CNN: Sloppy Reporting on VX

CNN’s “Kim Jong Un ‘ordered’ half brother’s killing, South Korean intelligence says”

offers a shiny graphic about nerve agent VX, with gratuitously wrong-by-omission answers to these questions:

  • How can VX get into a human body? (water, food, sprayed)
  • The symptoms (blah, blah,blah.)

A  more accurate description is provided by CDC’s Facts About VX. Of these signs, CNN has chosen to display only the least alarming of the symptom set. Quoting CDC,

People exposed to a low or moderate dose of VX by inhalation, ingestion (swallowing), or skin absorption may experience some or all of the following symptoms within seconds to hours of exposure:

  • Abnormally low or high blood pressure
  • Blurred vision
  • Chest tightness
  • Confusion
  • Cough
  • Diarrhea
  • Drooling and excessive sweating
  • Drowsiness
  • Eye pain
  • Headache
  • Increased urination
  • Nausea, vomiting, and/or abdominal pain
  • Rapid breathing
  • Runny nose
  • Slow or fast heart rate
  • Small, pinpoint pupils
  • Watery eyes
  • Weakness

CDC is not immune to criticism. A “large dose” is 1/100 of a gram, barely visible to the naked eye. The CNN graphic “drop” is highly misleading. CDC states that VX is the most toxic agent. It is not; Novichok-5 is the most toxic weaponized, and there are even more toxic ones without delivery systems.

Perhaps, in tone, CNN is simply patterning off of CDC, who state,

What the long-term health effects are

Mild or moderately exposed people usually recover completely. Severely exposed people are not likely to survive.

 Review of the U.S. Army’s Health Risk Assessments For Oral Exposure to Six Chemical-Warfare Agents does not contradict this, but it does not offer strong support either. The human evidence presented in another Army paper,  (pdf) LONG-TERM HEALTH EFFECTS OFNERVE AGENTS AND MUSTARD, is merely anecdotal.

The Dugway sheep incident occurred the day after a spray-by-airplane release of VX in Skull Valley, Utah. In the Deseret News article, NERVE GAS LIKELY CAUSED LIFELONG ILLS, Ray Peck recalls what he thinks VX exposure did to his family.

The Army has never concluded that the airborne release of VX caused the death of 3,843 sheep the following day, or the chronic health problems of Peck’s family. The argument about what VX can do in the real world is caught between a lack of fit between science and statistics on one side, and powerful coincidence on the other. But if Peck is not provably right, his experience invalidates the studies. Scientific studies that attempt to simulate real-world scenarios in controlled situations have a special vulnerability to error.

Where public health intersects with CBW hazards, there is a tendency to edit the material to calm the public. Where weapons and war are concerned, CNN favors presentations that increase the alarm level. See CNN, Shame! Raise Your Standards! “Russia unveils ‘Satan 2 Missile”.

These errors are decoupled from any political agenda. Sloppiness, the desire to hook the reader with  “yellow journalism“, and the occasional misplaced sense of paternalism towards the readership are the likely causes. But it denies the readership the chance to inform themselves as well as they are able.

CNN, what would it cost you, in readership, money, or principles to do the job right?


Plan to Defeat ISIS, Part 2

We continue from Part 1.

History is taught as a sequence of cause-and-effect. This is a consequence of a belief in a causal universe, except where religious beliefs supervene. Recently, though, physicists have observed processes where the future appears to affect the past. Doubters may question whether this has any practical effect on our lives. It remains to be determined. But for the predictor, it offers an immediate suggestion. It may be possible to enhance a prediction  by including the possibility of a future event to “pull” current events toward that eventuality.

The conventional cause-and-effect reasoning of the historian does not permit a future “State of Eastern Syria-Western Iraq” to be incorporated into the reasoning process. But with a systematic method of including this possibility, the locomotives of the predictor’s train of reasoning can pull as well as push. The imaginary  state is now no more than the idea of a safe zone.

If General McMaster is to have any latitude in a plan to “defeat ISIS”, a  “Syria Safe Zone” must be the core of it. Besides it, there are no strokes more significant than details of tactical deployment, and how close American soldiers get to the meat grinder.  It is possible that a limited U.S. front line deployment could accomplish a specific task.  Since I do not want to help the enemy, I will not describe it.

Western Mosul is a meatgrinder; a place where the advantages of high tech weapons diminish against the defender. Anyone who has ever played a war game knows that between two qualitatively symmetric forces, the attacker requires a 3:1 numerical advantage over the defender. ISIS and the coalition are not symmetrical forces, and the rule is crude. But it cannot be ignored.

