A sense of the unknown and the uncharted grips the week's news. The Trump administration travels the foggiest of roads to resolving crises involving the Mexico border, Iran, Russia, China, and Venezuela.
A secret White House plan to arrest thousands of parents with children who migrated to 10 major U.S. cities since last year was reportedly nixed at the Department of Homeland Security. The plan presented such problems as insufficient resources and readiness.
With "emergency" construction of President Donald Trump's border wall still a work that may be in progress, a coherent series of actions to stem the human tide has yet to become clear.
National Security Adviser John Bolton had acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan last week present a contingency plan to send up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East if Iran attacks U.S. forces or steps up nuclear development, The New York Times said.
So far the situation doesn't seem to command that level of response. U.S. military officials surmise that Iran or proxies carried out sabotage on four tankers over the weekend in the Gulf of Oman. A U.S. carrier strike group was ordered to the region, but its possible relevance looking ahead remains vague.
"It's going to be a bad problem for Iran if something happens," Trump warned rather ambiguously.
"We fundamentally don’t seek a war with Iran," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo added, more assuringly but almost as opaquely.
Pompeo commented in Moscow, where he spoke with Russian officials about Venezuela, which is an obstacle to improved relations between the bigger powers. President Nicolás Maduro, presiding over chaos and repression, still has the Putin regime's backing. The U.S. recognizes opposition leader Juan Guaido as the interim president. The deadlock could last indefinitely as refugees flee the oil-rich nation.
China and the Trump administration ratcheted up tariffs in a trade war. Whether this remains the long-term status quo could depend on whether American negotiators succeed or fail in getting the Beijing regime to make desired concessions on intellectual property theft and access to markets.
Even some of the basics on one side of the fight are unclear. Trump's clearly false claim that U.S. tariffs added up to a tax solely on China worth hundreds of billions of dollars drew contradiction from his chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow.
“In fact, both sides will pay,” Kudlow told Fox News. “Both sides will pay in these things.”
Confused messaging also surrounds stalled negotiations with North Korea.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) cited unknowns, particularly about Iran, in criticizing the administration.
He said he found the Pentagon troop plan “completely baffling and incredibly alarming.”
"It seems that hard-liners in the administration are pushing the conversation in a very dangerous direction, and I’m very concerned," Schumer said.
But it was even unclear how Schumer or anyone else would know for sure .