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Literature / The Sum of All Fears

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"Why, you may take the most gallant sailor, the most intrepid airman or the most audacious soldier, put them at a table together - what do you get? The sum of their fears."
— The book's preface, quoting Winston Churchill.

The Sum of All Fears is the fifth Ryanverse book written by Tom Clancy. It was published in 1991, just days before the Moscow uprising, and takes place at roughly the same time, being the seventh book chronologically. Russian politics in the aftermath of the destruction of the Berlin Wall is a main element of the book.

The title is based on an anecdote recounted in the foreword: when you get a group of already hostile people together, their fears are amplified, to the point where the slightest misstep can set them on a course for war.

The story actually begins in 1973, during the Yom Kippur War. Israel, in its darkest hour, contemplates releasing its nuclear weapons against the Egyptian and Syrian armies, but rescinds the order once things turn for the better. However, in the chaos of battle, one of the fighters carries a nuclear bomb into battle and gets shot down, losing its warhead in the countryside where it disappears.


Three years after the drug interdiction fiasco in Columbia, Jack Ryan is now the Deputy Director of the CIA, but is essentially the de-facto Director of Central Intelligence. He constantly bickers with the administration, especially the National Security Advisor Elizabeth Elliot. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union is falling apart, which no one is entirely happy about, and a new crisis erupts in Israel.

The book follows several factions, from Ryan and the CIA, to Andrey Narmonov, now the President of the Soviet Union, to Ismael Qati, a terrorist leader who discovers the missing nuclear bomb from the Yom Kippur War and is determined to use it to achieve his means.

It was the fourth book of the series to be turned into a film.


The book contains the following tropes:

  • A-Cup Angst: When Cathy suspects that Jack may be cheating on her, she begins to feel insecure about her physical appearance. While examining herself in the mirror she notes that, while she is slender and pretty, she does have small breasts.
  • All for Nothing: It's revealed in The Teeth of the Tiger that all the effort to end the Israeli-Arab conflict will, once again, be for nothing as the Jerusalem Treaty later falls apart.
  • Almighty Janitor: Deconstructed, see Hyper-Competent Sidekick below. While Ryan makes a valiant effort at running the CIA when the actual director is too lazy to do so, it's simply too much stress for one person to handle, especially when they haven't got the credibility that comes from rank to help them do it. In a moment of Brutal Honesty, Clark points out that Ryan might be very valuable when he's at his best, but at his present levels of stress and exhaustion, his intern could take over most of his duties without a noticeable drop in quality.
  • Ambiguous Situation: It's not made clear in this book under what circumstances President Fowler leaves office, whether he resigns or is forced out by Congress and his Cabinet. Later novels clarify that he voluntarily resigned after realizing how badly he screwed up.
  • Ambition Is Evil: Three examples.
    • National Security Advisor Elizabeth Elliot attempts to ruin Ryan's career in order to make the CIA her puppet.
    • Capt. Harry Ricks is a Bad Boss whose insistence that his crew follow his directions to the letter ends up destroying his boat.
    • Arguably the worst, however, is Oleg Kirilovich Kadishev, the leader of the main opposition party in the democratizing Soviet Union, who's also a CIA asset. He uses his connections in both governments to help his own rise to power by passing along false information. This leads to a massive misreading of the Soviet political situation by the U.S. government, which ultimately nearly culminates in nuclear war. (See Gone Horribly Right below for more details).
  • And Some Other Stuff: In the afterword, Clancy admits to fudging "some" details of the workings and construction of nuclear weapons, in an effort to not help anyone with unkind intentions involving nukes (though he also acknowledges, if somewhat cynically, it probably won't actually stop anything).
  • Apocalypse How: The US and USSR come within seconds of all-out nuclear war.
  • Arab–Israeli Conflict: The book revolves around an attempt to end it. Various elements of the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim religious establishments come together to support the conversion of Jerusalem into a Vatican-like microstate, ruled by a religious troika that would respect the rights of all three communities, and patrolled, like the Vatican, by Swiss guards unaffiliated with any of the factions in the conflict. The governments of Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United States, and the Soviet Union all come together behind the effort as well, with the original idea coming from Jack Ryan and other U.S. government officials and being floated through the Vatican.
  • Asian Store-Owner: Mrs. Zimmer.
  • Asshole Victim: Marvin Russell gets murdered by Qati and Ghosn once they finish planting the bomb.
  • Authentication by Newspaper: The wife of one of the engineers working on the bomb is killed, to keep her from telling where her husband is. To prove that she's dead, they make a videotape of the execution, with a news program on the TV in the corner acting as a time stamp.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: The terrorists impersonate TV network service personnel to get their bomb (disguised as a commercial VCR) into the Denver Skydome. Later, their German terrorist accomplices get onto a Soviet army base in East Germany by donning Soviet officer uniforms, and pretending to be there for a surprise inspection.
