If there were an election tomorrow….

by Chris Bertram on March 16, 2004

If there were a British general election tomorrow I’d probably vote Labour, as I nearly always have done. I’d think about Iraq, the “war on terror”, Northern Ireland, the EU constitution, asylum seekers, taxes, prisons, higher education policy, Tony Blair, poverty, the environment, local government and a whole host of things. And I’d probably still vote Labour. If there were a terrorist attack which killed 200 of my compatriots, and the government, suspecting Al-Quaida, chose nevertheless to spin a story that the Real IRA were to blame, I might, just might, change my mind. But I’d still probably vote Labour. I certainly wouldn’t take kindly to commentators from other countries—themselves basically ignorant of my country’s politics and history—telling me that my task, in casting my vote, is to “send a message” to Osama bin Laden or anyone else. I’d be upset if such pundits told me that voting other than they way they recommended amounted to dishonouring the dead . And if a Spanish person, encountering such a commentator were to punch them on the nose, I’m not saying they’d be right, but I’d understand.

{ 88 comments }

1

Mat 03.16.04 at 10:07 am

How quick those deads were forgotten. Horrifying. But that’s the effect of terrorism: polarizing opinions, encouraging extremism and manicheism. They have won in this regard.

Why still vote Labor with all you describe, though?
(I’m kidding)

2

Andrew Boucher 03.16.04 at 10:13 am

There are many aspects of the Spanish vote which sadden me, most of all the atrocities which preceded it. Nonetheless a vote was held, a choice was made, now let’s respect that choice.

What saddens me about the reaction is the continued evidence that the West is splittling, country by country, person by person, into two. New events are tending to polarize rather than bringing people together. The Spanish bombings should have been a cause for greater solidarity; that has not been the result. Look at the world’s reaction to 9/11, and compare this to 3/11.

We have passion if not hysteria on both sides, and everyone thinks they’re entitled to punch the other guy in the nose. You understand it but you don’t condone it. That’s a difference which is to subtle for me. Violence is not justified because of someone else making comments you don’t like. Maybe you were just saying it playfully, to make a point that the Telegraph’s comments were out of bounds, which they were, especially given that some dead have not yet been buried. But the inability to even try to understand, or try to search for common ground, is disappearing. Instead we get comments which suggest that continued discussion is impossible, and the only solution is to hit the other guy down.

It is sad, it is depressing.

3

Lee Bryant 03.16.04 at 10:22 am

So, given the gravity of the issues you mention above, presumably there is no action the Labour Party could take that would make you *not* vote Labour on principle.

I do, though, share your disgust at the Telegraph’s piece. Shameful.

4

bad Jim 03.16.04 at 10:40 am

You can only say that because you don’t have a Tory government.

5

push 03.16.04 at 10:40 am

my sentiments exactly Chris. The comment in some papers that Al Quaeda has succeeded in dictating a result in a democracy is really objectionable ..

6

Juan G. 03.16.04 at 10:44 am

Chris, may I volunteer for the role of your fictional “Spanish person”? I have the credentials: I voted for Zapatero, though in an advance poll before the Madrid massacre, so I never had to reconsider my decision.

Not that I would have. As I made clear in a comment to an earlier thread, I am very glad we have dumped the PP and that the margin was clear. However, as I also commented earlier, this election victory has a left a bitter taste in my mouth. I think we should not have participated militarily in the Iraq misadventure (in fact our soldiers never went to fight), but pulling our troops out hastily, as Zapatero has promised, would be wrong both for moral and strategic reasons. We owe the Iraqis help in fixing what Saddam and the mismanaged war to oust him have broken. And — and! — the message it sends to the Islamists is that they can manipulate us through terrorism. The only person I would like to punch in the nose is the idiotic woman photographed carrying a photo of Blair, Bush and Aznar under the banner asking: “Can this picture have cost 200 deaths?” [http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ 040314/photos_ts/mdf496065]

As I said earlier, I am very glad that Zapatero won, but unless he makes it clear to the Islamists that our victory is not theirs, it will be a hollow, even dangerous, triumph.

7

john s 03.16.04 at 10:48 am

Talking about other countries’ elections is fair game; plenty of non-Americans ignorant of US politics and history have banged on about Bush stealing the 2000 US election to the present day.

8

Chris Bertram 03.16.04 at 11:11 am

“Talking about other countries’ elections is fair game.”

But saying that voters who vote differently to how you want them to vote are “dishonouring the dead”, before some of those dead are even buried, is not.

9

Factory 03.16.04 at 11:20 am

“plenty of non-Americans ignorant of US politics and history have banged on about Bush stealing the 2000 US election to the present day.”

Hmm plenty of Americans have made that point, in the blogosphere Americans making that point easily outnumber the foreigners.

10

Backword Dave 03.16.04 at 11:41 am

It’s also nonsense to suggest that if one party is for something then opposing parties are automatically against it. Most politicians broadly agree on most issues. Being against terrorism is such an issue.

Declaring one’s party to be the only party of say “law and order” or wrapping oneself in the flag are almost invariably acts of bad faith.

And now Mark Steyn “knows” bin Laden is dead. Hmm. An article to cut out and keep, methinks.

11

john s 03.16.04 at 11:42 am

The Spanish election is all tied up with AQ and Iraq. Anyone pro-war has been accused of indifference to the deaths of Iraqi civilians as a result of the war. Anyone anti-war has been accused of indifference to Saddam’s victims. It’s entirely to be expected that the same kind of language should continue unabated with the Spanish election.

12

Greg Hunter 03.16.04 at 12:09 pm

Spain – The people of Spain decided to have their government ask the world if their might not be a better, more civilized way to handle the rise in terrorism.

The response from the Telegraph is that they are representative of the modern day Neville Chamberlain.

Clearly, if the right is correct and all Muslim countries equate to Hitler’s Germany, then they say let the killing begin. Why wait Europe, you weak, and dead horse, grab your gun (oops your don’t have any) and begin the Crusade. Finish the job your fore fathers started. Besides the world needs a good war for business….

Except we can’t wage that war just yet, because we don’t have enough of our own oil production like we did in WWII. We (US) need to keep prices high, so we can convince the American Public that drilling on our own turf to get our own supply is warranted in spite of the future environmental issues. The increased production from Iraq will flow to India and China to heat up their demand, allowing Global Corporations to make profits.

If John Kerry is elected he will not shirk from the process that GW started, American & Global Corporations cannot afford it and he knows it. In fact I will argue that it may be better for business that JK gets in, as he can placate all parties (Corporations, World Opinion and American Public). He will maintain status quo, but have the ability to blame Bush for tying his hands in order “to fix the mess he got us in”. Look, No President is going to give away an Oil Field, with its potential to drive the world’s economy, away. The Panama Canal sure, but 15% of the World’s reserves, HA. That’s why France, Germany and Russia were bitching, not anything else. If one looks at the situation, the further geographically one was from Iraq, the less bitching we heard from the people running the governments (England, Spain, America, …..

The people of Spain spoke in hope for the world, but the economic forces aligned against their desire for a peaceful resolution appears formidable.

