by Victor Davis Hanson
NRO’s The Corner
NASA chief Charles Bolden, an impressive former Marine Corps major general and astronaut, recently waxed eloquent about his tripartite mission at the space agency he was entrusted with by President Obama. Strangely, his third “and perhaps foremost” objective is apparently “to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering.” This, Bolden explains, is part of the president’s “Cairo Initiative,” a reification of the speechmaking he offered to the Muslim world last summer in Cairo.
One’s first reaction: Surely General Bolden does not mean what he said (just as General Casey could not have really meant that a key worry after the Fort Hood massacre was a possible loss in support for the army’s diversity program). First, is the recent record of NASA so sterling that now, in a time of record deficits, we have manpower and capital to invest in public relations with the Muslim world? And if so, why not with Latin America, or the African world?
Second, if the Iranian bomb program, the Syrian SCUD franchise, or Dr. Khan’s nuclear store are any indication, the Muslim world seems quite well acquainted with the potentials of stratospheric research and development — something we will come to know very soon without NASA outreach.
Third, is it really the business of a government scientific agency to produce historical and scientific narratives for political purposes? And do we really wish to return to the embarrassment of last June’s Cairo mythmaking? In that address, the president misled his audience on nearly every “fact” he presented, from the absurdity of Muslims in Cordoba supposedly serving as beacons of tolerance during the Inquisition (there were essentially no Muslims in Cordoba at the time) to the assertion that Muslims helped to jumpstart the Renaissance and the Enlightenment (when, in fact, flight from or reaction against Islam in the eastern Mediterranean had far more to do with both European intellectual awakenings).
Bolden, like so many Obama appointees, has impressive dossier and yet seems to say some very strange things that put ideology above all else — e.g., Eric Holder (“nation of cowards”), Hilda Solis (“documented or not”), Janet Napolitano (“man-caused disasters”), Ken Salazar (“boot on their neck”), or Steven Chu (“no more agriculture in California”).
We all know that Bolden means well and wishes to get his agency on board with President Obama’s larger plan to create a kinder and gentler image to the Muslim world in order to lessen world tension and reduce terrorist attacks against the U.S. Unfortunately, world tensions are rising, and 2009 saw the most foiled terrorist attempts against the U.S. mainland since 2001, so one can wonder about the efficacy of these approaches, or even worry that they are having the opposite effect of what they intend. But the real problem with using NASA as an arm of the State Department’s current politically correct agenda is that it is supposed to have other things to do.
©2010 Victor Davis Hanson