How can we explain the disastrous handling of MH370 by applying International Relations theories?

Exactly a year ago, MH370, the doomed flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, disappeared. Not delayed, so far not destroyed, it just got lost.

Among anger and sorrow from friends and relatives of the 239 passengers and crew that disappeared, the performance of the governments involved in solving the puzzle hasn’t looked good – Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, and China. Stuff happens. A catastrophe of such magnitude without any clues is truly exceptional, and therefore also, obviously, ripe with conspiracy theories.

So our question for this week is: putting aside technical matters, conspiracies and wild speculations, how can we explain such a disastrous handling of an event by applying International Relations theories?

Image credit: Flickr user Paul Rowbotham

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  1. Shen Dingli 4 years ago

    As per classic dynamics, the MH370 has returned to the earth mother ground, due to gravity. Also, before it fell to the ground, it was most likely flying not within any sovereign airspace, but in the space above the high seas. The question is: which particular area/point of the high seas?

    Assuming no country has truly followed the trajectory of MH370 before its fatal sinking, then the chilly reality is that the international community was not able to monitor the earth entirely and constantly, at least at the time of the MH370 incident. Using the jargon of IR theory, there is a limit of institutionalism despite our best possible efforts. However, the disappearance of MH370 has shown a big loophole in tracing all civilian aircraft flying above earth. This entails a significant lift of international cooperation in technical monitoring and institutional revamping, especially in the vast high sea area.

    Or, possibly one or few countries does know where and how MH370 has ended, but it was or they were unwilling to share the truth. Those who know the course and/or whereabouts of this Malaysian Airlines flight may try to keep the truth hidden for the sake of national interests. This is called realism. To overcome this it is necessary to develop a collective monitoring capacity, so information democracy has a chance to replace technological monarchy.

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  2. Klaus Segbers 4 years ago

    Governments should have an interest, one would assume, in cooperating, particularly in times of crisis. But we all know that they don't do that - at least not always. After the disappearance of MH 370, all governments that were involved (Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, China) were particularly eager to shift responsibility for the potential disaster away from their own doorsteps. The concerned public, the enraged relatives of those who were on board, and the global media were looking for who to blame. Against this background, cooperation with the other countries was probably not the first priority. Instead, there were all kinds of leaks, hints and remarks suggesting that some agencies and governments involved would be less interested in figuring out who the culprits actually were. And here, conspiracies and versions of extraterrestrials behind the disaster came in handy. Unfortunately, I don't see many reasons for why this kind of behavior should change in the future.

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