13

Anthony 03.16.04 at 12:29 pm

What saddens me about the reaction is the continued evidence that the West is splittling, country by country, person by person, into two. New events are tending to polarize rather than bringing people together. The Spanish bombings should have been a cause for greater solidarity; Look at the world’s reaction to 9/11, and compare this to 3/11.

Much of the solidarity with the US was illusionary, and more of a display of conspicuous compassion, than any meaningful solidarity. All of the cries of “We are all American” have now been drowned out by rampant anti-Americanism, which is willing to ascribe any ridiculous motivation or conspiracy theory to the Bush Administration.

Sadly it appears that many more people are going to lose their lives in horrific attacks, before there is greater concensus about the nature of the threat facing liberal states and the will to deal with it.

14

john s 03.16.04 at 12:31 pm

I hadn’t clicked on the link, so didn’t realise you were back to knocking Steyn. Come on. Steyn is Steyn, Steyn is not…er, say Joseph Nye. If you read him, that’s what you get. If you buy a bottle of coke it shouldn’t be a surprise that it’s not full of chateauneuf something or other. And, remember, he didn’t kill those poor people. Some barbarians murder innocents at rush hour and now you’re reacting angrily to Steyn’s reaction to the Spanish reaction to that. Your eye is off the ball here.

What’s more, on this very blog, dsquared has argued that it was ok to oppose the Iraqi invasion because Saddam was killing a mere 2000 annually after 1991. What? That was acceptable use of deaths to push an argument but Steyn’s isn’t?

15

Bob 03.16.04 at 12:52 pm

Chris: “And I’d probably still vote Labour.”

But then you – like me – belong to an older generation. I have to say that Britain’s teens seem to be at least as rebellious as usual against prevailing political orthodoxies to judge from this recent survey in The Times:

“Teenagers’ views on government were equally traditional. Two thirds said they preferred the ‘Royal Family and Parliament’ to a ‘presidential system’. Most, however did not believe that the Prince of Wales would make a good king, with 71 per cent thinking the crown should pass straight to Prince William. They have a strong sense of right and wrong too, with 76 per cent saying the war with Iraq was wrong and 82 per cent saying they distrusted Tony Blair.” – from: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1033293,00.html

Curiously, those views seem very congenial to me.

16

mandarin 03.16.04 at 1:50 pm

But saying that voters who vote differently to how you want them to vote are “dishonouring the dead”, before some of those dead are even buried, is not [fair game].

Chris, could you post a complete list of contexts in which certain people are not entitled to have opinions? Various members of the Crooked Timber team keep saying something of the sort; it appears to be house policy.

17

Ben Benny 03.16.04 at 1:54 pm

You know, I often wonder what warbloggers and columnists like Steyn would be doing these days if there hadn’t been a few major terrorist atrocities over the last few years to give their lives meaning.

Then I think to myself, No, Benny, that’s totally unfair. We must never shift our gaze from the only thing that’s important in the world today. Not for a second.

18

BP 03.16.04 at 1:58 pm

“Much of the solidarity with the US was illusionary”

Fortunately, Spain hasn’t even been granted the illusion of solidarity. The insults and epithets are being hurled at them even before the bodies have been buried. The so-called Right has skipped over the candle-lit processions, the black-edged condolence advertisements, the pop concerts at Ground Zero, the commemorative web sites, and gone straight to calling Spaniards yellow-bellied spineless terrorist appeasing traitors who deserve all they get.

It must be comforting for the Spaniards to know that they deserve the outpour of epithets too.

“Sadly it appears that many more people are going to lose their lives in horrific attacks, before there is greater concensus about the nature of the threat facing liberal states and the will to deal with it.”

Aznar, Bush, and Australian PM Howard are, according to certain trigger-happy segments of the blogosphere, the only ones who understand “the nature of the threat facing liberal states”, and the only ones with “the will to deal with it”.

The fact that all three have overseen the most spectacular terrorist attacks on their citizen in the past decades is, apparently, not a testimony to the bungling ineffectiveness of their methods (despite the hundreds of billions sunk into the Iraqi misadventure), but apparently something to be proud of, and behavior to be rewarded.

19

bp 03.16.04 at 2:03 pm

Mandarin, Chris said “I’d be upset if such pundits told me that voting other than they way they recommended amounted to dishonouring the dead.”

This is a statement of fact, not of opinion.

However, when you say
“But saying that voters who vote differently to how you want them to vote are “dishonouring the dead”, before some of those dead are even buried, is not [fair game].”

you are inventing a straw man.

20

harry 03.16.04 at 2:11 pm

bq. Chris, could you post a complete list of contexts in which certain people are not entitled to have opinions. Various members of the Crooked Timber team keep saying something of the sort; it appears to be house policy.

He didn’t say anything about people not being entitled to have opinions. He talked about what a reasonable person might feel and be inclined to do to people who had those opinions without warrant, and expressed them. He didn’t even excuse the putative Spaniard’s putative behaviour. Just said he’d understand it.

21

Peter 03.16.04 at 2:18 pm

I am waiting for someone–from the right or left–to tell me why Juan G.’s real vote (as opposed the hypothetical ones under discussion) was “dishonourable” or why his hindsighted reflection on (the potential distortion of) its meaning is wrong.

22

david 03.16.04 at 3:06 pm

Yikes, I just read David Brooks, and he makes Steyn look sane. Appeasement, cowardice, different political cultures, Europeans unwilling to stand up to terror. God he pisses me off. To follow up on an earlier thread, from long ago, Brooks has never written anything worth a goddamn, and he is a worthless piece of shit, who will say or do anything to promote his politics.

23

Nicolas Bellfort 03.16.04 at 3:08 pm

There is to be honest little surprise in the spanish electoral result. Aznar was widely unpopular since he pledged Spain to the Iraq war. The socialist were the alternative for those who disagreed with that choice (and the choices that will stem from it). However the UK is different as the political equivalent of the Spanish Socialist is British Labour which in its Blairite form favours the war. The UK’s upcoming choices, other than the still unelectable social democrates, are largely of no consequence to UK policy: there is little the Tories and Labour (Blairites) disagree on at this point in time.

24

Robert Lyman 03.16.04 at 3:11 pm

As a pro-Iraq-war conservative, I’ve been pretty bothered by the American Right’s insistence that this was a vote for appeasement. Maybe is was, maybe it wasn’t, but I sure can’t get into the heads of Spanish voters, so I can’t possibly know. And calling someone a “coward” or “dishonorable” because of his political choices is stupid and destructive.

But the Left’s response to the Right’s distasteful complaining, including the CT response, has been inadequate. What matters most is not why Spain voted as it did, or who has the right to interpret and criticize the result, but rather, how al-Qaeda will interpret the result.

If the bombers wanted to influence the election, and if they think that they did, in fact, influence it, that is extremely bad news. For that matter, it is extremely bad news if the bombers have a political preference in Spanish (or American) elections. All civilized politicians really should be equally (and publicly) committed to destroying thugs and barbarians like these.

All the carefully-developed arguments about the glories of the socialists or the perfidity of the PP won’t matter if the result is more election-eve bombs killing more innocent people.

