Jack Ryan, the stoic superhero of Tom Clancy's best-selling thrillers of international intrigue and terrorism, is representative of a globalized Washington. As his career develops through novels such as Patriot Games (1987), Clear and Present Danger (1989), and Debt of Honor (1994), he teaches at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, climbs to the top in the Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, Virginia, and becomes National Security Advisor in the White House. As he helps the United States through the Cold War, the drug war, and fierce maneuvering for economic empire, he moves freely among the control centers of the foreign policy and national security apparatus. In the process of this globe-spanning networking, the Washington that he sees is a sequence of wood-paneled conference rooms from which American and international organizations exert influence around the world.
The comparable English-language books with a Berlin setting are the spy stories of John le Carré and Len Deighton. On these pages, the divided city of the Cold War is a place of close calls and closed surroundings. The landscape of espionage is dark rooms, faded hotels, grey shadows, and black-market deals. Foreigners like Le Carré's George Smiley and natives like Deighton's Werner Volkman look for small freedoms between the constricting forces of West and East. If global influence radiates outward from Washington, it converges on Berlin in this popular understanding.
This contrast of source and recipient – fountain and focus – introduces a comparison of Washington and Berlin as international cities. This essay begins with theoretical ideas about the definition and character of international cities and briefly defines a temporal framework for comparing the international roles of Washington and Berlin. It then summarizes the history of Washington’s internationalization and closes with comments about points of comparison and contrast with Berlin. The Washington narrative is about gradually accumulating institutions, leadership, and control. The story for Berlin, I hypothesize, is one of roles that have flowed and ebbed within the limiting frameworks of the Great Power and Cold War state systems, all the while constrained by particular burdens of German history.