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Post Chinese Balloon Incident: Implications for World Hegemony?
Created by John Eipper on 02/06/23 3:30 AM

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Chinese Balloon Incident: Implications for World Hegemony? (Consoly Leon Arias, Spain / Canary, 02/06/23 3:30 am)

The Chinese spy balloon that the US shot down on Saturday was the fourth to violate American airspace, the US Defense Department said. The other three cases, of which the authorities have not given any further information, occurred during Donald Trump's presidency. However, the previous tenant of the White House decided to keep it secret. This fact raises again the question of why Beijing has carried out this operation over US airspace: is it a provocation, or an attempt to test the US defense systems?

Undoubtedly, the redistribution of the geopolitical chessboard has led China to dispute US hegemony, reviving the underlying "Cold War" between the two blocs, and putting on the table the debate that the "liberal happiness" of capitalism, which was presumed to be immortal, may not be so, at a time when the capitalist West is surviving as best it can.

After the Cold War between the US and China, the idea was imposed that it was more intelligent to "numb" the masses, than to use other more violent tactics on them. For if the state acted as a bully against its own people, the system would eventually fail.

Today, authoritarian regimes try to provide society with the "bread and circuses" that the Romans used, while the concept of threat and repression underlies them. To understand this better, we only have to look at the example of Afghanistan, Russia and China, where torture, censorship and detentions continue to operate today.

During the 1980s, above all, the idea spread that it was necessary to opt for either the capitalist or the communist model, since only one of the two was "right" and was the ideal model by which society should be governed. However, at this stage of the game, we must recognize that in today's society, elements of both systems are often used at the same time.

Aldous Huxley in the 1930s imagined in Brave New World a dystopian future dominated by a World State in which hedonism, and in short, mass entertainment, became systems of social control to suppress individual thought.  George Orwell, in his book 1984, responded to his master's dystopia with an oppressive State represented by Big Brother.

The antagonistic visions of both authors led them to focus on dystopia.

Huxley described a dictatorship of "artificial happiness" achieved through the unbridled consumption of certain drugs, in what has come to be called the "Prozac effect," lust, and ultimately, "bread and circuses" raised to the nth power, while his disciple Orwell predicted in his famous book the triumph of totalitarianism and the oppression of the people.

This leads us to conclude that in the West, today's society is a victim of this explosive combination.

On the one hand, we live moments of ephemeral happiness, which anesthetizes us at times, and tucks us under the placebo effect, while on the other hand, we are immersed in a reality that is sometimes not the most ideal, because our rights and freedoms are not absolute terms, but have nuances.

JE comments:  Consoly, in your view there's a lot riding on that Chinese balloon.  If this was the fourth such incident, how is it nobody noticed the first three?  On Friday I received a text photo from a grade-school buddy in Missouri, who caught the blasted thing floating over his house.  My friend's quip:  "I should have studied Mandarin in school."

Who can walk us through the technical side of what the balloon was supposed to do?  Aren't regular satellites sufficient for spying purposes?  Were the Chinese simply "testing" us--and if so, for what end?

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  • Spy Balloons are Business as Usual (Cameron Sawyer, USA 02/07/23 3:55 AM)
    Consoly León Arias wrote about the Chinese balloon over the US mainland: "is it a provocation, or an attempt to test the US defense systems?"

    Well, neither. It's an everyday practice. China, Russia, and the US all send spy satellites over each other's territory many times every day. We developed a very high flying spy plane, the U2, which we used to fly over the USSR regularly, bristling with cameras, photographing Soviet military installations, until the Soviets developed a missile which could shoot it down. Then we developed an even faster and higher-flying spy plane, the SR-71, which we flew very close to and often over Soviet territory, until the Soviets showed that they could intercept it with the MiG-31.

    As to spy balloons, we sent fully 516 (!) of them over the USSR in the 1950s, in programs called Grandson, Gopher, and Genetric. See: https://www.historynet.com/balloon-spies/ . The Soviets were "outraged"; we told them not to worry, they are only--can you guess? Yes--"weather balloons." And kept doing it. The program was a flop; out of 516 missions we only ever recovered the cameras from 45, or which only 32 produced any usable imagery.

    Despite the failure of the earlier programs, we now have an active spy balloon program; see: "US Military to Use High-Altitude Balloons Against Russia, China": https://www.thedefensepost.com/2022/07/06/us-military-balloons/

    See also: https://www.popularmechanics.com/military/aviation/a38005873/pentagon-balloons-strattolite/

    This is a tempest in a teapot. Of course, if our purpose is to further increase tension with China, and whip up the public, this is a decent opportunity.

