America versus the balloon
The Chinese have launched a high-altitude military observation balloon over America. There are two reasons why they have done so (not in priority order): firstly, to signal to the Americans that their support to the Ukraine is unwelcome—it’s an implicit threat, just to show Chinese displeasure; secondly, to probe America’s resolve while she is distracted in the Ukraine.
America should shoot the balloon down. There is much talk that America is in a “Cold War” with China, yet if this were 1973 and the Soviets sent an equivalent observation balloon over America it would have been a major crisis and every effort would have been made to shoot it down. In a war, even a cold war, it is critical to find out about the enemy’s technology—especially his surveillance technology. To shoot down and capture Soviet cameras and electronic equipment would provide the proverbial “treasure trove”—even if it confirmed that he had not advanced more than you thought. The Chinese electronics industry is infinitely more advanced than the Soviets were—hence it is even more important to know what they are up to. The fact no action has been taken means that for all the rhetoric about “Cold War with China”, from official conservatives in particular, nobody feels there really is one.
The balloon should also be shot down because the whole episode is a test. The Chinese have sent it in at an altitude to be seen for a reason. It’s a probe to see how soft the Americans have become. Answer: very soft—soft in the outhouse, as Burroughs said about the British in the 1970s. The war in the Ukraine started, in part, because America had a chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. Putin sensed weakness, sensed there would be no real push back and attacked the Ukraine. He was wrong, but it is precisely the weakness that leads to conflict. It’s General Patton again: attack! If you don’t, you increase the risk that there will be a wider conflict.
The Chinese will think, “They can’t even be bothered to defend their own airspace, what would they do about Taiwan?”. Hence this weakness leads to a wider war. As the Chinese suspect, the Americans are too distracted by the Ukraine war and don’t have a grasp on the whole situation. Not to shoot down the balloon, while apparently “harmless”, opens the path to war—to a bigger incursion to push the boundaries further.
As noted in yesterday’s post, back in the 1940s a single Utahan sheriff—Sheriff Hyde, an “absolute madman”—was prepared to tackle a Japanese balloon laden with explosives single-handed. He didn’t assume, since it was rural Utah, that nobody would be hurt and no property damaged. He didn’t think “what do I know about balloons?” and go back to type up a report at his station—he grabbed the balloon and was dragged for about an hour over barbed wire by it, at one point rising to 30ft in the air. This attitude is now absent in America, with its Lear-like doddery old man in charge. It may be technically difficult to shoot down the balloon, but Americans have much kit and many clever people—yet they will not even try.
I bet if you asked the Department of Defense, as a journalist, whether there was valuable information to be had from the Chinese electronic package underneath the balloon you would get some pro forma press release response along the lines, “While concerned by the activities of the Chinese government in US airspace, the DoD has full-spectrum awareness as regards all the capabilities of the People’s Republic of China as regards photographic and electronic surveillance.” In other words, bullshit—how do you know, until you get your hands on the actual equipment? We have spies, we hacked their computers—it’s fine; trust me, bro. Don’t panic, read this article from Air Force Today about how it is practically *impossible* to shoot down a high-altitude balloon—even serving pilots say, an F-35 pilot says, it’s practically impossible; they call operating that high “the imposs-o-sphere”.
Biden isn’t exactly the type of president to bang his desk and say, “Goddamit, I want results.” Even if it were impossible to shoot down the balloon (which I don’t think it is, at all), if it were Cold War time there would be Sputnik-like hysteria that “if they can do that, they’ll be in San Francisco by next May”. Nothing. Not even willing to try, just waffle about how it’s “okay”, “it happens all the time”, and so on.
Here’s a stupid and smug remark—stupid because smug. Look, if the Chinese were broadcasting propaganda like that the balloon would have been shot down before it grazed US airspace. If they couldn’t shoot it down, the president would have declared a national emergency and special recovery program for all the vulnerable people traumatised by the balloon’s propaganda.
The irony in this remark is that Kristol wants to mock “naïve, irrational Trump-worshippers” when America (Kristol) really worships George Floyd, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Harvey Milk. The tweet reflects his own belief system, his own fanatical trust in “our values” and projects that onto the Trumpites. People aren’t hauled up for de facto religious persecution in America for insulting Trump or Christ—they’re hauled up for iconoclasm against blacks, Jews, and women. It’s Kristol who is the “true-believer” and he’s completely detached from reality.
Anyway, as ever ancient Chinee wise man he say, “Female air overcome masculine rock. Pale ghost man he no shooty-shooty big Chinee balloon. The moon is in the seventh house, the dogs bark, and the blossom is on the peach trees.” When you crack open this fortune cookie it says, “The Americans are weak, you can violate their country and they’ll do nothing. They’re distracted with their grudge wars in the Ukraine and Iran, fought to help Jewish interests. We Chinese are very patient, not like blam-blam Hunter Bi-den. Soon, we will have our island.”