“Compelling and visionary. DiMercurio’s characters run as deep as his submarines themselves!”
--Joe Buff, author of Crush Depth and Thunder in the Deep

"DiMercurio really knows his subs...his characters step right off the sub deck and onto his pages."
--Larry Bond

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--Publishers Weekly

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--Associated Press

"Superb storytelling."
--Virginia-Pilot/Ledger Star


by Michael DiMercurio, [IMAGE]2006


[IMAGE] Now we realize that World War III commenced in 1979 with the Iranian seizure of the American embassy in Tehran, taking the embassy staff as hostages for over 400 days while the Carter administration wrung its hands and waited helplessly for President Ronald Reagan to take office. The global rising of the militant Islamics started then and continued as the Russians found themselves chin deep in a quagmire in Afghanistan in 1980, as Islamic warriors no more sophisticated than Native American savages in the 1700s took on modern tanks and combat helicopters. Admittedly, in America’s Cold War against the Soviets, those savages were armed by us and trained to fight, and fight they did. That proxy war went according to plan, unlike Vietnam, proving that though you can put a gun in the hand of a soldier, that alone does not make him a warrior.

So imagine, if you will, that Russia and America were not so much adversaries but brethren forces of the West clashing with the disciples of Mohammed. In those two early battles, the armies of Western civilization lost. Only the threat of superior armed force by Reagan made the revolutionaries in Iran relent and give up the hostages, but did America give the Iranians the pounding they deserved? No, those militant Iranians lived to tell the tale and now run a rogue nation-state that is today threatening us with nuclear weapons.

From 1979 on, militant Islam considered itself holding an advantage. The West might be better armed, but Islam had a vicious fighting spirit and Islamic fighters were not just ready to die for victory, but hungered for the glory of death in battle. The Japanese invented the kamikaze, but Islamics perfected the suicide attack. The willingness of Islamic terrorists to die for their cause made the coordinated 9/11 assault on America possible.

The Islamic attacks continued and included the 1982 Marine barracks attack in Lebanon, the attacks on the U.S. embassies in Africa, the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, 9/11, Hezbollah’s recent war with Israel, and Iraq’s 2002 – 2003 violations of the U.N. requirements for nuclear inspections and Saddam’s insistence on telling the world Iraq had a nuclear weapons program. One could claim Saddam’s Iraq was a sideshow, and that he was no fervent Muslim true believer, but some observers wonder whether in Saddam’s later years he had begun to “drink the Kool Aid” of Islamic dogma – did he begin to believe the things he was shouting to the crowds before we took him down? The important point is that Iraq was an Islamic stronghold, and the men shooting at our troops saw us as infidels. Therefore, Iraq is part of this global and historical struggle of the West against militant Islam.

Now Iran rattles the saber, accelerates its nuclear weapons program and thumbs its nose at U.N. Security Council resolutions aimed at suspending Iran’s nuclear enrichment program. Iran’s response to U.N. demands was that it was prepared to talk about all issues. This is hardly an appropriate response when the demand was for the elimination of the program.

What’s a superpower to do?

The option list is short. First, we could ignore the recent Iranian developments and this diplomatic failure. Analysts insist that Iran is still ten years away from having a deployable nuclear bomb. All we would seem to risk is a black eye in the Security Council. Should we really consider the use of armed force for a little embarrassment on the world stage? Are we that thin skinned?

Option two is to continue our diplomatic efforts to isolate and coerce Iran into giving up its nuclear program. This is troublesome because Russia and China tend to consider Iran a spoiled, misbehaving but beloved nephew. Russian and Chinese trade with Iran is critical to their economies. The Russians need a market for their equipment, airplanes, and weapons (we’ll get to that little issue later). The Chinese desperately need oil and lots of it. A motion to impose harsh sanctions on Iran will go nowhere. And truth be told, we need that Iranian crude ourselves. Does our anger at Iran – not just for the recent nuclear flap, but for that 1979 unavenged hostage crisis – mean we’ll tolerate gas prices soaring past $8 a gallon? Hardly.