25

Anthony 03.16.04 at 3:51 pm

The fact that all three have overseen the most spectacular terrorist attacks on their citizen in the past decades is, apparently, not a testimony to the bungling ineffectiveness of their methods (despite the hundreds of billions sunk into the Iraqi misadventure), but apparently something to be proud of, and behavior to be rewarded.

Much as I was distressed at the time by Bush’s election victory, I have to point out that the 911 attacks were planned by Al Qaeda under a Clinton Administration. Bush cannot be considered to have “overseen the most spectacular terrorist attack.. in the past decades”.

I do not think the victory of the Socialists in Spain is a victory for terrorism personally, but it is hard to argue that the attacks had no effect on the election. If Al Qaeda see a Spanish troop withdrawal in the wake of these bombings, which I admit will have little operational effect on the ground in Iraq – though it may worry Iraqis about the resolve of Western nations, it will be seen as a victory by Al Qaeda. It may spur them on to commit similar atrocities in the UK, Australia, Italy and Poland. We may think they will be deluded to consider that, but that will be no comfort to those killed in a bombing. Arguably, the attacks will happen anyway, perhaps this may just change the timings of such attacks.

I’m sure Bin Laden must be rubbing his hands at the sight of the split in the democratic nations. In the past it has been argued that Al Qaeda have been trying to drive a wedge between Europe and American. I think it is important Europe demonstrates that this is not going to happen.

26

Donald Johnson 03.16.04 at 3:56 pm

If al Qaeda has the capability to plant bombs and kill hundreds of people, they’re going to do it however they interpret the Spanish election. They might plant their bombs before elections if they think they can influence them, or they might plant their bombs where there are large crowds on some special date, or they might choose some big symbolic target again, like the Pentagon or the WTC. The point is to stop them, not to worry about how they might read election results except to the extent that understanding what they think might give clues on what their next target is going to be.

27

William 03.16.04 at 4:03 pm

If the bombers wanted to influence the election, and if they think that they did, in fact, influence it, that is extremely bad news.

I disagree. I don’t think that, when you vote, you should be looking over your shoulder at what it might make bombers think. I think you should be voting for the party whose reaction to the bombers you most agree with. It’s bad news if bombers think they can influence an election, but it’s worse news if people think that their primary consideration in voting is how it should affect the morale of some other, unknown group.

28

Robert Lyman 03.16.04 at 4:12 pm

William, you’re arguing a different point. I wasn’t discussing how a given voter should vote, I was just saying that if AQ’s morale goes up, that’s bad for the civilized world. If that morale boost is a result of misunderstanding on their part, that doesn’t really make much difference.

29

BP 03.16.04 at 4:17 pm

“Much as I was distressed at the time by Bush’s election victory, I have to point out that the 911 attacks were planned by Al Qaeda under a Clinton Administration.”

As were many other attacks by al-Qaeda, both on and outside US soil. 9/11 was by no means the first attack by al-Qaeda on the US, but it caught Bush napping. Vis-a-vis 9/11 he was entirely reactive, w.r.t Iraq he’s been shooting his wads off in the wrong direction – see Madrid 3/11, and yet he’s supposed to be an emblem of success in the WOT?

And I say this as one who welcomed Bush’s election in 2000.

30

BP 03.16.04 at 4:27 pm

Robert, when terrorists succeed in killing hundreds of people and maimimg thousands, they bloody well know that they will be influencing events greatly. That’s the whole damn point of detonating 300 pounds of high explosives in crowded public places. I think the fact that they succeeded in causing such carnage is in and of itself a great morale booster for al-Qaeda.

Semtex is not a scalpel-like tool to be used by terrorists to subtly influence policy. It’s a blunt instrument, the object of which is to cause as much terror as possible. Each act of terror is more or less an end in itself. Succesfully detonating their explosives was their goal, not tipping votes one way or another.

There is much rejoicing today in the al-Qaeda street at the fact that their bombs went off, and if the PP had won that election their elation at their succesful attack would not have been any less. The electoral outcome is an irrelevancy: the atmosphere of fear and shock is what matters. That the Socialists won is of interest only to hysterical right-wingers and war-hawks, who imagine that their frightened bleatings trump Spanish sorrow.

31

William 03.16.04 at 4:49 pm

Hi Robert,

If you’re arguing that it’s bad for the civilized world if Al Qaeda’s morale goes up, and you think that people shouldn’t do things that are bad for the civilized world, then it seems that you are arguing about how people should vote.

It seems to me that Al Qaeda’s morale is a second-order effect, and could be affected by many things (as bp points out). If people vote for a party that’s serious about terrorism, that’s good anyway, regardless of its effect on Al Qaeda. If they vote for a party that’s soft on terrorism (for some value of “soft”), that’s bad anyway, regardless of its effect on Al Qaeda.

Further, if the Socializts will prosecute the fight against Al Qaeda more strongly than Al Qaeda suspects, the net effect could be to decrease their morale (particularly if their morale’s got a boost from the Socialists’ election in the first place — Hooray! We changed the government! Boo! The new government’s no better!). I’m putting this argument forward, not because it’s particularly strong, but to illustrate that (a) morale changes; (b) you can argue the enemy’s morale forever; and (c) the important thing is the first order effect — what the elected government actually does.

If the Socialists aren’t serious about addressing terrorism, it was a bad result. If they are, it was a good result. Either way, I agree I’d rather have Al Qaeda demoralized than boosted, but it pales in importance to other issues.

32

William 03.16.04 at 4:50 pm

Like that “(c)”…

33

jmc 03.16.04 at 5:00 pm

And as someone who grew up in the South of Ireland I know appeasement of terrorists when I see it.

The facts are very simple. For months all the tracking polls show PP winning with a large majority. A few days before 11-M the polls showed PP winning around 170 seats.

After 11-M what happens? The voter turnout increases 20% and the vast majority of these people vote for PSOE. Or more accurately against the PP.

What are they voting against? A strong position against terrorism both domestic and international.

What are they voting for? The weaselly words of PSOE. Hoping to deflect the attention of the terrorists away from Spain onto other countries.

The sheep have spoken and they have said – baaa.

The swing PSOE voter are too stupid to realize that voting out PP has increased the probability of further attacks inside Spain. The swing voter have proved to the terrorists that atrocities work. So dont be too surprised when the terrorists attempt more spectaculars.

I’m moving back to London next month. The vote in Spain has greatly increased the probably of a mass terrorist attack in London. They are now going to trying to pick off Blair next.

So to the voters of Spain I say a big ‘Screw you’ for making my life and the life of the people around me a lot more dangerous.

If anyone is ever charged with direct involvement in the attacks of 11-M they will be ETA people. At first all the ‘experts’ said that the Omagh bombing could not be an IRA attack because it did not ‘fit the pattern’ of IRA attacks. 11-M was Spains Omagh.

The whole Moroccan angle is a red herring. ETA has spent the last 18 months trying to commit a mass atrocity – well now they have succeeded.

34

Matthew 03.16.04 at 5:21 pm

The last poll on the 8th gave the PP an 4% lead, lower than earlier in the campaign. This had a 3% margin of error. Six days later the election gave the PS a 4% or 5% lead. Six days is a long time in elections. The day before the UK 1992 election 4/5 polls gave Labour the lead, the next day the Tories won by about 6-7%. Nothing had changed.

