On January 1, 1982, William P. Clark became Ronald Reagan’s new national security adviser, replacing Richard V. Allen.
Clark the year before had been Reagan’s outstanding deputy secretary of state, whose service had been all the more impressive given its sad start: an obnoxious and sleazy young senator from Delaware, Joe Biden, had intentionally humiliated Clark during his confirmation hearings.
We don’t know the details of the two latest downed objects, but we can surmise that these are trial balloons. They are meant to test an old and addled president who has trouble articulating things.
At the National Security Council, Clark was new and his president, Ronald Reagan, was still a relatively new president. When Clark arrived at the NSC, he was on the alert for instances in which the Soviets would try to test his boss. The historians on Clark’s staff, such as the brilliant Harvard professor, Richard Pipes, warned him about this possibility, since the Soviets were notorious for challenging new presidents. Clark was blessed with a great team of young lieutenants: Roger Robinson, Sven Kraemer, Ken deGraffenreid, John Lenczowski.
When Clark asked his staff where they suspected that test might occur, they were not sure, though they figured Berlin might provide the opportunity, as it had for a young President John F. Kennedy. It instead occurred in Nicaragua.
In the spring of 1982, the Reagan team received reports that the Soviets were behind the construction of a large new airfield west of Managua. The size of the airfield and its runway suggested two things: First, it was being constructed for use by military planes, and not for the purported boost in tourism claimed by Nicaragua’s communist Sandinista leadership. Secondly, the Nicaraguans did not have the financial resources to lay out a landing strip of that size. Where were they getting that kind of cash?
The runway was massive enough to handle large military transports and bombers, as well as revetments for fighter aircraft. “This was for Soviet MiGs,” Clark later explained to me, as his biographer, “and certainly not for Pan-Am airlines.”
This might be the test, and Reagan knew it, too.
Clark remembers that the president grew angry and then serious in the Oval Office when briefed. He got his back up, turned to Secretary of State Haig and told him: “You tell [Ambassador Anatoly] Dobrynin that if they [the Soviets] move MiGs into that new lengthened airfield in Managua, we’ll take them [the MiGs] out within 24 hours.” Haig delivered the grave message.
“We wanted them to know that we meant business,” said Clark. Ultimately, the Soviets backed down from testing Reagan in Managua.
For the record, and to cite just one of numerous examples of how Reagan and Clark were later vindicated in their concerns, Sandinista leader Moisés Hassan gave an important interview to the Miami Herald in July 1999, where he confirmed that the Sandinistas indeed had a commitment for MiGs from the Soviet Union. He personally learned of the MiG plan in 1982 when he was minister of construction and the Sandinistas began building a base for the jet fighters at Punta Huete, a remote site near Lake Managua. The Sandinista leader reported that the site included a 10,000-foot concrete runway, the longest in all of Central America, which was capable of handling any military aircraft in the Soviet fleet.
“It was top secret,” revealed Hassan nearly 20 years later. “We even had a code name, Panchito, so we could talk about it without the CIA hearing. But somehow the Americans found out.” Yes, somehow — and the Americans acted.
Another key figure, Alejandro Bendaña, secretary general of foreign affairs in the Sandinista government, added that Nicaraguan pilots were sent to Bulgaria where they were trained to fly the MiGs. However, the Soviets eventually backed out, said Bendaña, even after the site was finished.
“The Sandinista leadership thought they could be the Che Guevaras of all Latin America, from Mexico to Antarctica,” said Hassan. “The domino theory wasn’t so crazy.”
Only years later could we confirm these things. Why revisit them now?
Well, the same might be applied to what is happening now with the obvious tests of Joe Biden’s leadership by communist regimes — particularly right now with China and whoever else.
The Chinese air balloon that swept entirely across the continental United States two weeks ago snapping photos of missile silos and more before we finally shot it down only once it reached the Atlantic was more than a satellite balloon. It was, in effect, a trial balloon. The Chicoms sent it up high and across America to see what Joe Biden would do. It was a direct challenge. How Biden responded would influence how China responded — that is, what Beijing would do next.
We’re now seeing what’s next.
A week later, specifically last Friday, the U.S. military, presumably with Biden’s order, took down another flying object, described as not a balloon but about the size of a car, hovering at 40,000 feet over Alaska, and clearly a threat to commercial air traffic. This time, it was shot down before it continued further, casually gliding across the continental United States like the spy balloon had.
And shortly thereafter, this Sunday, we awoke to reports of yet another unidentified object of unknown origin, this one over Canada, that our pilots have shot down. Biden, working with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, authorized U.S. fighter aircraft assigned to NORAD to conduct the operation over Canadian territory in close coordination with the Canadians. It became the third object to be shot down by an American F-22 Raptor in a little over a week.
We don’t know the details of the two latest downed objects, or even which country sent them. Was it China? North Korea? Russia? Iran?
Who knows? But we can surmise that these are trial balloons. They are meant to test an old and addled president who has trouble articulating things. Liberals in the United States play silly with their politics, seeking to elect men and women based on their positions on such earth-shattering issues as gender-neutral toilets. In turn, a seemingly unserious president rewards them with fatuous displays like making the transgendered Rachel Levine, Assistant Secretary for Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), an honorary four-star admiral and swapping “merchant of death” Russian arms dealers for vaping, doping WNBA-LGBTQ stars — as the Russkies laugh at us. He played the role of Putin’s patsy. Of course, those moves were nothing compared to the return of the Taliban in Afghanistan in Biden’s first year in office — just in time for the twentieth anniversary of 9/11.
Our adversaries see this as weakness. “If you were going to approach the Russians with a dove of peace in one hand,” said Ronald Reagan, “you had to have a sword in the other.”
That is true for the Russian leadership, the Chinese leadership, for North Korea, for Iran.
Our adversaries wear big-boy pants, dear progressives. They play hardball. They guffaw at Biden and the Democrats and their infantile ideology of non-binary bathrooms and critical race theory that has even corrupted and made woke a mighty military.
Expect more trial balloons to come. I’m not optimistic about Joe Biden’s ability to respond effectively, nor to reverse what is inciting our adversaries to do this. I’m estimating that our adversaries likewise don’t have high long-term expectations for our president.
Editor’s note: A fourth flying object has been shot down since this article went to press.