Aircraft Carriers and Robert Kaplan

Kaplan’s Atlantic cover story has stirred quite a hornet’s nest of discussion. It stems from a rather heated response by Thomas Barnett. This led to it being reproduced by praktike over at Liberals Against Terrorism. Matthew Yglesias then got involved in the ‘aircraft carrier’ debate, if you can call it that. He also points to a piece in TAP by Ted Carpenter and Justin Logan. Instapundit later picked up the Yglesias remarks.

While I do take some of the points made in criticism of Kaplan, I would not agree with some of the rather ill-considered arguments of Barnett. One of the main bones of contention is this passage from Kaplan’s piece, which is debated at length over on Yglesias’ blog.

To adapt, the Chinese are putting their fiber-optic systems underground and moving defense capabilities deep into western China, out of naval missile range—all the while developing an offensive strategy based on missiles designed to be capable of striking that supreme icon of American wealth and power, the aircraft carrier. The effect of a single Chinese cruise missile’s hitting a U.S. carrier, even if it did not sink the ship, would be politically and psychologically catastrophic, akin to al-Qaeda’s attacks on the Twin Towers. China is focusing on missiles and submarines as a way to humiliate us in specific encounters. Their long-range-missile program should deeply concern U.S. policymakers.