Malaysian Flight 370 and The Politics of Rescue

In the wake of the apparent tragedy of the missing Malaysian Flight MH370 the world’s attention has been grabbed by the human drama of the fate of those on the plane.  Are they still alive? Why was the plane preprogrammed to a different rout as alleged?  Why did the Malaysian government inform the families of those on the plane they believed their loved ones were dead via text message?

As compelling as these story lines are, we must face the reality that we might never know how or why this mystery happened or even any significant evidence of the plane anywhere.  That information is as lost to history as the answers to who killed JFK and how the pyramids were built.  What we do know however is fascinating as well and it has to do with how the world is searching for this plane.

The politics of the rescue mission started as soon as the plane officially went missing.  International aviation law states that if a plane goes missing during flight it is the responsibility of the nation in which the plane departed from until there is substantial evidence of where the plane landed.  Many countries included China (who had the most citizens on the flight of any country) were quick to criticize the Malaysian government for mishandling the search effort.

This increased attention may have been why the Malaysian government was quick to declare the plane had crashed in the South Indian Sea despite having no proof of that.  Eventually the search for flight 370 became the largest international search effort in history incorporating over 15 different countries including the United States and China.

Many in our country were clamoring for the United States, with its advance technologies and resources, to take over the search effort from Malaysia, who looked for any reason to distance themselves from the disaster.  However, despite having multiple citizens on board the missing plane, countries such the US, China, and India limited their search efforts by only sending a small amount of planes and ships to more or less look out with binoculars.  This was not because they did not want to find the plane, but they did not want to explain to the world how they did if they found it.  This would require some of the most powerful countries in the world to “show their hand” in the poker game of global security.

Reasoning like this is limiting the world from using some of their most up-to-date technologies in fear of having to share them with another country who then might copy it.  For the people on board flight 370 and their friends and family left waiting at home this game of don’t show don’t tell is only affecting them negatively.  Especially since finding this plane is as much or more of an element of global security if the theories of a terrorist hijack are true.  Unless the debris sightings produce results, the world’s most powerful countries will have to soon decide what is more important: helping the families of the people of flight 370 or maintaining secrecy.

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