Literature / Executive Orders

Executive Orders is the eighth installment of the Jack Ryan series, written by Tom Clancy, and follows Jack in the weeks following a devastating tragedy that elevates him to the top of the government.

In the wake of a suicide attack that resulted in the President and all of Congress being killed, Jack Ryan is sworn in as President of the United States. Reeling from what's just happened, Jack is forced to lead alone as a new threat establishes itself in the Middle East — an Ayatollah named Haji Daryaei, who leads a coup and forms a new nation called the United Islamic Republic. With Daryaei beginning to conduct terror attacks throughout the world, Jack is forced to take unprecedented steps to protect the country and its citizens. Jack also simultanously fights a challenge to his leadership by Ed Kealty, the former Vice-President who was replaced shortly before the Congress attack.

The novel is named for the usage of "executive orders", which Jack uses to enforce laws in the weeks after the attack, due to the absence of a Congressional body.


This novel contains examples of:

  • Action Duo: Clark and Chavez, naturally. They lead the mission to smart-bomb Daryaei's compound in the latter half of the book.
  • Anonymous Ringer: "The President of Iraq" who is assassinated at the start. (Saddam Hussein is actually referred to by name when discussing the Gulf War, but referred to as "the President of Iraq" when his assassination is brought up.)
  • Asshole Victim: The assassinated Iraqi president. Everyone thinks Daryaei did the world a favor taking him out, even if it was for personal gain.
  • Author Filibuster:
    • Used to great effect via Jack's speeches. One chapter in particular, "The Ryan Doctrine", has Jack go on at length about how any countries that want to attack the U.S. will be in trouble if they attempt to go through with it.
    • The plot also stops dead in its tracks to lecture readers about the nuances of the U.S. Tax Code, which Jack takes an opportunity to fix in the weeks following his ascension to the Presidency.
    • Ryan lampshades this during his interview with Tom Donner and John Plumber, when he notes that he's been wanting to say all this for years, but is still rather nervous about doing so on TV.
  • Badass Bureaucrat: Jack, obviously, as well as many of the individuals he names to Cabinet positions.
  • Badass Bystander: When terrorists storm a day care center to kidnap the President's young daughter, the only other parent there to pick up the kids is an armed FBI agent, Pat O'Day.
  • Badass Grandpa: Secret Service Special Agent Don Russell, Katie Ryan's bodyguard, who has grandchildren of his own. When terrorists with AK-47s attack Katie's daycare centre, Don has one second of warning and takes down 3 before getting shot, and kills a fourth with his dying breaths.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: India and both ally themselves to the United Islamic Republic in order to help it become a superpower (and take down the U.S.), but this is quashed by the end of the book when Jack has Daryaei publicly blown up with a smart bomb on live television, forcing the Indian Prime Minister to end her Smug Snake tendencies.
  • Bodyguard Betrayal: Daryaei has sleeper agents placed in the protection details of several world leaders; the plot of the novel gets moving when the President of Iraq is assassinated by the one in his bodyguard contingent, and later in the novel the one in the US President's protection detail is activated.
  • Boom, Headshot: Special Agent O'Day does this to dispatch the last two terrorists trying to kidnap Jack's daughter.
  • Buzzing the Deck: Used deliberately when a pair of U.S. B-1 bombers buzz an Indian aircraft carrier, causing damage to its superstructure.
  • Canada, Eh?: The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are stated in-dialogue to be helping with the investigation into the suicide attack from the previous novel (as the pilot took off from a Vancouver airport).
  • Chewbacca Defense: Used (unintentionally) by Jack when he's asked about abortion. Jack states that he's pro-life, but will leave the decision to the Senate. After he steps off-stage, his Chief of Staff rails at him for alienating both conservatives and liberals.
  • Church Militant: Daryaei, who unifies Iran and Iraq under the guise of religion and intends to force the rest of the world to follow Shi'a law.
  • Corrupt Bureaucrat: Assistant Secretary of State Cliff Rutledge, who steals Ed Kealty's resignation letter from the now-deceased Secretary of State's office so Kealty can challenge Jack for the presidency.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Played With. Jack finds a contingency plan showing how the U.S. would attack Japan in the event of a terrorist attack by the latter. He orders it to be destroyed, but the narration notes that his cabinet has had it filed away instead.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • Jack pretty much ends the UIR threat inside of a week, via using martial law to contain The Virus before it spreads, then smart-bombing Daryaei on national television when the latter attempts to threaten the U.S.
    • The National Guardsmen mowing through two whole corps of UIR troops.
    • The book itself tends to lead towards this conclusion, via emphasizing how it's important to train armed forces with the newest technological tools, all for the express purpose of taking out the enemy as quickly as possible.
  • Deep Cover Agent: Special Agent Aref Raman, Daryaei's American sleeper agent, was inserted into the US as a teenaged "refugee" and spent a decade-and-a-half becoming a naturalized citizen, maintaining an absolutely perfect All-American profile, and working his way into the Presidential cabinet as security detail so he could assassinate the President, if need be.
