Damn you, Marjorie Taylor Greene. The dim and diminutive congressdiva appropriated the German anti-war ditty “99 Luftballons” in an ironic attempt to both mock the Biden administration’s dithering over a Chinese surveillance balloon in U.S. airspace and also urging the deployment of F-22 Raptors to blow the floating camera to smithereens.
And of course she linked to the Anglicized version of the original song, rather than the excellent bilingual Goldfinger cover. Can’t Gen X get anything right?
It was a missed opportunity, not unlike President Biden’s blowing the chance to bolster his international bona fides. I’ll leave it to the Jungian psychoanalysts to determine if I was on to something when a year ago, I wrote that the U.S. had lost its protection-of-international-order gumption regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine. After dos decades mired in Middle East warfare, Uncle Sam was simply “too tired to fight for Ukraine.” It turns out he’s also too tired to enforce the ancient property law of cuius est solum, eist est usque.
Eventually Biden got around to blasting the helium-hefted recon device out of the sky. And any red-blooded American is lying to themselves if they admit to not delighting in the spectacle of AIM-120s going BOOM BOOM. Better late than never to send Xi Jinping’s Christmas present down into the drink.
But the Biden administration’s decision to hang fire until Beijing’s little float toy surveilled half the country doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Moreover, the White House was fully aware of the lofted spyware and attempted to conceal it before a Montana news station spotted an unseemly white dot in the ether. (Hey! Real journalism!)
To Biden’s credit, his first reflex was to shoot the airborne apparatus down. But he was argued down by top military brass, who warned of potential civilian casualties. The excuse holds little water. First off, the Defense Department should have engineers and computer modelers on staff to calculate the downward trajectory of something being knocked out of the sky. If not, they can borrow one of the eggheads from NASA who designed the carom craft that altered the course of an asteroid 6 million miles away. Second, had the balloon been aerially whacked at a northern border, there’s a good chance it would crash in Canada. Who cares what it takes out there?
(The last point was obviously in jest… kind of. P.M. Trudeau allows Chinese military drills to occur in maple land. Has the Monroe Doctrine been forgotten already?)
The real reason behind the administration being late to the pop-ty was optics, naturally. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken was supposed to travel to the Middle Kingdom for a diplomatic confab, the kind that accomplishes nothing but sprouts a favorable headline or two. The high-altitude incursion was initially covered up to preserve the scheduled meet. Heaven forbid Tony be in the miso with the CCP!
So, in order to preserve a photo-op with red-dragon apparats who already dressed us down for being a racist country, the Biden administration allowed a competing power’s wafting snoop balloon to scope the country, beginning with the ICBM silos at Malmstrom Air Force Base. Days later we pulverized the thing, long after any relevant info was transmitted back to Beijing.
The country that whipped the Nazis, split the atom and incinerated two major metros, sacrificed tens of thousands of G.I.s to prolong a power struggle in Vietnam, and overthrew a dictator who held together a fragile peace in the Mid East because of lingering daddy issues couldn’t bring itself to tell its citizens they were under the lens of a foreign power, nor dispatch the recon threat within a day.
America isn’t “back” so much as on its back. Bested by He. and Xi.
And before any libertarian waltzes on in here, or into the comments section, to stir trouble by registering a radical disagreement along the lines of “the state shouldn’t exist, therefore the U.S. has no business using its airforce to smolder the property of another government,” I’ll go ahead and foreclose that argument by directing you to Murray Rothbard’s essay on air rights. So long as the American state exists, and claims ownership of the firmament above our land, it’s within its rights to gun down any unwelcome foreign interference, especially the scout prop of a genocidal communist regime. So there.
That the United States is in its late-empire-managed-decline stage isn’t in dispute. Our economy is over-financialized and debt-dependent, labor force participation continues to fall, Congress passes trillion-dollar bills on autopilot, fentanyl and opioid addiction ravage the provinces, we’re addicted to screens, “load shedding” and blackouts are becoming regular occurrences, the price of a dozen eggs is higher than a pound of ground beef, and our military might is outsourced around the globe to wage drawn-out proxy conflicts.
Yet, we’re more materially satiated than ever, content with streaming entertainment and app-delivered groceries, even if the Mastercard is ticking toward its upper limit.
The America-led unipolar order wasn’t going to last forever anyway, right? Wasn’t it a matter of time before more populous countries harnessed their manpower and natural resources to challenge global neoliberalism? Plus, what does it matter that China was lookie-looing at us from the clouds? An entire generation is already feeding the Beijing bureaucracy with enough demographic preferences to freeze a quantum computer via TikTok. China has our number, through millions of tiny listening devices in millions of pockets across the nation.
That reality sure makes balloongate seem like so much bluster and gas.
And since MAGA Madge stole my song reference at the start of this column, I’ll end with an alt millennial classic. Hit it, Johnny!
🎶Winnie’s big balloon helps him spy.
It lets him look into the hole in our lives.
But it’s too late for America’s tomorrow
‘Cause the CCP already got what it needs
Now Joe’s on his kneeeeees.🎶
Not to wander in with contrarian arguments, Libertarian or otherwise, I have yet to hear a serious discussion of the complexities of dispatching a slow moving target at 50,000 feet with a conventional warfare fighter jet or any other high altitude armament in the American arsenal. Glad to hear you periodically peruse the comments section though.