Friday, November 17, 2006

Richard Clarke Shares His Views (Part II) – Fiction: “The Scorpion’s Gate”

Having laid out his recollections and opinions about our nation’s War on Terror in the bestseller, “Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror,” Dick Clarke followed up by writing the fascinating novel, “The Scorpion’s Gate.” In this work of fiction, Clarke uses the approach of reductio ad absurdum to speculate on the potential logical outcome of our failed policies in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East.

The scenario is that it is 2010, and the Royal House of Saud has been toppled in a coup d’etat, and the former Saudi Arabia has been transformed into the fundamentalist, wahhabist Nation of Islamyah - the first foundation stone in building a Shia Caliphate that will eventually encompass the entire Muslim world. The plot of this book seems to be Clarke’s worst nightmare of what would happen if the policies of the Neocon ideologues that Clarke railed against in “Against All Enemies” were to continue un-checked and un-abated. The Middle East becomes a fascinating chess board – with pieces being moved around the board in complex gambits by the Americans, Chinese, British, Iranians, Kuwaitis, Saudis. The action centers on complex plots and attempts to de-stabilize the region by attacking Bahrain and U.S. assets stationed there. Told in the style of Le Carre and Ludlum, the story is one that held my interest throughout the 300 pages. Clarke’s deep knowledge of internecine intrigue and power struggles – both petty and global in scale – inform the characters in this novel and set up the tensions that drive the storyline. I often found myself musing: “So, this is the way it really works behind the scenes!”

Former U.S. Senator, Gary Hart, made these comments about Clarke’s novel:

“On his book's jacket, the author says: ‘Fiction can often tell the truth better than nonfiction. And there is a lot of truth that needs to be told.’ As co-chair of the U.S. Commission on National Security for the 21st Century, I am often asked what caused us to predict terrorist attacks on the United States months before Sept. 11, 2001. More than any other factor, Clarke's chilling briefings of our commission persuaded us. Perhaps he is trying to persuade us of a truth yet again.”

Clearly, Clarke’s purposes in writing this book are both didactic and polemical. As a result, some of the dialogue can be wooden and contrived, and some of the characters seem to be stalking horses to put forward and give voice to Clarke’s pet peeves and theories. That having been said, I enjoyed the book very much, and found it to be both instructive and enjoyable. It comes with my strong recommendation.


Al Chase

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