35

armando 03.16.04 at 5:24 pm

Well, I think it is quite plausible that the Socialist victory in Spain is down to a higher turn out. If this results in an outcome al-qaeda prefers, then what are we saying? That we should discourage people to vote? That having a government that represents the democratic will of the Spanish people with regards to the war is playing into al-qaeda’s hands?

Is it possible to express any greater contempt for democracy and the Spanish electorate? Does the hypocrisy of saying this in the name of freedom not bother anyone on the right?

Of course not.

36

Sebastian Holsclaw 03.16.04 at 5:29 pm

“The comment in some papers that Al Quaeda has succeeded in dictating a result in a democracy is really objectionable ..”

“But I’d still probably vote Labour. I certainly wouldn’t take kindly to commentators from other countries — themselves basically ignorant of my country’s politics and history — telling me that my task, in casting my vote, is to “send a message” to Osama bin Laden or anyone else.”

What is this talk of tasks or objectionable or dishonouring the dead? Talk of facts.

Fact 1: The PP was leading by a noticeable margin before the bombs.

Fact 2: Al Qaeda has publically and repeatedly criticized Spanish involvement in Iraq.

Fact 3: Al Qaeda set some bombs and killed about 200 people.

Fact 4: This changed the most probable result of the election such that it allowed to win a party who promises to engage in a foreign policy which is the same policy which Al Qaeda desires. (Please note I do not say “aligns itself with Al Qaeda’s desires” or “changes it view to match Al Qaeda’s”).

Fact 5: This specific result was Al Qaeda’s plan .

So without disparaging the intentions of the Spanish electorate, I can still easily say that they have handed Al Qaeda a large victory.

For the first time Al Qaeda can credibly claim (notice I don’t say unimpeachably prove I say credibly claim) to have toppled a Western government and influenced an election through murder to successfully gain a desired foreign policy change. They say that they did this with ‘only’ 200 murders. This will be used by them to show others in the Middle East that they are strong, and that the West is easily cowed. This will tend to strongly encourage those who might lean toward them and strongly discourage those who might lean against them.

The position that the ‘PP blamed the ETA’ for a day and a half when it seemed like the most obvious conclusion to Europeans (a suggestion to the contrary subjected many warbloggers to intense ridicule in the first day after the bombing) is not going to mitigate the above facts one whit in the Middle East–where it really matters. Especially when the PP government did nothing to hide the evidence to the contrary. I knew about the van with Muslim tracts and explosives within hours of the actual bombing. And I live half way across the world.

37

Robert Lyman 03.16.04 at 5:30 pm

Succesfully detonating their explosives was their goal, not tipping votes one way or another.

You know bp, if you have the level of strategic intelligence that permits you to be totally certain about the goals of terrorists, you really should be more concerned about protecting your sources and methods. Also, you should consider sharing it with the relavant authorities in your jurisdiction.

Seriously, (and in response to william, who makes some good points), my overall point is not to lecture Spaniards on how to vote, or to deeply analyze the implications of the election.

It was to point out that the Spanish election results may be bad for the WoT and the civilized world generally, regardless of what one thinks of the motives of Spanish voters. One need not accuse Spain of “cowardice,” or believe their vote was “wrong,” to be worried about the implications of this election.

The Right (of which I consider myself a member) has been way off base here; my point is that the Left, so eager to attack the Right, may be missing something important.

38

Steve Carr 03.16.04 at 5:36 pm

William writes: “I think you should be voting for the party whose reaction to the bombers you most agree with.” Well, if you change your vote to vote for the party whose reaction is the one that the terrorists want, and do so in the hope that the terrorists won’t bomb you again, then I think that’s pretty much appeasment. And it seems clear — not just from the polls, but from myriad comments from Spanish voters in the press — that a significant minority of Spanish voters did just that. Arguing that the electoral outcome is an “irrelevancy” is simply whistling past the graveyard.

This is especially true because bin Laden has quite explicitly used previous examples of Western weakness in the face of violence — most notably the decision to pull U.S. troops out of Somalia after Mogadishu — as a recruiting tool, treating them as evidence that if the radical Islamists stay the course, their victory is assured.

Al Qaeda is not, as bp seems to think, made up of nihilists. Terror is not an end in and of itself. It’s a tool that’s being used to bring about the return of the Caliphate. They want to win, and the more victories they do win, the easier it becomes for them to carry on the struggle and, just as important, the easier it becomes for them to recruit new members. Spanish voters who switched their votes –and only them — handed al Qaeda a victory. I don’t think they’re in a position to be punching anyone.

39

confused 03.16.04 at 5:48 pm

Many here seem to be implying (without support)that Al-Q wants Western countries out of Iraq. The Iraq (mis)adventure was fantastic for Al-Q:
-How much money is the US spending in Iraq that otherwise could be used to hunt down AQ operatives, train Arabic language specialists, hire…(you get the point)? 3 billion a month? 4?

How much anger is there in the Arab/Moslem world over the Iraq war?

40

W. Kiernan 03.16.04 at 5:55 pm

Were I voting in Spain’s election, especially after the bombing, I’d vote for the politicians who’d yank Spanish soldiers out of Iraq, where Al Qaida ain’t, and ship them over to Afghanistan to team up with the multi-national force there, where they might get a chance to lay hands on some genuine Al Qaida guys and kill them.

And I don’t give a damn about influencing the morale or what-have-you inside the heads of the Al Qaida fanatics one way or another. All I care about is influencing their bodies with flying lead, high explosives and napalm.

Focus. The way to beat Al Qaida is to go after Al Qaida, not to attack a bunch of far more easily locatable guys with more or less the same skin color and the same religion who have nothing to do with Al Qaida. I know that’s a highly complicated concept and possibly over-subtle, but that would be my plan, and I’m sticking with it.

41

Greg 03.16.04 at 5:57 pm

JMC, what are you babbling about? Nobody I’ve ever met from the Republic of Ireland calls it ‘The South’.

And Omagh wasn’t an IRA atrocity. It was a ‘Real’ IRA atrocity. You know, the murdering scumbags who aren’t remotely interested in compromise, rather than the ones who are? The ones we don’t talk to, rather than the ones we do?

There’s been a few good posts of the election result on ‘A Fistful of Euros’. Definitely worth a look.

42

BP 03.16.04 at 6:03 pm

“It’s a tool that’s being used to bring about the return of the Caliphate”

This is one of the most stupid ideas floating around in the blogosphere at the moment. It’s a concise sentence, easily mouthed, but means absolutely *nothing.*

“Bring back the return of the Caliphate”. How? By exploding bombs in public places until Spaniards import some Moroccan and elect him Caliph?

43

William 03.16.04 at 6:04 pm

Steve,

if you change your vote to vote for the party whose reaction is the one that the terrorists want, and do so in the hope that the terrorists won’t bomb you again, then I think that’s pretty much appeasment.

Or it might be saying: “Our involvement in the Iraq war doesn’t seem to have been effective in combatting terror. Let’s try a different tack.”

