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The China Syndrome

January 4th, 2009 by Chuck · 6 Comments · Politics

This post has nothing to do with nuclear energy.  I’m trying to find an explanation for a seemingly random event – a good policy decision emanating from the camp of the President Elect, Barack Obama. 

According to this article Obama may be militarizing NASA:

President-elect Barack Obama will probably tear down long-standing barriers between the U.S.’s civilian and military space programs to speed up a mission to the moon amid the prospect of a new space race with China.

Obama’s transition team is considering a collaboration between the Defense Department and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration because military rockets may be cheaper and ready sooner than the space agency’s planned launch vehicle, which isn’t slated to fly until 2015, according to people who’ve discussed the idea with the Obama team.

I call this a good idea since the only justification for a government space program is as a tool of self-defense.  Space exploration for non-military purposes has nothing to do with the government’s only reason for existence, the protection of individual rights.  I do not say this to belittle the undoubted achievements of NASA.  If taxpayers are going to be robbed to support government welfare programs, space exploration is the best that could be chosen.  But it is still welfare – for scientists and space enthusiasts.

But it is only a good idea if it is indeed for purposes of national security, which seems, at least in part, to be the case:

 The potential change comes as Pentagon concerns are rising over China’s space ambitions because of what is perceived as an eventual threat to U.S. defense satellites, the lofty battlefield eyes of the military.

“The Obama administration will have all those issues on the table,” said Neal Lane, who served as President Bill Clinton’s science adviser and wrote recently that Obama must make early decisions critical to retaining U.S. space dominance. “The foreign affairs and national security implications have to be considered.”

“ . . . . .  China is designing satellites that, once launched, could catch up with and destroy U.S. spy and communication satellites, said a Nov. 20 report to Congress from the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. China’s State Council Information Office declined to comment on the nation’s anti- satellite or manned programs.

To boost cooperation between NASA and the Pentagon, Obama has promised to revive the National Aeronautics and Space Council, which oversaw the entire space arena for four presidents, most actively from 1958 to 1973.

But since when have Democrats, at least since the 1970’s, been concerned with national defense?  And what of the massive fossil fuel pollution that Atlases and Deltas spew into the atmosphere?  What trumps that, national security?

The only explanation I can think of is that Democrats in recent years are anti-China, because of labor issues.  The unions are a big part of their election base, and the unions have lost thousands of jobs to China.  So the Democrats like to look tough on China.  Even to the point of militarizing NASA, and polluting the atmosphere. 

I cannot believe they actually care about national security.

6 Comments so far ↓

  • Inspector

    When I first read the headline and your opener, I was prepping for some kind of disagreement. Barack “lets dismantle our nuclear arsenal” Obama couldn’t possibly have *anything* good to say on the topic of our defense against the looming threat of China.

    But, well… hm. That really does appear to be a good decision.


  • Burgess Laughlin

    > “The only explanation I can think of is that Democrats in recent years are . . . .”

    There is another possible explanation. The “Democrats” are not homogeneous. Only some Democrats are outright nihilists. Various other factions may seek conflicting goals. Even a single Democrat may have conflicting goals on his own individual agenda. (Quasi-Democrat Joe Lieberman is a classic example.)

    This is why I think the Obama administration may in fact resemble the FDR administration in the years ahead. Based on reading I did 30 years ago, my understanding is that the FDR administration was very friendly to socialists but it was also a “big tent” for a zoo of conflicting ideologies. Power was the game, not any particular and uniform ideology. We will see.

  • Chuck

    Another explanation I’m thinking of is simply their desire for prestige. They are making America like all other socialist countries in the world, but they still want to be the “best” socialist country, so they don’t want China to have a better space program.

    On Lieberman, I think he is the exception that proves the rule. He is indeed stonger on defense than most Democrats – and as a result, he is a virtual outcast in the Democratic Party.

    Another possible angle is that Obama may have a desire to be like John Kennedy, hence his support for a space program returning to the Moon. I think Obama also wants to be like Abraham Lincoln, and so has built something like Lincoln’s “team of rivals” in his Cabinet, after he mentioned reading the book Team of Rivals about Lincoln.

    But these are just speculations.

  • LauraB

    I concur, Chuck, that this is a big “JFK-like” move rather than a serious attempt at security.

    Too, I wouldn’t trust the man – his ascension has been planned and manipulated quite well over a rather long timeframe. I highly doubt this area of endeavor wasn’t a part of the plan. After all, if the sats are all downed and NASA is “under control”, how else to get new ones up there?

    Of course, it could give a giant lift – so to speak – to the private space industry.

  • Jennifer Snow

    Militarizing NASA might possibly be part of a plan to make massive cuts to the program as part of cutting military spending . . .

  • Stephen Bourque

    Given the pragmatic, range-of-the-moment nature of politics today, it’s not surprising to see particular policy decisions seem to be favorable every now and then. As the old saying goes, even a stopped clock is correct twice a day.

    Unfortunately, since it is purely accidental, it cannot be construed as a positive sign.