I suspect many remember the 1983 hit single "99 Luftballons" or "99 Red Balloons" by the German band Nena. The lyrics tell a story — 99 balloons are mistaken for UFOs causing pilots to investigate. Finding nothing but balloons, the pilots put on a large show of fire power. The display of force worries the nations along the borders and each side encourages conflict to grab power. In the end, a cataclysmic war results from the otherwise harmless flight of balloons and causes devastation on all sides without a victor.

Well, our recent first encounter with a Peoples Republic of China (PRC) “civilian” weather balloon had quite the opposite effect as we equivocated for almost a week on how to react once it violated our national air space. It was only after intense pressure from the American public and lawmakers that we finally shot it down. Then subsequent “objects” were downed in rapid sequence utilizing $400,000 sidewinder missiles. It is speculated that at least one belonged to a civilian hobby group. Talk about overkill!

As this drama played out, we continue to allow the PRC to steal our most precious technology as American corporations continue to outsource the manufacture of critical material and medicinal supplies that are vital to our very survival as a nation. While our leaders pontificate about equity, diversity and human rights, China has a horrendous record of human rights violations and abuses. It imprisons and harvests organs from its political prisoners, yet our political “leadership” and corporations all look the other way and pretend it does not happen as corporate profit trumps the ideals we stand for as a free nation.

We are entering dangerous times and unfortunately it appears that a conflict with the PRC over the defense of Taiwan is almost inevitable, yet we continue to appease the very nation that threatens our national security and existence by continuing to kowtow and equivocate. We recently celebrated the birthday of Ronald Reagan. Somehow, I cannot imagine him letting this balloon drift for days over the nation’s heartland gathering intelligence on many of our vital military facilities that would be used to defend ourselves in a future conflict with the PRC. As Reagan stated so eloquently in 1989, “There is no security, no safety, in the appeasement of evil.” Words our commander-in-chief should now head.

So, did it take 99 red PRC balloons to demonstrate America’s lack of resolve, intransigence, and ineptitude — no it took just one balloon that drifted across our nation for days unmolested. Unfortunately, as the old adage from the cartoon character Pogo the possum goes “We have met the enemy and he is us.” It appears that some things never change, and we Americans continue to remain asleep at the wheel as long as we are medicated by TikTok videos played on our Chinese manufactured smart phones.

Wake up America before it is too late — the dragon is knocking at your door.

James R. Poplar III, of Quicksburg, proudly served with the U.S. government for over 40 years. He specialized in national security affairs at both Vanderbilt and the National Defense University.

(22) comments



"The Biden administration took specific issue with the fact that Russia’s attack on a U.S. drone operating in international waters was "environmentally unsound."

Russian warplanes on Tuesday attacked a U.S. surveillance drone patrolling in the Black Sea, forcing it to land in international waters. The Pentagon signaled it is particularly outraged over the Russian pilots’ decision to dump fuel on and around the drone.

"Several times before the collision, the [Russian] Su-27s dumped fuel on and flew in front of the [American] MQ-9 in a reckless, environmentally unsound, and unprofessional manner," U.S. European Command said in a statement on the incident, which it called "unsafe and unprofessional."

The Pentagon’s focus on the environmental impact of a military skirmish with Russia—the first since Moscow launched its unprovoked war in Ukraine last year—highlights the American military’s growing focus on green priorities under the Biden administration. "Tackling the climate crisis," as the Defense Department puts it, is one of America’s top national security issues under President Joe Biden.

Russia’s decision to harm the environment as it attacks American military planes sounded alarm bells at the Pentagon, which says "the planet's changing climate has a significant effect on Defense Department missions." The Pentagon recently decided to elevate "climate change as a national security priority, integrating climate considerations into policies, strategies, and partner engagements."

The Defense Department issued a "climate adaptation plan" in 2021 and followed up with a "progress report" in 2022. The Army, Navy, and Air Force also have issued their own "climate strategy" plans for the first time.

As part of this major military focus on green priorities, the Biden administration late last year mandated that contractors reduce CO2 emissions and consider "the climate impact of U.S. weapons," according to the Wall Street Journal.

These mandates were handed down amid the war in Ukraine and come as Russia, China, Iran, and other malign regimes invest in their war fighting capabilities.


The Russians were just conducting Live Fire exercises that are legal over International waters. Smiley face here.


