American deterrence in Asia is a success of function, but a failure of application. “Credible combat power” was the answer, but the adversary has changed the question from “how to prevent a war” to “how to prevent the establishment of norms with everything short of war.” China’s harassment of civilian targets, positioning and posturing of military assets, and use of paramilitaries in the South China Sea reveals that China is choosing to defeat American military power by ignoring it: strategic asymmetry. China has created a military strategy that functions independent of how much military force America forward deploys.
Go read the whole thing. China is eating our lunch diplomatically, and through the exercise of hard power (though short of actual combat power) in the Western Pacific.
We’ve constrained ourselves to a simple “shoot/don’t shoot” paradigm. We continue to pursue diplomatic solutions when the Chinese are using that very process to stall and preclude any effective US response.