Aliens? Lack of US knowledge on shootdowns leads to irrational thinking
Aliens? Lack of US knowledge on shootdowns leads to irrational thinking

USA: The downing of three unidentified aerial objects by US fighter jets in the space of two days has sparked wild speculation about what they were and where they came from, with little information from President Joe Biden's White House being confirmed. On Monday, it even came down to his press secretary to sincerely state that there was no sign of "aliens or extraterrestrial activity."

In the wake of the discovery of a Chinese spy balloon crossing the country and the historically rare shootdowns that followed, the president held no public events on Monday and has provided little comfort or explanation of what to make of it all.

The three objects that were lost Friday off the coast of Alaska, Saturday over Canada, and Sunday over Lake Huron, according to US officials, are still largely unknown. However, following the balloon incident that was attributed to an ongoing Beijing espionage program, those shootdowns were a part of a more assertive response to aerial phenomena.

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There was at least one unambiguous statement from White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre that attempted to put an end to wild theories: "There is no — again, no — indication of aliens or extraterrestrial activity."

The US government maintains that none of the three objects posed a risk to American security and that even the enormous spy balloon only added "limited capabilities" to China's other surveillance initiatives. However, according to National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, they were shot out of the sky "out of an abundance of caution."

When combined with US officials' efforts to publicly downplay the foreign threat, Biden's unprecedented decision to shoot down four objects over North America in eight days has increased the conflicting messages being sent about delicate efforts to protect the homeland.

Speaking anonymously to discuss internal discussions, US officials say the administration is aware of the confusion and is working to prevent the American people from worrying excessively while still trying to maintain a tough stance toward China.

Although the US has no particular reasons to believe the aerial objects were spying, Kirby said, "we couldn't rule that out." The most recent objects, which were flying between 20,000 and 40,000 feet, may have posed a slight risk to commercial aircraft, he continued.

Some officials consider the legal justification for the downings—that the objects might endanger civilian flight—to be such a remote possibility that it begs the question of whether it was merely a pretext for acting tough.

According to Brian Ott, co-author of "The Twitter Presidency: Donald J. Trump and the Politics of White Rage," Biden "wants to appear tough on China, and this is a good example of where actions speak louder than words."

If they face off in a presidential debate the following year, Biden will be able to ask Trump, "How many of these Chinese balloons and unidentified objects did you shoot out of the sky?" in response to Trump's attempt to portray Biden as weak on national security.

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Ott, a communications professor at Missouri State University, suggested that Biden's lack of comment on the removal of the Chinese balloon and other objects may have been influenced, at least in part, by his considerations for reelection in 2024.

Republicans criticized Biden for being slow to act in the days following the Chinese balloon's discovery in US airspace, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and right-wing firebrand Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Kirby insisted: "These were decisions based purely and simply on what was in the best interests of the American people" when questioned about whether the choice to shoot the objects down was made in response to such criticism.
Senators from both parties demanded answers as they arrived back in Washington on Monday, despite having little information at their disposal.

Senators will receive a classified briefing on Tuesday morning, according to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who also promised that Congress would work to learn the "full story of what happened" in the coming weeks. The second-ranking Democrat after Schumer, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, stated that Biden "owes the country some answers."

Biden "needs to communicate and level with the American people," according to Republican McConnell. Before the first balloon crossed the border, he questioned what the administration knew about China's surveillance efforts.

After the balloon was shot down, the White House disclosed that other balloons had flown over dozens of countries on five continents and had crossed US territory at least three times during the Trump administration without the knowledge of the former president or his advisors. Kirby emphasized on Monday that the Biden administration was the only one to find them.

Political parrying is inevitable, according to Jim Ludes, a former national defense analyst who now directs Salve Regina University's Pell Center for International Affairs and Public Policy.

"What the administration says is irrelevant. People will use it for political games and to score points, he predicted. "They either moved too slowly or moved too quickly."

The Biden administration has good reason to be cautious, Ludes continued, noting that the controversy surrounding the aerial devices comes at a time of increased hostilities between China and Taiwan. An already unstable situation could become even more unstable if Biden makes the wrong statement.

"What does China do the next time we fly a B-52 down the straits?" Added Ludes. There is the potential for this to quickly become very complex.

On Monday, Kirby tried to make a distinction between the newest objects and the confirmed surveillance balloon, highlighting how much smaller, less maneuverable, and devoid of any sign of communication they were before being shot down. Only because the US had increased the sensitivity on air defense radars to detect high-flying, slowly moving objects like the surveillance balloon, he claimed, were they discovered.

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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin cited the hazardous terrain, water, and weather where the three unidentified objects were brought down as reasons why officials have yet to recover any pieces of them. US officials have so far declined to share any images that were taken before they were shot down, not even to identify them as balloons or any other kind of aerial vehicle.

That it wasn't ET seems to be the only thing that is certain. I don't think the American people need to be concerned about aliens with respect to these craft, Kirby agreed with Jean-Pierre.  

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