But Stewart, a former B-1 bomber pilot, has gone beyond the hardware-driven war game scenarios that term suggests.
"The Third Consequence" delivers what techno-thriller fans crave - lots of action, but Stewart also examines the changed role of the military and U.S. power in a world driven by money and power, rather than by competing ideologies.
Stewart, who has written op-ed columns about the military's problems in recruiting and retaining personnel, points out that civilian airlines might not be the only enterprise willing to pay big bucks for experienced Air Force pilots.
Fed up with low pay and long deployments, Luther Wright is a bitter man who flies the Air Force's secret F-117 Stealth fighter. When he is approached by Iranian agents, he agrees to sabotage his squadron's mission in exchange for $10 million - just about what Iran loses daily because of American sanctions.
But Luther does not want to be a hunted man for the rest of his life, so he selects maverick pilot Ryan Cooney as his fall guy. He first manipulates events to get Cooney in trouble, then seemingly provides the way out.
When Iran uses sophisticated shore-to-ship missiles (with American technology sold to them by the Chinese) to close the Persian Gulf to oil traffic, the F-117 squadron is sent on a classified deployment to destroy the missile bases.
The isolation and top-secret nature of the mission put Luther in the perfect situation as commanding officer and the unit's only link with the Pentagon.
Meanwhile, an Army Ranger team made up of two young friends, Sgts. Brady O'Neil and Deacon Harley Smith, are sent to the Iranian desert to guide the air mission from the ground.
Stewart's air combat scenes have always been acclaimed as among the best in the business, but here he does just as good a job with the definitely earthbound Rangers, who spend their days living in dusty holes and looking for water while keeping a watch on the Iranian missile base.
There are also the telling details that make this genre fun, such as the fact that pilots on 20-hour flights have to eat stale bag lunches because of the dry air in the cockpit, the lines for lip balm in convenience stores around bases that are mobilizing for desert duty and the tendency for young Rangers on reconnaissance missions to take a Nintendo Gameboy along to ease the boredom.
Besides the usual international power politics and military brinksmanship that comes with this territory, "The Third Consequence" has the suspense of a good crime thriller as the frame tightens around Cooney, and he plots to save both his skin and the mission.
Not being able to tell the good guys by their uniform gives an edge to the characterizations, freeing the story from the usual gung-ho routine.
The title comes from a military doctrine that most of the too-intricate mission planners in techno-thrillers ignore: You can plan the primary effect of a strike with nearly 100 percent accuracy and secondary consequences with less than 50 percent accuracy, but the third consequence - what happens next - is anybody's guess.
Stewart doesn't engage in the philosophical and legal musings of James Huston nor does this novel employ the Graham Greene-like ambiguities of Ralph Peters.
But while "The Third Consequence" is an action thriller, Stewart makes a serious point: In an era where patriotism is downplayed and the likely future opponents of the U.S. military are rich - whether it's oil money, as in the cases of Iran or Iraq, or the big business tycoons of the Chinese military - corruption may be the espionage tool of the future.