DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — As captivating as it is to see the balloon in the sky, the lingering question is: What is the Chinese government up to?

“It’s really more the symbolic significance that set off a whole slew of political responses that’s driving this through such drama,” said Bruce Jentleson, Duke University William Preston Few Professor of Public Policy and Professor of Political Science. as well as former foreign policy advisor under Bill Clinton.

Jentleson was also a foreign police advisor under former President Bill Clinton. He said any intelligence the Chinese can gather from a balloon 60,000 feet above earth is likely no more than what they can already obtain via satellite.  

“People are focusing on Montana and there are ICBM, intercontinental ballistic missiles, some of our nuclear missiles based in Montana,” said Jentleson. “But I don’t see, you know, maybe we’ll learn more, but I don’t see any real intelligence value with a balloon looking at our missile sites in a way that couldn’t already be done by Chinese spy satellites.”

Either way, Jentleson doesn’t see some of the rhetoric we’re hearing as very helpful.

“The calls to shoot it down are incredibly irresponsible, not surprising, but incredibly irresponsible,” he said. “Right now, we need to avoid inadvertent escalation. A lot more war and armed conflicts happen inadvertently than intentionally, and we want to make sure that we don’t fall into that here.”

It’s an interest that he believes requires a far more delicate balance than a public spectacle, particularly as our military presence in the Philippines grows to help ward off any Chinese threat to Taiwan.

“Speaker McCarthy said the President was silent. He wasn’t silent. He was immediately meeting with his advisors, with his defense officials coming up with a strategy,” Jentleson added. “I’d much rather have a President that does that than somebody that immediately gets on Twitter and starts inflaming an already difficult situation.”