Live in Fame or Go Down in Flames
Here are two items of potential interest, the first is the sacking of the Secretary of the Airforce and its Chief of Staff, ostensibly over two very visible public failures.
Gates cited two embarrassing incidents in the past year. In one, a B-52 bomber was mistakenly armed with six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles and flown across the country without anyone realizing nuclear weapons were aboard.
In the other, four electrical fuses for ballistic missile warheads were mistakenly sent to Taiwan in the place of helicopter batteries. Gates said an internal investigation found a common theme in the B-52 and Taiwan incidents: "a decline in the Air Force's nuclear mission focus and performance."
But I've received a spate of emails suggesting longer-standing institutional issues. Wired writes:
Despite reports you may be reading elsewhere, this firing was not about nukes or missiles, well-placed sources say. "Far and away the biggest issue was the budget stuff, not the nuclear stuff. The UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] fight, the F-22 deal... Gates really didn't appreciate it," one of those sources tells Danger Room. Now, with the botched missile and nuke shipments, "the SecDef [Secretary of Defense] has good cover to do something that suits him bureaucratically."
Whether Gates will be remembered as "acting decisively" or taken to task for "letting things get to this point" will probably be a major theme of Washington politics in the next few days. My guess is we haven't heard the last of this.
The other item of interest is Barack Obama's foreign policy version of distancing himself, this time not from Jeremiah Wright, but from a position he had taken only days earlier. Glenn Kessler at the Trail writes that Obama was for the US Embassy's relocation to Jerusalem before the Palestinians objected to the idea.
Facing criticism from Palestinians, Sen. Barack Obama acknowledged today that the status of Jerusalem will need to be negotiated in future peace talks, amending a statement earlier in the week that Jerusalem "must remain undivided."
Obama, during a speech Wednesday to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-israel lobbying group, had called for Jerusalem to become the site of the U.S. embassy, a frequent pledge for U.S. presidential candidates. (It is now in Tel Aviv.) But his statement that Jerusalem should be the undivided capital of Israel drew a swift rebuke from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
"This statement is totally rejected," Abbas told reporters in Ramallah. "The whole world knows that holy Jerusalem was occupied in 1967 and we will not accept a Palestinian state without having Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state."
So the Change Man did what he does best. He changed. The story in the Trail continues:
Obama quickly backtracked today in an interview with CNN.
"Well, obviously, it's going to be up to the parties to negotiate a range of these issues. And Jerusalem will be part of those negotiations," Obama said when asked whether Palestinians had no future claim to the city.
Obama said "as a practical matter, it would be very difficult to execute" a division of the city. "And I think that it is smart for us to -- to work through a system in which everybody has access to the extraordinary religious sites in Old Jerusalem but that Israel has a legitimate claim on that city."
Like the Air Force issue this is either going to be spun either as evidence of Obama's creativity and openness or proof that he simply tells everyone what they want to hear. But unlike the Air Force issue we've probably heard the end of it.
Oops. We haven't heard the end of it. A spokesman for Obama says that there is no contradiction between Jerusalem being the capital of Israel and the idea that it's disposition must be subject to negotiation. Jake Tapper at the Political Punch says:
"His position has been the same for the past 16 months," Wexler said. "He believes Jerusalem should be an undivided city and must be the capital of a Jewish state of Israel. He has also said -- and it's the same position as President Bush, former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Prime Minister Ehud Ohlmert -- that Jerusalem is of course a 'final status' issue," meaning it would be one of the key and final points of negotiation for a Palestinian state. "And Sen. Obama as president would not dictate final status issues. He will permit the Palestinians and Israel to negotiate, and he would respect any conclusion they reach."
Wexler concluded, "the articles are not picking up this position. They're not contradictions -- they're the same position."
In other words, Jerusalem is Israel's but Israel is free to give away Jerusalem if it wants. It's a really neat way of squaring the circle. What will he recommend to Israel? Israel Matzav has video of what Obama actually said, and what the Palestinians objected to.
Obama seems to say that "Jerusalem must remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided." This was preceded several phrases before by the words "any agreement". A layman might be excused for thinking this means that 'any agreement should preserve Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided'. That's seems plain enough on the face of it, but as we now know it doesn't actually mean that. We are told it actually means Jerusalem "must remain the capital of Israel" subject to final disposition. If you're confused, don't be. Wexler assures us they mean the same thing. Now what does Obama actually promise Israel and Palestine? A laymen listening to the speech might imagine Obama promises Israel a secure border with no compromises and the Palestinians a contiguous and cohesive state. Listen to the video.
But according to Israel Matzav, "Abu Mazen and Abu Zuhri are upset about is not Jerusalem, but the fact that Obama said that Israel should be a Jewish state living within secure borders." So they are upset about something in that sentence. And with regards to what is promised the Palestinians, as you can hear on the video yourself, Obama promises them a "contiguous and cohesive state". Israel Matzav asks, "look at a map. How can a 'state' that includes the 'West Bank' and Gaza be 'contiguous and cohesive?' For that matter, how can a state that includes Judea and Samaria be 'contiguous and cohesive' unless we go back to the 1967 borders? How can a 'state' with no port prosper? The whole idea is ridiculous."
Not to Obama. I'm sure it all makes sense and we will learn what the words "secure" Israel and "contiguous" Palestine mean in due time.
The Belmont Club is supported largely by donations from its readers.