  • Becoming the Mask: Dr. Ben Goodley, the new hire foisted on the CIA by Elizabeth Elliott. She's effectively planning to use him as her mole in the agency, especially when it comes to digging up dirt on Ryan. After a few months in place developing an appreciation for the CIA and Ryan, Goodley decides he's not interested in this role, and admits everything to Ryan. Who, nevertheless, maintains his invitation to the man to join the CIA on a full-time basis.
  • Body Motifs: A rather odd one, given the book's subject. If a female character pops up at any point, her naked breasts will be described or referenced.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: Played almost entirely straight (he just barely manages not to need them) when the explosives specialist in the terror cell realises that the mysterious object found in a farmer's field is not in fact an electronic-jamming pod as he'd first thought, having established that it's not a conventional bomb, but is actually a nuclear warhead (that he had just spent the last few hours hammering). Understandably, this is not in any way Played for Laughs.
  • Brutal Honesty: Deconstructed. While Ryan really is struggling to give his superiors the best information they need, several of his less hot-tempered friends point out to him that his willingness to be confrontational in an administration that's already none too fond of him isn't doing himself or his profession any favors. At one point, he publicly disagrees with a policy the President is suggesting during a cabinet meeting, and is shot down immediately. Scott Adler later tells him that one of the cabinet members (who unlike Ryan is actually supposed to comment on policy, and is close enough to the President that his advice might have stuck) was prepared to make the same objection: Ryan confronting the President simply got in the way.
  • Call-Back: Jack is followed by reporters to a home where the mother and children greet him warmly. They accuse him of having a Secret Other Family. In truth, it's the family of one of the soldiers killed all the way back in Clear and Present Danger, and Jack is honoring his promise to help the man's children.
  • Cassandra Truth: What Jack Ryan spends most of the novel spouting. He is ignored mainly because of Liz Elliott's personal dislike for him and her undue influence on Bob Fowler. Despite being proven right time and time again, it takes him literally intervening in the Hotline to avert the ultimate crisis.
  • Chekhov's Gun: You didn't think he spent all that time talking about those logs for nothing, did you?
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Qati's insistence on killing his collaborators who have outlived their usefulness directly screws him and his organization in two ways. Killing the engineer results in the bomb fizzling which lets the US identify the source of the plutonium, and killing Russell results in his body being discovered and the terrorists tracked.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • A small one to Patriot Games. It's noted that the villains of that book, last seen being taken into custody by the police, were finally executed by the State of Maryland not long before the events of this book. The Prince of Wales and MI6 director Sir Basil Charleston are also seen again for the first time.
    • The defection of Chairman Gerasimov at the end of The Cardinal of the Kremlin and the resulting turmoil in the KGB has created some openings, which have allowed Sergey Golovko, the KGB officer and Friendly Enemy Jack Ryan made during that book, to move into a senior management position in the organization. In addition, when setting up a quid pro quo with a Washington Post reporter to find out who's been leaking slanderous information to the media about the CIA, Clark has to promise him an exclusive with the details of the Gerasimov defection.
    • Several to Clear and Present Danger. For one thing, Ryan's promise to take care of the family of the pilot who died in Colombia nearly destroys his marriage, as his wife finds out about this family and first assumes he's having an affair. For another, Ryan's friendship with Clark and Chavez has led him to move heaven and earth to keep them in CIA service despite the reductions-in-force at the end of the Cold War. Finally, the Fowler administration only took power thanks to a deal made behind closed doors between his predecessor and congressional leaders to avoid a political scandal. Given that Fowler's disastrous management of the Denver crisis nearly leads to World War III (twice), Ryan has ample reason to regret having gone along with that.
  • Cosmopolitan Council: The government of Jerusalem after the treaty, a troika made up of one Christian, one Jewish, and one Muslim religious leader, to represent each of the three religions to whom the city is historically significant.
  • Death Equals Redemption: While not exactly a villain in this case, Harry Ricks apologizes to his XO for the way he commanded USS Maine shortly before they're hit by one of Admiral Lunin's torpedoes. Thankfully, it ends better for most of the rest of the crew.
  • Defcon Five: Averted. After the nuclear bomb goes off in Denver, President Fowler orders the military to DEFCON 2, and then to DEFCON 1 after the attack on US troops in West Germany.
  • Defrosting the Ice Queen: Bob Fowler and Liz Elliot do this to each other, but only for each other.
  • Did the Earth Move for You, Too?: A throwaway joke made when the terrorists are digging up an unexploded nuclear bomb.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • A sizable portion of the novel consists of Elliot trying to ruin Ryan's career and marriage because he objected to her bad manners in Clear and Present Danger. It makes more sense when you figure out that she's a petty, vindictive bitch.
    • Qati's motivation for trying to spark a nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia is that he's angry the U.S. helped end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  • The Driver: John Clark is Jack Ryan's and, noticing his charge's deteriorating condition, tells Cathy the truth.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Ayatollah Mahmoud Haji Daryaei, the religious dictator of Iran, twice.
