Out of the Ashes Meets Into the Fire


Today, Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Into the Fire is released for the first time as a trade paperback publication. Additionally, Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Out of the Ashes is being re-released as a mass market paperback. We expect demand for both books to be strong. Why? Because the kind churn in today’s world says we still need heroes – heroes like those serving in our military and other government services who go “downrange” to protect the freedoms we hold so dear. Here is how we put it in the Dedication to Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Out of the Ashes:

Decades ago, Winston Churchill famously said, “We sleep safely at night because rough men stand ready to visit violence on those who would harm us.”  More contemporaneously, in the 1992 film, A Few Good Men, in the courtroom dialogue, Colonel Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson) responds to an aggressive interrogation by Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) with, “We live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns…Because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall.”

This book is dedicated to the selfless men and women – in and out of the military – who toil and sacrifice in obscurity so we may sleep safely at night.  They receive no medals or public recognition, and few know of their risks, dedication, and contributions to our security.  They endure lengthy – and repeated – deployments away from their families.  Yet they stand guard “on the wall” for all of us, silently, professionally, and with no acclaim.

Stay tuned to this website for more on the subject….



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


Political Fiction?

Writing Techniques

Some suggest fiction can sway politics. Others think not. Two well-known writers slug it out over this question in the New York Times “Bookends.”

The line between fiction and nonfiction is more blurry than many people like to admit. Sometimes, political writing that claims to be nonfiction is actually fiction. The political power of such fiction-as-nonfiction is undeniable: “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” stoked the fires of European anti-Semitism in the decades before the Holocaust; American news coverage of the Gulf of Tonkin incident facilitated the escalation of American military involvement in Vietnam; supposedly true accounts about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction contributed to the disastrous invasion of that country 12 years ago.

For Mohsin Hamid, its: Fiction can say publicly what might otherwise appear unsayable. Conversely, for Francine Prose, its: Perhaps the clearest case of literature effecting political change is Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle.” So who is right? What do you believe vis-à-vis fiction’s impact on politics?

Read more here

Game Changing Innovation


For most of the post-World War II era, the United States dominated potential adversaries with technology that was leaps and bounds ahead of any potential foe. This lead has shrunk or completely disappeared. Now the Pentagon is looking to the innovation center of our nation – Silicon Valley – for cutting-edge innovation.

Recently, the Pentagon issued a formal request for new ideas. Soon after, out of concern that the call for fresh thinking would not reach past the usual Washington contractors, Stephen Welby, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for systems engineering, visited a dozen Silicon Valley start-ups that are pursuing new technologies that the Pentagon believes might have a national security role beyond the next dozen or so years.

Innovation for the military is nothing new to Silicon Valley. The region has a long history of military work. During the 1960s and ’70s, Silicon Valley was dominated by aerospace and military contractors such as Lockheed Missiles and Space Company and FMC Corporation. It was also the center of the nation’s electronic warfare industry.

Read more here

China – The “Other” Pacific Power


Volumes have been written about the rise of China and we won’t even begin to attempt to replicate the scholarly work and analysis that has gone into enhancing our understanding of China’s rise. Suffice it to say that China’s stunning economic rise has happened much faster than most predicted. Further, China’s economic growth – now predicted to enable it to overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy this year – has had beneficial spillover effects for the entire Asia-Pacific region. And to be sure, in spite of some speed bumps along the way, due to globalization and a host of other factors, China’s economy and that of the United States have become more intertwined over the years.

This should help explain some of the reasons for the nation’s – and the Navy’s – Rebalance to the Asia-Pacific or Pivot to the Pacific. China’s growing military capabilities that are, in turn, driving the kinds of platforms, systems, sensors and weapons the nation will need to bring to the fore as it pivots to the Pacific.  Make no mistake; the United States does not intend to shrink from its status as a Pacific power. As a former Secretary of Defense put it in a major speech in Singapore, “The United States is a Pacific power, with a capital ‘P.’”

Read more about China and the United States and power in the Pacific in my post on the Defense Media Network website

Our Veterans!


Much has been written about the “One-percent and the ninety-nine percent” in reference to the wealthiest one-percent of Americans and the rest of us. But there is another one-percent and ninety-nine percent we don’t tend to think about – and that is the one-percent of Americans who volunteer to defend our country and the other ninety-nine percent of us.

We should be grateful to those who willing put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms, but we should also be mindful of the right – and wrong – ways to thank them. Recently, Matt Richtel interviewed Marine Corps veteran Hunter Garth recently back from service in Afghanistan. Here is part of what he has to say:

To some recent vets — by no stretch all of them — the thanks comes across as shallow, disconnected, a reflexive offering from people who, while meaning well, have no clue what soldiers did over there or what motivated them to go, and who would never have gone themselves nor sent their own sons and daughters.

To these vets, thanking soldiers for their service symbolizes the ease of sending a volunteer army to wage war at great distance — physically, spiritually, economically. It raises questions of the meaning of patriotism, shared purpose and, pointedly, what you’re supposed to say to those who put their lives on the line and are uncomfortable about being thanked for it.

We all should be enormously grateful for the sacrifices our veterans – especially our war-wounded – have made. But be thoughtful about how you express that gratitude.

Read more here

The “Job” of Writing

Writing Techniques

Is writing a job – or a calling? For those of you who write, it is a question most of you ask yourselves – often quite frequently. And to help inform your internal dialogue, it’s often good to hear from the pros. In a recent “Bookends” piece in the New York Times, Benjamin Moser and Dana Stevens slug it out.

