Lt. General Tom McInerney is an expert on handling threats from fighter jets.
McInerney served as:
- Commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (Norad) – the military agency responsible for protecting the United States and Canada from foreign jet attacks – for the Alaska region
- Commander of the Alaskan Air Command
- Commander of 11th Air Force in Alaska
- Commander of the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing, Clark Air Base, Philippines
- Commander of the 313th Air Division, Kadena Air Base, Japan
- Commander of 3rd Air Force, Royal Air Force Station Mildenhall, England
- Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force
- A command pilot with more than 4,100 flying hours, including 407 combat missions
In his role as Norad commander for Alaska, McInerney dealt with more Russian fighter jet incursions (which he calls “bear penetrations”) than anyone else in the world.
So McInerney knows how to tell innocent from hostile incursions by foreign fighter jets, standard rules of engagement of foreign fighter jets, how to read radar tracks, and the other things he would need to know to form an informed opinion about the shootdown of a foreign jet.
Yesterday, McInerney told Fox News – much to the surprise of the reporter interviewing him – that assuming the Turkish version of the flight path of the Russian jet is accurate, Russia wasn’t threatening Turkey, and that Turkey’s shoot down of the Russian jet “had to be pre-planned”, as the jet wasn’t in Turkish air space long enough for anything other than a premeditated attack to have brought it down:
McInerney is right … especially given that a U.S. official told Reuters that the Russian jet was inside of Syria when it was shot down:
The United States believes that the Russian jet shot down by Turkey on Tuesday was hit inside Syrian airspace after a brief incursion into Turkish airspace, a U.S. official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
But even if Turkey is right that the Russian jet was shot down over Turkey, the shootdown was still a war crime.
Specifically, as McInerney notes in the interview above, Russia was in no way threatening Turkey. It was on a bombing run against ISIS.
International law expert Francis Boyle - Professor of International Law at the University of Illinois, Champaign, who was responsible for drafting the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989 – said by email:
The Russian bombing of Syria is technically legal because they have the explicit permission of the Syrian government, but of course Putin will ultimately act in accord with his interests, not what is best for the Syrian people.
As the International Court of Justice ruled in the seminal Nicaragua case (1986), any use of force even in alleged self-defense must also fulfill the basic customary international law requirements of (1) necessity and (2) proportionality. Even accepting the government of Turkey's version of events, it does not appear that there was any "necessity" for Turkey to destroy the Russian jet.
Washington's Blog asked Boyle whether this is analogous to the "use of force" by someone with a gun who claims he was threatened by someone else. He answered affirmatively, explaining:
Necessity and Proportionality are each separate requirements for the use of force in self-defense.
From another [International Court of Justice] case, the basic test for “necessity” is that the necessity of self-defense must be instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means and no moment for deliberation. Clearly, that was not the case here.