November 16, 2011 2:14PM

Pining for the Next War at the Washington Post?

If nothing else, the Washington Post is fairly consistent in its use of over‐​the‐​top headlines that promise so much more than the stories deliver. I’ve commented on this excessive reliance on hyperbole before, but today’s web page headline (at around 2:00 pm) — Counter China with Troops in Australia* — warrants a few words.

The thrust of the story is that the U.S. military will establish a “permanent” presence of 250 troops in Darwin, Australia. Is reaffirmation of a U.S. commitment in the Pacific intended to send some kind of signal to China? Yes. But to counter what? China’s alleged expansionary designs? With 250 troops? 

Sure, the Chinese government has asserted disputable and disputed territorial claims throughout the South China Sea and sure the Aussies and Filipinos and Indonesians and Vietnamese would love to devote their resources to economic growth while U.S. taxpayers pick up their security costs, but the headline gives the impression of imminent conflagration.

I am growing more confident that any confrontation between the United States and China — should that occur in the years ahead — is more likely to be the product of provocative media sensationalism intended to arouse U.S. nationalism than any real belligerence on the part of China.

* As of 2:25, the headline has been softened somewhat to “U.S. Troops Headed to Australia, Irking China.”