If reports on the cause of the crash of the Germanwinds flight in the French Alps are to be believed, the co-pilot of the flight, Andreas Lubwitz, intentionally crashed the plane. Authorities claim that Lubwitz locked the pilot out of the cockpit when he left, and refused his reentry, while also initiating a descent through the pushing of the “descend” button. (Which sounds curious to me, as there was no “descend” button in the helicopters I once flew for the US Army, but admittedly, helicopters are quite different from airliners in myriad ways.)
I’m skeptical that such a radical explanation for what happened could be so quickly and conclusively drawn. I will await the fullness of time before I cast my lot with what appears will be the official narrative, not least to calibrate for the human mind’s instinctive tendency to assign human malevolence as the causative agent for whatever mysterious effects arise. If the earth is getting warmer, then it must be the fault of some latent human evil. If a plane mysteriously crashes into a mountainside or ocean, the pilot must have been suicidal or terroristic or beset by some other character flaw. On the thinnest of evidentiary reeds, speculation always runs to ill intent on the part of human actors. But the plausibility of the narrative in this instance can’t be denied. The cockpit door of airliners, which has been redesigned in the wake of the 9-11 hijacking to secure the good guys and keep out bad guys who might do an airplane full of passengers harm, can readily be used for just the opposite, to keep in the bad guys and keep out the good guys. And whatever is possible eventually comes to pass.
Assume for a moment that the co-pilot did indeed do as is claimed, and intentionally flew the airplane into the ground in order to kill himself and all the passengers and destroy the airplane. The opportunity to do so arose directly out of efforts to prevent that very thing from happening. Much like the Patriot Act passed in the wake of 9-11 providing blanket authorization for the conduct of military operations against al Qaeda and its affiliates to prevent another orgy of death and destruction made death and destruction more likely. The wars and military occupations embarked upon by the United States that successive administrations have argued are authorized by the Patriot Act have directly lead to the rise of ISIS in the Levant and to civil war in Yemen and to the Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan. The cost in lives and treasure of these wars long ago far exceeded the total cost of all the terrorist attacks on US soil. And now it appears the fortifying of the cockpit doors in airliners to prevent the takeover of a plane like happened in 9-11 has caused the very same thing it was designed to prevent.
The US has the reverse Midas touch when it comes to post-Cold War international relations. Everything it does turns shit. Most every effect expressly intended with its efforts have yielded the exactly opposite result. Only the initial war with Iraq, in which the objective was limited to expelling Iraq from Kuwait, succeeded in achieving its goals. But that war was tantamount to shaking the Middle Eastern tar baby with both hands. The more the US subsequently struggled to get free, the more it got stuck the baby’s embrace.
Just today, it was reported in the New York Times that three Iraqi militias had decided on their own initiative to pull out of the battle for Tikrit against ISIS because they don’t believe that American help is necessary or desired. What sort of state is Iraq, when its military units can decide on their own initiative whether or not they will fight? Saddam Hussein, a native of Tikrit, might have ruled with an iron fist, but he wouldn’t have allowed his military to dictate their own rules of engagement. Through American military involvement in the Levant over the last quarter century, the Iraqi state has been reduced to nothing more than a loose coalition of warlords generally allied with Iran whose main difference with ISIS is that it enjoys official US sanction. Iran must be incredulous, watching in amazement as the US expands and protects the frontiers of Iran’s empire.
But it’s all good. The US gets to create a new crop of heroes for the adoration of its cravenly dull population, while at the same time generating the next Middle Eastern conflict in which to become embroiled. Once ISIS is eliminated as a threat to Iranian hegemony, the US will be forced to undo what it did in the Levant through its support of Iran’s allies. It will execute an “about face” and turn its guns eastward, towards Persia. Thus will the US’s existential angst be salved. The country can’t be happy unless it has an enemy to fight. Otherwise, where would Dancing With the Stars get its supply of deformed and disabled humans tugging at the heartstrings by somehow managing to overcome their disabilities and deformities so that they can dance?
Yemen is another American disaster, though a bit more opaquely so than Iraq. The US has been waging a drone war in Yemen ever since it developed the capacity for drone warfare. The existing Yemeni government, the recently toppled one, supported the US effort to weed out its version of al Qaeda. The rest of Yemen was not all that happy with its government’s alliance with the US, a reality that completely failed the braintrust of the US intelligence community, and its chief intelligencer, President Obama, who as recently as last summer touted Yemen’s drone war as an American interventionist success story, something about as likely to exist as a flying unicorn. Now Saudi Arabia and Egypt are allied to fight against the new Yemeni government, which incidentally is backed by Iran. While the US was busy fighting to expand Iran’s imperial reach in the Levant, Iran slipped through the Arabian desert to expand its hegemony a bit more, threatening to encircle Saudi Arabia with its influence by taking over the tip of the southwestern Arabian peninsula. The US, of course, is backing Saudi Arabia and Egypt in the Yemeni operations, so it may well come to pass that the US and Iran are allied on one field of battle (the Levant) and enemy combatants on another field of battle (Yemen), which would have to constitute a flying unicorn of international diplomatic history. Surely nothing as foolish has ever before happened.
But wait, it gets better. Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon. The US desperately wishes they wouldn’t, for not readily-obvious reasons, except perhaps that Israel (who already has nuclear weapons) doesn’t want a nuclear Iran to upset a favorable power balance in the Middle East. There have been relentless negotiations that all add up to nothing. Iran is officially under some sort of weak-kneed economic sanctions which it naturally wants lifted but the US wants some assurance that Iran will abandon its nuclear fuel processing development (building a bomb is relatively simple; distilling weapon’s grade uranium is quite difficult). John Bolton, former US Ambassador to the UN, advises that to prevent Iran getting the bomb, Iran must be bombed, preferring that Israel do the job, but willing to allow the US do it if Israel is unwilling. So the scenario could very well play out like this—while the US continues to fight to protect Iranian hegemony in the Levant, it commences battle in Yemen to expel an Iranian ally that had taken power in a coup even as it also conducts deep bombing raids in Iran to destroy its uranium processing capability. It would be impossible to make this up. No spy novelist could get a plot like this past his publisher. It’s just too ridiculous to be believed.
If the crash investigators prove correct, fortified cockpit doors didn’t prevent the takeover of the Germanwings flight. They in fact were critical to the plane’s takeover and intentional crash. Likewise, the Patriot Act hasn’t eliminated terrorism, but the exercise of its extra-constitutional powers have in fact magnified the threat and cost many times more in lives and treasure than terrorists could have dreamed to cause. Something tells me that the battle with ISIS in the Levant and the support of Saudi Arabia in the Yemen civil war and the negotiations with Iran over its nuclear capabilities won’t end well for the US either.
Unless the purpose for US actions in the Middle East have been to foment unrest and opposition such that the US might be indefinitely engaged militarily in the area (not an implausible scenario), nothing it has done has turned out well. Is there any reason to think that its actions battling ISIS or supporting the Saudis in Yemen or deterring Iran’s nuclear ambitions will turn out any better?