Is Obama trying to 'decolonize' space?
Observers were puzzled when President Obama apparently gave the space agency NASA a new mission to reach out to the world’s Muslims. But his action makes sense when you consider the influence of anticolonial ideology.
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So who was Barack Obama Sr. and what was his dream? First and foremost, he was an anticolonialist. He came of age during Kenya’s struggle for independence from British rule. I know about anti-colonialism because I grew up in India in the aftermath of British rule there. Anticolonialism was the ideology of my parents and grandparents, and it shaped a whole generation of third world people during the second half of the 20th century.Skip to next paragraph
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The basic principle of anticolonialism is that the world is divided into two parts: the colonizers and the colonized. The colonizers are the evil Americans and Europeans, and they got rich by invading and looting the nations of Asia, Africa, and South America.
Even today, this ideology holds, America continues to occupy two countries, Iraq and Afghanistan, and to use its power to dominate and subjugate the rest of the world. The solution, of course, is decolonization, and this means that America must get out and stay out and in the future play a much more modest and humble role in the world.
We know that Barack Obama Sr. was an anticolonialist because he says as much in a 1965 article he wrote in the East Africa Journal. And it seems that his son Barack Obama Jr. is following in his father’s footsteps because he is trying to get America out of both Iraq and Afghanistan and he has informed many international audiences that he seeks a more modest global role for America.
The theory's explanatory power
Just as telling, the 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.
If Obama shares this view, no wonder that he wants to change NASA’s focus. Even when the Muslims aren’t involved, Obama wants to make sure the Russians and the Japanese share the credit. As Bolden put it in his Al Jazeera interview: “We’re not going to go anywhere beyond low Earth orbit as a single entity. The United States can’t do it.”
Space, you see, is for human and not merely American exploration. Obama seems determined to divert NASA from being a symbol of American greatness into a more modest public relations operation that builds ties with Muslims and other peoples. For those who cherish America’s leadership role in space, it is chilling to realize that America’s own president seeks to bring that role to an end.
Dinesh D’Souza is the president of the King’s College in New York City. His new book is “The Roots of Obama’s Rage.”