The afternoon is pretty well over. Walt has been watching the idiot's lantern all day, hoping to see some encouraging news -- anything at all -- about the situation in Ukraine and the Western response -- anything at all -- to Russia's annexation of the Crimea.
I thought I might see a statement from the Jaw That Walks Like A Man -- the Secretary of State -- or perhaps "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy," meaning the Prez. But noooo, I saw only the man who uttered those words*, Veep Joe Biden, who was apparently in Lithuania and not happy to be there. I've seen more animated fenceposts.
What all this has to do with the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 will now be explained.
In "MH370: Three guesses from Walt", I gave you three possible answers to the question of what happened to MH370.
1. It was hijacked -- by whom or for what reason unknown.
2. Nobody was flying the plane -- appears to be partly correct, in that it is now suspected that the big U-turn to the southwest was programmed into the plane's computer.
3. It was shot down -- by the Chinese or American military, by design or by accident.
I think now that the explanation may be a combination of Nos. 1 and 3. For the purposes of this theory, let's fold No. 2 into No. 1. Here's how it might have played out.
MH370 makes the big turn, as commanded by its computer, and flies across the Malay peninsula and the Strait of Malacca, where it is "seen" by Malaysian radar. Whether it's under the control of one or both pilots or someone else doesn't matter. The plane is headed WSW to a destination unknown. According to some experts, it may have been flying under the radar -- literally -- below 5000 feet to avoid detection.
Nevertheless, somewhere over the southern part of the Indian Ocean, MH370 is spotted by a ground or airborne radar system, perhaps the radar of a military aircraft on patrol over that fairly empty part of the sea. What nation keeps its eye on that part of the ocean? Well, the USA for one, from its base at Diego Garcia.
The American (just sayin') aircraft intercepts the unidentified aircraft -- its transponder and other communications systems were turned off, remember -- and fires a missile, either as a warning or intending to hit it. If the missile hits the airliner, there should be a big bang, with 1000s of pieces of debris plunging into or onto the sea. Yet no wreckage has been seen. Why?
I'll tell you. Consider this possibility... Whoever's flying MH370 sees the missile coming and tries to take evasive action. A B-777 isn't as easy to manoeuvre as, say, an F-18. If it were put into a too-tight turn or a too-steep dive, it could plummet into the water at such an angle that it wouldn't break up -- straight down, like the Titanic only nose-first.
Either way, whoever shot at MH370 would know what happened to it. And they would tell their commanders, wouldn't they? Probably even the Commander-in-Chief would be notified. But would the rest of the world be told? See Walt's scenario No. 3.
Not only would "mum" be the word, but the country whose air force did the deed might even deliberately put searchers off the scent. I note that the USS Kidd, which was searching to the west of Malaysia, was withdrawn from the operation yesterday, supposedly at the request of the Malaysian government. "Nothing to see here, folks!"
Walt's latest theory also gives a reason for the invisibility of Messrs Obama and Kerry. I wouldn't be surprised if they've been huddling all day trying to figure out how to put the best face on the truth, when it comes out, as it must.
* Quoted in The New York Observer on 31 January 2007, quoted in Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin (Harper Collins 2010).