Biden owes the American people a better explaination


What exactly is U.S. policy toward shooting down unidentified flying objects — UFOs — over North American airspace? It’s hard to say.

President Biden’s prepared statement concerning recent events on Thursday afternoon — he took no questions — combined with a review of the relevant timeline only adds to the confusion.

On January 28, a Chinese spy balloon entered Alaskan airspace. As it continued east, drifting over Canada and then Montana — very close to the silos housing America’s strategic nuclear missiles — the balloon was spotted by observers on the ground, and it became a public sensation.

On February 4, on the president’s orders, as the balloon went feet wet over Myrtle Beach, S.C., an F-22 fired a single Sidewinder missile at it, bringing it down over the Atlantic.

On February 10, a U.S. warplane engaged a UFO over northern Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay. The White House described the object as car-sized, and Defense Department officials offered conflicting statements regarding whether or not this object was a balloon.

On February 11, an American F-22 was ordered to down a “cylindrical” object, smaller than the original spy balloon, over Canada’s Yukon territory at the direction of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

On February 12, a third UFO was blown out of the sky over Lake Huron. This object has been described as “octagonal” in structure “with strings hanging off” and “no discernible payload” by administration officials.

In his statement, Biden was full of his usual bluster — he will make “no apologies” for shooting down the Chinese spy balloon, Biden thundered, as if anyone is asking him to apologize for that — but after taking flak from various quarters over his decision to allow the spy balloon to float across thousands of miles of American territory, the president and his administration’s functionaries, despite various threads of argument, still haven’t offered a coherent explanation for their actions:

The original spy balloon was not shot down over the continental U.S. because of concerns that debris could injure those on the ground. Yes, but the three following UFOs were downed over American or allied airspace, and the administration had an opportunity to shoot down the original balloon over the remote Aleutian Islands but chose not to. Indeed, the New York Times has reported that the U.S. government tracked the spy balloon from the time of its launch in late January from southern China and as it moved across the open Pacific.

By refraining from shooting the balloon down, we were able to track it and impede its ability to gather intelligence on us, while turning the tables and gathering data on it. Yes, but the following three UFOs were shot down without our air-defense command being able to at the time identify an apparent origin, purpose, or intent.

The balloon was not shot down because it contained no discernible offensive payload. Yes, but American officials have said that the three UFOs did not present “affirmative indications of a military threat” and yet they were brought down out of “an abundance of caution,” and Biden told the public that “we don’t know yet exactly what these objects were” and “nothing right now” indicates that they are “related to China’s spy balloon program” or part of another country’s surveillance efforts.

None of this adds up. The best that can be offered by the administration is that the balloon was flying high above commercial air traffic while the three UFOs were flying at altitudes that could present a theoretical danger to airliners. That does not explain, however, why the administration couldn’t clear the local airspace of commercial travel as it tracked the objects, something well within the purview, capabilities, and procedures of the FAA.

Now that the president has told the public that these objects were likely benign in nature — perhaps tied to commercial or research activities — and that it’s become apparent that there have been many similar unidentified objects over North America in the recent past, the question becomes: Why fire live missiles at these three?

We must conclude that the administration began firing missiles and asking questions later because it was retreating in the face of embarrassment and public pressure. For a White House that has so often boasted about its “adult in the room” bona fides to have bungled the initial stages of this fiasco and then resorted to shock-and-awe cowboy diplomacy in answer to its political humiliation: Now that would be a scandal indeed. If, in an effort to ameliorate that embarrassment, President Biden is now shooting down the sort of stuff we’ve long known about but never thought was threatening enough to shoot down — at the cost of potentially escalating a geopolitical crisis with a nuclear-armed rival — we are in more trouble than we knew.

Americans are not accustomed to having interceptor warplanes engage aircraft over their own skies. These events are not, so to speak, normal. Conservatives rightly grant the commander in chief a certain amount of deference on issues of national security and clandestine activities. But this is not a black-bag operation in a war zone or cloak-and-dagger spy games in Cold War–era East Berlin. These incidents have concerned Americans’ own backyard. The last week of silence, off-the-record background briefings, and vague and contradictory statements from spokesmen and low-ranking officials has only served to sow confusion, mistrust, and fever-swamp conspiracy-theorizing. The rampant and unhelpful speculation that the UFOs were extraterrestrial in origin can be laid entirely at the Biden administration’s feet.

The president promised that an interagency task force will come up with “sharper rules” on how the United States will deal with unidentified objects “going forward” — which we can’t help but notice is a tacit admission that Joe Biden didn’t exactly have an established policy beforehand. Of course, this policy will remain classified because you, the citizen, don’t have a right to know how your government will handle potential threats over your own head.

Leaving the UFOs aside, the president of the United States still owes the American people basic answers on the Chinese spy balloon program — answers that were conspicuously absent from his statement: Has the People’s Republic of China overflown the United States or its allies with high-altitude spy balloons on other occasions? For how long? What threat do they pose to the American people, our allies, and our interests? Why have U.S. officials given contradictory statements regarding how long the U.S. was aware of the spy balloon? Why did the U.S. not shoot the balloon down while it was still over the Pacific and before it traversed North America? Has the U.S. government unambiguously relayed to the Chinese government that we will not tolerate such activity in the future? How will we respond if the Chinese do not comply?

Joe Biden has been forced into making a statement on these issues, but it’s hard to identify any coherent American policy here. Perhaps the president should apologize for that.

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