- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 7, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Just when you thought Barack Obama’s toadying to Islam could not get any worse, now comes this: The president directed the new administrator of NASA, retired Marine Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden Jr., as “perhaps [his] foremost” charge, to “find 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 … and math and engineering.”

This comment came in an interview the NASA chief conducted with al-Jazeera while touring the Middle East to mark the first anniversary of President Obama’s much-ballyhooed Cairo paean to Muslims. Gen. Bolden elaborated, “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].”

In an address to the American University in Cairo, Gen. Bolden added that Mr. Obama has “asked NASA to change … by reaching out to ‘nontraditional’ partners and strengthening our cooperation in the Middle East, North Africa, Southeast Asia and in particular in Muslim-majority nations.” He declared that “NASA is not only a space-exploration agency, but also an Earth-improvement agency.”

Now, when one thinks of the “contributions” to our space program that are possible from Muslim nations, the one that comes to mind is the literal kind - recycled petrodollars - because their “contributions to science, math and engineering” for several hundred years have been, to put it charitably, underwhelming.

As it happens, the NASA administrator made it pretty clear in his remarks to al-Jazeera that the U.S. space program is not going anywhere without foreign help. That soon will be literally true because, with the retirement of the last space shuttle next year, we will be entirely dependent on Russian launchers to put people into space.

Such a state of affairs will persist unless and until experimental American rockets being developed by private American concerns pan out - or the Chinese offer us a ride.

Unfortunately, the prospect of America’s space program relying - like a fading superpower version of Blanche DuBois in “A Streetcar Named Desire” - on the “kindness of strangers” is the inevitable result of programmatic decisions being taken by the Obama administration.

The most obvious one was the cancellation earlier this year of NASA’s Constellation program, which was intended to provide a “man-rated” expendable rocket to replace the shuttle as America’s means of putting humans into space. The national-security and commercial implications of this decision have been exacerbated, however, by two other, seemingly unrelated actions: Mr. Obama’s decisions to stop producing long-range missile-defense interceptors and to defer indefinitely any replacement of our aging nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile force.

As a result, real concerns are beginning to be expressed about the viability of the U.S. industrial base for solid-fuel rocket motors. Without government procurements in one or more of these areas, possibly for years to come, America will see at a minimum the continuing attrition of domestic suppliers for vital components and the steady erosion of the skills required to manufacture boosters capable of reliably lofting large payloads.

Matters would be made worse when one combines this reality with another Obama priority: relaxing export controls on sensitive dual-use technologies. The argument usually made is that such steps are necessary to ensure that American producers can compete in world markets and that “higher fences around fewer technologies” can safeguard what absolutely must be protected and allow easier transfer of products that need not be.

In practice, it is predictable that the result of this policy will be that manufacturing jobs associated with presently controlled technologies will move offshore, where production can take place at lower cost. The price that surely will be extracted by Saudi Arabia and other wealthy Muslim nations from which NASA will be seeking “contributions” will be access to know-how and possibly space-launch-related production capabilities currently deemed too sensitive to transfer.

It would be bad enough if the results of such initiatives would be simply to build up America’s commercial competitors. Given that many of the relevant technologies are inherently applicable to military uses - notably, delivering nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction over long distances via ballistic missiles - these steps ineluctably must result in greater threats to American citizens, interests and allies.

Worse yet, in a recently unveiled policy pronouncement, Mr. Obama has expressed an openness to exploring Russian and Chinese ideas for new, multilateral space arms-control negotiations. As Moscow and Beijing have long appreciated, unavoidable verification and definitional problems ensure that, as a practical matter, any treaty likely to emerge from such talks would further weaken America’s ability to protect its interests in space and on the ground - without denying such advantages to our potential adversaries.

As in so many areas, it seems Mr. Obama’s space policies and programs are designed to “fundamentally transform” America from a pre-eminent world power to just another nation dependent on the goodwill and assistance of others to safeguard its interests. To the extent that such reliance is placed on sources like the Russians, the Chinese and “the Muslim world” that have made little secret of their ambition to weaken, if not destroy, the United States, it is likely to end badly, as it did for poor Blanche DuBois.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy, a columnist for The Washington Times and host of the syndicated program “Secure Freedom Radio,” heard in Washington weeknights at 9 p.m. on WTNT 570-AM.

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