Every World Leader Is Paying Attention to How Biden Handled the Chinese Balloon - And It Doesn't Look Good
If the idea of President Joe Biden allowing Chinese aircraft to violate American airspace with impunity looks awful to Americans, imagine how it looks in Tehran.
Or in North Korea. Or Moscow. Or Beijing. Or Taipei or Seoul or Jerusalem.
As the United States marks another milestone in fallen prestige, leaders around the world have to be watching closely how the Biden White House responds to the Beijing provocation — and it doesn’t look good.
As the world knows, the Chinese “weather balloon” that had cruised serenely over the continental United States last week was shot down Saturday off the coast of South Carolina.
But the world also knows that the Biden administration had known about the balloon’s presence over American soil since Jan. 28, as Bloomberg reported Friday and had done nothing to impede an obvious, arrogant infringement on the airspace of the world’s most powerful nation.
According to the Bloomberg report, the apparatchiks of the Biden State Department were more worried about possibly undermining a planned trip to Beijing by Secretary of State Antony Blinken than they were about defending American sovereignty in the face of its greatest global rival.
And when it did respond, as National Review’s conservative columnist Andrew McCarthy noted in a piece published Saturday, it was responding to news coverage within the United States rather than to an insult from abroad.
In short, the Sidewinder missile fired from an F-22 fighter plane that destroyed the Chinese craft in mid-flight drew justified cheers from a patriotic nation — the rockets’ red glare always looks good to the American spirit. (There’s a reason “Top Gun: Maverick” was a smash hit last year.)
But it was a full week after the foreign vessel was known to have broached American airspace, which meant the world got to watch a feckless Biden presidency allow the nation to be violated on the international stage — and didn’t do a damn thing about it.
At a news conference on Saturday, unnamed officials of Biden’s Pentagon claimed that there had been similar overflights of the United States by Chinese balloons “at least three times” during President Donald Trump’s administration.
On Sunday, Trump himself issued a blistering response to the claim, categorically denying anything like that had ever happened.
He was joined by former National Security Advisor John Bolton (no friend of Trump, for sure), and former National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien (a hawk on other issues related to China). These men would be in a position to know. And they would have a motive to tell.
Americans can believe or disbelieve the statements of a Pentagon in the hands of Joe Biden (it hasn’t exactly distinguished itself under Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the man with close buddies in the Chinese military).
Anyone who watched the Trump administration striding the world stage would have doubts about a story coming out of the Pentagon. Anyone who’s watched Biden’s poisonous touch taint the credibility of the country’s most revered institutions would have little trouble believing that a Department of Defense briefing by an unnamed “senior defense official” was aimed more at covering the Biden administration’s crumbling credibility than it was at education the American public.
Anyone who recalls the vociferous news coverage of the Trump White House would be incredulous at the idea that a national embarrassment like the Chinese flying balloons over the U.S. with impunity would not have been leaked to — and been trumpeted by — a national liberal media dedicated to destroying the Trump presidency.
But even if the events described at the briefing were true (a big, big “if”) they took place behind closed doors. They weren’t a topic of national and international discussion.
The surveillance balloon scandal, by contrast, has taken place on a world stage and left the Biden administration once again looking weak and his country even weaker.
For the Biden White House and its apologists in the establishment media, the shootdown Saturday, combined with the public announcement that Blinken’s planned trip to Beijing was being postponed, will be portrayed as another example of Biden’s unparalleled courage — the sort of bravery in defense of principle that foes of Biden have learned to their regret — from Corn Pop on down.
But what the world saw was the United States effectively supine as a global rival lorded over it — literally from above. What the world saw was a Chinese data-gathering aircraft left free to travel over American soil for days on end — including over sensitive nuclear weapons sites — and transmit that data back home.
Considering the communication technology available in the 21st century, it’s entirely possible that the balloon that was shot down on Saturday had reached the end of its useful life for its masters in Beijing anyway.
(To be clear, that is meant to take nothing from the military prowess involved in Saturday’s operation. Shooting down an object at 60,000 to 65,000 feet in altitude is no mean feat. And shooting down at all is certainly better than letting it fly off in triumph.)
What foreign capitals saw was a Washington unwilling or unable to respond to one of the grossest provocations one nation can deal to another.
The murderous mullahs in Tehran, the dictator in Pyongyang, and the revanchist Vladimir Putin got a measure of Joe Biden that, if possible, is even lower than that of the Joe Biden who demonstrated such fecklessness in the disgraceful evacuation from Afghanistan in 2021.
Lower even than that of the Joe Biden who gave the green light to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
In the first two cases, Biden telegraphed to the world that he wouldn’t defend American interests abroad. In the balloon case, as with the continuing invasion of illegal immigration, he’s telegraphed to the world that a global rival can invade his country’s airspace and he won’t do a thing.
And American friends abroad, in hot spots such as Taiwan, South Korea and Israel got a new look at the nation they’re relying on to guarantee their freedom in tough times.
And that’s not a good look at all.
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