Lol, the Washington Free Beacon which is a biased, conservative and a site know for not being credible. C'mon Rus you can do better. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Washington_Free_Beacon

This was the real reaction to the Drone attack by the Biden Administration. https://www.newsweek.com/white-house-russia-forcing-drone-down-wont-end-black-sea-flight-1787730


More on the Free Beacon. https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/washington-free-beacon/


Dear Brad, thank you for response and I appreciate your input. RE “I've never called you or anyone else names, denigrated you personally or anything of the sort,” I sure take your statement that I am on a “whining tour” as an exception to that but let’s move on …

Re the “facts” I refuted your pushback in your previous post with credible references yet you are unable to accept them.

A healthy and civil dialogue is what a democracy is all about, that is what our Founding Fathers staked their lives and fortunes on. I would expect and hope that you would criticize a Republican Administration just as I frequently criticize the current Administration. That is what democracy is all about.

Please continue to talk about DJT but it simply weakens your argument. The fascination (or obsession) with Trump has caused many to overlook the fact that there is a non-Trump Republican Party out there and it does pretty well. A return to a more normal Republican Party may be good for America but could pose a problem for some Democrats who need to build a stronger rationale for their party than “we’re not Trump.” Have a good week. Best, Ros


For historical context ...


Until now, most of the media’s focus has been on the balloon – specifically, how a vessel popularly seen as a relic of a bygone era of espionage could possibly remain relevant in the modern spy’s playbook. Yet to many military historians, it is the involvement of that other symbol of a bygone time, the U-2, that is far more telling.

The U-2 has a long and storied history when it comes to espionage battles between the US and China. In the 1960s and 1970s, at least five of them were shot down while on surveillance missions over China.

Those losses haven’t been as widely reported as might be expected – and for good reason. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which was responsible for all of America’s U-2s at the time the planes were shot down, has never officially explained what they were doing there.


For the record the United States Navy as well as the Air Force conduct live fire surface and air gunnery and missle exercises, sink target ships (SINKEXs), etc. in "international waters." All that is required is that the the respective service rquest a NOTAM (Notice to Mariners) prior to commencment of using live ordnance to ensure both mariners and airmen stand clear of the exercise area. Similarly the PRC "weather ballon" could have been neutralized in international airspace before it drifted at will accross some of our most sensitive military installations.


The Chinese Balloon was not viewed as a menace to America as it flew across the Pacific. In fact it's path was not know as it was over the Pacific. It would have been premature to shoot it down at that point. Here are the rules of objects flying over international waters. Live fire as an ability to circumvent international law is weak. Makes me lol.



My response to several of the comments below:

1) The PRC “weather balloon” was tracked from launch leaving China. Per


“By the time a Chinese spy balloon crossed into American airspace late last month, U.S. military and intelligence agencies had been tracking it for nearly a week, watching as it lifted off from its home base on Hainan Island near China’s south coast.”

Thus, it should have been engaged before entering sovereign airspace of the United States of America. Using the same argument that it should not have been engaged over land due to possible collateral damage it could have easily been engaged over the Pacific Ocean. In addition, we had no idea of the balloon’s payload – please look up “EMP” or electromagnetic pulse and the havoc it would wreak on our infrastructure if employed by the PRC.

2) The is no open-source data that indicates that the U.S. “blocked it electronic transmissions.”


If anything. “The balloon's spyware payload, the size of a regional jetliner, had "multiple antennas to include an array likely capable of collecting and geo-locating communications," according to the spokesperson's statement. He was not authorized to speak publicly. “

3) Use of $400,000 missile not only employed against the PRC “weather balloon” but fired at other objects to more than likely include $12 balloons launched by civilian weather clubs. Clearly overkill when it was possible to visually ID the targets as the U-2 did with its selfie showing the silhouette of the airframe on the balloon and it it was friendly let it go on its way.

I view the NVD online comment section as a venue to provide intelligent and civil feedback. Such comments as “…care little about actual real-world facts, only about continuing their victimization and whining tour” are not only incorrect but are better suited for Facebook where vice a professional news publication.


You would think a Navy captain would know this about shooting down the balloon over the Pacific which is international waters. In international waters, the doctrine is that they are to be kept peaceful and avoid conflict at all costs, because international waters and air space are open to all for the free transport of goods and property in peace times. Talk about overkill, shooting down something before it entered US air space creating an international incident! SMH Another fact is that recovery of the balloon was deemed to be difficult over the Artic/Alaska areas.