Mosul will soon be done with. Raqqa will follow. The prevalent thought is that these two objectives will mark some kind of an end for ISIS. As a caution, consider this scenario: With Iran’s backing, the Shiites move in on Sunni territory. The Gulf states, Turkey, or both, arm the Sunnis. Volunteers from the Caucasus appear and, after a short period of cooperation, hijack the weapons and raise a black banner. Voila, ISIS again.

A safe zone cannot be  just a humanitarian effort. ISIS seeks the opportunity of political vacuum.  A haven must include some kind of politics that repel ISIS. In Vietnam, which McMaster has studied extensively, the corresponding structure was based on the hamlet. Because the Syria desert is so inhospitable, a safe zone cannot be envisioned as dots of tiny hamlets on a wasteland. It is a huge enterprise.

Western Syria is populated because it has water; not enough of it, but enough to fight over. Eastern Syria and western Iraq are inhospitable deserts. In the  U.S., people live in constant company to infrastructure so invisibly efficient, we forget the necessity. In the east, in colonial times, the abundance of rainfall and fertile ground made it possible for an entire country to exist without it. West of the Rockies, in the area of the Great American Desert east of LA, this was never possible. Human existence, even for brief periods, is not possible without it.

Palm Springs is in the middle of that desert. Suppose we take a walk three miles out of town, fence off a square mile, and give it to a bunch of refugees. Without outside infrastructure, they would die, even though, almost within earshot, golfers tee off in lushly irrigated scenery.

The Syria-Iraq desert is bisected by the Euphrates river, which irrigates land on a belt 4 miles wide on the average. People already live there. But apart from tent cities in the desert, supplied perpetually by relief trucks with bottled water, it is the only prospect for survival.

This has happened before in Syria. According to some Arabists, the ancestors of the Bedouins of the Arabian Peninsula were originally Syrian farmers. By  population pressure, they were progressively dispossessed, driven towards lands of lesser fertility, until they reached the voids of desert sands. So we must ask the question: Would a safe zone lead to creation of a new “world’s poorest nation”, a kind of Bangladesh of the desert? Might  Assad’s tyranny be preferable? To help your thoughts along, imagine yourself in a tent outside of Palm Springs, with some bottles of water, some “food”, and absolutely no prospects.

The annual flow of the Euphrates averages about 600 cubic meters/second, comparable to the Colorado. But it is poorly used. Because the river slopes only slightly over much of it’s course, about half is lost to evaporation. To manage the river with the scientific precision of the Colorado would require the cooperation of three countries: Turkey, Syria, and Iraq, and at least four ethnic groups. Today, they are all prisoners of circumstance and prejudice.

Next: How to Deploy?

Kim Jong Nam & Vladimir Kara-Murza; All About Poisons; Novichok

The news agencies initially described agent VX as the most poisonous chemical weapon known. They seem to have corrected themselves. The distinction belongs to one or more of the Soviet “Novichok” family, dating to 1987. NTI, the Nuclear Threat Initiative, offers a brief statement in the (pdf) Russia Chemical Stockpile: alleged Undeclared “Novichok Capabilities”. For further confirmation, NCBI states,

The Soviet Union reacted with an extensive program (code name FOLIANT, NOVICHOK) for the development of new, fourth generation chemical weapons, and the result was a technology for binary ammunition with nerve agents exerting enhanced toxicity.

Many of the relics of the Cold War have remained elusive. But a principal of the Novichok program, Vil S. Mirzayanov, wrote a book, State Secrets: An Insider’s Chronicle of the Russian Chemical Weapons Program. In his blog entry, NOVICHOK CHEMICAL FORMULAS ARE NOT TERRORIST WEAPONS , he explains why he thinks it was OK to include the chemical formulas. I think he is correct. In fact, it is probably helpful for the formulas to be public knowledge.

Soviet assays indicated that at least some members of the Novichok family are 5 to 7 times more potent than VX.  But that is the least important distinction. The Soviets wanted a chemical that would be undetectable by technology deployed by NATO. Unlike VX, Novichok has no antidote. Although the effectiveness of antidotes under field conditions has always been questioned, it gives Novichok a psychological edge.

The degree to which a chemical agent can be weaponized depends on many factors, of which toxicity is probably the least important. VX can be used as an “area denial weapon.” Because it is persistent, it can be used to prevent an enemy from occupying, or even transiting an area. In this use, it is actually effective in the military sense without killing anybody. VX is stable in storage, and, as a binary agent, can be mixed in transit to the target from nontoxic precursor chemicals.

