Clear and Present Danger is a very exciting novel that--although is large in size--moves very quickly.
The President of the United States (who is unnamed) is unsatisfied with the "war on drugs"--particularly when it hits close to home and a personal friend is killed. He wants revenge and demands immediate success. The CIA devises a plan in which John Clark--Mr. Black Ops himself--will lead several American teams on Columbian soil to strike back at the cartels themselves. Things go smoothly. At first. Unfortunately, the drug lords begin to strike back taking several civilian casualties. The President's polls begin to plummet. He orders John Ritter--Deputy Director of Operations at the CIA--to terminate their unofficial operation and leave no traces; even at the expense of the lives of the soldiers involved. Jack Ryan, who has just been named CIA Deputy Director of Intelligence after Cancer takes the life of Admiral James Greer, is enraged when he discovers that (1) he has been left out of the loop of the Colombian operations, and (2) that the soldiers have been abandoned by the U.S. Government.
After enlisting the help of John Clark, Ryan decides to get the men out.
Ultimately, Clear and Present Danger is about conscience, law, and politics--with CIA agents Jack Ryan and John Clark as its dual heroes. Ryan relentlessly pursues what he knows is right and legal--even if it means confronting the President himself. Clark, never a man to get caught up in political maneuvering, is the perfect soldier who holds the lives of the men under him higher than the orders of a corrupt bureaucracy.
Clear and Present Danger is a great read that moves at a fast pace--primarily from the point when the Columbians kill the three top U.S. officials. The President goes crazy over this action--and then the novel becomes exciting, full of mysterious intrigue, with political maneuvering and conspiracy along the way.
Many of the characters of the Jack Ryan universe are further developed with this book (Ryan, Clark, and Murray), some move on (Greer), or are introduced (Chavez and Ritter). In fact, a very important part of this novel is the introduction of Domingo Chavez--who will play in huge role from here on out.
So, Clear and Present Danger is a fast, intriguing, action-packed story, that takes the Jack Ryan universe to a higher level. As always, I recommend you read the Jack Ryan books from the beginning--starting with Patriot Games.
[Side note: The movie has some comparable scenes that are in the novel, and on it's own--is very good; but like most Clancy movies--Hollywood changes the story as the movie progresses. The casting is terrific, however.]