Let’s take a moment to explore reality. Economic forces are integral to war. We like to think that the Japanese Pearl Harbor attack came out of nowhere. In fact, the term “Pearl Harbor” is considered synonymous with a sneak, surprise attack, as in “my girlfriend just Pearl-Harbor-dumped me.” This was not strictly true. The United States provoked Japan, pushing the Japanese as hard as we could, perhaps the Roosevelt administration’s attempt to get America into the war and away from a pacifism that would ultimately damage the nation’s history. The American oil embargo on Japan of the late 1930s was essentially an act of war, and made it almost impossible for Japan to do anything but fight its way out of the crisis. It was shoot or starve, in the sense that lack of oil can choke an economy. In addition, history’s evidence suggests that U.S. government officials knew that the attack was coming, and that there were signs of the Pearl Harbor attack being imminent. On December 7, 1941, the aircraft carriers were at sea. The obsolete battleships lay tied up, tempting, juicy targets, and in came the Japanese to bomb the harbor. Had we done everything in our capability to stop that attack, it would have given away that we had much better intelligence on the Japanese than anyone thought. Did Roosevelt let Pearl Harbor happen? What else could he have done, given the position of the chess pieces around him?

To digress a bit more, let’s also remember that thanks to the best intelligence services since the Soviet KGB and the Nazi Gestapo, our CIA and NSA soldiers make the world stage more of a chess board than a poker game, at least for us. For other national leaders, it is a poker game, where the other player’s hands are an unknown and only the pattern of betting can predict what the other party is doing. But America’s chief executive and commander-in-chief couldn’t have better information to make decisions than he presently has.

If THAT is true, however, how is it that we thought Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, allowing us a mandate to invade and check under Saddam’s bed for WMDs ourselves? The answer is, we went far out of our way to collect information that would paint the situation as ambiguous, going to foreign sources and gossipy foreign intelligence memoranda. Cooler heads within the CIA and NSA knew the real score, that while Iraq was an eventual threat, there was no clear and present danger of Iraq lobbing a nuclear tipped ballistic missile at, say, Tel Aviv or a European city within range.

Wait a minute – if THAT’s true, then why did we invade Iraq? The real reasons are not so noble: First, Saddam was becoming unstable and threatening the region, prohibiting U.N. inspectors to prove that the Iraqi nuclear program was halted, and even bragging that he had nukes and wasn’t afraid to use them. To some hardliners, that alone was enough to go in and knock over his regime. That America could prove Saddam a brutal war criminal was a side benefit – it always is great if we can do what’s in our national interest and look good to the world at the same time. Second, all that oil needed a custodian if Saddam were to be taken out, and who do we trust more than the U.S. Army to watch over the asset? Third, after 9/11, it was considered politically valuable to be able to shoot SOMEONE who prayed in a mosque as part of “America’s Revenge” (picture that phrase as one of those CNN war logos). We needed to engage some militant Islamics, if for no other reason than that a dead militant Islamic can’t hurt us. Finally, and this is important, the world needed to know that America is not going to sit on our couches eating potato chips and watching bomb camera videos when a world crisis arises. It had been too long since American infantry marched on the sovereign soil of a foreign nation to shoot bullets in anger, and obviously the world had forgotten how good we are at doing that when the call comes.

By those criteria, Iraq was a success. The only problem is that occupied Iraq is descending into civil war, and to hold the oil, we have to tolerate our troops being shot at every day.

So along comes Iran. Yet another militant Islamic leader shows up threatening us and refusing to back down when it comes to enriching uranium for the purpose of making nuclear weapons. A nation sitting on vast supplies of oil, with oil delivery infrastructure that would be difficult to rebuild in a timely enough manner to avoid economic disaster to the U.S.