(Aljazeera) and (Reuters) North Korea  used a binary form of VX. Two nontoxic chemicals, applied to the face of Kim Jong Nam by two women, combined on his face and in his eyes  to form VX. One of the women, probably the second attacker, suffered symptoms of VX exposure, because the combination also occurred on her hand.

But for assassination, VX is not optimal. The stability of VX   allowed detection post mortem. Prepackaged, “lab-on-a-test-strip” tests, developed primarily for NATO  exist, as well as documented changes in body chemistry. See  NAP (National Academies Press) Chemical and Biological Terrorism: Research and Development to Improve Civilian Medical Response.

An ideal candidate chemical for assassination would have these properties:

  • Instability. Decays too rapidly to test for post-use. This is opposite the requirement for a weapon.
  • Lack of off-the-shelf tests.
  • Binary. Made of innocuous, common, nontoxic precursor chemicals. The precursors of Novichok are utterly commonplace.
  • Unavailability of an antidote.
  • A novel mode of toxicity, impairing the view of the toxicologist of exactly what happened to the victim. The mode of the Novichok agents is novel.

The past novelty of ricin (Markov) and polonium (Litvinenko) made them useful. They are now too well known.

In May 2015 Vladimir Kara-Murza was poisoned. He received nonspecific treatment at a Moscow hospital, and survived. The poison was not identified.  In February 2017, he was probably poisoned again. He has been allowed to leave Russia for treatment in the west. If the poison is not persistent in the body, examination of samples by western chemical warfare facilities will avail nothing. He walks with a cane, indicative of nerve damage.

The speculation of this article is that one of the hundred-or-so Novichok agents, but not the weaponizable Novichok-5/A-232, was used to poison Kara-Murza. Where avoidance of detection in the west is paramount, an unstable compound  might be chosen. In Russia, the “ultra toxic” solid state derivatives A-242 and A-262 (Mirzayanov,  State Secrets:…, page 145)  could have the advantage of ease of deployment.

Particularly striking is that in neither instance has Kara-Murza any idea as to how the poison was administered. It was administered specifically to him, with no collateral exposure,  possibly from a distance, via a dart made of a volatile or soluble substance.

Plan to Defeat ISIS, Part 1

ISIS is doomed anyway, but Trump wants to speed the outcome. Iraqi forces sustained (Washington Post) heavy casualties in the taking of eastern Mosul. Only part of this was due to the difficulties of urban warfare where civilians could or would not evacuate. The rest was due to the pain involved in  successful development of the coordination between  the various coalition forces.

General H.R. McMaster, Trump’s new national security advisor, is doubtless cognizant of everything in the discussion that follows. His appointment is in stark contrast to the populist, nationalist, militarist rhetoric issuing from Twitter and official statements. I hope that General McMaster will be unimpeded from  exercise of his own judgment. His preparation for the specific problem of an American intervention includes his Ph.d thesis, from which issued his book,  Dereliction of Duty. It followed with his command of the forces that retook (Washington Post) Tal Afar in 2005. Tal Afar is 40 miles west of Mosul, part of the strategy to cut the lines of ISIS to Syria.

Tal Afar is singular in McMaster’s mind because of his experience of it, and the brief durability of the result of a successful military campaign.  The broader parallels of Vietnam and Iraq are striking:

  • An insurgency; grass-roots military movements. In Vietnam, there was one. In the Levant, there are many.
  • Inability to isolate the theater from external reinforcement and influence.
  • Absence of national sentiment.
  • Ethnic discord. In Iraq, this is three-way: Shia, Sunni, and Kurd. Until the otherthrow of Ngô Đình Diệm in 1963, there was in Vietnam, along with the Communist insurgency, a Catholic-Buddhist struggle analogous to Saddam Hussein’s suppression of Shia political activity in Iraq.

Quoting WTNH (because it has no ad blocker)

Despite those tensions, Mattis and Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, described an enduring partnership between the U.S. and Iraq.

“I imagine we’ll be in this fight for a while and we’ll stand by each other,” Mattis said.

Townsend, who was standing by Mattis, declined to say how long the U.S. will stay in Iraq. But, he said, “I don’t anticipate that we’ll be asked to leave by the government of Iraq immediately after Mosul.” He added, “I think that the government of Iraq realizes their very complex fight, and they’re going to need the assistance of the coalition even beyond Mosul.”

