Left to Swing in the Breeze

Presumably, no one in Washington has a current mailing address for Osama bin Laden, so the Obama administration hasn’t been able to send Al Qaeda a “Reset” button yet.  Since novelty toy diplomacy has thus far proven impossible in this case, the president has been forced to rely on the three remaining pillars of his policy for dealing with the Muslim world: apologies, appeasement and adulation. Given that record, there was nothing surprising about NASA Administrator Charles Bolden’s saying that the president had tasked his agency with the important job of making the Muslim world feel better about itself. Bizarre initiatives are a hallmark of this administration, so what might have been shocking a couple of years ago has become sadly predictable today. You can roll your eyes only so far into the back of your head.

Yet, the Obama administration apparently recognized that Bolden’s remarks crossed the ludicrous line, as White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs denied on Monday that the president had ever given Bolden such a directive. That doesn’t mean that Obama didn’t actually express such a sentiment to the ex space shuttle astronaut who now heads up NASA, it more likely means that somebody in the administration belatedly recognized that kissing up to the Muslim world that much would be more than a little embarrassing. Admittedly, they’re setting the bar pretty low, but it’s a start.  Perhaps the next time the president hooks up with Saudi royalty he won’t feel as inclined to bow, or at least not quite so low.

During his interview on Al Jazeera television, Bolden defined the marching orders that he received from President Obama thus: “—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.”  Warming to the topic, Bolden went on to justify NASA’s newest priority: “It is a matter of trying to reach out and get the best of all worlds, if you will, and there is much to be gained by drawing in the contributions that are possible from the Muslim (nations),” he said. He held up the International Space Station as a model, praising the contributions there from the Russians and the Chinese. Does that not all sound just like Obama? Does that not sound like the man who promised to have a cozy chat with Ahmadinezhad, who conducted the “apologize for America” tour and who embraced Hugo Chavez? What’s more plausible: that Obama issued orders that are entirely in character with his worldview, or that Bolden – a Marine who retired as a Major General and probably knows a thing or two about the chain of command – made up his own marching orders?

Asking NASA to lead Muslim group therapy is entirely consistent with the president’s approach. It is a matter of commonly-believed historical record (although this belief is disputed by some scholars) that there was a time when Muslims were at the forefront of scientific discovery, particularly in the field of mathematics and astronomy. No one disputes the fact that the age of Muslim primacy in science, if it in fact existed at all, ended a millennia ago. At roughly about that time, the Islamic world abandoned any pretense of participating in the secular search for natural truths, having decided instead that the Quran contains all of the wisdom that mankind could ever want or need.

July 13th, 2010
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