IN 1964, with the Cold War at its height, film maker Stanley Kubrick teamed up with the genius actor Peter Sellers to produce the satirical classic Dr Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb. It postulated that the incompetence of small-minded military men, combined with the weakness of puerile politicians, might end up in nuclear Armageddon, by mistake.

We should all be rewatching it now, as the real-life black comedy of America’s balloon wars plays out to an increasingly dangerous script.

Thus far, Team USA are four nil up, with flights of F-16s bravely downing multiple UFOs – the unidentified floating objects which conveniently move very slowly and don’t shoot back.

The latest, brought down over Lake Huron in Michigan near the Canadian border, has been described by US defence officials as an unmanned “octagonal structure” with strings attached!

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US commander general Glen VanHerck, who heads the North American Aerospace Defense Command, reassured an anxious America that there was no indication of any threat, which rather begs the question of why they are shooting them out of the heavens.

“I’m not going to categorise them as balloons. We’re calling them objects for a reason. What we are seeing is very, very small objects that produce a very, very low radar cross-section,” he explained.

Speculation as to what the objects could be is now in online free fall, rather like the objects themselves.

“I will let the intel community and the counter-intelligence community figure that out,” VanHerck said when asked if it was possible the objects are alien or extra-terrestrial. “I haven’t ruled out anything at this point,” he added helpfully.

So let’s get this straight. According to the US military, we just might all be living through a real-life sequel to Independence Day, the UFOs are showing no indication of any threat, but the solution, led by a Commander-in-Chief with his quivering octogenarian finger on the button, is to shoot first and ask questions later.

Little wonder that President Joe Biden has taken to wearing Tom Cruise-style Top Gun sunglasses.

I suppose we should be glad that these floaters are not really from Alpha Centauri. If they were part of a Star Trek-style five-year mission from our near celestial neighbour to find intelligent life on Planet Earth, then ET would have long since abandoned the search as completely hopeless.

Of course, we can be reasonably certain that the objects are Chinese spy balloons of various shapes and sizes peering down on the mid-west to see what ketchup the average American is having on their hamburgers. There is literally no information whatsoever to be gleaned from surveillance balloons that could not have been gathered by satellite – or indeed just equipping a terrestrial spy with a camper van.

Ignore the “security experts” who spout complete rubbish that high-level balloons give you a better trajectory to examine missile silos, a theory rather undermined by the fact that the wee objects were found floating over the Yukon wasteland, and in any case the key strategic nuclear strike force of the United States spends its time under the ocean deep.

THE reality is that the attraction of balloons is financial – they are as cheap as chips in comparison with satellites. They are even cheaper than the teeny weenie nano satellites where Scotland is a big player, with mission control in Maryhill.

Indeed, we could now be on the brink of an international balloon race to replace the space race since there is no way, par example, that the national prestige of France could tolerate the technology which they invented in the 18th century being hijacked by the Chinese – there will undoubtedly be the need for an independent balloon deterrent, Le Ballon Francais, to back up the force de frappe.

The US is now claiming that Chinese spy balloons have flown high over 40 countries in five continents, and also flown many times previously over US territory. This again suggests that they knew about the flights all along but only now say they are consulting affected allies and partners, to galvanise a global response to China’s balloon operations and put a stop to them.

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And as this farce continues, common sense gets thrown over the side of the balloon. The Chinese are refusing to take calls on the hotline – everybody is in a mighty huff.

Meanwhile, the Republicans are demanding that all balloons be shot on sight, while Biden seems puffed up that he has found a cheap way to act tough with no American troops being deployed and therefore no returning body bags.

But the actions may not be entirely without risk. The good ol’ USA constantly spies on every other country on the planet, as everyone else well knows.

If the answer to spy planes, satellites and American balloons becomes to shoot ‘em down, then there is going to be a lot of wreckage being washed up on the beaches around the world. Then there will be complaint and counter-complaint; reprisal, counter-reprisal and, of course, escalation.

And thus it might only be a matter of time before a modern-day Major T J “King” Kong – outstandingly portrayed by Slim Pickens in Dr Strangelove – delivers a memorable “Woohhaa”, stetson in hand, astride the pay load of his B52, as we continue on our merry way to oblivion, by accident.