This sounds very reasonable. But looking past the tranquil, reasonable, pluralistic, conciliatory face of Prim Minister Haider al-Abadi, all the important figures of the Iraq insurgency are still hanging around. Their soldiers have been reprogrammed, repurposed, repackaged, or killed. Except for those killed, they have the shelf life of dry matches, neatly stacked in boxes, ready for arson. Unlike matches, they can even be grown from seed. The product of religious schools receive the inculcation of “separate-but-better”, accentuating the religious divide.  Entering into a weak job market, they are classically vulnerable to radicalization.

The potential arsonists include ISIS sympathizers, who are embraced by coalition military strategy. The masses of Shia poor cannot be so embraced. They are part of Iran’s military strategy.

We cannot omit Kurdish nationalism,  a problem and an opportunity, mainly for manipulation. The Kurds, the groups with the most western outlook, have been in the meat grinder of political maps since around 1870. There can be no peace with or without the Kurds, oxymoron intended.

I would not have expected Mattis to say anything else. But in this region, an article of faith is, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Such friendship is fleeting.

To be continued shortly.


The New Russian Cruise Missile – Geopolitical Implications

The SSC-8 is probably similar to modern U.S. cruise missiles, with the ability for redeployment while in flight. It is entirely different from the Iskander, which is a ballistic missile with some terminal guidance capability.

The Russians claim  the missile is necessary for a parity-in-kind with Asian nations that possess similar missiles, notably China.  This actually has some merit. But it has a  particular use with Germany: to create domestic stress  in similar to that which occurred with the deployment of the Pershing II. Quoting from the accurate Wikipedia article, which I have redacted with ellipses (go read the article):

“Protests against the short-range MGM-52 Lance nuclear missile began in July 1981… In 1983, protesters went to court to stop the Pershing II deployment as a violation of Article 26(1) of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany, …Again in Bonn in October 1983, as many as 500,000 people protested the deployment and a human chain was formed…”

But, you might say, the SSC-8 is a Russian missile, while the Pershing was American. To Germans, they evoke a common fear: Germany, a compact nation, in the bulls eye of conflict. The shape of war in Germany is an old fear, dating to the founding  of NATO. It is the idea that a war would not be fought on Germany’s borders. It would, the Russian missiles emphasize, be total, involving all of German territory at once.

The Russian claim of an Asian purpose does not grant them innocence of the European. One unit has been deployed to central Asia, while the other remains near Volgograd, within range of Germany. One of Henry Kissinger’s predictions, in Does America Need a Foreign Policy? (2002), was that Germany would drift towards the east. The Russians may hope that, with modern techniques of subversion, fake news, covert funding, etc., and less than solid commitment by the U.S. to NATO, they might pry Germany in that direction. And with Germany, the Baltic states would break off like brittle bone.

The technical details of the missile are unremarkable. But the payoff to Russia is worth breaking the INF treaty.  The Russians may have a reasonable desire for parity with China.  But the  range of the Volgograd deployment says to Germany, “Here’s looking at you, kid.”

But not with love.

Contradictions of the Flynn Affair; What did Flynn Say?

(Reuters) Trump knew for weeks that aide was being misleading over Russia: White House contains the assertion, by an unknown official:

“A U.S. official familiar with the transcripts of the calls with the ambassador said Flynn indicated that if Russia did not retaliate in kind for Obama’s Dec. 29 order expelling 35 Russian suspected spies and sanctioning Russian spy agencies, that could smooth the way toward a broader discussion of improving U.S.-Russian relations once Trump took power.”

As Trump remarked via Twitter, Flynn was apparently successful. From (Reuters) Trump adviser had five calls with Russian envoy on day of sanctions: sources,

But on Dec. 30, Putin announced that he would not retaliate. Trump praised Putin for the decision, writing in a Twitter post, “Great move on delay (by V.Putin). I always knew he was very smart!”

 Were five phone calls required to say what the unnamed official states the transcripts contain? From (Washington Post) National security adviser Flynn discussed sanctions with Russian ambassador, despite denials, officials say,

National security adviser Michael Flynn privately discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to the United States during the month before President Trump took office, contrary to public assertions by Trump officials, current and former U.S. officials said.

So there are two separate, non overlapping accounts of the substance of Flynn’s conversations.

After my August post, CIA Chief: Trump “Unwitting agent of the Russian Federation”, I did not revisit the issue of the title. To do so risks diversion from analysis to politics, which is characterized by deliberate tendentiousness and subjectivity. But turning a blind eye is also a kind of statement. These are the  questions:

If it were not for the presence of the above, the Flynn Affair would be over as quick as you can say, “You’re fired!”

