Sunday, February 5, 2023

Balloons and Hot Air - Clarice Feldman


by Clarice Feldman

Biden, his administration, and the entire U.S. military and political establishment humiliated by a balloon.

There are sites which regularly publish President Biden’s verbal gaffes. When he’s not hiding in his basement these perilous days, those gaffes are one of the few things you can reliably count on. published one Biden flub this week that is among my favorites. 

BIDEN: "More than half the women in my administration are women."

If you doubt the accuracy of this there’s a video they’ve published which captured it.

Now that I think of it, given the way that Biden staffed his administration, perhaps this wasn’t a gaffe, but a rare moment of honesty from someone so consistently dissembling over many years that he makes Congressman George Santos look like an amateur. 

In a break from the focus on Russia and Ukraine this week, a Chinese spy balloon was captured on film over Montana as it traveled across the country, viewing and transmitting home -- from a 90-foot array of equipment -- who knows what.  There was a claim that it exploded over Montana, but that claim seems to have been credibly debunked.

The military claims it cannot do anything about it, that the balloon currently does not pose a "military or political" threat. They’ve also contended that in their assessment shooting it down could create debris that might hurt people on the ground.

The Chinese claim it’s a weather (meteorology balloon) that strayed into our territory.  That seems unlikely, so you can expect there’s a great deal of speculation about its purpose. Is it to taunt us? Humiliate our demented president and his administration? Is it a trial run for something worse?

Was our intelligence lacking and permitted the overflight? The NY Post says it wasn’t, that we knew about it for a week before it was spotted by civilians and tried to hide it so the overflight would not interfere with Secretary Antony Blinken’s’ planned trip to China. If that was the intention, it failed, and the trip, after all, was cancelled once the administration’s plan to keep it secret failed.

Some have contended that the balloon did not clearly violate our airspace. After quoting Larry Johnson, Mark Wauck says all the fuss is just Sturm and Drang, because there’s nothing illegal about the balloon’s traversing the USA.  

The basic idea is that countries with military related satellites -- which also includes intelligence gathering -- have agreed not to interfere with satellites in “outer space”. At least not during peace times. The agreement isn’t written in stone, and there is nothing in international law defining “where earth’s atmosphere ends and space begins.” The 60-mile limit is a “de facto assumption,” not a legal definition, and rests on common sense ideas, but includes some grey areas, which Larry explains. 

The Chinese balloon is traversing the US at an altitude of 55 miles.

What’s going on here? I think Larry is absolutely right: The Chinese, having had to put up with continual US political, military, and intel gathering provocations for years are now yanking our chain:

The heart of the issue is that the Chinese balloon does not pose a greater security threat to the United States than a Chinese military satellite. What has so many arm chair generals and pundits pissed off is that the Chinese are ridiculing our impotence. Nancy Pelosi goes to Taiwan as a deliberate insult to China and the Chinese now send us a balloon and daring us to shoot it down. That is a bait the U.S. should not take. 

I certainly have no idea whether or not this is a dangerous move by China or how we should respond, though my friends Stephen and Shoshanna Bryen, with a lifetime of experience in such matters, think it exposes a massive vulnerability.

First, they expose as unpersuasive the military defense for doing nothing:

To the claim that the balloon was operating far above commercial airspace they remind us that we learned about it only because it was spotted and photographed by a passenger on a commercial plane. To the claim that shooting it down would create debris that might injure civilians on the ground, the Bryens note it was spotted over very sparsely populated Montana. No purchase in their thinking for the assertion that the balloon provides China with no more than it would get from surveillance satellites either: such balloons could easily be carrying EMPs. (Electromagnetic Pulse which would destroy the electronics and digital circuitry over an area of hundreds of miles, thereby denying electric power to our homes, businesses, and military.).

The surveillance operation, they argue, could as well have been a test of our air defense system.

China has exposed a massive security vulnerability over US territory, and whether that vulnerability is military or political or both, the American people deserve better answers. 

Another Chinese surveillance balloon has been spotted over Latin America.  The seems to put paid to the Chinese excuse that this was just a weather balloon that went astray -- unless you believe more than one just got away in a country which seems to keep close watch on everything and everyone in it.

When in doubt, you'll find that the satire site Babylon Bee often is ahead of the game. It first announced that Biden would shoot it down as soon as it was finished spying, and more recently reports Biden claimed that the balloon outgunned us and that we surrendered to it

We’ve already good reason to doubt the honesty and ability of our intelligence agencies, and no one in his right mind credits anything Biden says. In its attempted coverup of the incursion and its lame excuses for doing nothing, the military would join the institutions which deserve to lose our trust. Thankfully, they got the message that they were not believed, and finally acted on Saturday when (as the Bee predicted) they shot down the balloon over the Atlantic.

Clarice Feldman


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