  • Due to the Dead: The Japanese Prime Minister visits the Capitol shortly after the suicide attack, and performs a Shinto ceremony offering respect to the fallen Congress members.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Special Agent Russell gets this when Giant Steps is attacked by a group of UIR terrorists. With less than a second's notice, he kills three of them and seriously wounds one before going down.
  • Elite Army: Gennady Bondarenko's main reason for visiting the National Training Center is because he wants to learn from the Americans how to transform the Russian Army (ex Red Army) from Zerg Rush into this.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Aref Raman seems genuinely disgusted by the attempted kidnapping and murder of Katie Ryan. This despite the fact that he was planning on murdering her father.
  • Expy: The President of Iraq is this for Saddam Hussein, who was still alive and ruling at the time of the book's publication.
  • Fridge Horror: An In-Universe example. When Ryan is touring the destroyed Capitol Building, he realizes that if President Durling had picked someone else to be the new vice president, then he would have been sitting with the other members of the Cabinet for the ceremony, with Cathy in the balcony. They both were saved from a fiery death because he happened to be a political nobody who would've been barely remembered as a inconsequential vice president.
  • Friendly Rivalry: Special Agents O'Day and Russell have this, as they continually try to one-up each other to see who's a better shot. After the Giant Steps incident (and Russell's death), O'Day admits that Russell is superior.
  • Godzilla Threshold: To prevent the spread of the Ebola plague, President Ryan declares martial law and shuts down interstate travel, something which is acknowledged to be unconstitutional.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Former Vice President Ed Kealty spends most of the book mounting a challenge to Jack's presidency. In order to counter Jack's executive order quarantining America in the face of an Ebola epidemic, he files a suit to have the order vacated due to violating the Constitution — which refers to President Ryan by his proper name and office, effectively acknowledging Jack's position in a way he'd been careful to avoid up to that point. As a result, he effectively kills his own claim to the Presidency until Teeth Of The Tiger.
  • Home Guard: The National Guard plays a prominent role in one chapter, as they face off against two army corps from the UIR.
  • Hostage MacGuffin: Jack's daughter, who is targeted for capture by the UIR because they want to demoralize him and enact a Bodyguard Betrayal. It doesn't work.
  • It Works Better with Bullets: Subverted. The Bodyguard Betrayal is thwarted when the assassin's bullets for his gun are switched out with duds. Switching the ammo with blanks or removing them completely would have tipped the assassin off because he was experienced enough to notice the difference in weight, though he eventually discovers this too late, once he's already inside the Oval Office.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Ed Kealty sues President Ryan over Ryan's executive order shutting down inter-state travel. Pat Martin privately acknowledges he's right, the order is unconstitutional which a federal court later confirms.
  • Karma Houdini: Cliff Rutledge, who knowingly helps cause a constitutional crisis for personal gain and never gets caught.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: The assassination of the Premier of Turkmenistan by Daryaei's agents was done this way to force elections to replace him with someone who would be friendly to the UIR.
  • Middle Eastern Coalition: The United Islamic Republic, created by Daryaei due to the uncertainty in the wake of the U.S. suicide attack. However, it doesn't last.
  • My Master, Right or Wrong: Arnie van Damm's mindset when working for President Ryan. He admits to disagreeing with a lot of Jack's political positions, but remains his chief of staff because he believes in Ryan's honesty and sincerity.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!:
    • The Mountain Men's attempt to kill Jack and Kealty with a explosives-loaded cement mixer is unintentionally thwarted by Daryaei himself, who launches a biowarfare attack. As a result, the country is put under martial law and much more scrutiny is placed on bystanders, leading to the duo being arrested long before they reach Washington. It may come across as a "Shaggy Dog" Story but the moral is that evil sometimes defeats itself. There's some irony here as well, in that Daryaei himself laments near the beginning that if only all of these plotters would coordinate with each other, they'd be more successful.
    • Kealty's attempt to sue Jack over the latter's legitimacy as President results in the former inadvertently acknowledging him as such, which kills Kealty's claim.
  • Number of the Beast: A Taiwanese jetliner bombed as part of a terrorist attack has a listed flight number of 666.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Special Agent O'Day uses this to lull a group of UIR terrorists into believing he's a harmless threat when they attempt to attack Giant Steps, just before he guns them all down with no collateral damage.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • The two terrorists trying to kill Jack and Kealty with a cement truck bomb get this when they realize they're being arrested by a random highway patrolman.
    • The Mole gets this when he realizes his bullets have been switched with duds, right as he attempts to shoot Jack with his sidearm in the Oval Office.
  • Permission to Speak Freely: The newly-promoted Admiral Robby Jackson uses this phrase to warn the new Secretary of Defense Tony Bretano about the reason that Vice Chief of Naval Operations Bruno DeMarco was appointed to the position, as he was promoted to CNO after the Capitol Hill disaster.
