Monday, March 24, 2014

RE: MH370 and US Lawmakers


Regardless of whether the Malaysian government is actually "bungling" the search, it is not the place of US personnel to comment on practice, policy or execution.  Shut up.

The citizens of Malaysia are embarrassed enough without ugly Americans wading into the already-roiled waters.  They have enough angry people shouting at them, why add to that?  This is yet another example of the hand being offered is a clenched fist instead of a helping grip.

When Steve Fossett's plane crashed in 2007, a gigantic array of seachers were fielded, including satellite coverage from Google, and they even had a good idea where to look.  Fossett's plane wasn't found for over a year.  Not only that but they were searching on land - none of the bits were likely to have sunk under the surface of the ground.  Searching the ocean is a whole different kettle of wide-open featureless space.

American deputy national security advisor Tony Blinken, however, went on record stating that the various countries working together for the search was praiseworthy.  Good!  At least somebody is finding something positive to say.

Can't we all do that?  How hard would it be for American Congressmen to say, "Hard luck, gents.  It happens to all of us!  How can we help?"  That's all that needs to be said.  I'm quite certain Malaysia in general and Malaysian air traffic officials in particular are feeling a bit under the gun right now, let's not be jerks and pile on in their time of crisis, okay?

I'm going to sound awfully cold and calculating in the next few lines, so just roll with it: The US could come out of this, an air disaster in which we have virtually no stake at all (three Americans out of over 230 people aboard) smelling like a rose with just a little careful management.  It goes like this:

1) No critical commentary from US at all unless specifically asked for by Malaysian authorities, and then only in private.  Malaysia discloses criticism at their own discretion.

2) Bend over backward, sideways and inside out with assistance.  Rally every vessel we have to search and recovery efforts, everything within a week's sailing.

3) Commit search submersibles now.  Send their support fleets steaming to the nearest port for immediate dispatch once the crash site has been determined.

4) Shut up about all of it.  Be humble, be gracious, be self-deprecating.  The very best marketing is the marketing that is believed, and shouting your own merits tends to sound hollow.  When some other nation, however, has nice things to say, words like that have a lot more merit.  It sounds expensive to send half the Pacific fleet churning toward the Indian Ocean, but we wouldn't be firing any guns.  This is how a nation wins hearts and minds, and we're missing the opportunity.

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