COMMENTARY | If there is any current example of American exceptionalism, that belief that the United States is a unique country, based around an idea rather than tribal affinities, it is its space program. No other country has had its citizens walk on the moon.
A self described “expert in communications” named Linda Billings takes a dim view of American exceptionalism as it is related to the high frontier of space. Indeed she takes an exception to the very idea of a space frontier. Her blog post is a look into how the liberal mind thinks about space issues.
Billings is especially distraught about the idea of commercial space firms, such as Planetary Resources, mining asteroids and doing other things to wrest new wealth from space. It is uncertain why she feels this way, except perhaps the idea elicits a visceral emotional reaction.
Billings objection to American exceptionalism stems from the fact that its adherence to freedom is buttressed by power. The freedom is “bright-and-shiny.” The power is “dark-and-jagged.” Billings seems unaware that keeping freedom often is dependent on wielding power. Without American power, the world today would be dominated by tyrants. American power put down the Nazis and the Soviets and is currently engaged in confronting Islamist terror.
As related to space exploration, the high frontier of space will only be a realm of freedom if American power is used to secure it. Otherwise space will be dominated by some other country, China say, which does not have a well regard for the concept of freedom.
That, in turn, requires American leadership. No other country on the planet has the capability to lead an effort to bring space into the economic realm of the Earth with freedom. That fact makes Billings’ final paragraph all the sillier.
“I wish that this administration – and the aerospace industry it supports – would rethink and at least turn down the volume on this old rhetoric. At a time when the U.S. needs to be building sustainable partnerships with other nations in order to continue exploring space, “USA, #1″ is not an especially useful opener to productive conversations.”
Oddly no greater advocate of American exceptionalism than Ronald Reagan was able to forge a sustainable partnership with other nations to build what eventually became the International Space Station. It seems that Europe, Japan, and Canada, among others, is less offended by American exceptionalism and leadership than Billings is.