  • Pet the Dog: John Plumber goes on national television to apologize to Jack, after he and other journalists peppered Jack with inappropriate questions about his past in the hours following the latter's ascension to the Presidency.
  • Possible War: The UIR attempts to do this against the U.S., but they don't get very far, due to a combination of Idiot Ball moments and not taking Jack seriously.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner:
    Mr. Daryaei, here is the reply of the United States of America. (cue a laser-guided bomb taking out Daryaei's compound on national television)
  • Rich Bitch: The Indian Prime Minister is stated to be this, in tandem with her Smug Snake tendencies.
  • Right-Wing Militia Fanatic: The "Mountain Men" are a particularly virulent group of right wing militia fanatics who distrust anything, other than the military, that's even remotely connected to the federal government.
  • Rousing Speech: Jack gives one while demonstrating that he's someone not to be messed with, via broadcasting Daryaei's death/the destruction of his compound during a live television broadcast.
  • Smug Snake:
    • The leader of Iran.
    • The Indian Prime Minister, who attempts to bully Jack because she doesn't believe he's capable of running the country. Jack soon shuts her up after his Rousing Speech and public takedown of the UIR.
  • Spanner in the Works: The random highway patrolman who arrests the two terrorists who were planning to kill Jack and Kealty with a cement truck loaded with homemade explosives. The two men promptly freak out upon realizing that they're being arrested.
  • Spy School: One of the B-plot has John Clark training new HUMINT agents, partially as a way to get back to old-school manpower and tactics after years of seeing the division downsized in favor of Spy Satellites and other technical intelligence-gathering methods.
  • Status Quo Is God: Despite Daryaei's unification of Iran and Iraq as the "United Islamic Republic", the two states split right back into their pre-union borders after his death, and unification isn't mentioned again in the subsequent novels.
  • This Is Reality: Occurs when Jack fills Arnie van Damm in on his previous adventures in the CIA after they get revealed on national television. Arnie remarks that in a different universe, Jack would be a hero... which he is, though you wouldn't know it from the way he gets raked over the coals for what he's done.
  • Throwing Out the Script:
    • Jack gets this when he tosses the script prepared for him at former President Durling's funeral, and speaks off the cuff to the children of the deceased president. At a later press conference, he jokes that he's not going to go "off the reservation", and will read the prepared speech.
    • Later, John Plumber stops reading what's on the teleprompter and starts saying what he believes needs to be said instead. (It's not exactly off-the-cuff: he has his alternate speech memorized, but didn't hand it in to be put on the autocue because he knew he wouldn't be allowed to say it. It is from the heart.)
  • Training from Hell: The National Training Center and Negev Training Area is explicitly said to have this kind of program. Marion Diggs, the CO of the NTC, remarks that the training they put American forces through there is deliberately harder than actual combat, and the "Blue Force" almost never wins (one of the units they hosted shortly after Desert Storm, a brigade with actual combat experience, were completely devastated by the OpFor). If anybody ever does break even against the 11th Cav, they can face down three-to-one odds on the wrong end and still decisively defeat the enemy.
  • Underestimating Badassery:
    • The terrorists who attempt to kidnap Jack's daughter clearly didn't expect that the lone Special Agent picking his kids up from school would lull them into a false sense of security before gunning them down.
    • Daryaei's attempts to bully the U.S. (via a series of terror attacks) blows up in his face, literally and figuratively, because he doesn't realize that the man thrown into the Presidential seat had extensive counterterrorism experience and was ready to take immediate steps to shut him down. As a result, the UIR is effectively destroyed within a week.
  • Unexpected Successor: Jack is this, as he's thrown into the President's chair just hours after being named Vice-President by former President Durling. As a result of this, Kealty tries to sue him for unrecognized power, but this challenge is quashed by the end of the book.
  • The Virus: Daryaei attempts to spread a modified version of the Ebola virus in the U.S., though his plan is stymied when Jack enacts martial law.
  • Western Terrorists: The "Mountain Men" are a particularly virulent group of right wing militia fanatics who distrust anything, other than the military, that's even remotely connected to the federal government.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Arnie van Damm calls out Jack after the latter complains about having become president. Van Damm points out that he knew the risks accepting the VP job, and that it's extremely disrespectful to the Secret Service agents who died protecting his daughter to say the job isn't worth the trouble. To his credit, Ryan realizes he was wrong and apologizes.
  • Wish Fulfillment: The idealized version of a government fully staffed by Americans who just want to get things done is finally realized, as the entirety of Congress is killed off and replaced by Jack and his handmade picks, who are all shown to be very capable people who just want to get things back on track.
  • You Are in Command Now: When the Secretary of Transportation refuses to go along with President Ryan's plan to suspend interstate travel, Ryan fires him on the spot and replaces him with his deputy who agrees to implement the order.

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