The term “Mission Accomplished” has become sullied in American geopolitical context thanks to George W. Bush’s use of the phrase to seemingly declare victory very early in what turned out to be a disastrous Iraq War. But if the phrase is going to be used at all, perhaps we should be using it to describe how perfectly President Joe Biden just handled the Chinese spy balloon saga.
On Saturday, Biden gave the order to shoot down the spy balloon, immediately after it moved out to sea. This ensured that no one on the ground could be injured by exploding debris. The U.S. military then told CNN that it had managed to block the balloon from functioning for the entire time it was over U.S. land, meaning the Chinese didn’t gain any data from it.
By letting the disabled spy balloon traverse all the way across the country, Biden gave the U.S. military time to observe and study the balloon, and gain as much strategic information about its proprietary Chinese military technology as possible. It also obviously gave the U.S. military every opportunity to try to capture the balloon whole, before finally deciding to take it out once it was headed for international waters. And while it obviously wasn’t captured, the softer nature of a water landing may have increased the odds that the recovered pieces will be of value.
Of course there will be questions about why Biden didn’t say more about the balloon while it was flying across the country. But those questions require just a little bit of thought and they answer themselves. If Biden had stomped his feet over the balloon and publicly threatened to immediately shoot it down, for all we know China might have tried to trigger some kind of self destruct mechanism. Instead, the radio silence from Biden surely left China unsure about what if any steps to take – and leaving your opponent confused is generally the best way to gain a strategic advantage.
So yeah, score yet another one for President Joe Biden. He handled this the right way from start to finish, instead of worrying about trying to score partisan political points. And Biden is going to come out of this looking particularly strong. All that the average American will remember about this incident is that Biden took out the Chinese spy balloon when it counted – and that Republicans looked foolish for even suggesting that Biden would simply let the spy balloon float back to China.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report