Sunday, September 23, 2007

Disaster at Sea?

On Friday Robert Kaplan—a journalist currently writing for The Atlantic—wrote and op-ed piece in the New York Times, arguing that the Iraq war may be the event which brings about the Asian Century. Throughout the article, Kaplan predicts scenarios and points out trends about Asian naval power.

A trend: Kaplan argues that the balance of naval power in Asia is changing. Specifically, he mentions China. It has five times as many submarines as America, and it is focusing on naval mines, G.P.S. satellite blocking technology, and ballistic missiles that are capable of hitting moving objects at sea. Kaplan also mentions that India’s Navy is on its way to being the 3rd largest, and Japan’s Navy is also increasing, soon to be 4 times larger than Britain’s Navy.

A forecast: As the Indian and Chinese middle classes grow, and consequently, as the demand for energy grows, the narrow bodies of water in and around the Indian Ocean will become clogged with tankers transporting oil and with the warships protecting the tankers routes. Kaplan calls this is a dangerous situation prone to terrorist attacks.

A trend: While pointing out that a willingness to use military power can be based on nationalism, Kaplan compares the level of nationalism in America and Europe to that in Asian countries. Kaplan calls the West post-nationalistic, seemingly ashamed for needing nuclear weapons. Contrastingly, the Indians, Pakistanis, and Chinese are prideful about possessing nuclear weapons, and certainly the Iranians are passionate about their right to poses nuclear weapons. Kaplan brings the discussion back to the Iraq war by blaming it for worsening the European trend towards pacifism.

A forecast: Several territorial disputes in the Asian seas remind Kaplan of the same sort of territorial dispute that “often led to war in early modern Europe.”

Kaplan goes on with more predictions and trends, describing what sounds like a recipe for disaster, but how possible are his predictions?

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