What, then, is a superpower to do about Iran? The answer partially comes from the Iraq experience. We made our point in Iraq. If we want to walk into Tehran and box the ears of the Iranian leaders, we can get that done between breakfast and lunch, assuming the Russians and Chinese stand idly by. If we want to seize the oil, we can. But then do we want to set up permanent camp in Iran and plan on a colonial government for the foreseeable future?

And what of Russia and China? We know economics is more an engine of war than national pride or national objectives. A cynic would say we’re not really shooting the M-16 for liberty and justice for all, we’re shooting it for the Dow Jones average. Similarly, the Russians and Chinese need Iran, so they wouldn’t take kindly to us rolling our tanks into downtown Tehran. Do we REALLY want a bunch of midnight conference calls going on between Moscow and Beijing discussing what to do about the “American Problem”?

Bear in mind that one of those nations, the one that invented rockets and gunpowder, may be a future adversary of ours. When and if that time comes, we’ll be happy to demonstrate what American courage, military ingenuity and marksmanship can do. But that’s not an item we need on today’s to-do list.

The answer to the question, “whatever shall we do about Iran?” is this – listen attentively at the CIA top secret briefing, and find out how long CIA think it will be until the Iranians have offensive nuclear capability. Take a few percentage points off that estimate for safety, and that’s the amount of time America has to play around with diplomacy. Diplomacy of the kind described as soothingly saying “nice doggy” while we slowly reach for a big rock. If CIA says we have ten years, then for the next seven we can rant and rave and throw shoes in the U.N. Security Council meetings. Obviously, CIA’s estimates need to be constantly updated, and Iran must remain a priority intelligence target with the agency’s best on the task. And the Iranian Invasion War Plan needs to be simulation tested and the subject of intense training of U.S. forces. But until Iran’s bomb gets closer, let’s keep the gun in the holster.

But on the morning the CIA top secret briefing officer informs the president that the current assessment is that Iran will have a live bomb within a few months, it’s time to implement the plan to take out their weapons capability. Air power, cruise missiles, and satellite-to-surface weapons should be employed, and if the bomb site is sufficiently hardened against conventional air assault, then we should (gasp!) use one of our own hydrogen bombs. Five or ten megatons ought to do the trick quite nicely. After all, we could always claim that the Iranians had an unfortunate nuclear accident on the graveyard shift. Play with fire and you might get burned.

At that point I suppose I could remove the ancient, worn and scratched “NUKE IRAN” bumper sticker from my equally worn and scratched 1980 Corvette.

Meanwhile, we should see about taking the Russians to the woodshed over arming the Iranians and helping them enrich uranium.

And while we’re waiting, let’s not forget to keep a weather eye toward China. Our generals and admirals and War College pupils should be memorizing the philosophy of Sun Tzu. They’ll need it, but hopefully not too soon.



As hurricane Helen barrels in toward the Virginia coastline, the U.S. Navy’s Commander-in-Chief Atlantic Fleet orders all vessels to scramble to sea, including Burke Dillinger’s Hampton and Peter Vornado’s Texas.

But this is no mere storm evacuation.

There is something sinister going on in the eastern Atlantic. The Navy’s eyes are on the ballistic missile submarine force, the “boomer” submarines loaded to the gills with intercontinental nuclear warheads. And the French boomer submarine Le Vigilant has “gone bad,” hijacked by an Algerian terrorist with dreams of completing the circle of revenge and using French nuclear weapons on the French who killed his father.

As terrorist Issam Zauabri’s forces learn how to employ the nuclear missiles, Vornado’s Texas and Dillinger’s Hampton close in on the threat, but Issam knows how to use torpedoes as well as he does the missiles, and Le Vigilant is one of the quietest submarines ever built. Once the American subs are on the bottom, his attack can proceed on Paris, but since it was Americans who interfered, Issam will save one missile for New York…

“Compelling and visionary. DiMercurio’s characters run as deep as his submarines themselves!”

--Joe Buff, author of Straits Of Power, Tidal Rip, Crush Depth, Thunder in the Deep, And Deep Sound Channel.

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Michael DiMercurio
Princeton, New Jersey



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