Gunfire to bring down balloons has been ineffective to bring these objects down in the past. Read this: https://theaviationgeekclub.com/heres-why-the-usaf-f-22-used-the-aim-9x-rather-than-the-gun-to-shoot-down-the-chinese-spy-balloon-and-why-the-sidewinder-dont-need-to-see-something-hot-in-order-

Brad Skipper

Since Mr. Poplar has nitpicked me for a typo in the past, I have to ask what he means when he says responses would be "better suited for Facebook where vice a professional news publication." Seriously, though, if he's so concerned about writing in a professional news publication, I'd urge him to write articles that are based in fact, and not pure speculation, otherwise his speculation is fair game for robust discussion. That is the purpose of “Opinion Pages.”

In that he's retired military, he must certainly KNOW that we disabled the communications on the balloon, otherwise he's simply conjecturing and trying to denigrate the President and his military command. And to suggest that we take out a sovereign nation’s aircraft in International waters would have surely had much graver consequences, no matter our declarations or requests.

He also grumbles about taking out the other balloons and accuses the Administration of using our military capabilities to take out “other objects to more than likely include $12 balloons launched by civilian weather clubs.” Of course, this is a completely unsubstantiated claim, but it makes for good ink in his eyes, I suppose.

Lastly, why the silence on the several Chinese balloons that passed over during the Trump Administration? He’s the guy that has secret back accounts in China, where his daughter racked up 41 patents while “employed” by the White House. Biden actually took down the threat when it was safe and sound to do so, according to our military and IC communities, which are once again working on behalf of the American people, vs a corrupt Trump Administration.


Dear Brad, my Commentaries are written on fact vice speculation. As the head of the Democratic Party of SHENCO one would assume as the head of your party your feedback would be at a higher level of decorum and civility and you would not have to resort to “Mr. Poplar care(s) …little about actual real world (sic) facts, only about continuing their victimization and whining tour.” Out of respect I would not do the same to you. Oh well …

RE your specific comments:

1) “There is no indication that the United States disabled the communication on the balloon. Likewise” per https://www.cnn.com/2023/02/09/politics/spy-balloon-technology/index.htmlThe “Biden administration has determined that the Chinese balloon was operating with electronic surveillance technology capable of monitoring US communications, according to the official.”

2) “And to suggest that we take out a sovereign nation’s aircraft in International waters would have surely had much graver consequences, no matter our declarations or requests.” – The current Rules of Engagement (ROE) by which the U.S. Military operates allows a target to be engaged in international waters if it demonstrates hostile intent – the PRC “weather balloon: was clearly doing so and its path after launch was clearly predicted.

3) “He also grumbles about taking out the other balloons and accuses the Administration of using our military capabilities to take out “other objects to more than likely include $12 balloons launched by civilian weather clubs.” Of course, this is a completely unsubstantiated claim, but it makes for good ink in his eyes, I suppose.” Not so, even POTUS per https://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/decision-shoot-balloons-puts-spotlight-hobbyists-97300174 “Biden said Thursday that they were probably balloons linked to private companies, weather researchers or hobbyists.”

4) Why must you and other Democrats always deflect the argument to DJT ? Please focus on the issue under discussion vice continuing to dwell in past.

Have a nice day.

Brad Skipper

Dear James/Ross, I respond to Shenandoah County Republican (SCRC) writers in the same fashion they that refer to us directly or indirectly. I've never called you or anyone else names, denigrated you personally or anything of the sort, unlike your fellow SCRC writer John Massoud, so I'm not sure what you're referring to, other than my having pointed out the fallacy of many of your assertions, or pointed out falsehoods you’ve proclaimed as fact, but I’m allowed to do that as are the others that call you for it on these pages.

But let's address your comment above: "my Commentaries are written on fact vice speculation." I'm not sure what you're trying to say here, to be honest. But I'll say this: you constantly endeavor to paint a dark picture of our mutual reality and the Democratic party in particular. I'm part of the loyal opposition and will call you out on it every single time I see it. You do not get to dictate what is fact simply because you've written an opinion piece about it. This is a public forum and I'm part of the public, regardless of any volunteer job either one of us holds.

And the reason we still talk about Trump is because he’s still the leader of your party and his whole world is coming apart faster than we can spell indictments.

We’re pretty sure we know why you don’t want to talk about Trump and so are you. But the same things that happened on Trump’s watch, right? You just want us to forget about him (trust me, we’d like to) and move on, so you can bash Biden and his Administration for experiencing the exact same scenario, but actually taking decisive action? Seriously?

Josh Wilberger

Too soon, Mr. Poplar. We’ll have to wait several years for the truth to come out like we’re seeing with Covid and the January 6th event. Feel free to resubmit, then.


Uh oh. Josh is into the conspiracy theories we see.


