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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Reading List: Kiloton Threat

Boykin, William G. and Tom Morrisey. Kiloton Threat. Nashville: B&H Books, 2011. ISBN 978-0-8054-4954-9.
William G. Boykin retired from the U.S. Army in 2007 with the rank of Lieutenant General, having been a founding member of Delta Force and served with that special operations unit from 1978 through 1993, then as Commanding General of the U.S. Army Special Forces Command. He also served as Deputy Director of Special Activities in the CIA and Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence. When it comes to special operations, this is somebody who knows what he's talking about.

Something distinctly odd is going on in Iran—their nuclear weapons-related and missile development sites seem be blowing up on a regular basis for no apparent reason, and there are suspicions that shadowy forces may be in play to try to block Iran's becoming a nuclear armed power with the ability to deliver weapons with ballistic missiles. Had the U.S. decided to pursue such a campaign during the Bush administration, General Boykin would have been one of the people around the table planning the operations, so in this tale of operations in an Iran at the nuclear threshold he brings an encyclopedic knowledge not just of the special operations community but of the contending powers in Iran and the military capability at their disposal. The result is a thriller which may not have the kind of rock-em sock-em action of a Vince Flynn or Brad Thor novel, but exudes an authenticity comparable to a police procedural written by a thirty year veteran of the force.

In this novel, Iran has completed its long-sought goal to acquire nuclear weapons and intelligence indicates its intention to launch a preemptive strike against Israel, with the potential to provoke a regional if not global nuclear conflict. A senior figure in Iran's nuclear program has communicated his intent to defect and deliver the details necessary to avert the attack before it is launched, and CIA agent Blake Kershaw is paired with an Iranian émigré who can guide him through the country and provide access to the community in which the official resides. The mission goes horribly wrong (something with which author Boykin has direct personal experience, having been operations officer for the botched Iranian hostage rescue operation in 1980), and while Kershaw manages to get the defector out of the country, he leaves behind a person he solemnly promised to get out and is forced, from a sense of honour, to return to an Iran buzzing like a beehive whacked with a baseball bat, without official sanction, to rescue that person, then act independently to put an end to the threat.

There are a few copy editing goofs, but nothing that detracts from the story. The only factual errors I noted were the assertion that Ahmadinejad used the Quds Force “in much the same way as Hitler used the Waffen-SS” (the Waffen-SS was a multinational military force; the Allgemeine SS is the closest parallel to the Quds Force) and that a Cessna Caravan's “turboprop spun up to starting speed and caught with a ragged roar” (like all turboprops, there's only a smooth rising whine as the engine spools up; I've flown on these planes, and there's no “ragged roar”). Boykin and co-author Morrisey are committed Christians and express their faith on several occasions in the novel; radical secularists may find this irritating, but I didn't find it intrusive.

I have no idea whether the recent apparent kinetic energy transients at strategic sites in Iran are the work of special operators infiltrated into that country and, if so, who they're working for. But if they are, this book by the fellow all of the U.S. Army black ops people reported to just a few years ago provides excellent insights on how it might be done.

Posted at December 10, 2011 21:25