The Hope and Change Edicts
What are we to make of our current NASA chief, the distinguished retired Marine Corps major general and astronaut, Charles Bolden, who, in an interview with al Jazeera, listed a “foremost” NASA objective as finding “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.”?
All of this, Bolden adds, expands the Obama “Cairo initiative,” those lofty revisionisms that the president offered to the Muslim world last summer in Cairo.
Surely, there is some mistake? Did a right-wing satirist hijack the transcript and insert “to help them feel good”?
OK—if it is a correct transcription, here are four or five off-the-top-of-the-head problems with this nonsense:
1) NASA is supposed to launch rockets and other craft, study space, and travel above the atmosphere. Its duties, especially at a time of budget restraints, are not to make any one “feel good,” much less “the Muslim world.” (e.g., why not “the Latin American world” or “African world”?).
The “Muslim world,” I think, feels pretty good about itself; in contrast, I fear we in the West apparently do not. (e.g., so far no Muslim leaders that I know are reaching out to the West to assure us that they both respect Western civilization and want to emphasize their admiration for our culture).
I wouldn’t mention the “Cairo initiative.” Bad idea. That was the most embarrassing speech given by an American president in a decade. Last June Obama misled his audience on nearly every “fact” presented, from the absurdity of Muslims in Cordoba supposedly serving as beacons of tolerance during the Inquisition (there were essentially no Muslims in Cordoba by that time), to the assertion that Muslims helped to jump start the Renaissance and Enlightenment (when in fact, flight from, or reaction against, Islam in the eastern Mediterranean had far more to do with both European intellectual awakenings). An early 15th-century Greek scribe fleeing the steady year-by-year Ottoman advance toward Constantinople, bringing with him a manuscript of a previously unknown Greek author, or Romantic Enlightenment thinkers like a Lord Byron writing of the need for a Greek revolution against the Turks, is not a sign of an Islamic pedigree for Da Vinci or Voltaire. Wait — maybe the president meant that attitudes toward Islam, as in fear of Islamic absolutism, helped to foster these two intellectual movements?)
2) Worry not, Gen. Bolden, about Muslims and space. Relax — soon there will be an intercontinentally-delivered Iranian bomb. The Syrians like space — otherwise they would not be testing Scuds. And not long ago, Dr. Khan did his best to make Muslims acquainted with the potentials of nuclear energy released in the stratosphere. Where did this idea originate that Muslims are not interested in space? Was it an article from Rev. Wright’s newsletter (e.g., “Pastor’s Page”) that suggested the Jews had new bombs that could detect Arabs — a sophisticated “ethnic bomb”?
3) It is beyond the power in 2010 of even Gen. Bolden to change the Islamic history about and attitudes toward science. To read of Ottoman scientific investigation between 1500 and 1900 is to learn of real trepidation among any Muslim scientists challenging the “authority” of the Prophet, by claiming near divine knowledge about the way things work, whether at work on lighthouses or munitions. There is a reason Dr. Khan went to the West to learn bomb-making rather than to Libya or Yemen — and it had nothing to do with the failures of the West to remind Muslims of their glorious scientific past.
4) Once more, no worry, Gen. Bolden: we know you support “diversity” and wish to make the other feel good about himself. Otherwise you would not be at NASA. But al Jazeera? These were the guys that broadcasted the snuff videos of beheadings and, in Iraq, always seemed, strangely, to be right on the scene with cameras just as American Humvees were at the opportune moment blown into the sky by massive IEDs. Al Jazeera, in other words, is antithetical to everything NASA used to be.
5) There is no record that the 18-month long outreach has worked in any department. Again, 2009 saw more foiled terrorist attempts here at home than in any year since 2001. The Middle East is at the brink. Iran is more, not less, hostile for our outreach. All that has changed with Syria is that it now openly sells missiles to Hezbollah, oblivious to our courting. A Major Hasan or Abdul Mutallab does not care whether we send a video to Iran or NASA boasts of its caring to al Jazeera. Turkey is growing more hostile, and cares not a bit that Obama apologized for slavery and the treatment of Native Americans. I could go on, but to the tiny degree that anyone in the Muslim world takes note of the NASA outreach, it will mostly be terrorists who equate our niceness with appeasement, and become encouraged that ex-American generals are now redirecting NASA to educate Muslims on their supposedly glorious scientific past, and not so interested in deterring them as was true after 9/11.