Benjamin Moser’s opening gambit is: Even the best writing won’t have the immediate, measurable impact of a doctor’s work, or a plumber’s. Dana Stevens takes the opposite tact: Of course a writer is going to lean toward saying writing is a calling — that’s our job. So where is the truth?

For me, writing is nearer to Stevens’ end of the spectrum. It’s a passion and somehow I can’t imagine getting inspiration to take any writing to the next level if I looked at it merely as a way to pay the rent.

But you’ll have to decide for yourself and as a start, you might check out what Benjamin Moser and Dana Stevens have to say in their “Bookends” piece. I’d welcome your thoughts as to where you wind up!

Read more about both sides of this argument here


Artificial Intelligence – Servant or Master!


An iconic film of the last century, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey had as its central theme the issue of autonomy of robots. Few who saw the movie can forget the scene where astronauts David Bowman and Frank Poole consider disconnecting HAL’s (Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer) cognitive circuits when he appears to be mistaken in reporting the presence of a fault in the spacecraft’s communications antenna. They attempt to conceal what they are saying, but are unaware that HAL can read their lips. Faced with the prospect of disconnection, HAL decides to kill the astronauts to protect and continue its programmed directives.

While few today worry that a 21st-century HAL will turn on its masters, the issues involved with fielding increasingly autonomous unmanned systems are complex, challenging, and increasingly contentious. Kubrick’s 1968 movie was prescient. Almost half-a-century later, while we accept advances in other aspects of autonomous vehicle improvements such as propulsion, payload, stealth, speed, endurance, and other attributes, but we are still coming to grips with how much autonomy is enough and how much may be too much.

Recently, Stephen Hawing had this to say: “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race. 

But does artificial intelligence threaten our species, as the cosmologist Hawking suggested? Is the development of AI like “summoning the demon,” as tech pioneer Elon Musk told an audience at MIT? Will smart machines supersede or even annihilate humankind? It is a pressing issue for many of us today. What do you think?

Read more here a tech-startup pioneer and someone who has studied this issue intensely


Tectonic Shifts!


Step back and think about major tectonic shifts that are – and will continue to – change our world in profound ways. While we all have our opinions, the collective vision of the United States Intelligence Community suggests there are seven of these tectonic shifts. Getting ahead of them may well spell the difference between success and failure for individuals, for businesses, and for governments. These tectonic shifts are:

  • Growth of the Global Middle Class: Middle classes most everywhere in the developing world are poised to expand substantially in terms of both absolute numbers and the percentage of the population that can claim middle-class status during the next 15 to 20 years.
  • Wider Access to Lethal and Disruptive Technologies: A wider spectrum of instruments of war – especially precision-strike capabilities, cyber instruments, and bioterror weaponry – will become readily accessible.
  • Definitive Shift of Economic Power to the East and South: The U.S., European, and Japanese share of global income is projected to fall from 56 percent today to well under half by 2030.
  • Unprecedented and Widespread Aging: Whereas in 2012 only Japan and Germany have matured beyond a median age of 45 years, most European countries, South Korea, and Taiwan will have entered the post-mature age category by 2030.
  • Urbanization: Today’s roughly 50-percent urban population will climb to nearly 60 percent, or 4.9 billion people, in 2030. Africa will gradually replace Asia as the region with the highest urbanization growth rate. Urban centers are estimated to generate 80 percent of economic growth.
  • Food and Water Pressures: Demand for food is expected to rise at least 35 percent by 2030, while demand for water is expected to rise by 40 percent. Nearly half of the world’s population will live in areas experiencing severe water stress.
  • U.S. Energy Independence: With shale gas, the United States will have sufficient natural gas to meet domestic needs and generate potential global exports for decades to come.

Read more about these Tectonic Shifts in this on the in my post on the Defense Media Network website


Cluttered? – Take Heart!


Is clutter – way too much stuff – dominating your life? For many of us it is. For me, that problem used to take care of itself as the Navy moved us every two years so you had to yank all your stuff out of closets, drawers, attics, garages, etc. But if you don’t move, you rarely have to look at most of your stuff so you just keep piling it up.

Now there is a culture – some call it a cult – of tidying up. The high priestess of this movement Japan’s Marie Kondo, author of the de-clutter manifesto and global best-seller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. But some wonder if we’re going too far. What if getting rid of all our stuff changes our life in a way we don’t want it changed? Pamela Druckerman suggests:

Clutter isn’t a new problem, of course. But suddenly, it’s not just irritating — it’s evil. If you’re not living up to your potential, clutter is probably the culprit. Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” the top-ranked book on The New York Times list of self-help books, promises that, once your house is orderly, you can “pour your time and passion into what brings you the most joy, your mission in life.”

But the more stuff I shed, the more I realize that we de-clutterers feel besieged by more than just our possessions. We’re also overwhelmed by the intangible detritus of 21st-century life: unreturned emails; unprinted family photos; the ceaseless ticker of other people’s lives on Facebook; the heightened demands of parenting; and the suspicion that we’ll be checking our phones every 15 minutes, forever. I can sit in an empty room, and still get nothing done.

But in spite of growing skepticism about the “cult of tidying up Marie Kondo is undaunted and on a mission to help us de-clutter. Here is how she put it in the Wall Street Journal.

“Keep only the things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest,” she advises. “When you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order, too. As a result, you can see quite clearly what you need in life and what you don’t.”

So how far should you go? – It’s a question we all wrestle with…

Read more here from the Wall Street Journal

Read more here from the New York Times