Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's diplomacy in the South China Sea is doomed to impotence because it consists entirely of declarations without the backing of sufficient naval potential, even now when China's navy is not half of what it will be in a decade. China's claims, equivalent to American expropriation of Caribbean waters all the way to the coast of Venezuela, are much like Hitler's annexations. But we no longer have bases in the area, our supply lines are attenuated across the vastness of the Pacific, we have much more than decimated our long-range aircraft, and even with a maximum carrier surge we would have to battle at least twice as many Chinese fighters.
The effect in principal surface warships is yet more pronounced. While China has risen from 56 to 78, the U.S. has descended from 207 to 114. In addition to parities, China is successfully focusing on exactly what it needs—terminal ballistic missile guidance, superfast torpedoes and wave-skimming missiles, swarms of oceangoing missile craft, battle-picture blinding—to address American vulnerabilities, while our counters are insufficient or nonexistent.
Maybe Obama thinks we don't need more ships in our Navy. But China is happy that we have fewer. Who are you going to believe? Who has skin in the game?