NASA'S STRANGE PRIORITIES
By Dr. Daniel Pipes
"Obama's New Mission for NASA: Reach Out to Muslim World." Byron York of the Washington Examiner uncovered an interview on Al-Jazeera in which the head of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Charles F. Bolden, Jr., explained how Obama charged him to pursue three decidedly non-scientific objectives:
NASA, York went on, is pursuing "a new beginning of the relationship between the United States and the Muslim world."
York also located a speech by Bolden, who is a retired United States Marine Corps major general and a former NASA astronaut, on June 15, 2010, at the American University in Cairo. There, Bolden related that Obama --
Bolden averred that, indeed, "NASA has embraced this charge." In his colorful wording, "NASA is not only a space exploration agency, but also an earth improvement agency."
In response to the firestorm these comments have caused, the White House and NASA, according to Fox News, "stood by Bolden's statement that part of his mission is to improve relations with Muslim countries — though NASA backed off the claim that such international diplomacy is Bolden's 'foremost' responsibility."
This unexpected turn of events prompts several reactions.
First, it is inordinately patronizing for Americans to make Muslims "feel good" about their medieval contributions to science. This will lead to more resentment than gratitude.
Second, Muslims, at present, do lag in the sciences, and the way to fix this is not condescension from NASA, but some deep Muslim introspection. Put differently, accomplished scientists of Muslim origin — including NASA's Farouk El-Baz, who is of Egyptian origins — do exist. The problem lies in societies, and include everything from insufficient resources to poor education to the ravages of Islamism.
Third, polls indicate that Obama's effort to win Muslim public opinion has been a failure, with his popularity in majority-Muslim countries hardly better than George W. Bush's. Why continue with these farcical and failed attempts to win good will?
Finally, it's a perversion of American scientific investment to distort a space agency into a feel-good tool of soft diplomacy. Just as soldiers are meant to fight, not carry out social programs, so scientists must work to expand the frontiers of knowledge, not to make select people "feel good."
© Daniel Pipes 2010
Originally Published in National Review Online, July 6, 2010
Republished with the Permission of Daniel Pipes
Reprinted from the Daniel Pipes Mailing List, July 6, 2010
Article URL: http://www.danielpipes.org/blog/2010/07/nasa-strange-priorities
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Author or co-author of eighteen books, Dr. Pipes is a regular columnist for National Review Online, Front Page Magazine, the New York Sun, and the Jerusalem Post. His analyses of world trends and of forces and developments in the Middle East have appeared in numerous North American newspapers, including the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. He frequently appears on American network television, as well as at universities and think tanks, to discuss the Middle East, Islam, and the Islamist threat to the U.S.A. and the West. He also has appeared on BBC and Al Jazeera, and has lectured in approximately twenty-five countries.
Dr. Pipes is a Polish-American Jew whose parents fled Poland in 1939, immigrated to the U.S.A., and assimilated well into
American society and culture. His father is Richard Pipes, an American historian specializing in Russian and Soviet history
and serving as Professor of History at Harvard University from 1950 until his retirement in 1996. During the Cold War, the
worldview of Richard Pipes was strongly anti-Soviet and anti-Communist.
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