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Steve Likes to Curse
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Dinesh D’Souza: Obama wants to “decolonize” space 
Thursday, October 14th, 2010 | 07:05 pm [barack obama, commentary, politics, science]
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Hey, you know who’s an idiot? Dinesh D’Souza. A popular Christian apologist and favorite punching bag of Christopher Hitchens, D’Souza has recently published a book, The Roots of Obama’s Rage, wherein he argues that the “rage” felt by our current president (a very mellow fellow from all appearances) can be traced back to the anticolonialist ideology of Barack Obama Sr., a man he barely knew.
 
Now D’Souza is applying this theory to Barack Obama’s widely mischaracterized directive to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden to promote math and science in the Muslim world. In
a piece for the Christian Science Monitor published online yesterday, D’Souza argues that Obama’s use of the space agency for Muslim outreach is part of a plan to “decolonize” outer space.
 
Get a load of this: 
 

[T]he anticolonial assumption explains, as no other theory can, why President Obama would apparently undertake the strange task of changing the mission of NASA. Plug in our anti-colonial model and what at first seems inexplicable – converting NASA into a community outreach program for Muslims – suddenly makes complete sense. Remove the theory and it is almost impossibly difficult to account for what Obama is doing.

 

Recall the Moon Landing of Apollo 11 in 1969. “One small step for man,” Mr. Armstrong said. “One giant leap for mankind.” But that’s not how the rest of the world saw it. I was eight years old at the time and still living in my native India.

 

I remember my grandfather telling me about the great race between America and Russia to put a man on the moon. America won that race, and everybody knew it because Armstrong placed the American flag on the moon.

 

So it wasn’t one giant leap for mankind, but one giant leap for the United States. It was as if that flag signified, “We Americans did this. We Americans now own the moon.” I can understand how many in the third world might see the moon landing that way, because I’m from the third world and that’s the way I saw it.

 
Here’s a theory that explains why Obama has changed the mission of NASA (stay with me, this gets a little complicated): he’s not. D’Souza and other conservatives have suggested that Obama intends to transform NASA from an agency dedicated to science and exploration to a branch of the State Department. A glance at NASA’s Fiscal Year 2011 budget is all that’s necessary to disprove that. Along with multiple statements of the agency’s intention to maintain the International Space Station, and continue and expand its scientific and exploratory missions, there are the numbers themselves:
 

·         A projected $25 billion spent over the next five years on Earth Science, Planetary Science, Astrophysics, and Heliophysics.

·         Over $40 billion spent between now and 2015 on Exploration and Space Operations.

·         $3.1 billion over five years spent on research and development of new launch systems and propulsion.

·         $3 billion over five years for robotic precursor missions, to gather data and lay the groundwork for future manned missions to the Moon, Mars, and nearby asteroids.

·         $6 billion over five years to support the development of American commercial spaceflight.

 
Does that look like the budget of an agency preparing to abandon space and concentrate on making friends in the Muslim world? The goal of Obama’s directive to engage the Muslim world is just that — to engage the Muslim world, to remind them of their scientific and mathematical traditions, hopefully to lure them away from barbaric religious superstition and into the civilized, humane 21st century. Nevermind how realistic it is — is it such a horrible idea?
 
D’Souza’s characterization of Obama’s NASA strategy as anticolonialist would be ridiculous even without the clumsy lies about the nature of the Muslim outreach. In order for space to be decolonized, it must first be colonized. Nothing like this has happened. The closest thing to a colony in space is the International Space Station, which is a joint effort of NASA and international space agencies, including those of Europe, Japan, and Russia. Its mission is not to steal the wealth and natural resources of outer space, as European colonial powers did to Africa and the Middle East, but to discover and develop new resources to share with the entire world.
 
Also significant: no one lives in outer space (at least not the parts of it we’ve visited). There are no natives to exploit or displace. And contrary to what D’Souza may have thought at the time of the Apollo 11 landing, the United States has never claimed ownership of the Moon. I’m not nuts about the idea of flying up there and planting national flags, but this isn’t the 15th century, for Christ’s sake. It takes a little more than that to annex territory.
 