    Turning to Ukraine: I am increasingly nervous about the rise of Prigozhin in the public space. Today he released a video of a ridiculous publicity stunt where he shows himself landing in the right seat of a Su-24 tactical bomber (a warplane similar to our F-111 Aardvark), and addressing Zelensky: https://war.obozrevatel.com/ukr/prigozhin-z-kabini-litaka-viklikav-zelenskogo-na-duel-v-nebi-yakscho-prograe-viddast-bahmut-video.htm

    He says he's coming back from "bombing around Bakhmut" (which I'm certain never happened), and invites Zelensky to an aerial duel, single combat, with MiG-29s.  If the Ukrainian pilot wins, then he'll give up Bakhmut. If the Russian, then they roll to the Dnieper.

    Ridiculous nonsense. This is Trump-like behavior, except of course Trump would never fly in a military aircraft in a combat zone. Prigozhin is obviously feeling his oats--can he be a rival to Putin? God forbid.

    JE comments:  If Putin doesn't have enough machismo for your taste, there is always Prigozhin.  Cameron, a thought:  do you think Putin is "encouraging" the idea of Prigozhin as a rival, so that the public will rally around him (Putin) as comparatively more rational, even (gasp) "moderate"?  Or do things not work that way in Russia, especially in wartime?

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    • Should a New Russo-Chinese Rift be Encouraged? (Francisco Wong-Diaz, USA 02/08/23 5:56 AM)
      Cameron Sawyer's post (February 7th) is full of goodies and JE's final query brings us back to reality. I propose we dedicate more time to the contemporary events and leave the 1930s dead horses dead.

      The possibility of an internal struggle for power in Russia is very relevant, since next door China has a big horse in that race. Putin, as bad as he is, will continue his aggressive Russian nationalism as long as the Chinese prop him up. His ego is now fully involved.

      The West needs to think of new strategies to attract Putin and disengage him from Beijing. Stimulating or creating a Sino-Russian rift along fault lines should be a political /military strategy. Recall that during the early post-WWII period the Russians and the USA seriously discussed destroying the nascent Chinese communist atomic development program. So a historic power politics review is needed by Western strategists.

      JE comments:  Encouraging rifts on a geopolitical scale sometimes works, and sometimes it backfires gloriously.  The Sino-Russo-US triad reminds one eerily of the three superpowers in Orwell's 1984.  Two of those superblocs were permanently at war against the third.

      Francisco, what can you teach us about the US-Soviet discussions on stopping China from getting the bomb?  I don't know anything about this.  It must have been in the late 1950s?  By the early '60s the Americans and the Russians weren't cooperating on anything.  (China exploded its first nuke in 1964.)

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    • The Russian Mood: Great Patriotic War 2.0 (Cameron Sawyer, USA 02/09/23 3:26 AM)
      John E asked, "Cameron...do you think Putin is ‘encouraging' the idea of Prigozhin as a rival, so that the public will rally around him (Putin) as comparatively more rational, even (gasp) ‘moderate'? Or do things not work that way in Russia, especially in wartime?"

      I really don't know. One thing I can say, however, is that Putin does not need to "position" himself as a "moderate"--he definitely is one, compared to all of the alternatives, and when viewed against the mood of the public now. Aside from the apparently very rash invasion itself, Putin's moves are characterized by extreme caution, even cowardice. Witness the stealth annexation of Crimea and the refusal to get directly involved in the secession of Donbas (I wrote at the time that this was all very badly done). So at this moment, he is under huge public pressure to "take the gloves off." I'm hearing this even from intellectuals who six months ago were against the war altogether. It is hard to describe the total change of the mood in the country.

      And of course, the West is feeding this as much as it can. Intentionally? Do our governments so much want a wider war? "Russia needs to be dismembered"; "this man cannot be allowed to continue in power"; and just last week, the inimitable John Bolton mused in public that we should remove Lukashenko from power in Belarus: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/11/17/john-bolton-says-us-should-consider-ousting-belarus-lukashenko-to-a-nice-villa-on-the-riviera.html Just as we removed Yanukovich in Ukraine, starting the present conflict, as if it is we who decide on who gets to rule whatever country. All this feeds the narrative inside Russia that Russia is at war with the collective West led by a hyperaggressive rogue superpower, where Ukraine is a mere pawn. The whole nation rises to fight this war.  As I wrote after the prospect of German tanks with crosses on them rolling against Russia, the mood in Russia has now gone full Great Patriotic War 2.0. And Putin is widely accused by the public of having tolerated all these machinations, for far too long. Right or wrong, what concerns the facts, that's what they believe. If we keep on this path, and continue failing to find any way to talk with them, failing to find any way to deescalate this thing, we are headed for WWIII, but this time, with nuclear weapons*.

      *Putin said not long ago, chillingly, "If we end up in a nuclear war with NATO, it won't be so bad. We'll all go to heaven. They will just sdokhnut' (croak)."

      JE comments:  The "bring on martyrdom" thing doesn't sound very moderate, but as Cameron Sawyer writes, the alternatives may be worse.  Cameron, can you give us an example or two of Russian intellectuals who have switched their views from anti-war to totalen Krieg?

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