Monday, July 5, 2010

Space, The Final Feel-Good Frontier?

By Barry Rubin
It seems terribly symbolic that on a visit to the Middle East, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden told al-Jazira that President Barack H. Obama gave him three directives when appointing him:
“One was that he wanted me to re-inspire children to want to get into science and math, that he wanted me to expand our international relationships, and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with predominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering.”
Might there not have been some priority about running a space program? Of course, Bolden is being polite to his hosts at al-Jazira television (you know, the one that supports Islamist groups, terrorism, and anti-Americanism), yet the priority on ego-soothing and image over getting things done seems typical.
Notice, too, that the question isn't whether Muslim-majority nations actually did make much of a historic contribution to science, math, and engineering--in general, they didn't--but that they should be flattered by pretending they did. But, and here's something significant, too, if they can pretend they've already done these things then they don't have to do them in practice. That is, if you are already so successful, why change anything?
As I noted here, this Obama approach is a formula for continued backwardness and stagnation in the Third World.
If these countries, especially the Muslim-majority ones, are ever going to succeed they will do so on the basis of recognizing their past failures. Things didn't work with the existing intellectual, social, economic, and political system. That's why you have to change it, right?
The irony is that Bolden makes that patronizing point clear in his tactless phrasing. Yet flattery--as Bolden himself pointed out hes speaking on the anniversary of Obama's Cairo speech--has become one of the main principles of Obama foreign policy.
No wonder it doesnt work, especially to already cynical Middle Eastern ears.
And what better way to inspire ("re-inspire?" What's that mean? Oh, I know--no kidding. To imply that they weren't inspired before is not Politically Correct) children than by great achievements rather than slogans, commercials, and public relations’ programs that don’t seem to achieve anything? You see, the children, too, must be made to feel good about their historic contribution to science, mathematics, and engineering.
Alternatively, it is revealing in another way. If children were once inspired by such accomplishments as sending people into space and the moon, and spaceships to photograph remarkable things, now this will be done by pure exhortation. Yes, a fitting symbol indeed.
In fact, meanwhile the Obama administration is killing NASA's ability to achieve its real mission. See here.
Space, the final frontier.
These are the policies of the administration Obama:
Its four-year mission,to explore new budget deficits,
to apologize to new life forms,
to go farther left where no presidency has gone before.
Ok, now just between you and me, don't you think that Obama sounds a bit like Mr. Spock in his speech patterns and this is a subconscious factor affecting the Star Trek generation's adulation for him?

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