    • At the beginning of the book, he's name-dropped in the middle of a paragraph describing the various Jewish, Christian, and Muslim voices opposed to the Vatican Treaty, but with no particular significance. At the end of the book, however, the terrorists reveal him to be the mastermind behind the Denver nuclear attack. (This turns out to be a lie, meant to incite an American nuclear attack on Iran that would destroy the fledgling peace in the region).
    • Daryaei appears in person at the end of the book, having a brief conversation with Jack Ryan regarding his role in stopping the President from nuking Iran. He later goes on to be the main antagonist in Executive Orders.
  • Empty Quiver: Forms the basis of the plot, with a nuclear weapon lost during the 1973 Arab–Israeli War.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Petra and Gunther Bock are unrepentant Western Terrorists, but they genuinely loved each other and their two daughters.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Marvin Russell is under the impression that he, Qati, and Ghosn are planting a very large conventional bomb at the Super Bowl rather than a nuclear warhead. When the idea of nukes comes up, Marvin mentions that he's glad they're not using one because that would cause too much destruction for his tastes. This is a big part of why Qati and Ghosn murder him after they've planted the bomb.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good:
    • Gunther Bock genuinely cannot understand why the East Germans overthrew their "perfect socialist state" to reunite with the evil, capitalist West.
    • Ayatollah Daryaei cannot understand why Jack Ryan would have prevented his President from nuking a city in Iran, dismissing the notion that an "unbeliever" could possibly be concerned about the mass civilian deaths that would have resulted from it.
  • Evil Is Petty: Elizabeth Elliot. She holds a grudge against Jack Ryan over one blunt conversation at a political convention when they met in the previous book, which is reinforced by her disapproval of his politics and his refusal to break or bend the rules for her or the President's convenience. As a result she spends much of the book trying to destroy him, first by using a Washington Fellow as her mole at the CIA to dig up dirt on him, then by trying to disgrace him publicly by leaking information to the press implying that he's having an affair (in the process nearly destroying his marriage).
  • Expy: Bob Fowler and Elizabeth Elliot make a good Ahab And Jezebel allegory. On his own, when he listens to competent advice and doesn't have a Poisonous Friend whispering in his ear, he's still somewhat arrogant and out of his depth, but can be a halfway decent Reasonable Authority Figure. Unfortunately, Elliot does her best to corrupt him into being as venal, paranoid, and selfish as she is, and his nobler qualities greatly suffer as a result.
  • Failed Future Forecast: The novel was written prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, but set chronologically afterwards. Oops. Though Narmonov is pretty clearly written as a Gorbachev expy. It isn't so much a matter of assuming that the USSR would continue, but not being able to predict exactly how it would fall apart.
  • False Flag Operation: The terrorists' plan in the event of their capture is to implicate another country for the Denver bombing, to cause the expected revenge bombing by the US to cause a massive uprising by the Arab world. On top of that, their original plan was to convince the US that the Soviet Union nuked Denver in hopes of causing a war that would destroy both countries.
  • Famous, Famous, Fictional:
What Nixon and Kissinger had failed to do, what had defied the valiant efforts of Carter, the halfhearted attempts of Reagan, and the wellmeaning gambits of Bush and his own predecessor, what all had failed to do, Bob Fowler would accomplish.
  • Fingore: John Clark interrogates a pair of Arab terrorists and breaks their fingers to get information to help track down those responsible for their attack. The terrorists promptly finger a non-guilty party.
  • For Want of a Nail: The possibility of the Denver nuclear explosion being a terrorist attack is kept open throughout the crisis, at least by CIA, because the explosion was smaller and cruder than what you'd expect from a first-tier nuclear power like (the main suspect) the Soviet Union. Turns out, the nuke was Israeli-made, and if it had gone off properly would have looked exactly as destructive and sophisticated as a Soviet nuke: Jack Ryan himself admits that he wouldn't have bothered looking for other suspects. Thankfully, its activation by the terrorists was just shoddy enough to lead to a "fizzle" detonation, thus averting World War III.
  • Former Regime Personnel: The False Flag Operation that was part of the terrorists' plans to get the US and the Soviet Union fighting one another was assisted by several former agents of the East German Stasi, who also arranged for the technical expert to work on the nuclear bomb they had acquired.
  • General Ripper: Deconstructed with acting chief of NORAD and the CINC-SAC. They both get really into countering the perceived Soviet aggression after the Denver attack, but they also come to realize just how bad things have gotten and try to calm down President Fowler. It doesn't work.
  • Gone Horribly Right:
    • Oleg Kadishev, the leader of the main legislative opposition to the Soviet administration, is secretly a CIA asset. Sensing weakness in President Narmonov, he feeds false information to the CIA implying that there may be a coup against him in the works by the hard-line leadership of the Red Army and KGB, hoping that this will lead the West to encourage his own rise as an alternative. When a nuclear bomb goes off in Denver, President Fowler and Elizabeth Elliott both conclude that the coup must have taken place, and that the Denver attack was planned by the new Soviet regime. It's impossible for Narmonov to calm down the situation, because Fowler refuses to believe that the man on the other end of the red line even is Narmonov.
