We’re now dealing with the fallout of the recent terrorists attacks: the US stock exchange is tanking, and the British Prime Minister (who seems to be a sort of modern-day expy of Margeret Thatcher based on what little we find out about her) is furious because she suspects the US of withholding information about the London attack. I’m no economist, so can someone explain that first point to me? Why would the DOW be so badly effected by an explosion at a mall in LA? I know the economy was badly effected by 9/11, but I thought that was because the attacks destroyed a major financial hub.
I’ve commented before that these books seem to be taking place in some kind of alternate timeline possessing advanced technology, and we get another instance of that here as Tyler reveals the existence of an impenetrable missile shield along the entirety of both coastlines (boy I bet the UK government wishes you had shared that with them right about now!) and some kind of scanning technology to detect weapons being carried in ships. These are obviously band-aids being laid over the plot- having introduced the concept that the villains can pull off a secret missile attack on a major city, we now need a reason for them to not just start firing missiles off all over the place.
Once again, the book seems determined to portray Tyler as incompetent (newly-minted badassitude aside) and once again I find myself agreeing with him. This time around he starts to wonder whether they should really be putting all of their hopes on Devlin to solve everything instead of just deploying as many military and intelligence assets as they possibly can and yeah, that seems perfectly reasonable to me. I mean, surely throwing more resources at the problem can’t hurt, right?
This chapter also finally addresses that whole “Devlin’s cover is blown” thing, with Seelye claiming that Tyler blew Branch 4’s existence on live TV. In fact, if you go back and read the chapter all he said was that the government was deploying some kind of secret and highly capable agent to get to the bottom of the recent attacks, a statement vague enough that it couldn’t possibly be construed as breaking confidentiality. I mean, think how many covert and classified assets the US has across all branches of its military and intelligence apparatuses. He could be referring to any one of them.
I’m sure you had a good reason, but right now every foreign intelligence service, both friendly and hostile, will be working that out right now. And let me tell you, they’ll be plenty pissed that we haven’t been leveling with them about this. The friendlies, I mean.”
Do foreign intelligence services, even allied ones, really have the right to be mad about the fact that the US wasn’t sharing all of its secrets? Wouldn’t they have plenty of secret bullshit going on as well? And even if they are, Tyler could just say “yeah, I was talking about SEAL Team Six” or something. Seriously, this isn’t hard.
“Send somebody else, then,” said Tyler. “One of the other Branch 4’s.”
“There are—” began Seelye, and then stopped to rephrase. “Branch 4 ops work alone. They cannot be identified, even to members of their own service. You know that, sir.”
Okay, I’m going to let you in on a spoiler: there are no other Branch 4s. it’s just Devlin. Seelye has been deceiving everyone the whole time, for reasons that will become apparent later, which introduces some severe plot holes:
1) His excuse here makes no sense- sending another Branch 4 to London wouldn’t require them to reveal themselves to Devlin
2) What exactly was he planning to do if the President asked to meet one of the other agents?
3) Come to think of it, if Tyler believes there are multiple Branch 4 agents out there, why is only now coming up with the idea of getting them on the case? What does he think the rest of them are doing?
4) Seelye’s entire plan hinges completely on the fact that Tyler is too incompetent and uninterested in the military to really care about Branch 4. Remember, the president is supposed to know everything about the agents, and if Tyler had bothered to look into the matter it would have become apparent very quickly that there’s only one of them.
Seelye’s deceptions are interrupted by a phone call from Charles, and we get the usual “quick we have to trace the call before he hangs up” thing even though doing that takes literally zero seconds, hence why terrorists don’t usually call world leaders up for a chat.
It turns out that the call is coming from INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE!
Which left only two possible conclusions: either the call really was coming from inside the White House, which was impossible, or whoever was making it had cracked the NSA defenses.
If Charles is routing the call through the White House, couldn’t they just keep tracing it back to its original point of origin?
Seelye handed the president his BlackBerry: THANK YOU FOR BLOWING ME BEFORE YOU FUCKED ME.
Devlin, acting like a moody teenager again. Hey here’s an idea, couldn’t Tyler just order Seelye not to kill Devlin?
Speaking of which, our boy Devlin’s trying to figure out what to do next. Things are looking dire!
And if the government of the United States had been parliamentary instead of republican, it might have already fallen.
We never get any further explanation for this statement, which I find quite baffling. Parliamentary governments have remained intact through a lot worse than a single bombing.
Most of this chapter is just Devlin thinking through the terrorists’ actions and trying to understand what they’re playing at, and he makes some rather odd assumptions, such as:
The attack on Edwardsville made some sense, if testing the American defenses had been the point of the exercise.
This entire book takes place over the course of six days, during which the villains enact a massive and byzantine set of interlocking operations. Any information gleaned from “testing American defenses” would come far too late to make significant changes. We as the readers know that Charles’ real plan was to draw Devlin out into the open and we can forgive Devlin for not coming to that conclusion (even though he has in fact speculated that this was the case multiple times) as it’s quite counter-intuitive, but this idea that the villains invaded a school to test the country’s defenses makes no sense. I don’t get why Devlin considers it at all plausible.
