Posted by Adam Blickstein
The New York Times has an interesting interview with Nina Federoff, who holds the unique positions of Science Advisor to Secretary of State Condi Rice:
Q. WHY DOES THE SECRETARY OF STATE NEED A SCIENCE ADVISER?
A. Because science and technology are the drivers of the 21st century’s most successful economies.
There are more than six billion of us, and the problems of a crowded planet are everyone’s: food, water, energy, climate change, environmental degradation. Other nations, even those that have lost respect for our culture and politics, still welcome collaboration on scientific and technological issues.
She goes on to discuss how State opens the door to intrastate collaboration on science and research by negotiating nation-to-nation science and technology agreements, bringing together scientists and engineers from across the world in some sort of bespectacled rendition of "It's a Small World" in a laboratory. Of course, the rhetoric would be great if the Bush administration didn't have a spotty to sub-par to wretched record on financing science and research here in the U.S. Not to mention science education, in which the U.S. has slipped far behind other industrial nations, ranking behind countries such as Latvia, France and Croatia in the latest assessments.
Federoff acknowledges the loss of U.S. prestige around the world, but it doesn't help when the President routinely shrugs off science (global warming, agriculture, NASA) for political reasons. In fact in nearly all of the policy areas she names (food, water, energy, climate change, environmental degradation), America basically has no credibility on which to lead let alone influence other nations with the Administration having so completely squandered our moral authority.
The bottom line is diplomacy of any kind only works if American policies back-up our rhetoric, and the rest of the world can trust our leadership. Sadly, with science, as elsewhere, the sanguine veneer the Bush administration tries wash itself in fails to hide its reckless record and failed policies, resulting in more hollow diplomacy abroad.