    • A minor example: soon after the Jerusalem Treaty, Ryan hears the news that an Arab youth was arrested for the attempted mugging of a Jewish citizen in the city. Under the new laws governing the Jerusalem microstate, he's given the choice of a trial under Israeli or traditional Islamic law, and chooses the latter, since he wants to be tried by his own people. Unfortunately, the Koran takes a very dim view of both robbery and assault, and he's executed in very short order.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Averted when Ryan's drinking and stress fatigue nearly destroy his sex life (and marriage).
  • Hate Sink: Elizabeth Elliott. See Evil Is Petty above and Strawman Political below.
  • Heroic BSoD:
    • Ryan experiences a drawn-out, stress-induced breakdown - one of the few times in the series that he has not been up to the task at hand. This is due to finding himself working for a hostile administration without much in the way of support.
    • At the very end of the novel, after stopping Fowler from launching a nuclear strike on Iran, Ryan decides to leave government service basically immediately. It isn't until Debt of Honor, years later, that he recovers.
    • Despair Event Horizon: Fowler, after discovering that he had very nearly ordered a nuclear strike on an innocent city, realizes that he has lost the moral right to govern the United States, and resigns in disgrace, leaving Roger Durling to succeed him as President.
  • Hidden Depths: In a somewhat dark example, President Fowler muses early in the book that he doesn't have it in him to give the order to use nuclear weapons and is glad he lives in a world where this kind of action is no longer necessary. After the Denver attack and he learns the "truth" that Iran was behind it, his knee-jerk reaction is to order a nuclear strike on the city where the Ayatollah lives.
  • Honest Advisor: discussed at length.
    • Jack Ryan's relationship with Ben Goodley, the Washington Fellow (a very high-end version of an intern) assigned to CIA, is built on this. The man is already a rising star in International Relations academia, one whose conclusions Ryan often disagrees with. However, his analytical skills are first-rate, so Ryan welcomes him abroad, shows him the ropes of the job, and often uses him as a sounding board to push back against his own assumptions and beliefs. He also tries to instill this ethos in Goodley, explaining that it's critical in the intelligence work to seek out opposing viewpoints and avoid becoming a prisoner of your own beliefs.
      Jack Ryan: Ben, believe it or not, I am not always right. I make mistakes. I’ve made some whoppers even, but I am smart enough to know that, and because I’m that smart, I look for people with opposing views to backstop me. That’s a good habit to get into. I learned it from Admiral Greer. If you learn anything from your time here, Dr. Goodley, learn that. We can’t afford fuck-ups here. They happen anyway, but we still can’t afford them. That paper you did at Kennedy was better than what I did. It’s theoretically possible that you might again one day be right when I am wrong. Fair enough?
    • Ryan himself tries to perform this role in the Fowler administration. This is very much against their wishes, as Fowler dislikes Ryan and doesn't care for his advice, but he's too popular both on Capitol Hill and with the CIA rank-and-file to be easily gotten rid of. Ryan notes that this unwillingness to seek out and hear opposing viewpoints is easily Fowler's biggest flaw, far more than any actual policy disagreements he has with the man.
  • Hotline: Played realistically in that instead of the stereotypical "red phone" with national leaders directly conversing, it's a teletype connection with translators on both ends. Using this form of communication causes the U.S. and the Soviet Union to edge closer to nuclear war because the U.S. President, after hearing reports of a possible coup d'état in the Soviet Union, believes he's talking to someone other than the Soviet Premier.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Deconstructed. Since DCI Cabot is an incompetent, lazy asshole, Ryan has to run the CIA by himself. The stress of having to do so and deal with a hostile presidential administration puts him on a path to a nervous breakdown which is only prevented, accidentally, by President Fowler asking for his resignation.
    • John Clark and Domingo Chavez qualify as well: with the CIA being downsized, Jack has both of them moved to the Diplomatic Protection Service to serve as his personal bodyguards, and to keep them in government service so their obvious skills won't go to waste. Clark takes it upon himself to help Jack stave off a nervous breakdown, and both of them also help save Jack's marriage (without his knowledge) by giving some classified information to Cathy Ryan. In recompense, Jack gets them in on an actual espionage mission (bugging the plane of the President of Japan, on his trip from Mexico to the US), which inadvertently gets them in a prime position to capture Qati.
  • Hypocrite: Qati and to a lesser extent Ghosn consider Marvin to be delusional in his dreams of restoring the Native Americans to their former glory and going back to their way of life from before the America’s were colonized, while they want to end peace in the Middle East for no reason and start a nuclear war between the US and Russia, not considering the consequences.
  • It's for a Book: While doing the research for the novel, Clancy was able to get the specifications for all the machinery needed to build a nuclear bomb delivered to his doorstep. He then pointed out in his author's notes that it's all commercially available within the U.S.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: John Clark uses this; also a case of Mutilation Interrogation by way of Fingore. It fails in that the badguys were planning all along to lie under interrogation to falsely implicate Iran in their bomb plot.
