Stephen Hsu observes:
The strategic importance of the South China Sea and artificial islands constructed there is primarily to the ability of the US to cut off the flow of oil to PRC. The islands may enable PRC to gain dominance in the region and make US submarine operations much more difficult. US reaction to these assets is not driven by “international law” or fishing or oil rights, or even the desire to keep shipping lanes open. What is at stake is the US capability to cut off oil flow, a non-nuclear but highly threatening card it has (until now?) had at its disposal to play against China.
He also notes the vulnerability of the USN surface fleet to missile emplacements; modern missiles are to carriers as WWII carriers were to WWII battleships: the decisive vs. the obsolete.
Assume that’s so. How would Trump react to a Spratly or Paracel-based missile salvo sinking a carrier or a carrier group? Like FDR after Pearl. Decisive escalation. I predict we’d go nuclear immediately, and win. Which would suck, because it seems China is doing lots of the ballsy, Uber-like disruption in the sciences discussed here.
Trump wants a bigger Navy, for all the right reasons, but one side effect will be more targets tempting the Chinese to make a very bad mistake.