Friday, July 25, 2014

Shoot Downs

It's not especially likely that the Russian/Ukrainian separatists who shot down the 777 intended to bring down a civilian airliner. That said, many are comparing this event with the US shoot down of an Iranian airliner in 1988. It's perhaps instructive to compare the circumstances.

At that point, the Iraq-Iran war had been dragging on for seven years, and Iran was losing. The two countries had been attacking each other's shipping and port facilities the whole time. A desperate Iran decided to widen the war by attacking Kuwaiti and other third party shipping. This presented a direct threat to world oil supplies as well as to the third party nations, and Kuwait appealed to both the US and Russian to intervene. This dual appeal was sufficient to awaken Reagan (or his inner circle) from his snooze and promise action, which came in the form of reflagging Kuwaiti tankers as American and providing naval escorts. One of these escorts, the destroyer Vincennes, was engaged by Iranian naval vessels when its radar detected an approaching Iranian aircraft, which it misidentified as military, and shot down the airliner, killing all its passengers.