  • Japan Takes Over the World: A minor background element for most of the book is that the U.S. government is increasingly unhappy with Japan's cutthroat trade policies and looking to push back against them, which among other things leads to CIA surveillance on its Prime Minister. This leads to them discovering an extreme case of political corruption, in which the Japanese are planning to bribe the President of Mexico to break his trade treaty agreements with the United States in favor of newer ones more favorable to Japan. At the end of the book, this gives Washington the political leverage to force the Mexican government to play along with an urgent CIA operation, which leads to the capture of the terrorists responsible for the Denver nuclear attack.
  • Jerkass: Harry Ricks, newly minted commander of USS Maine, is a hardcase engineer with a bad case of Miles Gloriosus when it comes to actual command. His subordinate tries to rein him in, only to be accused of disloyalty. His superior officer then tries to gently break the news of his poor leadership to him, and instead gets backtalk and disdain.
    • Elizabeth Elliot, Fowler's National Security Adviser, is worse, attempting to ruin Ryan's life on the basis of a petty vendetta and driving Fowler to the brink of nuclear war through sheer paranoia.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: President Fowler. He's a jerk towards Ryan from the get-go, but he's also an honest politician who despises corruption, hates child exploitation, and values his underlings. Even when he's putting Ryan out to pasture, Fowler is willing to give him a glowing send off out of respect for his meritorious service.
  • Justice by Other Legal Means: The German police detective handling Petra Bock's case deliberately drives her to suicide.
  • Lazy Bum: Marcus Cabot likes his position as head of the CIA better than actually doing the work, and delegates all the work to Ryan while he relaxes, on the occasions when he doesn’t call in sick.
  • Life Imitates Art: It's mentioned that local wags near the Strategic Air Command HQ joked that the relatively new (at the time) Command Center was made so that the actual place matched up with the common Hollywood depictions of the facility, which were better than the original structure. invoked
  • Lost in Translation: A minor case when when discussing changing Soviet politics. The Western based media is used to using the phrases "left" and "right" to refer to reformers and conservatives respectively, and now applies these terms to the politics of the Soviet Union. The confusion comes in because in the Soviet context, the "left" wing is the one of the communist hard-liners, while the people arguing for liberalization have always been denounced as "right"-deviationists from Party orthodoxy.
  • Manly Tears: When Captain Rosselli relinquishes command of USS Maine, his final act is to tour the ship and say good-bye to his men. By the end, he's openly crying. Admiral Mancuso is understanding, while Captain Ricks is disdainful and only cares about the condition of the sub's equipment.
  • Middle Eastern Terrorists: Qati and Ghosn, Palestinian nationalists affiliated with the real-life PFLP. Though also assisted by a couple of Western Terrorists (see below).
  • Mistaken for Cheating: A stressed-out Jack withdraws from Cathy, leading her to believe that he's having an affair. Add to that a mishap with a perfume bottle, and a news leak by vindictive bitch Elizabeth Elliot about "a senior intelligence official"...
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Both Fowler and Elliot go into full BSOD mode when they realize how close they came to starting World War III. Fowler resigns his presidency immediately afterwards. Elliot, on the other hand, collapses into paranoic rambling and suffers a mental break, ultimately requiring hospitalization, and later books make it clear she never fully recovers.
  • Narrative Filigree: Chapter 35, 'Three Shakes', consists of several pages covering microseconds, describing the nuclear weapon's detonation step-by-step.
  • The Neidermeyer: Captain Harry Ricks is a combination of this and Drill Sergeant Nasty. An interesting example, he's continually described as the probably the most proficient engineer in the entire Navy, who can design a nuclear reactor and an engine on the back of a napkin. He gets hit with The Peter Principle when he's put into a leadership position when his interpersonal skills are nowhere near as good as his technical onesnote . He sees his crew as interchangeable parts for his engineering puzzle of the perfect sub and when one of his "pieces" doesn't act the way he thinks it should or has a mind of it's own, he reacts badly. He also starts trying to develop tactics and does reckless stunts on his sub because he thinks his boss, Admiral Mancuso, wants to see energetic go-getters as his captains. He gets in way over his head when his sub hits floating debris while tracking a Russian sub during the story's climax and comes apart at the seams. He dies when the sub is later struck by a torpedo, but manages to get most of the crew off beforehand.
  • Nice to the Waiter: While Elliot is digging for dirt on Ryan, her investigator mentions that, on top of everything else, he seems to have a genuinely friendly relationship with Clark and Chavez, his protection detail. Elliott is at a loss to understand this, comparing it to "being nice to the furniture"; in the first place, she knows nothing about the covert mission in Columbia than bonded the three men together, and in the second, she doesn't comprehend that Ryan honestly doesn't see Clark, Chavez (or anyone else) as social inferiors.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • Andrey Illych Narmonov continues his role as the Jack Ryan series' stand-in for Mikhail Gorbachev. Also Mahmoud Haji Daryaei for Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran.
