No news is good news. That might have been the bumper sticker for Ash Carter's first tour of Asia as secretary of defense.

It was mostly quiet on the Eastern front. Carter consulted with Japanese and South Korean leaders, gave pep talks to American troops and repeatedly remarked that compared to the Middle East, the Asia-Pacific is calm and on a prosperous track.

That's a welcome respite from crisis for a Pentagon chief not yet two months into his tenure.

It's also a reminder of why the Obama administration's much-advertised pivot to Asia, after more than a decade of all-consuming war in Iraq and Afghanistan, keeps getting overshadowed by rising towers of trouble in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere across the Middle East.