There are different ways of trying to reduce instances of terrorism. I don’t think it’s helpful to describe a shift in tactics as appeasement. You think that the Socialist victory is a mistake, because it’s a win that makes it easier for Al Qaeda to recruit new members. I feel that the war in Iraq was a mistake, because it radicalized Islamic youth and made it easier for Al Qaeda to recruit new members. Voters who agree, and who want the government to try something else, aren’t necessarily appeasers.

Robert, I agree that there can be concern about how Al Qaeda will react to the election, and that it might lead to bombs before other elections. I just don’t think that concern should be our primary takeaway.

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Thorley Winston 03.16.04 at 6:17 pm

John Sheehy wrote:

Talking about other countries’ elections is fair game; plenty of non-Americans ignorant of US politics and history have banged on about Bush stealing the 2000 US election to the present day.

I agree, it is disingenuous to suddenly decry non-Spaniard comments about the Spanish election and its implications while non-Americans have been free to make their own commentary about American politics.

That being said, I think it would be a mistake to jump in right away and assume the reason for the outcome and why the apparent shift until one has a better understanding of the facts. Some have suggested that the pre-election polls were misleading as there were an awful lot of new voters who may have shifted the results. There are also undoubtedly quite a lot of domestic issues of which non-Spaniards may not as aware that undoubtedly sway elections.

However I do think it is safe to say that the reversal of Spain’s policy in Iraq (while its substantive contribution seems minor) will be used as a propaganda coup by Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups and possibly inspire other attacks on American allies in the hopes of changing their policies as well. It does not mean that the attacks in Spain were necessarily what did that, but that I have no doubt that it will be seen that way.

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GMT 03.16.04 at 6:28 pm

Sebastian:
your Fact #1 is not fact at all

your Fact #3 was denied by Aznar, who also concealed arrests to further that denial, which is why…

your Fact #4 is speculation, to put it mildly

If there’s one thing I’ve noticed from the “capitulation” braying, it’s that its participants are proud to be strangers to reality. They seem already to know the story they want to tell and can’t be bothered with the facts.

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GMT 03.16.04 at 6:40 pm

However I do think it is safe to say that the reversal of Spain’s policy in Iraq (while its substantive contribution seems minor) will be used as a propaganda coup by Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups and possibly inspire other attacks on American allies in the hopes of changing their policies as well.
If we assume that al-Qaeda and its sympathizers are as ignorant of the Spanish Socialist party’s longstanding demand for such a policy reversal as is the American right, then this seems reasonable.

But while Iraq has been a strategic victory for al-Qaeda (more practically significant than the American strategy of appeasement in moving its forces from Saudi Arabia), and while al-Qaeda did declare war on all Christian nations invading any Islamic one, if al-Qaeda’s leaders are slightly more intelligent, they should worry about a western power that is not distracted from terrorism by a decade-old American plan to break OPEC, since this may spell the beginning of their enemies’ period of bungling.

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jmc 03.16.04 at 6:42 pm

> JMC, what are you babbling about? Nobody I?ve
> ever met from the Republic of Ireland calls it
> ?The South?.

Well, you have ‘The North’ and ‘The South’. This is in very common usage in Ireland, especially in the border area. All other terms have political baggage.

> And Omagh wasn?t an IRA atrocity. It was a ?Real? IRA atrocity.

Based on the way the IRA dealt with the ‘perps’, they did nothing, I would consider Omagh an IRA operation. The IRA usually executes members who use IRA weapons and explosives in unauthorised attacks. They are very picky about this.

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GMT 03.16.04 at 6:43 pm

should read: spell the beginning of the end of their enemies’ bungling.

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Antoni Jaume 03.16.04 at 6:45 pm

Every one that said that Al Qa’ida has affected the Spanish election is boosting AQ. I put the blame on them for any other act of AQ. And do never forget that AQ was fueled by the USA to go against the SU, so yes terrorism works, and the USA has been its greater sponsor since the end of the wars in Europe in 1945.

The PP was booted because they wanted to capitalize on solidarity, a solidarity that would have been greater, or so they thought, had the perpetrator been ETA. Fact is that putting the blame on AQ would too work, if presented honestly, but the PP is nowadays the party of crooks. The pre-election polls that gave victory to the PP were due to ETA acts, should not us Spaniards act counter to that, since it is well known that ETA preferred a PP governement because it raised their baking not only amongst the Basques but in fact from a lot of parts in Spain?

Anyways, no one of you who did not have to suffer Franquismo and fascist, ETA or GRAPO terrorism, alongside with some sporadical islamist bouts, is in a position to talk to us. You were not in Madrid now, and you were not there in 1939.

DSW

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Sebastian Holsclaw 03.16.04 at 6:52 pm

“If we assume that al-Qaeda and its sympathizers are as ignorant of the Spanish Socialist party’s longstanding demand for such a policy reversal as is the American right, then this seems reasonable.”

Why would we assume that? Al Qaeda knew full well of the Socialist party’s desire for such a policy reversal. That is precisely why their win in response to the bombings is a great victory for Al Qaeda. The murders contributed to a situation where a party adverse to Al Qaeda’s stated foreign policy in Iraq was replaced by one in line with Al Qaeda’s state foreign policy in Iraq. The longstanding position of the Socialist party isn’t the point. The point is that Al Qaeda set off bombs, killed 200 people and can credibly claim to have changed the election outcome from one that supported the US into one that does not support the US.

GMT, how is my fact 1 not a fact? Do you dispute that the PP was polling significantly ahead prior to the bombings? On what basis? What is speculative about 4? Are you suggesting that the bombings did not change the most probable outcome of the votes? Are you suggesting that the most probable outcome was a Socialist win if there had been no bombings?

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Thorley Winston 03.16.04 at 6:56 pm

Antoni Jaume wrote:

Every one that said that Al Qa’ida has affected the Spanish election is boosting AQ. I put the blame on them for any other act of AQ. And do never forget that AQ was fueled by the USA to go against the SU, so yes terrorism works, and the USA has been its greater sponsor since the end of the wars in Europe in 1945.

Really? Evidence please.

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armando 03.16.04 at 7:33 pm

If al qaeda were to attack the US before the elections, I’m wiliing to bet that Bush would stand a much greater chance of victory. (And I think there is a strong case to be made that this would suit al-qaeda well.)

Will we then hear voices denouncing the result?

No, because this only works one way. A result that accurately represents the will of the electorate, with respect to the war on Iraq, is caving in. An illegal conflict to further imperialism is not.

After all, we are fighting for democracy. Not so that Spanish foreign policy should reflect, as has been consistently polled, the overwhelming will of the Spanish people.

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kevin 03.16.04 at 7:38 pm

So, let me get this straight. In order to not give the terrorists a victory, Spain should have ignored evidence of the failure of Spain’s policies (polices a large majority of the country did not agree with) and try to figure out how the terrorists would not want them to vote. Ah! But what if the terrorists really wanted Spain to stay in Iraq — wouldn’t then try some reverse psychology and do this in the hopes of a rally around the flag effect?