    • Also possibly averted with Muammar Qaddafi, Libya's then-dictator, who's referred to obliquely as "our friend the Colonel." Likewise the Prince of Wales, who's never referred to by anything but his title.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: It's pointed out a few times that Fowler and Ryan share many characteristics and traits, notably their honesty and integrity. However, because Fowler's main focus was on domestic issues (as opposed to Ryan being a foreign specialist), and due to him getting off on the wrong foot with both Fowler and Elliot, they end up personally butting heads throughout the whole novel.
  • Oh, Crap!: Just about everyone has this reaction when they're informed that there's been a nuclear explosion in Denver.
  • Oh No You Didn't!: When Admiral Mancuso is gently and patiently trying to tell Captain Ricks that his micromanaging, authoritarian leadership style is simply not working and is killing morale on his boat, Ricks brusquely throws it back in his face and says his career has been one of continual progression and he's not changingnote . Ricks instantly realizes he'd gone too far and tried to soften his comment, but the flash of anger that crossed Mancuso's face let him know it was too late. Mancuso reflected internally that one of his older relatives had been a Mafia Godfather on Sicily during the early part of the 20th century, and that man would have blown a hole in Ricks for being so insolent. Mancuso knew he couldn't do that, but he could make certain Ricks was never promoted again. With how Navy fitness reports and reporting groups work, with a group of a dozen captains and only the top three to possibly be promoted, it would be very easy for Mancuso to slot Ricks in at #4, no matter how good he performs, and still not give him any points on which to argue later on.
  • Open Secret: The White House staff and press are easily able to tell that President Fowler and Liz Elliot are sleeping together. The press reasons that so long as the personal relationship doesn't harm the professional one, they'll keep it to themselves. It comes back to bite the entire world in the ass when it does become a problem at the worst possible time.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • President Fowler and Liz Elliot's relationship demonstrates that, while they are assholes to Ryan, very deep down they are good people.
    • Subverted when Elliot makes sure her disgraced predecessor gets his deserved credit for bringing about the Jerusalem Treaty. The only reason she does so is to screw Ryan out of getting any recognition for all the work he did behind the scenes.
  • Pointy-Haired Boss: Marcus Cabot, Ryan's direct superior, is portrayed as a lazy boss who does nothing noteworthy but to cause trouble for Jack. Due to his general incompetence, Ryan is essentially the one who runs the CIA.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Many of the problems surrounding the response to the nuclear attack on Denver are a result of this.
    • The entire plot of the book is made possible by the Israeli Defense Force having lost a nuclear weapon over the Negev desert in the chaos of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, which they never bothered to report even to their closest allies.
    • That an Israeli nuclear weapon was lost in the first place also falls under this trope. Only those air and ground crewmen directly involved in the planned nuclear strike were aware of their mission. Consequently, when all of said personnel were killed or wounded shortly after being ordered to stand down, one nuclear bomb was inadvertently left aboard an aircraft in the confusion. When other crewmen - unaware of their colleagues' orders - came to rearm the planes for conventional missions, they mistook the bomb for a drop tank and left it in place.
    • Information from ground zero which proves that the yield was far below what NORAD estimated, and thereby couldn't have been Russian, almost doesn't reach those in the need to know because President Fowler ordered Denver to undergo a communications blackout to prevent a national panic.
    • Ryan's inability to keep his cool results in Fowler cutting the CIA out of the loop. Shortly thereafter Ryan gets information that proves the Russians weren't involved in the attack but now the U.S. President will no longer listen to him.
    • On an unrelated note, Ryan's support of the family of the man who died on an ill-fated classified mission to Colombia looks from the outside like a sugar daddy relationship with a mistress, and nearly helps destroy his marriage. The poor communication comes from Ryan going through his family's lawyer and accountant to set up a behind-the-curtain corporation to let the man's widow and children own and get income from a convenience store they run without involving Cathy in the process. He and the widow are friends and she assigns him no blame for her husband's death, and she and her kids know that he's the one behind helping them out, so there really is no reason why Ryan had to keep it a secret from his wife.
    • A somewhat long-term one, setting up the plot in Executive Orders. Daryaei, the leader of Iran, meets Jack Ryan at the end of the book, and we're later told that he came away with the impression that the man was a nonentity, "an assistant, nothing more" and a weak man for refusing to drop a nuke on Iran. Daryaei's eventual plan to release a biological weapon in the United States and use the ensuing chaos to conquer its allies in the Persian Gulf is based largely on this misreading, as he doesn't expect Ryan (now President of the United States) to have the strength to react decisively. He is, of course, very badly mistaken.
