Going against even the wishes of the Democrat-controlled House, POLITICO reports that “top advisers to Joe Biden have argued that it’s important to cooperate with China” in space in order to “reduce tensions and the likelihood of a destabilizing space race.”
Before I tell you what a hare-brained idea that is, let’s give a fair shout to the fools trying to sell it.
While Biden’s transition team “declined to comment” on the alleged president-elect’s plans for cooperation (or not) in the new space race, former astronaut and Biden advisor Pam Melroy told POLITICO prior to the election, “It’s very important that we engage.”
“Trying to exclude them,” she said then, “I think is a failing strategy.”
Biden would seem to have numbers — if not sense — on his side:
Most of the nearly two dozen former astronauts, government officials and space experts interviewed by POLITICO agreed that America could lose its position as the global space leader if it shuts Beijing out entirely.
No less an authority than former NASA administrator and astronaut Charles Bolden said, “We seem to be satisfied to allow them [Communist China] to go off and build their own space station. … That’s short-sighted. … It’s not the mark of a good leader.”
Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it and here we are — again.
The POLITICO report claims that “the U.S. has used space to improve an untrustworthy, tense relationship before, when it partnered with the former Soviet Union.”
In 1975, a handshake in space between astronauts and cosmonauts was broadcast to the world in the midst of the Cold War. Less than 50 years later, Moscow is Washington’s closest ally in space, launching American astronauts on Russian Soyuz rockets and operating jointly on the International Space Station.
I’m reminded of former Obama administration fabulist Ben Rhodes who correctly noted that the average reporter is 27 years old and “knows literally nothing.”
American and Soviet astronauts did indeed get a heartwarming photo-op during that 1975 orbital linkup, but the geopolitical scene down here on Earth was not so friendly.
While President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger were pushing detente with the USSR (and opening up to China) in the post-Vietnam War era, Moscow was taking advantage.
Sensing weakness here in the U.S., North Vietnam in 1975 violated their peace treaty with the South, invading and swiftly crushing the pro-Western government in Saigon. The North received heavy support from both the USSR and Communist China.
In Africa, Portugal withdrew from its former colonies of Angola and Mozambique. Moscow essentially rented out the Cuban Army to enforce Communist rule in Angola and to spread “revolution” throughout the region.
At home, the Brezhnev regime cracked down so hard on dissidents, human rights activists, and Jews that by 1977, that the new Carter administration felt the need to assure the world that they would “hold the Soviet Union accountable.”
The next year, the Soviets would help install a Communist regime in Afghanistan, leading to decades of war and fallout that we’re still dealing with.
Throughout the “detente” period, the Soviets also engaged in a huge expansion of their naval power, directly threatening our ability to protect our interests in Europe and Japan — and thus making a ruinous global war more likely than at any time since 1945.
In short, cooperating with the Soviets in space bought us no relief from Soviet expansionism on Earth.
Now we’re supposed to believe that cooperating with Communist China — flush with American dollars and far more technologically advanced and adept than the Soviets ever were — will buy us even more peace on Earth?
Standing in the way of any such Panglossian effort to team up with Beijing in space is the “Wolf Amendment” legally blocking NASA from working with Chinese commercial or government agencies. The Wolf Amendment (named after its author, former Republican Virginia Congressman Frank Wolf) has been included in each year’s spending bills since 2001.
Currently, there’s a push to eliminate the Wolf Amendment, on the shaky grounds that it prevents NASA from examining Moon rocks recently collected by Communist China in their most ambitious Moon launch yet. But given how quickly private American companies like SpaceX are gearing up for even more ambitious Moon (and even Mars) projects of their own, opening our doors even further to Communist Chinese espionage over a few rocks seems worse than rock-headed.
Others worry that China’s growing launch abilities will peel away our traditional space partners. But given growing distrust of Beijing — not just in this country, but throughout the Asia-Pacific region and to a lesser extent, Europe — just how many willing partners will China find?
Decoupling from Communist China was never going to be easy or cheap, but the faster we get the job done, the less of a threat China becomes in the long run.
That’s the lesson we learned in the 1970s, but it seems there are people with Biden’s ear who never learned the lessons of history — and are doomed to repeat it.