You see where this is going. People are advocating the abandonment of democracy to the whims of terrorists. According to them, voters should not actually vote for what they think is in the best interest of their nation. They should instead, cowering and sniveling in the voting booth, cringing at the thought of the all powerful might of the terrorists, try and discern what the terrorists want them to do and vote the other way. I am sorry, but thats a bad, bad, bad idea, and even a little spineless. I decide what is in the best interest of my nation for myself, and I vote accordingly. I do not care what al-Queda wants, because it is more important that I make the right decisions that will defeat them in the long term than prevent them from gaining a temporary and short term propaganda victory.

The only way that plan even makes a bit of sense is if you ascern to al-Queda the devlish abality to know exactly what will and will not happen in the future based upon every possible combination of actions. Sorry, but I seriously doubt that God is a terrorist.

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kevin 03.16.04 at 7:39 pm

I have no idea why I used the word ascern there…

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GMT 03.16.04 at 7:45 pm

Sebastian: I think you’re ommitting one link in the causal chain when you say
Are you suggesting that the most probable outcome was a Socialist win if there had been no bombings?

I would say that that was a likely outcome, considering the polls (something else wildly misrepresented in criticisms of the election’s outcome).
The bombings constitute a failure of Aznar, a hawk, in the defense of his country.
After the bombings, Aznar had his chance to transform his failure into a victory, as W did days after 9/11, and Aznar blew it. The whole complexion of the turnout was altered by his use of state media and spokesmen to blame the bombing on ETA, a ploy to fold the entire event into his established platform against nationalist parties and constitutional change.
This created disgust and mistrust, which continues in the form of coup scares and rumors since the election.
His alienated supporters stayed home, others who did not plan on voting turned out.
There was no one mind being changed; Aznar’s miscalculation altered the shape of voter participation.
A simple link of bombing –> election –> al-Qaeda victory is laughable when you consider that Aznar failed to defeat AQ’s schemes, and then tried to deny their involvement.
The man al-Qaeda beat is gone. How is losing this loser a loss in our fight against AQ?

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GMT 03.16.04 at 7:51 pm

Oops, left out:
Yes, your fact #1 is not a fact. PP was not polling significantly ahead of the competition 8 days before the election, if by “significantly,” you mean statistically significantly. PPs numbers had been trending downward for weeks, as a matter of fact.
Therefore, before the bombings, the parties’ numbers met, with PP on its way down.
Changes the picture, doesn’t it?
I think the further context, which I have provided above, answers your questions about Fact #4.

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GMT 03.16.04 at 7:57 pm

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Antoni Jaume 03.16.04 at 8:01 pm

“Antoni Jaume)And do never forget that AQ was fueled by the USA to go against the SU, so yes terrorism works, and the USA has been its greater sponsor since the end of the wars in Europe in 1945.

(Thorley Winston)Really? Evidence please.”

to begin:

“…In 1985, President Ronald Reagan received a group of bearded men… They were very ferocious-looking bearded men with turbans, looking like they came from another century. President Reagan received them in the White house. After receiving them he spoke to the press. He pointed towards them…and said, These are the moral equivalent of America’s founding fathers. These were the Afghan mujahideen…”

read the rest at :

http://www.meaningfulliving.com/terrorism_theirs_and_ours.htm

DSW

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Steve Carr 03.16.04 at 8:05 pm

The arguments for the Socialist vote being voiced here seem to me almost willfully disingenuous. No one here is arguing (perhaps they are elsewhere, but not here) that Spaniards who, like juan g., had intended to vote Socialist all along should have changed their vote to send a message to al Qaeda. The argument is that those people who changed their vote in response to the terrorist attacks have sent a message telling al Qaeda it can get what it wants if it bombs the right places. Just look at the big NYT story, which has this passage:

“A 26-year-old window frame maker, who identified himself only as David, said he had changed his vote from Popular Party to Socialist because of the bombings and the war in Iraq. “Maybe the Socialists will get our troops out of Iraq, and Al Qaeda will forget about Spain, so we will be less frightened,” he said. “A bit of us died in the train.”

Is anyone seriously going to argue that al Qaeda is not going to take sustenance from reactions like that, and that they aren’t going to use it as a recruiting tool? That might be tolerable if the reaction was right, but it was absolutely wrong. You don’t react to terrorist violence by saying, “How can we change so that the terrorists won’t want to bomb us anymore?” Kevin’s bizarre argument that it would have been sniveling cowardice for people not to change their vote –that is, it would have been cowardly for them to vote the way they intended to before the bombing — gets this point exactly wrong.

As for bp’s assertion that the return of the Caliphate means absolutely nothing, it may mean nothing to him, but it means quite a bit to al Qaeda and radical Islamists in general, since it’s essentially what they’ve been fighting for more than a decade. How are they going to bring back the Caliphate? By killing all infidels who actively oppose Islamist rule, converting others, and tolerating those unbelievers who will agree to live peacefully under Sharia. I don’t understand what’s so baffling about this. The Taliban did it in Afghanistan, arguably the ayatollahs did it in Iran, the Salvation Front gave it a good run in Algeria. Of course, it seems utterly implausible and unrealistic to see the same thing happening in Spain or across Europe, but I think we can agree that al Qaeda’s idea of what’s plausible is rather different from our own. That doesn’t mean the actions they take are any less real or damaging.

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kevin 03.16.04 at 8:28 pm

“Kevin’s bizarre argument that it would have been sniveling cowardice for people not to change their vote —that is, it would have been cowardly for them to vote the way they intended to before the bombing — gets this point exactly wrong.”

Well, no. Ignoring for the moment that you are resting your argument on one interview, not a solid look at the reasons behind the vote, I see no practical way you can say “you shouldn’t let al-Queda attacks affect your vote.” mean anything other than “You shouldn’t take into consideration the effects of a terrorist attack, even if they are enough to push you over the edge to belief that the government is doing X incorrectly.” You are telling people that its more important to prevent a short term propaganda gain for al-Queda (and the arguments about moral are off base. They are fanatics. Fanatics have moral out the wazoo) than to vote for what they think is in the long term interest of the country. You have the equation exactly backward.

And exactly how far out does a terrorist attack have to happen before I can take it into consideration? If this had happened a month ago would it have been all right for the Spanish to take it into account? Or a week ago? or last year? At what point does it stop being about manipulated by terrorists and instead becomes a statement about the effectiveness of the government’s anti-terrorist policies?

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Thorley Winston 03.16.04 at 8:31 pm

Antoni Jaume wrote:

“…In 1985, President Ronald Reagan received a group of bearded men… They were very ferocious-looking bearded men with turbans, looking like they came from another century. President Reagan received them in the White house. After receiving them he spoke to the press. He pointed towards them…and said, These are the moral equivalent of America’s founding fathers. These were the Afghan mujahideen…”

Yeah so? The mujahideen isn’t Al-Qaeda and the link you posted fails to provide any evidence to the contrary much less any support for your initial claim that the United States supported terrorism. I see that you were mistaken when I asked for “evidence” and seemed to think that I meant “someone’s opinions about tangential matters without any evidence” rather than “facts substantiating the charges made.”

Try again.

