The Trump White House and the Pentagon were either deliberately deceiving the American people last week, or they were so incompetent that they just didn’t know what they were doing. It’s likely a combination of both. Amy Davidson of the New Yorker reports, Donald Trump, North Korea, and the case of the phantom armada:
Some degree of delusion always has to be factored in with Donald Trump: when he referred to “the aircraft carriers” and, in another interview, with Fox Business, said that “we are sending an armada, very powerful,” he was widely understood to be referring to a single aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Carl Vinson, and its support ships. In fairness, the Vinson would have been powerful and provocative enough—if it had, in fact, been speeding toward the Korean Peninsula, or the Sea of Japan, or even just the Pacific Ocean, which it was not. It was in the Indian Ocean, headed in the opposite direction, for exercises with what might be described as the Australian Armada. Just when you think you see the contours of Trump’s phantom menace, he comes up with a Phantom Fleet.
[T]he movements of a carrier group can’t be so hard to conceal, except, perhaps, from the people in charge of America’s foreign policy. Trump wasn’t alone on this one; it’s not a case of him just causing trouble with his phone and Twitter account, rambling about bad hombres. As the timeline makes clear, it’s even worse. (The Wall Street Journal and the Times have good versions.) On April 9th, three days before Trump’s Wall Street Journal interview, the Navy had said that it had ordered the Vinson “to sail north”; H. R. McMaster, the national-security adviser, reiterated that news on the same day, framing it as a response to North Korea’s own provocative moves. Secretary of Defense James Mattis followed that up on April 11th by saying that the Indian Ocean exercises were off, and said that the Vinson was “just on her way up there.” That was false. The next day, the Navy said again that the Vinson had been “ordered north”; it added that the effects of that deployment on “other previously scheduled activities are still being assessed during the transit.” The Pentagon is now trying to sell that last bit as a quiet correction of Mattis, which the press mysteriously missed—but that is, simply put, ridiculous. For one thing, there’s the phrase “during the transit,” which assumes that transit had begun. Or is the idea that the Vinson was on its way to the Sea of Japan, in the sense that we are all on our way from cradle to grave, or that Trump is in transit from the Oval Office to choosing items for the gift shop in his Presidential library? A lot can happen in between.