  • Prevent the War: The villains are attempting to provoke a war between the USA and the Russians by detonating a nuclear bomb at the Super Bowl, and by instigating another attack; in the book, East Germans disguised as Russian commanders get the Russian tanks to fire at the American tanks near Berlin, in the movie, a well-bribed Russian air force general instructs his air wing to attack a US aircraft carrier. Jack Ryan and John Clark have to find out what really happened before one side starts nuking the other.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: A contributing factor to the Denver crisis. Soon after the nuclear explosion in Denver places the entire military on high alert, a U.S. Navy carrier in the Mediterranean shoots down a flight of MiGs in their general vicinity which they assume are Soviet planes coming to attack them. The possibility that they came from nearby Libya is dismissed because the Libyan air force has neither the training nor the equipment for long-range nighttime operations over the water. Turns out, they were Libyan MiGs: the flight was part of a training operation meant to remedy precisely these shortcomings.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • Played straight with President Fowler for most of the novel, but then subverted after the nuclear attack on Denver. A combination of Elliot's paranoia, his drinking, and his mistrust of the CIA in general and Ryan in particular compromises his judgment and hence his responses to the crisis.
    • Vice President Durling plays this straight for the entire novel.
    • Secretary of Defense Dennis Bunker is explicitly identified as one of the most reasonable members of the Fowler administration, respected by both generals and grunts. Likewise Secretary of State Brent Talbot. Pity they both die at the Super Bowl.
    • Charles Alden, Fowler's first National Security Adviser, is one as well, who puts a lot of effort into helping the Vatican Treaty go through. Unfortunately, the press exposure of his affair with one of his former grad students, followed by a stroke, leaves his position open for Elizabeth Elliot, who is very much not this trope.
  • The Remnant:
    • The villains of the novel. German Marxist terrorists looking to bring back the Cold War, and Palestinian nationalist terrorists looking to bring back the Arab–Israeli Conflict.
    • Carol Zimmer's family is a nonviolent and much more tragic example. She's the daughter of a Laotian Hmong chieftain, whose entire tribe was wiped out when the North Vietnamese conquered their land. She only survived thanks to the U.S. Army pilot who brought her out and later married her.
  • Resigned in Disgrace:
    • The end of the novel implies that President Fowler resigns from office after realizing he almost helped start World War III and then compounded that mistake by almost nuking an innocent city for revenge. Later books confirm this.
    • Charles Alden is forced out after it's revealed he had an improper affair with a student while he was a professor. He dies of a stress-induced aneurysm before the resignation takes effect, however.
  • Retired Bad Ass: Though not technically retired: due to the downsizing of the CIA under Fowler, Ryan had to pull some strings to have Clark and Chavez transferred to the Domestic Protection Service as his bodyguards. They both excel in the role, but all three recognize that it's a holding pattern until they're able to get back into the Operations Directorate, possibly under a new President. They do get into actual spy operations at the end of the novel, which helps them get into place to capture the terrorists when they try to escape.
  • Rich Bitch: Elizabeth Elliot, made worse because of her relationship with President Fowler. She becomes his most trusted advisor but her paranoid insecurity causes her to lead him to the brink of nuclear war. She has a full on breakdown afterwards.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Prince Ali Bin Sheikh of the Saudi royal family. Unofficially referred to as a "Prince-Without-Portfolio,"note  he's the de facto foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, as well as (probably) the person in charge of their secret service. He's instrumental in getting the Jerusalem Treaty passed.
  • Shout-Out: Black Sunday is mentioned with the terrorist attack on the Super Bowl.
  • Sinister Minister: Mostly averted. The Christian, Jewish, and Muslim clerics presented in the book are mostly treated as honest and honorable people (indeed, they have to be for the Jerusalem Treaty to work). Mahmoud Haji Daryaei, however, the religious leader of Iran, plays this trope fairly straight. The book also alludes to some Jewish radical leaders and American televangelists who are less than pleased at the agreement with what they view as "infidels." (The fact that most of the Christians involved are either Catholic or Eastern Orthodox rather than American-style evangelicals doesn't help their case, as far as the televangelists are concerned).
  • Strawman Political:
    • Mostly averted. While the author and the main character both lean conservative, the (liberal) President is stressed to be honest, hardworking, intelligent, patriotic, and with an impressive background as a mob prosecutor and Governor of Ohio. His main flaws are his arrogance and his inexperience in foreign policy. His Vice-President has most of the same qualities while lacking the flaws. Most of his cabinet is superbly qualified for their positions. Ryan himself, meanwhile, is noted to have strong relationships with both the Democratic and Republican legislators responsible for the intelligence oversight committees, both of whom are similarly shown in a positive light.
    • Elizabeth Elliot, however, plays this trope entirely straight. A relic of the New Left movement from The '60s, she's a fountain of a Straw Feminist, judging potential hires on their race and gender despite qualifications. This political correctness is largely hypocritical and performative, given her dismissiveness towards Clark and (Mexican-American) Chavez (treating Ryan's friendship with them as "like being friends with the furniture.") She holds military personnel in extreme contempt, considering them Dumb Muscle at best, and isn't shy about saying so. She's at least a bit of a Conspiracy Theorist, noted to a have written a book about the CIA's pervasiveness that Ryan considers delusionally paranoid. She's dismissive of the national security aspects of her job, declining to sit in on war games and simulations. Naturally, she's also wrong in all of her predictions, and completely useless when a real crisis rolls around. It borders on Artistic License – Politics, as while people with her anti-military, anti-CIA politics certainly exist in Washington, it would be highly unusual for them to rise to the position of National Security Adviser, in either party.
