International Politics

Shoot First and Ask Questions Later

On February 4, 2023, the U.S. military shot down a Chinese spy balloon in American airspace. Shortly afterward, the military destroyed three unidentified flying objects that also came into American airspace. Some U.S. politicians seem to advocate a ‘shoot first and ask questions later’ approach.

Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan said, “We need to assume that the unidentified aircraft shot down over our sovereign airspace are an adversary probing for weaknesses in our defense. Until a more benign explanation can be proven, we need to shoot down any unidentified potential threat and protect our homeland.”

Wyoming Senator Cynthia Lummis said that the “Chinese Communist Party has not proven itself trustworthy, and now that a second high altitude object was shot down over our country, these rogue objects in our airspace are clearly not a mistake. The U.S. should defend our borders and airspace with whatever force necessary.”

Kansas Senator Roger Marshall tweeted, “… we can shoot down suspicious objects BEFORE they get over our border… ”

Wisconsin Republican Representative Mike Gallagher, chairman of a new select committee focused on China, said, “In my opinion, though the details are murky and we haven’t yet sat down with the intelligence community and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, we should have shot it down,”

We already know what can happen when a country takes a ‘shoot first and ask questions later’ approach to the intrusion of protected airspace. On September 1st, 1983, the Soviet Union shot down an airspace intruder near Sakhalin Island in the Sea of Japan. They had shot down Korean Air Lines flight 007, an innocent passenger jet that had strayed into Soviet-protected airspace. The Soviet missile strike resulted in the killing of all 269 persons on board.

‘Shoot first’ might score partisan political points, but it makes for awful policy. Nations need to be thorough and quick in assessing what constitutes a threat before taking deadly actions.


Thanks and a tip of the hat to Anynobody – model*, clouds and contrails: self-madesatellite image: NASA*Including textures, CC BY-SA 4.0, for the image.

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