Balloons, Biden, and American Power

The Chinese spy balloon flies above in Charlotte NC, United States on February 4, 2023. (Photo by Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.)

Like something out of a children’s story, a wandering balloon has triggered a crisis of confidence for the United States and for the Biden administration. 

Since the White House waited a week before its February 4 take down of a Chinese spy balloon that had been drifting over the continental United States, there’s been a flurry of shootdowns of similar objects in North American airspace—no less than three since the Chinese balloon was destroyed. But despite White House reassurances that the situation is under control and there’s nothing to see here, the nation’s disquiet isn’t going away. 

This balloon incident has stirred something in the American psyche—I’d even say the American conscience. It’s interesting to speculate why. According to a 2022 Defense Department report, China has 260 satellite systems capable of spying on us, and more than 300 ICBMs capable of delivering a nuclear payload into the United States—that’s double the number from just a year ago.

Still, a single balloon has provoked as much national outrage as China’s spreading COVID around the world, and more outrage than its abuse of the Uyghurs, or even its role in killing 100,000 Americans a year through fentanyl. 

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