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wtb 03.16.04 at 8:35 pm

The debate over whether the election in Spain was influenced more by pre-existing internal political dynamics or by external events (i.e. the bombing) is, in the short run, immaterial. It doesn’t matter if Spanish voters chose their prime minister on the basis of anger, fear or serene reflection upon each candidate’s merits. The terrorists won’t stop to consider these nuances. They’re already celebrating.

That’s not to say it’s inappropriate for us to analyze the long term consequences of this election. Indeed, we must do so in order to understand how it will affect the war on terror. (Yes, it is a war.) And, of course, we’re all glad that Franco’s gone and that Spanish voters have the opportunity to vote with their conscience. But it’s silly to pretend that the terrorists aren’t delighted with the result.

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Sebastian Holsclaw 03.16.04 at 8:36 pm

“If this had happened a month ago would it have been all right for the Spanish to take it into account? Or a week ago? or last year? At what point does it stop being about manipulated by terrorists and instead becomes a statement about the effectiveness of the government’s anti-terrorist policies?”

You are falling into a trap with a name that escapes me. Just because I cannot say exactly when a man becomes ‘bald’ doesn’t mean that term is useless. I can safely say that a bomb which changes the outcome of an election less than a week away is a problem area. I can safely say that repeated and very public announcements less than a day later by the party that electorally benefitted from the bombing, changing the foreign policy such that it is in line with Al Qaeda’s wishes (even though the Socialists did not have to change their own position to do so) smacks of appeasement.

Just because I’m don’t know the exact number of days you typically need to add to this in order to break the chain doesn’t mean that I can’t be sure that 3 days and 1 day are well within the range.

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GMT 03.16.04 at 8:40 pm

Winston: you might check into the provision of arms to Iranian terrorists, to help fund Latin American death squads.

Just a suggestion.

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Another Damned Medievalist 03.16.04 at 8:43 pm

Whether it is helpful to AQ or not seems to be a different point to the one running through most of the comments so far (and BTW, where are the women commentators?). I dunno, it seems to me that (and please, I already know that this may sound a bit touchy-feely, and it’s not meant that way) thoughout all of the comments, there’s an implicit criticism of the very valid fear that now exists for many Spanish people. It is a denial of people’s right to vote on whatever grounds they wish. If votes were changed because of the bombings, they were changed.

What I find very interesting among the numbers being thrown around is that Tim Russert asked the ever-awful Condy Rice just last Sunday if the Bish administration was at all concerned that this would happen, given that over 80% of the Spanish population were against involvement in Iraq. She sidestepped the question and made some platitudinous remark about the Spanish people understanding how important it was to rid the world of terrrorism, yada-yada. Point is, I think there is enough evidence there to say that the Spanish people were not all that happy to have the PP in power, but were willing not to change governments. I think also that the article on the Guardian’s football page may have it pretty much right — it wasn’t so much Iraq or AQ bombings that turned the tide — it was the way Aznar and Co. handled it.

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GMT 03.16.04 at 8:48 pm

WTB: while I have pointed out why this isn’t necessarily a victory for AQ from the standpoint of their own political calculus, about which I can only speculate, I don’t doubt for a moment that this episode is at this moment becoming part of one of AQ nauseatingly juvenile recruiting/cheerleading videos. So what? Which war are we fighting? A war of .mpegs?
I just don’t think that you can go through life, much less a war (and you stress that it is a war) worrying that the enemy might find something to smile about. That’s not my idea of confidence, strength, or principle. Aznar failed against terrorism, in more ways than one. If AQ thinks Spain’s possible withdrawal (NATO option pending) from Iraq is their victory, those of us who never bought into the well financed conflation of those two wars are understandably optimistic.

As someone has observed elsewhere, how many times did the US govt. change hands during the Cold War? Was the Cold War an issue in those elections? Of course. Was any election a victory for Communism? If so, why did they lose?

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Rajeev Advani 03.16.04 at 8:57 pm

In response to Chris asking us to handle Spanish democracy with soft and gentle hands, I’ll quote Oliver Kamm from a recent blog entry:

“The Spanish people’s ability to choose a government is a precious and recent right, and I see no reason to belittle it by refraining from engaging in vigorous criticism of their choice: the new prime minister has on initial evidence no conception of internationalist principle or humanitarian duty. The “disaster” of Iraq was that country’s ordeal under Baathist despotism; it is not possible to hold to a progressive view of politics and wish either that that country’s liberation by British and American forces had never taken place, or that western nations should now abandon a country assailed by their own mortal enemies.”

I don’t see the Spanish action as appeasement either (only short-sighted and illiberal), but democracies should be treated like democracies — they can handle the heat.

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kevin 03.16.04 at 9:01 pm

“Just because I’m don’t know the exact number of days you typically need to add to this in order to break the chain doesn’t mean that I can’t be sure that 3 days and 1 day are well within the range. “

Yes and no — you need to be able to give me some idea of when I am a voter and when I am an appeaser, otherwise your distinction doesn’t have a lot of meaning. At some point, people do agree on what is bald and what is covered with hair. It’s a secondary point, but since I am already hearing things like Bin laden for Kerry at NRO, its important that we get some clarification on this issue.

“changing the foreign policy such that it is in line with Al Qaeda’s wishes (even though the Socialists did not have to change their own position to do so) smacks of appeasement.”

Not really, not unless you really want it to. The Spanish people were already opposed to the policies of th PP in this regard, it just hadn’t become the premier issue because their hadn’t been a large cost. Now there was, and people no longer felt that they could support a failed and failing policy. Doing what you wanted to do anyway is not really appeasement — particulalry considering that the Spanish route is arguably more effective and tougher on the terrorists than the US route.

And all of this avoids the larger question: why should we care more about the short term propaganda victories rather than the long term consequences? And that’s what people seem to be arguing here: it looks like appeasement, so al-Queda wins, so the Spanish should not have done what they thought was in their best long term interest with regards to terrorism. I say again: that way is giving the terrorists far too much control over our institutions and decisions.

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eudoxis 03.16.04 at 9:05 pm

The 38% vote for the PP in Spain shows a considerable increase in support for the war in Iraq, if one is to believe that previous polls indicated a 90% anti-war stance.

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GMT 03.16.04 at 9:12 pm

it is not possible to hold to a progressive view of politics and wish either that that country’s liberation by British and American forces had never taken place, or that western nations should now abandon a country assailed by their own mortal enemies.
Nor is it possible to ignore the pathetic hypocrisy of using the brutality Saddam’s regime (again: remember the baby incubator story? remember the US about-face on Amnesty International? remember we were going to “restore democracy” to a Kuwait that didn’t have one when invaded? etc), which the US supported to the tune of billions of dollars (even after Halabja), as the reason for removing him from power at the cost of still more thousands of Iraqi lives, or to ignore that the plan to do so was perfectly public for over a decade and had nothing to do with either wmd or human rights, or that the continuing presense of US forces draws more killers there who have no stake in a stable Iraq, as our own “flypaper strategy” makes patent.
Advani’s quote misrepresents both the present and the past of Iraq and relations with that nation, and progressives are not the ones shoving history down the memory hole in service of the present, failed policy.

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Rajeev Advani 03.16.04 at 9:13 pm

To clarify: the Spanish decision, IMHO, was short-sighted not because of appeasement (whether it exists or not in this case) but because they removed 1300 troops from Iraq.

