly for his weaknesses so that he would be easy to manipulate.
  • Mole in Charge: The Russians have turned the Deputy Director of PSID, the Japanese counterintelligence service.
  • Moral Myopia: One of the main arguments the Japanese make for the plan is that America has been gleefully making use of Japan to national All Take and No Give levels while never treating them with respect, and how would you like it if someone else did it to you?
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: As the plan gets underway, several Japanese characters struggle to decide if their loyalty should be to their nation as she is, even though that means going along with the crazy, or if it should be to Japan as she ought to be, even if working for the good of the nation may involve giving away secrets in a manner that might be deemed treasonous.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • In the beginning of the novel, Jones quips to Mancuso that USS Chicago is currently in the Arctic Ocean tracking whales. In Red Storm Rising, Chicago was the boat commanded by Mancuso's Expy Dan McCafferty, who at one point asks his sonarman to report some anomalous contacts as they are traversing the Arctic Ocean on their way to conduct attacks on Soviet air bases... which turn out to be whales.
    • Later in the same book, Jones talks about his past experience in an exercise against the USS Moosbrugger at AUTEC in a conversation when talking about how to defeat the Prairie-Masker surface sound-masking system, and briefly mentions that Moosbrugger's helicopter pilot was giving Dallas's crew fits. In Red Storm Rising, Ed Morris's helicopter pilot on Reuben James, Jerry "the Hammer" O'Malley, was formerly the chopper pilot for Moosbrugger.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Mohammed Abdul Corp is effectively a stand-in for the Somalian warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid.
  • Nuclear Weapons Taboo: Exploited by Yamata. After the events of The Sum of All Fears, the U.S. and Russia destroy all their primary strategic platforms like ICBMs and missile submarines, leaving America no clear way to retaliate once Japan constructs her own version of SS-19 ballistic missiles.
  • The Plot Reaper: Takes out the entire government of the United States at the end, setting up the next novel.
  • Pointy-Haired Boss: Brett Hanson, Durling's Secretary of State, is made out to be one of these. It's said that, as a former businessman, he expected that nation-states would make deals on the same principles that corporations would. He acts as an Obstructive Bureaucrat to Ryan in many instances up until the main plot of the novel unfolds.
  • Rare Vehicles: The F-22 Raptor and RAH-66 Comanche, which depending on how loosely one interprets the "around 1995" setting, may or may not have actually flown at the time of the novel.note  Somewhat justified, as both aircraft are explicitly depicted as prototype, "the only ones in existence" planes, though it's notable that the novel has more Comanches taking part in the mission to Japan (3) than were ever actually built (2).
    • On the Japanese side, the E-767s are depicted as being essentially as rare as they are in real life, though their detection capabilities are heavily exaggerated.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: President Durling, continuing his characterization from his last appearance. If Ryan can come up with a plan with a chance of working, Durling will almost always give it a green light.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Dutch Claggett after being XO of USS Maine when she was sunk in The Sum of All Fears. He's given command of a Ohio-class submarine. Said command involves babysitting her in dock until she's broken up for scrap.
  • Right Man in the Wrong Place
    • Ryan, effectively, is this due to his position as National Security Advisor. He took up the job only months prior to the action beginning, and as such was in the perfect place to orchestrate the war against Japan.
    • Clark is also this. Originally he entered Japan as part of a mission to re-activate Thistle, an old Japanese commercial intelligence spy ring, but once hostilities begin he and Chavez happen to be in the perfect place to conduct operations.
  • Stranger in a Familiar Land: One of the characters is Chester "Chet" Nomuri, a fourth-generation Japanese American serving as a CIA field officer in Japan. His narration comments several times on how different his ancestral homeland is from his place of birth.
  • Take a Third Option: After Japan's initial attacks on the US, Ryan finds a way to sidestep all of the problems through clever Loophole Abuse and special operations maneuvering. As President Durling noted when he gave Jack some advice, "I fought in a war where the other side made the rules. It didn't work out very well."
  • Tempting Fate: A senior executive receives a pager message telling him to call back as soon as possible. As his office is just a short walk away, he decides to just go there in person. He doesn't make it.
  • This Is My Name on Foreign: In his cover as a Russian journalist, Clark attempts to pass himself off as a Russian using the name "Ivan Klerk". When it's pointed out to him that "Klerk" is an extremely uncommon name in Russia, he explains that his grandfather was an Englishman who emigrated to Russia in the '20s and Russified his name.
  • Title Drop: "Debt of honor" is a recurring phrase throughout the novel.
  • Twenty-Fifth Amendment: With the death of Durling at the end of the novel and Ryan having been sworn in as Vice President only minutes before, Ryan becomes President of the United States at the setup for Executive Orders.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom:
    • A pair of improperly-galvanised fuel tanks explode when the cars they're in get into an accident, starting a series of events that lead to disaster. One character who knows about The Plan likens it to the assassination of Franz Ferdinand. For added sick irony, for all the furore they cause over alleged Japanese safety defects, the problem can be traced to a worker at an American factory who smelled a rat but didn't think it was worth taking a second look at and just let the defective fuel tanks be installed rather than giving them a thorough inspection.
      • The worker was a new employee on the production line, thought there might be a problem, and was debating calling the supervisor before an older worker basicly said "get a move on, you're holding things up", instead of asking if she thought there was a problem.
    • As mentioned above, Winston, who sold off the Columbus Group and unintentionally gave Yamata a vital foothold for his plan.
  • Vice President Who?: Invoked by President Durling when he appoints Jack as his new vice president. He knows Ryan has no interesting in running for president and since there will be no major legislation he will have to cast the deciding vote for in the Senate, Ryan will be barely remembered. Of course, this is actually a gift for Jack since, after serving as VP, he can never be recalled to government service. Too bad it didn't work out that way.
  • We Have Become Complacent: In chapter 27, the Secretary of Defence is terribly downcast because of the realisation that the budget cuts he's been putting the US military through out of the belief that there was no longer a need for a large force meant it was horribly overstretched for the crisis.
  • Why We Are Bummed Communism Fell: It's discussed (and regretted by Bart Mancuso) that due to the demise of the Soviet Union, the United States Navy was greatly downsized and is incapable of most of the things it was able to do in the past, despite still being able to take on every other navy in the world single-handedly or at least until Stennis and Enterprise are crippled by torpedo attacks.
  • Yellow Peril: Sinister Japanese cabal, with Chinese backing, schemes to cripple the world economy and launch a new war of aggression.
  • You Are Too Late: Clark and Chavez arrive too late to extract Kimberly Norton, only managing to find her raped and murdered corpse.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Subverted. The villain hires a programmer to create a computer virus for him to carry out part of the villain's attack against the United States. Once the programmer finishes the job the villain considers killing him, but ultimately decides against it because the hacker may have a contingency plan to expose the plot if he's killed.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/DebtOfHonor