Dinesh D’Souza may have thought the U.S. was claiming the Moon in 1969, but that was when he was 8 years old and didn’t know any better. Now what’s his excuse?
Comments 
Friday, October 15th, 2010 | 04:57 am (UTC)
I thought Barack never met his father, right? Also, shouldn't everyone be anti-colonialist? I know I am and I'm proud of it. If you go to some far away land and people are already living there, you cannot claim it as your own. It's their land, not yours.
Friday, October 15th, 2010 | 05:54 am (UTC)
Anonymous
It doesn't really matter whether Obama spent time with his father or not. Even if he didn't, that doesn't mean no one ever told him about his father or his father's politics. And, isn't there something about Obama's father having some sort of issue with Great Britain or something? Seems like he was imprisoned or accused of something of a political nature....can't remember.

Yeah, but the whole anti-colonialism influence is a bit hard to follow.
Friday, October 15th, 2010 | 01:23 pm (UTC)
Obama's father came to see him when he was six or seven, but that was the only contact they ever had.

And I'm with you. So Obama's father was an anticolonialist. Did he not have a good reason? There's this very troubling (but not really surprising) implication in D'Souza's claptrap theory, that there was nothing wrong with what European countries did in colonizing and exploiting the people and resources of Africa.
Friday, October 15th, 2010 | 04:59 pm (UTC)
Anonymous
Yeah, I'm not sure I understand exactly what D'Souza means by "anticolonialist." It almost sounds more like being anti-American Exceptionalism or something.

Maybe the implication is not that there was *nothing* wrong with what European countries did in Africa and India, ect, but that it wasn't *totally* all about plundering and exploitation. Maybe, (and I'm just trying to understand it all myself, so I'm not saying I agree with this) maybe the issue with what D'Souza is calling anti-colonialism is a perception that *any* interference in African or Indian, etc. affairs automatically equates to exploitation, even when it doesn't. Maybe what D'Souza is describing is a hatred of all and any European or American influence in the eyes of anti-colonialists. And also to say that the anti-colonialist thinks European countries and the US owe their power and influence and vast wealth to nothing else *except* their evil plundering and exploitative nature.

My question is, does that kind of extreme anti-colonialism actually exist outside the mind of D'Souza?
Friday, October 15th, 2010 | 05:24 am (UTC)
Anonymous
With colonialism comes arrogance and competitiveness. We may not have been claiming the moon as our own, but getting to it first was a testament to how great we are, a notch in our belt. I don't think D'Souza was suggesting Obama wants to decolonize space, but that he wants to temper a prideful America. What I think D'Souza is saying is that Obama thinks we owe it to third world countries to share our trophy (not the actual moon, but the legacy of getting there first.)

Whether D'Souza is right or not, the NASA Muslim outreach thing just doesn't make sense. Isn't there a hundred other different agencies already geared toward education and outreach to third world countries? Why not just give one of them the extra funds to go toward science "inspiration" outreach and have them utilize NASA simply as a resource or tool for that inspiration?

I've been to Cape Canaveral. It's pretty lame. Not much to get excited over really unless a shuttle is going off. Science isn't America's best subject right now, either. Our own youth could use some inspiration too.
Friday, October 15th, 2010 | 01:55 pm (UTC)
The NASA budget I linked to includes a few bucks to spruce up Kennedy Space Center after the shuttle fleet is retired, in preparation for the next transport system, whatever that winds up being. You'll have to check it out when they're done redecorating!
Saturday, October 16th, 2010 | 03:34 am (UTC)
Anonymous
all countries see and feel the moon. who does it belong to?

Does NASA make moves to educate a group of people?
In some cases, perhaps NASA could explain to them why we have a moon in the first place. NASA has been to space. They have credibility there.
Hb
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