There has been resistance, in U.S. society as a whole, to the idea that Russia, beginning with RT and Anna Chapman, has recreated the modern equivalent of the KGB, and  Comintern (comparison because of the activity in media), with the U.S. as a target.  In Reuters Opinion: Did Russia Hack the Clinton emails?, I critiqued an article, Commentary: Don’t be so sure Russia hacked the Clinton emails, that seems manifestly nonsensical now.

Why are the Russians putting so much effort into this? They don’t have an ideology to sell. It’s one more non-conventional military weapon, to augment what they see as their unending battle with the West. In the Iran-Iraq war, Iran used suicide bombers, not as any kind of religious statement, but as a practical device.

It may have been nothing more than Trump’s naivete with respect to foreign affairs, or an inherent bias toward economic activity over the attitudes widely held since the start of the Cold War. (For a mercantile theory, see 2017 Predictions; Trump’s U.S./Russia Codominium/ New-New World Order). Perhaps he is inspired by the example of Armand Hammer, a distinguished American businessman and friend of Russia. Ironically, it was more acceptable to be a friend of an unconditional adversary than an ambiguous one like Putin’s Russia.

Nevertheless, it is a reminder of the joint responsibility of Congress to preserve the Republic.

If you’re an absolutist, Flynn’s phone calls are inexcusable. If you’re a relativist, it depends upon whether Flynn acted against Trump’s agenda, or in support of it. But that doesn’t untie the knot in the stomach, because most of us don’t want Trump’s agenda to be cozy reconciliation with Russia.

If you’re a digger, here’s an interesting thing to dig up:

Within the past 50 years, in the U.S.,

something like this has happened before.

It was not a complete secret at the time.


The Focus of this Blog; by Way of Explanation

The U.S. is currently in the midst of a political crisis that promises years of discord. In the midst of our domestic tumult, the rest of the world seems less important. I share this feeling.

As much as possible, this blog distinguishes itself by subject matter (focus) and approach to it. The reader has a right to expect this will be maintained. Michael Flynn was a borderline exception, a domestic official whose job related to international affairs.

The focus of this blog will continue to encompass the figures of the Trump administration as they relate to international affairs.


Michael Flynn Resigns; echoes of Harry Dexter White

(Reuters) “Trump national security adviser Flynn resigns in controversy over Russian contacts”

This was preceded by (Reuters) “Justice Department warned Trump on Flynn: official” Quoting,

The Justice Department warned the White House weeks ago that national security adviser Michael Flynn could be vulnerable to blackmail for contacts with Russian officials before President Donald Trump took power, a U.S. official said on Monday.

Michael Flynn’s phone calls with the Russian Ambassador  floats the theory that the Flynn calls were the cause of the Russia/China flip-flop. It did not have to be the only cause, but the magnitude/speed of the flip would not be expected from typical counseling of the cabinet.

One objection to the theory is that the timing of the flip did not align with the disclosure that Flynn had lied to Pence. But the notification by the Justice Department  “weeks ago” removes the objection. The Flynn Affair was partly stage managed.

In a post of August 2016, CIA Chief: Trump “Unwitting agent of the Russian Federation”, I expressed concern identical to that of former CIA acting Director Michael Morell.  In a plot twist, the culprit is Flynn. The similarities between Michael Flynn and Harry Dexter White are striking. Neither considered himself an agent of a foreign power. Both took it upon themselves to autonomously make and execute foreign policy for the United States. Flynn’s actions may have been more grievous, because they vitiated possibilities for linkage in negotiation. His resignation is a signal that the Trump administration intends to reclaim that leverage.

From that post,

Has supreme self confidence been our undoing before? Harry Dexter White was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in 1946, U.S. representative to the Bretton Woods conference, and co-creator of the International Monetary Fund. He had numerous contacts with Soviet Intelligence that has lead to the somewhat debated conclusion that he was a Soviet spy.

Donald Trump’s Internal Conflicts  considers the possibility that Trump will change.  Perhaps he will trend towards the “internationalist” viewpoint, our valued heritage of  the architects of the post-war world. There is reason for hope.

Iraq’s Shi’ite Power Struggle

Reuters: Baghdad’s bloody protests mark resumption of Shi’ite power struggle. This is tagged as “analysis”, which is good, because it can be analyzed differently. The piece asserts that Iran regards Nouri al-Maliki as their loyal ally, while pushing Muqtada al-Sadr to the periphery. This assumes much more certainty about the power structure of Iran than actually exists. Iran has confounded specialists (notice, I did not write “experts”) since the 1979 revolution.

