Mideast Churn

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When Dick Couch and I were offered the opportunity to “re-boot” the Tom Clancy Op-Center series we wanted to pick the spot where we knew there would be churn when the book was published – and for some time afterwards. The Middle East was our consensus choice. As we put it in Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Out of the Ashes:

The Muslim East and the Christian West have been at war for over a millennium. They are at war today, and that is not likely to change in the near future. As Samuel Huffington would put it, the cultures will continue to clash. In the past, the war has been invasive, as during the time of the Crusades. The Muslims have also been the invaders as the Moors moved north and west into Europe. Regional empires rose and fell through the Middle Ages, and while the Renaissance brought some improvements into the Western world, plagues and corrupt monarchies did more to the detriment of both East and West than they were able to do to each other.

In time, as a century of war engulfed Europe and as those same nations embarked on aggressive colonialism, the East-West struggle was pushed into the background. But it was not extinguished. The rise of nationalism and weapons technology in the nineteenth century gave rise to the modern-day great powers in the West. Yet the East seemed locked in antiquity and internal struggle. The twentieth century and the thirst for oil were to change all that.

The seeds of modern East-West conflict were sown in the nations created by the West as Western nations took it on themselves to draw national boundaries in the Middle East after the First World War. After the Second World War, Pan-Arab nationalism, the establishment of the state of Israel, the Suez crisis, the Lebanese civil war, and the Iranian revolution all kept tensions high between East and West. Then came 9/11. While it was still a Muslim-Christian, East-West issue, the primacy of oil and oil reserves remained a catalyst that never let tensions get too far below the surface.

The events of September 11, 2001, and the invasions that were to follow, redefined and codified this long-running conflict. It was now a global fight, from Afghanistan to Iraq to Yemen to North Africa and into Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, and beyond. It was global, nasty, and ongoing. Nine-eleven was pivotal and defining. For the first time in a long time, the East struck at the West, and it was a telling blow.

Surveys taken just after 9/11 showed that some 15 percent of the world’s over 1.5 billion Muslims supported the attack. It was about time we struck back against those arrogant infidels, they said. A significant percentage felt no sympathy for the Americans killed in the attack. Nearly all applauded the daring and audacity of the attackers. And many Arab youth wanted to be like those who had so boldly struck at the West.

But as the world’s foremost authority on the region, Bernard Lewis, put it, the outcome of the struggle in the Middle East is still far from clear. For this reason, we chose the Greater Levant as the epicenter of our story of Op-Center’s reemergence.

As we suggest – this churn will last a long time. And these maps help tell the story:

See these maps here

Looking Into the Future

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Obituaries for the late Tom Clancy covered a wide range of information about the author – universally recognized as the best military-technical-thriller writer of his generation. But what every obituary noted – and emphasized – was that Clancy was prescient. He wrote about intelligence, military and technical matters in fiction – and fiction always seemed to have a strange way of becoming fact years later.

When we came up with the high concept for Out of the Ashes back in 2011, one thing we felt strongly was that to stay ahead of the threat the United States needed to create advanced collation architectures and algorithms to process raw data faster than humans could and thus support decision-makers trying to stop the threat before it materialized. If you’ve read book you know precisely what I mean.

Now, Wall Street Journal writer Julia Angwin hits the nail on the head showing how our intelligence agencies are drowning in data. She points out how William Binney, creator of some of the computer code used by the National Security Agency to snoop on Internet traffic around the world, delivered an unusual message to an audience worried that the spy agency knows too much.
It knows so much, he said, that it can’t understand what it has.

“What they are doing is making themselves dysfunctional by taking all this data,” Mr. Binney said at a privacy conference in Switzerland.

The agency is drowning in useless data, which harms its ability to conduct legitimate surveillance, claims Mr. Binney, who rose to the civilian equivalent of a general during more than 30 years at the NSA before retiring in 2001. Analysts are swamped with so much information that they can’t do their jobs effectively, and the enormous stockpile is an irresistible temptation for misuse.
Mr. Binney’s warning has gotten far less attention than legal questions raised by leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden about the agency’s mass collection of information around the world. Those revelations unleashed a re-examination of the spy agency’s aggressive tactics.

Read more here

ISIS and the New Caliphate

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CNA Strategic Studies press just released Reviving the Caliphate: Fad, or the Future? < http://www.cna.org/research/2014/reviving-caliphate by Julia McQuaid.

This paper examines the concept of restoring the caliphate in modern times, a notion that some extremist groups have supported in recent years. It focuses on the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant’s declaration of a caliphate in Iraq and Syria in June 2014 and discusses the potential ramifications of this action on the region, the global jihadi movement, and U.S. interests in the broader Muslim world.

When we created the high Concept for Out of the Ashes several years ago we knew we wanted the focus of the story to be in the Middle East – the Greater Levant. This CNA study confirms the churn we anticipated would persist as the book hit the streets in May of this year.

Out of the Ashes

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When we came up with the high concept for Out of the Ashes we did our due diligence and read all we could about the region. A few books stood out as invaluable to our work. One of the key ones was Tom Friedman’s From Beirut to Jerusalem. Here is some of the praise this book has garnered and why it guided our writing:

If you’re only going to read one book on the Middle East, this is it.”—Seymour M. Hersh

One of the most thought-provoking books ever written about the Middle East, From Beirut to Jerusalem remains vital to our understanding of this complex and volatile region of the world. Three-time Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas L. Friedman drew upon his ten years of experience reporting from Lebanon and Israel to write this now-classic work of journalism. In a new afterword, he updates his journey with a fresh discussion of the Arab Awakenings and how they are transforming the area, and a new look at relations between Israelis and Palestinians, and Israelis and Israelis. Rich with anecdote, history, analysis, and autobiography, From Beirut to Jerusalem will continue to shape how we see the Middle East for many years to come.

