Analysis & Opinions - The Atlantic

Why the U.S. Isn't Shooting Down the Chinese Spy Balloon

| Feb. 03, 2023

Homeland-security threats and national-security threats demand different responses.

Montana balloon crisis sounds a lot less dramatic than its Cuban-missile counterpart, and not just because the Chinese surveillance balloon spotted over Big Sky Country last night is inherently less threatening than Soviet weaponry just off the coast of Florida in 1962. This situation isn't a crisis. It isn't even close. Although the U.S. government had to acknowledge the presence of the balloon because regular citizens were posting pictures online, the Biden administration's best option wasn't to panic and respond with what the military calls a "kinetic action"—or what normal people call shooting the sucker out of the sky. It was to play for time.

The revelation immediately produced a chorus of armchair analysts and GOP politicians insisting that President Joe Biden was weak in the face of a clearly aggressive action by the Chinese. Some insisted that former President Donald Trump would never have allowed such a violation of American borders. Many commentators wanted the U.S. to do something—anything....

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Kayyem, Juliette.“Why the U.S. Isn't Shooting Down the Chinese Spy Balloon.” The Atlantic, February 3, 2023.

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