  • Take Me Out at the Ball Game: The nuke is detonated at the Super Bowl, killing thousands and sparking fear in President Fowler that the bomb may have been targeted at him specifically.
  • Torture Is Ineffective: The terrorists who nuked the Super Bowl are captured by Clark and Chavez. Clark uses some Fingore on them to get information on their backer, and after holding out for a while, the terrorists finger the nation of Iran. The catch is that they had planned this as an attempted Xanatos Gambit: if the US does retaliate against Iran, they will have "made an enemy out of all Islam".
  • Trust Password: Used in a way, when Ryan gets on the text-based Hotline with the the Russian President, Andrey Ilyavich Narmonov. Ryan asks him if he still makes his own fires in the dacha, a Call-Back to their in-person meeting in Russia in The Cardinal of the Kremlin. Narmonov responds by asking him questions about the incident that only Ryan would know.
  • Twenty-Fifth Amendment: Roger Durling's final scene is him getting comfortable in the Oval Office with Arnie Van Damm addressing him as "Mr. President". It's heavily implied, and later confirmed in subsequent novels, that Fowler resigned from the presidency after having a mental breakdown.
  • Vice President Who?: Discussed. Roger Durling, after delivering the state of California during the election, is relegated to backwater assignments away from the limelight. The sad part is Durling is a much nicer and more reasonable man than President Bob Fowler. It's what makes him a pretty good successor when Fowler resigns.
  • Villainous Friendship: Gunther Bock, German Marxist, is friends with Ismael Qati, Palestinian terrorist leader. Qati even slept with Bock's wife without Gunther minding. Also Ghosn forms a friendship with Marvin Russell and regrets having to kill him to cover their tracks. Qati, on the other hand, doesn't care as Marvin was a "heathen".
  • Western Terrorists:
    • Petra and Gunther Bock, Marxist terrorists from West Germany associated with the (real-life) Red Army Faction.
    • Marvin Russel, a Native American terrorist member of the (fictional) Warrior Society.
  • Why We Are Bummed Communism Fell: The motivation for the villains. With Eastern Europe liberated and the Cold War essentially over, extreme-left Western Terrorists like the Bocks who used to rely on the USSR for support are left high and dry. Their Arab Nationalist allies in the Middle East, like Qati and Ghosn, are facing a similar problem: not only have they lost Soviet patronage, but the Jerusalem Treaty championed in the book by the Fowler administration risks ending the Arab–Israeli Conflict that they've been fighting their whole lives. With both groups left without a patron and without a cause, they resolve to stage a False Flag Operation to destroy the peace between America and Russia and, hopefully, in the Middle East as well.
  • Willing Suspension of Disbelief: Lampshaded by various characters, who find it hard to do this over the sweeping political changes that drive the conflicts of the book.
  • Woman Scorned: Liz Elliot holds a personal grudge against Ryan from their first meeting in Clear and Present Danger, abusing her powers to get back at him and try to destroy his marriage.
    • This gets extended later to Cathy Ryan, who, after discovering that the circumstantial evidence of her cheating husband was actually him keeping his promise to take care of Buck Zimmer's family, turns around to publicly humiliate Elliot at a party.
  • Xanatos Gambit: The terrorists' plan has multiple outcomes, all of which work to their benefit. If U.S. blames the Soviet Union for the nuke, it's World War III. If not, they've still killed a lot of people. If they get away, great; if not, they've got a False Flag Operation set up to implicate Iran.
    • Even their reason for implicating Iran is an example: Iran had nothing to do with their attack, but if they can convince the US to launch a nuke at the Iranian capital, the US will become an enemy of every Muslim nation in the world, and their attempts at peace in the Middle East will be ruined.
  • You Are in Command Now: Happens quite a bit as a result of the Denver attack.
    • CINC-NORAD was killed in the attack leaving his two-star subordinate in charge.
    • Ryan, Dan Murray, and Captain Rosselli are the most senior officers present at their respective agencies, leaving them to advise President Fowler.
    • Roger Durling becomes president after Fowler has a mental breakdown and resigns.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness:
    • Subverted. The nuclear scientist hadn't actually finished his work on the bomb yet. Because of that, its effect is significantly lessened, and provides the vital clue that keeps the US from launching its arsenal at Russia.
    • Played straight with the terrorists' U.S. accomplice, whom they murder once their device is planted.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: Qati, the leader of the terrorist group, is dying of cancer. He views their plot as his last chance to strike a devastating blow against America. His cancer meds are a Chekhov's Gun that clue Clark into seeing through the False Flag Operation.