Art Under the Umbrellas

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Coronado celebrates “Art under the umbrellas on Saturday August 2, 2014 from 10 AM to 4 PM at Coronado’s Spreckeles Park. Read more about this event here.

The Coronado Council of the Arts has featured my books at several previous events. An article from their recent web post here.

At this event I’ll be talking about several of my books, among them:

  • Leave No Man Behind: The Saga of Combat Search and Rescue
  • Tom Clancy Presents: Act of Valor – New York Times Best Seller
  • The Kissing Sailor – Amazon and Barnes and Noble Best Seller
  • Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Out of the Ashes – Publisher’s Weekly Best Seller

Join us!

Out of the Ashes

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Many people have asked us, “How does the new Tom Clancy OP-Center series differ from the wildly-successful ten-book series published between 1995 and 2005?” It is an important question and one that helps define the ground we stake out in Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Out of the Ashes and will continue in future books in the series.

In addition to the action, adventure, military-techno journey we take the reader on, there are some overarching themes in Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Out of the Ashes and these themes will continue in future books in the series.

  • The notion of civilian control of the military is “unsettled” in America in 2014
  • There is tension between government, military and intelligence entities, and the people
  • There is technology-enabled tension between counterterrorism efforts and civil liberties
  • There are issues that are “too hot to handle” for DoD, DoS et al…hence OpCenter
  • The United States is not a juggernaut, we have to be thoughtful how we apply power
  • This series will convey “strategic foresight” i.e. predict what will happen in future
  • The key to what OpCenter takes on regards leveraging “anticipatory intelligence”
  • Information is now a weapon…this is where network-centric warfare has evolved

The “new” OpCenter and the characters who man it will be a dramatic departure from the “old” OpCenter to reflect the sea change in the U.S. security posture since the series was created:

  • Even more than ten years removed, September 11, 2001 still drives U.S. security thinking
  • The creation of the Director of National Intelligence and the NCTC
  • The creation of the Department of Homeland Security
  • The creation of the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence
  • The creation of U.S. Cyber Command as a full combatant commander in 2013
  • The creation of Northern Command as a United States Combatant Commander
  • The success of the television series “24” and its recent re-boot
  • The success of the television series “Person of Interest”
  • The fact that the United States has been at war for twelve years – and counting
  • The major strategic shift involved in the U.S. “pivot to Asia”
  • That said, the validated U.S. near-term strategic focus is still the Mideast
  • The forces unleashed by the Arab Spring are causing more Mideast turmoil
  • In 2014, the U.S. military is reviving the counterterrorism vs. counterinsurgency issue

We believe we have delivered on these themes in Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Out of the Ashes. Stay tuned for more in book two, Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Into the Fire.

Out of the Ashes

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Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Out of the Ashes is a reboot of the best-selling Op-Center series that produced twelve books between 1995 and 2005. Continuing in that best-selling tradition, Out of the Ashes was featured on Publisher’s Weekly and USA Today’s best-seller lists just two weeks after the book’s release.

Why is the book doing so well? Above all else, and continuing in the Clancy tradition, Out of the Ashes is prescient. It looks to the future of intelligence, terrorism and military operations and shows what threats to our national security will look like tomorrow. Set in the cauldron of the Middle East, Out of the Ashes is a deep dive into tomorrow’s headlines today. It also takes the readers into the labyrinth of the tensions in this volatile region. Our research for this book took us to several great sources, one of which was Robert Fisk’s The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East.

Military Monday with John D. Gresham and Author George Galdorisi – Op Center

Popular Military Internet Radio with Writestream on BlogTalkRadio

Understanding the Mideast

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When we began to do our research and due diligence to conceive and write, Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Out of the Ashes we started out with scores of scholarly books to consult. We whittled that down to just a dozen key books that helped us understand the conundrum that is the Greater Middle East.

At the very top of that short list was Bernard Lewis classic: The Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2,000 Years. We commend it to anyone who wants to begin to understand this complex region in 2014. Here is what booklist has to say about this gem:

For more than 50 years, Lewis has strived mightily and successfully to explain the cultures and histories of Middle Eastern peoples to Western readers. The task of writing a political history of the region has already been fulfilled by him and by many others. In his latest work, Lewis has chosen to accentuate the social, economic, and cultural changes that have occurred over 20 centuries. He ranges from seemingly trivial concerns (changes in dress and manners in an Arab coffeehouse) to earth-shaking events (the Mongol conquest of Mesopotamia) in painting a rich, varied, and fascinating portrait of a region that is steeped in traditionalism while often forced by geography and politics to accept change. As always, Lewis is eloquent, incisive, and displays an intuitive grasp of the social dynamics of the culture he describes. Both scholars and general readers with an interest in the Middle East will find this work a delight. Jay Freeman

Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Out of the Ashes takes the reader on a fast-paced thrill ride through Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran and the Greater Middle East.

The Clancy Tradition Continues

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This year saw two “reboots” the Tom Clancy Op-Center series and another movie starring Jack Ryan – the fifth movie with “America’s action hero.” Adam Kepler put it this way in the New York Times.

Someone once said, “Never trust a man with two first names,” but that wit obviously was not referring to Jack Ryan, the C.I.A. analyst and reluctant action hero of Tom Clancy’s series of spy novels. The closest thing pop culture may have to an American James Bond, the character has appeared in four films, which were collectively rereleased in December by Paramount Home Video as “The Jack Ryan Collection.” And now he is the focus of a fifth, “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit,” which arrived in theaters in January of this year. It turns out that every era gets a Jack Ryan to fit the times.

Read more here.