The spy balloon was set to blow up?!

The military’s latest revelation about the Chinese spy balloon that traversed the United States from the Aleutian Islands to the South Carolina coast is that the balloon probably had explosives in it. The alleged purpose behind this supposition was that the balloon was built to self-destruct. This information is not comforting. Instead, it highlights even more that something is seriously wrong with both our commander-in-chief and the Pentagon.

Before discussing the issue, I managed to get a snapshot this morning about the fact that Americans, who are probably mostly apolitical, care about the invasion of American airspace. I was called to jury duty today and found myself in a backcountry South Carolina courthouse with 100 other people pulled from a region that encompasses heavily populated coastal areas and lightly populated rural areas. I later learned that the potential jurors ran the gamut from homemakers to factory workers to contractors to lawyers to teachers and everything in between. This wasn’t a political rally; this was “everyman” and “everywoman” in a room.

After the initial instructions, since our phones were banned, we all sat there staring at the court clerk. To bring some noise to the room, she commented, “I just heard on the radio this morning that some sort of balloon from China flew over America to South Carolina.” The room instantly erupted with myriad people telling her it was a Chinese spy balloon that the president wouldn’t shoot down but that it was finally shot down over the Atlantic off our coast. They all knew about it. (I suspect the clerk did, too.)

Image: The Chinese spy balloon over Myrtle Beach by Russotp. CC BY-SA 4.0.

These Americans knew about the balloon because they understood that it was an invasion of America’s sovereign territory—and they weren’t pleased. I’m sure all of them were even less pleased to learn that, according to U.S. Air Force General Glen VanHerck, the balloon, which was around 200 feet tall and weighed more than 2,000 pounds, potentially had explosives on board. According to VanHerck, the military believes that the explosives were so that the balloon could self-destruct. For a foreign nation to fly bombs over America can be understood as an act of war.

It’s obvious that the purpose behind this latest balloon narrative (now that the “it happened on Trump’s watch, too” narrative has been destroyed) is to explain why the military didn’t attack the balloon instantly. Indeed, our own John F. Di Leo had a great tweet about how the military could have handled it:

Now, though, the military can say that it was afraid that shooting down the balloon was too dangerous because it would have been equivalent to dropping a bomb over American land. That strikes me as hogwash.

The Aleutians Islands are dotted along a 1,200-mile stretch of the Bering Sea. If it’s true that the military knew instantly what and where that balloon was, there was a whole lot of nothing underneath that would have allowed for its destruction, whether with help from the U.S. military or through its own self-detonation feature. The same is true for parts of its journey over states adjacent to the Rockies because they, too, have huge unpopulated areas.

Even though the balloon drifted over all sorts of sites that are technically necessary for national security, such as military installations, including nuclear ones, I’m not sure that the balloon was a spy balloon. China’s satellites are already relaying to it all the information it needs about those locations. In addition, China has spies in academia (including the hundreds of thousands of Chinese students in America annually who are all literally sworn agents for China); it’s buying military academies, farms (including America’s largest pig and pork processor), and land near military bases; and it owns TikTok. There’s also the very real question of whether it owns the current occupant of the Oval Office, Joe Biden himself.

If the balloon wasn’t really spying, what was it doing? Well, with explosives aboard, it could have dropped its load anywhere in America it wanted, although I don’t think Xi Jinping intends to start a hot war right now. Instead, it was doing one of two things: Proving that, as Marco Rubio said, America “is a once-great superpower that’s hollowed out, it’s in decline.” (I’m not sure you need a balloon to make that point.) Or, as Anony Mee suggested to me, the Chinese were testing whether America can respond rapidly to a national security threat in her airspace. If that was indeed what China was doing, it’s pretty clear that America failed the test.

Lastly, the whole balloon fiasco has left many, including me, wondering whether Biden or the Pentagon controls America’s national security. Under the Constitution, it’s supposed to be Biden. However, given that General Mark Milley already declared his loyalty to China during the Trump administration, the lines of both loyalty and command are getting awfully blurry.

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