On the day that America observed the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, its most potent tool for responding to future such assaults was operating near the places they are most likely to originate.
The USS Ronald Reagan, hosting 90 strike fighters and other combat aircraft, was underway in the North Arabian Sea, near the mouth of the Persian Gulf and within easy reach of Afghanistan.
Accompanied by two guided-missile warships and continuously updated by overhead intelligence, the Reagan could have answered any terrorist provocations within hours.
Meanwhile, a second Nimitz-class carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, was underway in the other area of greatest concern to U.S. military planners: the South China Sea.
It too hosted 90 combat aircraft that could have responded within hours to Chinese military moves around Taiwan or elsewhere in the region.
Relatively few Americans outside the naval community likely were aware that the carriers and