The Country Whose Name Dare Not Be Spoken

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DoD photo / Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta speaks with sailors aboard the Stennis on Aug. 22.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta spoke to the sailors of the carrier USS John C. Stennis on Wednesday in Bremerton, Wash. He lauded their their service, but warned of the threats still out there:

We have threats of nuclear proliferation with countries like North Korea in the Pacific; Iran in the Middle East. We have turmoil in the Middle East, turmoil with Syria, turmoil elsewhere. We have threats now from Iran to tankers that travel from the Straits of Hormuz. And we have rising powers in the Pacific that raise challenges with regard to the international rules of freedom of navigation.

He goes out of his way to name North Korea, Syria and Iran (twice!).

But when he says

we have rising powers in the Pacific that raise challenges with regard to the international rules of freedom of navigation

…he doesn’t mention China, which is obviously the target of that description.

Wonder why?

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Naval war is not like a land war.How long did it take Japan to destroy the Russian imperial navy?


The consequences of a hot engagement are too terrible to contemplate, for both sides and the rest of the world.

 The Soviet Union and the US used proxies to fight each other for 50 years. Do we expect the same games for the next 50?


Iran, North Korea and Syria are countries that we are not too seriously concerned about facing in a war nor tied to economically. If we make accusations about them there is little they can do but bluster back at us. Syria is not going to invade New York and North Korea isn't going to impose economic sanctions upon us (even if it did we wouldn't notice them.)

While I am sure that China is very much in the mind of strategists (both military and non-military) it is a country that we would prefer to find diplomatic ways to handle. Secretary Panetta might hint around the edges but he won't make any direct accusations.


Magical thinking, I suppose.  Panetta's not an idiot, so this is sort of surprising. "don't pay attention to it and it will go away".....? You can bet China's very much on his and most every military planner's mind. The Japanese are definitely thinking about China's power/land grabbing going on right now. Aren't we sworn to act on their behalf, too? Things are heating up more than usual, now....... No time for "magical thinking".


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