Streetwise Professor

July 29, 2011

Putting Hanlon’s Razor to the Test

Filed under: Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 6:56 pm

Poland has released a report that (a) acknowledges that Polish military pilots were primarily responsible for the crash of President Lech Kaczynski’s aircraft in April, 2010, but (b) lays some culpability at the feet of Russian air traffic controllers.  Here was one disturbing tidbit:

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk Friday insisted Polish investigators were given access to all documents in Russia and defended his choice to give the lead in the investigation to the Moscow-based committee. Yet the Polish committee said Friday Russia hadn’t disclosed video recordings of the control room at the airport in Smolensk as the recordings “hadn’t survived.”

Didn’t survive?  Seriously?  I mean, come on.  There’s an crash that kills the President of a neighboring country and 95 top officials and their spouses.  There are videos of the air traffic control room that was responsible for the flight.  And the videos don’t survive?

I know Hanlon’s Razor: “Never attribute to malice that which is reasonably explained by stupidity.”  (Believe me:  In this day and age, that razor gets used so much I have to run it over the strop daily.  NB: similar expressions are attributed to Napoleon, among others.)  But is something like this “reasonably” explained by stupidity or incompetence?  That is stretching the term “reasonably” to a breaking point.  Even marginally competent officials, not to say the barely sentient ones, would ensure the integrity of such potentially vital evidence.  The control room should have been locked down and all video and audio secured.  And shared with the Poles, BTW.

I doubt there was a nefarious plot to bring down the plane.  I’m pretty sure that the pilots screwed the pooch–possibly while being browbeaten by Kaczynski to land so he could get to the Katyn commemoration, weather be damned.  But I’m equally confident that the videos would have shown careless, grossly incompetent and quite possibly drunken performance by the air traffic controllers.

Remember that the ATC on duty “retired” immediately after the crash and took off to destinations unknown.  Allegedly.  How convenient.  And how convenient that the recordings didn’t survive.  Anything that could shed light on what Russian personnel did has vanished.  Wow.  What a bad break.  Could have happened anywhere.

But not anywhere, really.  In Russia–certainly.

This is a perfect illustration of how Russia is its own worst enemy.  Russian officialdom constantly whines about NATO being its most dangerous adversary.  NATO, hell.  Just look in a mirror, guys.

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  1. “quite possibly drunken”

    Russia has the ninth highest murder rate on this planet, higher than any other major industrialized nation. No other nation in the world has a higher divorce rate. Only only four nations drink more alcohol. By contrast, Russia doesn’t even rank in the top 125 nations of the world for life expectancy. If a person showed this kind of absolute, grim and dismal failure, a psychiatrist would no doubt classify him as a suicide risk. Indeed, Russia seems to be, for all the world, an entire nation hellbent on suicide — and indeed only five countries on this planet have people more likely to commit suicide than Russians.

    Comment by La Russophobe — July 29, 2011 @ 8:10 pm

  2. Confidence in Putvedev drops to an all-time low.

    Comment by La Russophobe — July 29, 2011 @ 8:54 pm

  3. I think a corollary to Hanlon’s razor could be “never attribute to grand plots what can easily be attributed to small plots.” I think you may have nailed it on the head. One drunken air traffic controller could have easily destroyed the tape to avoid losing his job (not to mention international embarrasment) as opposed to orders from the top.

    Comment by steve — July 29, 2011 @ 9:45 pm

  4. […] Professor comments on the Polish report about last year's planecrash killing the countrys' president, and goes […]

    Pingback by Poland-Russia: Passing Out Blame for Kaczynski Planecrash · Global Voices — July 30, 2011 @ 2:42 pm

  5. And the simplest explanation is they never bothered to tape anything in the first place.

    Comment by So? — July 31, 2011 @ 2:10 am

  6. So? They seem to have stated the tape did not survive, not that they never recorded it.

    Comment by Andrew — July 31, 2011 @ 11:55 am

  7. […] Professor comments on the Polish report about last year's planecrash killing the countrys' president, and goes […]

    Pingback by Official Russia | Poland-Russia: Passing Out Blame for Kaczynski Planecrash — July 31, 2011 @ 1:02 pm

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