Josh, I expect you think in several years Mr. Poplar will be able write that the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers didn't take part in the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol and that there really were microchips in the Covid 19 vaccines.

Steve F

Mr. Wilberger can you cite an example of a conspiracy theory coming true? Making decisions on fantasies is dangerous.

Josh Wilberger

Mr. Foreman, I referenced nothing about “conspiracy theories”. That would be “Varider424”.

Steve F

OK, let's split hairs. You mention the truth coming out about COVID and the Proud Boys. It appears that your statement means that over time, the Proud Boys will be seen as patriots instead of part of a force looking to overturn a Constitutional process that has served the country for hundreds of years. Perhaps you also believe that COVID was no worse than the flu despite the US having one of the worst death tolls in the world as a result of misguided polcies? If these aren't a product of conspirational thinking, please inform me what you base these thoughts on.


Yes Sidewinders have to be used to take down a balloon at 40,000 feet.

The military's ability to respond to balloons and similar craft is constrained by physics and the capabilities of current weapons," The Washington Post reports, and you can't really pop a giant balloon with gunfire at 40,000 feet.

Steve F

Another predictable blame game column. The leisurely pace of the balloon across the country provided plenty of opportunity to conceal or provide false targets for Chinese consumption while allowing our military and intelligence services to analyze their information gathering procedures. Is it possible that bringing it down over water allowed the retrieval of a more nearly intact device? Do you really suppose it gathered anything that satellites are incapable of collecting? Sadly, the public pressure and Republican hysteria prompted strikes against apparently harmless balloons.

Biden is bringing chip manufacturing back to the US mainland after corporation’s intent on improving their bottom lines allowed that vital work to be done elsewhere.

Regarding attempts to counter China, the previous administration pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership which would have solidified our relations with 12 Pacific Rim countries in a united front against China. We lost a real opportunity to work together to contain China, but at least we still have Trump’s Chinese bank accounts and Ivanka’s 41 Chinese patents.

Brad Skipper

Misinformation is key to Republican commentary these days. We see it everywhere we turn, including this wildly inaccurate "Reader Commentary." The fact is that the 1st balloon from the PRC was not shot down over US or Canadian lands because of the large debris field that such a shootdown would have entailed.

Both the US Military and our Intelligence Community recommended against such action, and instead, we jammed their communications, while studying how the device worked and shot it down when it posed no further risks to those of us on the land. Keep in mind that the “balloon” was about 200 feet tall and carrying a payload roughly the size of a commercial jet airplane, hardly a “civilian” effort, as the writer implies.

The fact is that the Biden Administration has responded to the threat of the PRC much more effectively than the prior Administration. Remember, Trump had bank accounts in China that he kept secret during his Administration, while his daughter routinely filed 41 separate patents for a wide range of products in China, while supposedly “working” for the US Government. Talk about corruption!

Biden has cut off much in the way of advanced chip sales to China, sanctioned multiple corporations and business leaders, while endeavoring to curtail Huawei’s business interests in the America. Biden’s Chips and Science Act is bringing chip manufacturing back home, to our manufacturing companies. Sinno Electronics and Spacety China are the most recent entities sanctioned for their roles in supporting Russia in their criminal invasion of Ukraine, and multiple companies are being sanctioned currently because of the Human Rights violations of the Uyghurs. To say we’re “pontificating” is simply more claptrap.

The author mentions the harvesting of human organs, and as appalling as that may sound, the Commonwealth of Virginia was guilty of such actions as recently as the 1960’s, when they illegally and immorally harvested the organs of Black bodies by State-owned medical institutions. In fact, SJ 274 was just tabled by Republicans in the Virginia House a few weeks ago, including Speaker Todd Gilbert. The bill was merely “acknowledging with profound regret the unethical use of Black bodies by medical institutions in the Commonwealth.

“I feel like there are thousands upon thousands of equally painful and hurtful and regrettable stories that could be told about how we treated one another; how Black Americans were treated for a very long time in this country. And I just worry that there’s no end to these resolutions, and maybe that’s the intent, I don’t know,” Gilbert said.

It’s easy to see that Republicans like Mr. Poplar and Mr. Gilbert care little about actual real world facts, only about continuing their victimization and whining tour. Yes, the PRC is a threat, no one is arguing that, but falsifying the current Administrations response to score political points is unnerving and shows us that one side cares little for reality, only their fake messaging.

Welcome to the discussion.

We will consider two submissions per writer per month. Letters: 250 or fewer words. Commentaries: Under 500 words. You may submit a photo with a Commentary if you like. Email submissions to news@nvdaily.com.