In Iran, Foreign Policy, and Positivism, I wrote,

In the holy city of Qom, clerics churn out commentary, the quantity, aesthetic quality, and popularity of which define the reputation and power of an ayatollah and his school. The anatomy of the state, the veins through which the power flows, and the currency of  legitimate rule are different from any other state in the world today. It is a hybridization of Plato’s Republic (compare Plato’s ruling “guardians” with Iran’s Guardian Council)  with a state structure that until 2005 occasioned significant expression of secular ideas.

Most governments exhibit publicly noticeable obvious divergences of opinion. The Trump administration is the most recent example. But Iran is unique; the government has multiple centers of power, each with apparent license to carry on an independent foreign policy. It is commonly accepted that Iran’s government has three major entities, the secular, the IRG (Republican Guard), and the Qom religious establishment.

Each of these groups has by itself all the functional parts of a national government: sources of revenue, provision of services, court systems, and police powers. At various times, it has been speculated that the power of the IRG eclipsed the religious establishment. This is important, because it underlines the lack of certainty about Iran. Analysts who claim certainty in their analysis are playing to the audience. Adding to the complexity, factions within the Qom establishment have the ability to independently fund foreign policy “initiatives” through Iran’s financially huge and opaque bonyads (foundations.)

Al Monitor’s  “Is Iran about to cut Muqtada al-Sadr loose?” supports the notion that Sadr has become annoying to the Iranians. Statements by Ali Akbar Velayati and Khamenei himself support this.  But, quoting,

The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hossein Jaber Ansari, reacted to rumors of Sadr’s visit to Iran in mid-May 2016 after his supporters had stormed the parliament by saying that the Iraqi cleric was not on an official visit and that “no official meeting has taken place between him and Iranian officials….”

The visit was widely reported. Even the  WSJ picked it up. It may have been “fake news.”  If so, it was made plausible by his prior travels. Sadr spent three years in Iran, in self imposed “exile”.  It wasn’t for the sunshine. As a junior cleric with higher aspirations, most of it was likely in Qom, where he received education from the ultimate masters of Iranian society. Sadr’s family ancestry connects with Iran’s religious establishment. This is not unusual; Ali al-Sistani is Iranian. But it is not a neutral fact.

The search for simple conclusions requires that Iran is a unitary entity. With just one Iran, al-Sadr becomes  either an Iranian puppet or an Iraqi nationalist. But he is more likely  a pawn (with some independent attitude) of a particular Qom faction. In Qom, in quiet rooms of tea-drinking mullahs, religious debate, and constant publication, al-Sadr becomes the tangible expression of ambition in a religious wrapper.

There is no one puppet-master called Iran. The successful predictor will discover a methodology to determine which of the multiple images of  Iran is in ascendance.


Michael Flynn’s phone calls with the Russian Ambassador

Within weeks, the Trump Administration has flip-flopped on Russia/China.

In Tarzan-speak, the earlier monologue was,

(Cry) Me Trump. Trump friend of Russia. China no friend of me. Me kick China butt off islands. Taiwan no part of China, me friend Taiwan. Tarzan Europe no friend.

The monologue now goes,

(Cry) Me Trump. Trump like one China Taiwan. Russia missiles no good. Trump beat Russia missiles no good treaty. Trump no let Russia beat Ukraine. Trump like Europe. Trump help Europe.

The daily drama of the Trump Administration has obscured the speed of this amazing flip-flop, in a few short weeks, from favoring the world’s largest country to conciliating the world’s most populous.

If you’re into open source, this can’t pass as mere noise. Occam’s Razor allows us the simplest explanation:

  • (Reuters) Flynn violated the Logan Act. This by itself is not considered important by many. No one has ever been prosecuted under the Act. It’s happened before, with no consequence.
  • Washington Post: Flynn was not truthful about the substance of his conversations with officials of the Russian government.
  • There is an atmosphere of fear, engendered more by Trump’s expressed admiration for Putin than Flynn’s actions.
  • Congressional apprehension of Trump’s attitude towards Russia is bipartisan.
  • Hypothesis: Trump has been told that the situation, in toto, is a liability that could become a crisis. It is fear-driven.
  • The flip-flop removes most of the fear, thereby vitiating the significance of the current revelations and possible future discoveries.

The above explanation is functional without the elaboration of complex conspiracy theories.

How well could you do?