Remember last time, when I pointed out that the details of the London attack would surely make people suspicious of Skorzeny? Devlin finally twigs to this after Maryam points out the obvious red flags indicating an assassination attempt, and they both race off to chase the lead. This just solidifies my assertion that Skorzeny should have the British And American governments all over him by this point- Devlin is supposedly some kind of super genius, but it doesn’t take a super genius to realize that he’s suspiciously close to everything going on.
The RAND Corporation building stood out among the buildings in “downtown” Santa Monica like the proverbial sore thumb—but only if you were already aware that you had just struck your opposable digit with a hammer.
This sentence makes my head hurt.
We get thrown into this chapter with almost no explanation, but basically: according to wikipedia the RAND corporation is “a nonprofit global policy think tank originally formed by Douglas Aircraft Company to offer research and analysis to the United States Armed Forces”. Devlin is there under an assumed identity to talk to a bunch of intelligence agents from around the world about…. stuff. Mostly this is just an opportunity for Walsh to have Devlin deliver an Ayn Randian (eh?) filibuster about how society has grown soft and complacent since the post-9/11 military victories against Al Qaeda.
During the speech Devlin reached for a glass of water and somehow- the wording on this is extremely unclear- this allows him to watch the progress of Skorzeny’s remaining “aid” ship. The way the sentence is structured makes it sound like there’s some kind of video feed being projected through the water or something.
So earlier I complained that Skorzeny’s plan should be shot to hell due to people getting suspicious of his docked cargo ship; upon rereading this chapter I’ve realized that the clumsy wording of the prose made me misunderstand how many ships Skorzeny has and what they’re doing, as Devlin now directs various security and military personnel to move in on the cargo ship using radiation-detecting drones disguised as kites (yes, really).
and the DHS agents who were lucky enough to draw beach duty could take their readings from the comfort of their beach blankets, while ogling the rear ends of the teenage girls wiggling by.
Have I mentioned that Devlin is an enormous perv?
it is our duty to constantly evaluate and extrapolate, not simply from ‘known knowns’ to ‘known unknowns,’ but into the realm of ‘unknown unknowns’ as well.
“I don’t actually know what the fuck I’m talking about, I’m just making shit up”
Devlin continues his rambling, at one point comparing the current threat facing them to the aliens in Independence Day, who are portrayed as interstellar locusts utterly erasing all life they come across. This really gets to the heart of what I talked about in an earlier post: in the worldview pushed by this book, terrorism has no reason and no purpose. The people who perpetrate it are driven by an irrational desire to kill and destroy for the sake of killing and destroying, and so the only way to combat terrorism is to fight fire with fire, by killing them faster than they can kill their targets.
In reality, this kind of attitude tends to lead to perpetual cycles of endless warfare as every violent action committed by either side is used as a justification for further violence. In traditional wars it’s possible for one of the combatants to be defeated, but in asymmetrical combat involving terrorists that’s rarely an option as different groups splinter apart and reform.
As he expected, this did not go over well with some of those in attendance. Probably half the members of his audience were “root cause” types; the idea that sheer nihilism might lay at the dark heart of society’s enemies was something they were not prepared to admit.
Just in case you think I’m mis-representing the views being presented here, Walsh, through Devlin, literally states that “society’s” enemies are driven purely by a desire to destroy.
Note the use of the word “society” here. The book plays coy by being non-specific about individual countries and demographics here, positing a war between “civilization” on one hand and amorphous nihilism-embracing aliens on the other, but I’m assuming I don’t need to spell out where the battle lines are really being drawn. Walsh is playing the classic “clash of civilizations” card, setting the glorious technological utopia of the West (remember those flush toilets?) against the barbaric hordes of Foreign Places Where People Have A Different Religion.
While Devlin directs some SEALs to infiltrate Skorzeny’s ship (apparently he can just randomly commandeer SEAL teams even though no one knows who he is) his filibuster continues, hammering home the idea that America- sorry, “society’s”- current enemies are no different from the vandals and the vikings; all of history has been an endless battle between the forces of civilization and the massed hordes of unwashed barbarians hammering at the gates. Needless to say “civilization” seems to always come in the guise of people who are no swarthier than the ancient Romans; white people can be dirty barbarians, but everyone east of, say Greece and south of the Mediterranean is automatically a dirty barbarian, unless of course their country has been blessed with the light of western society.
I don’t really have to spend any time refuting this, right? Everyone knows this is racist pseudo-historical bullshit, right?
“But, if what you said about the nature of the threat is true, doesn’t that give these ‘operatives’ extraordinary executive authority with very little accountability?”
Inwardly, Devlin smiled. “The best way I can answer that question is to quote Wendell Phillips, in a speech before the Massachusetts Antislavery Society in 1852. ‘Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,’ he said. I really can’t improve on that.”
Astute readers will notice that Devlin’s reply does not actually answer the question at all.
Anyway, the upshot of all of this is that the SEALs sink the ship and recover whatever was on it. No, it’s never explained why Devlin decided to give a speech to a bunch of people at the same time.