I was going to provide some brief commentary about the Great Chinese Spy Balloon Panic, but I found that The Bulwark’s Charlie Sykes already provided a good overview of the reactions and over-reactions from graduates of the Twitter School of National Security.
[S]enior Pentagon officials said in an on-background press conference on Saturday that suspected Chinese surveillance balloons crossed into the US at least three times during the Trump administration and once earlier in the Biden administration.
"PRC [People's Republic of China] government surveillance balloons transited the continental United States briefly at least three times during the prior administration and once that we know of at the beginning of this administration, but never for this duration of time," a senior defense official said at the conference.
As a rule, whenever anyone says, “This would never have happened under Trump,” you can bet that it happened under Trump.
As I recall, the prospect of balloons crossing borders and setting off an international incident has a certain history in the public imagination. But the wider picture here is that of course China and the US are spying on each other like all get-out, and this is just another stage in the cat and mouse game of our new mini-Cold War. That’s why I was actually heartened by Charlie’s conclusion.
As Politico noted, the Great Red Balloon Affair of 2023 demonstrated that the “new geopolitical reality [is that] there is no downside to being a China hawk.”
One balloon is not going to make much of a difference in our rivalry with China, but it underscores our realization that China’s post-Cold War process of opening up to the world has come to an end, and we’re slowly moving back to a Cold War footing against Xi Jinping’s recidivist dictatorship.
The Prophet of Causation
Before I move on, I wanted to post another reminder of my upcoming course and newsletter, The Prophet of Causation, which presents the philosophy of Ayn Rand from the perspective of the central role of the law of cause and effect.
“Perspective” is the key word. My goal here is not to add to or alter her philosophy. I think we’re going to illuminate some new corners, flesh out some new details, and make new connections, both within her philosophy and with other philosophers and the intellectual context of her era. I am really looking forward to that, but it’s a secondary goal. The main goal is to gain a new perspective: to see the same ideas from a new and clarifying angle.
Speaking of clarification, I want to explain again that I made the monthly subscription rate for The Prophet of Causation the same as the annual subscription rate, which seems weird, but that’s because there is really only one subscription rate. Everyone who has paid for a subscription so far has already been transferred over to a lifetime subscription, so you pay one time and have access to everything from the course forever. I wouldn’t have offered a monthly subscription at all, but Substack doesn’t allow that. As a platform, Substack is optimized for selling monthly subscriptions, not a course. But I went with it because I’m already set up here, my readers are already set up here, and Substack’s audio and video functions will work very well once we get going.
The course is launching in about three weeks, and tomorrow I will be posting a first round of suggested readings to prepare, so go check it out and sign up now.
Charlie Sykes also had some interesting commentary on a little controversy from a few weeks back about a baffling new large-scale public sculpture in Boston that is supposed to honor Martin Luther King, Jr.