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OdysseusInRTP 03.16.04 at 9:16 pm

Confused,

When AQ was flushed out of Afghanistan they went to Iran, Iraq and Pakistan, Asia and Africa.

We have worked hard with Pakistan and Indonesia. Getting started with Algeria. Can’t do much with Iran, yet. Hoping the Iranians will take care of it themselves. Invaded Iraq and we are cleaining up the leftovers.

Now they are running to Europe for protection. Maybe, they will find safe haven in Spain. Who knows? Maybe, Spain will clean up the mess for us.

Seems link the Bush strategy is effective to me.

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wtb 03.16.04 at 9:31 pm

GMT: I’d like to make two comments:

“those of us who never bought into the well financed conflation of those two wars are understandably optimistic.”

Funny to find myself in the dunce’s corner with AQ. Both of us seem to have conflated the war on terror with the war in Iraq. At least that’s what I think they meant when they said the Madrid bombing was retribution for Spain’s participation in the war in Iraq. Wouldn’t it be nice if AQ, like me, had the decency to confine its errors to the comments section of this blog?

“I just don’t think that you can go through life, much less a war (and you stress that it is a war) worrying that the enemy might find something to smile about. That’s not my idea of confidence, strength, or principle.”

I think you’ve conflated the latest self-esteem boosting self help bestseller with Sun Tzu. The problem is not that AQ is enjoying an undeserved felicity while the rest of us work on our ulcers. They are delighted because they believe they’ve made a victory. This should worry us because 1) it strengthens their morale 2) they may be right.

“As someone has observed elsewhere, how many times did the US govt. change hands during the Cold War? Was the Cold War an issue in those elections? Of course. Was any election a victory for Communism? If so, why did they lose?”

I’m prepared to concede (indeed I hope it’s the case) that the new Spanish might give AQ hell. As the previous poster observed, a change in government or administration doesn’t necessarily indicate a change in policy. However, with regard to Iraq, it seems the new Spanish goverment intends to alter its policies in a way that can only be gratifying to AQ.

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wtb 03.16.04 at 9:34 pm

GMT: sorry, make that three comments.

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Steve Carr 03.16.04 at 9:43 pm

Kevin, if a terrorist attack happens within a week of an election, and is accompanied by a public statement from those claiming responsibility which says that one of the goals of the attack was to punish a country for a particular policy decision, and a significant minority of the voters in that country switch sides so that that policy will be reversed, it’s appeasement. I don’t know why you’re wasting so much time and energy denying it. It was a rotten thing to have happened, and it’s going to make the struggle against al Qaeda harder, not easier. Just admit it.

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Steve Carr 03.16.04 at 9:49 pm

As for GMT’s nonsense about the Cold War, every American president who was elected between 1948 and 1988 (with the possible exception of Carter) was explicitly and without apology a Cold Warrior. (That’s what makes Ann Coulter’s labeling of Democrats as treasonous so absurd.) So, no, no election was a victory for Communism, because all the candidates agreed that opposition to Communism was essential to American foreign policy.

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GMT 03.16.04 at 9:50 pm

AQ’s errors? I’m sorry, I thought you meant a connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda BEFORE the US et al. invaded. Or at least you seem to think you have one. Unfortunately, AQ declaring war on all Christian countries attacking Muslim ones after the invasion of Iraq does not retroactively make the pre-war lying by western powers vanish, though I can see why you would need to hide it, given that you have no other argument to your credit. I’ve seen this kind of tripe all over right-blogistan, and it’s a shame to see it here, at least because the inmates of CT are not stupid enough to buy arguments that involve time travel and/or amnesia.

Having actually read SunTzu, I’m not likely to make that mistake. Nor am I as easily frightened, it appears. If you have found a way to recast your timidity as a virtue I would not be surprised at all, given your rhetorical gifts.

So, you said you had comments…?

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GMT 03.16.04 at 9:52 pm

Well, Steve, “nonsense” notwithstanding you agree with me perfectly.

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GMT 03.16.04 at 9:57 pm

Kevin, if a terrorist attack happens within a week of an election, and is accompanied by a public statement from those claiming responsibility which says that one of the goals of the attack was to punish a country for a particular policy decision, and a significant minority of the voters in that country switch sides so that that policy will be reversed, it’s appeasement.
Again with the uninformed causal chains. Please review upthread and see what you’ve missed.
You might also consider that no one is required to “admit” what you can’t argue.

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kevin 03.16.04 at 10:18 pm

“Kevin, if a terrorist attack happens within a week of an election, and is accompanied by a public statement from those claiming responsibility which says that one of the goals of the attack was to punish a country for a particular policy decision, and a significant minority of the voters in that country switch sides so that that policy will be reversed, it’s appeasement. I don’t know why you’re wasting so much time and energy denying it. It was a rotten thing to have happened, and it’s going to make the struggle against al Qaeda harder, not easier. Just admit it.”

No, because you are wrong. Sorry, but there it is. In the first place, as has been pointed out, the lies the PP told in the aftermath had much more to do with the swing in voter sentiment, and, as has already been pointed out, the PP was losing its lead rapidly before the attacks.

More importantly, Spain hasn’t abandoned the fight against terrorism — it has decided to change tactics. Iraq is not the entirety of the war on terrorism — in fact, many believe it is not even connected to the war on terrorism. To pretend that deciding a certain tactic is not working equates to appeasement is silly and wrongheaded. Appeasement would be the release of the suspects; appeasement would be a refusal to cooperate in all areas of counter-terrorism; appeasement would be the removal of troops form Afghanistan. None of that has or is going to happen. Heck, they even state that they will keep troops in Iraq under certain circumstances. The war against terrorists will continue and Spain will continue to participate. If that’s appeasement, then we need another word for what wen ton in Munich.

What is being argued here, in light of all that, is that its more important to try and read the terrorists minds and not do what they want then to make decisions based on what is in the best long term interest of the country, terrorist opinion be dammed. I do not see how that is an effective strategy, or healthy for democracy — and no one has even attempted to offer an explanation beyond repeating the word “appeasement” as if it was a magic spell, proof against all argument.

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wtb 03.16.04 at 10:27 pm

GMT. Them was my comments.

By the way, I’m a Texan, too!

Gosh, what’ll I’ll do? Too dumb for Crooked Timber and too timid for Texas — guess I’ll have to console myself with my rhetorical gifts.

Tripe? Yum! As we say in South Texas: ¡Me gusta mucho el menudo!

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GMT 03.16.04 at 10:51 pm

WTB:
I know that, frijolero, I know my tripe. Once had it at a Dim Sum joint, owing to the language barrier. Uck. I hate menudo. Can’t understand why something so vomitous is supposed to cure a hangover.
If you want a place where the fact of a mess is justification for having made it in the first place, and where you don’t have to know beans about a country in order to tell them why they do what, try here:

http://www.nationalreview.com/thecorner/corner.asp

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maurinsky 03.16.04 at 10:55 pm

There was absolutely a victory for terrorism in Madrid – that victory was that they were able to pull off a nefarious plan to bomb the train stations without any inteference from law enforcement of “homeland security” types.

That indicates that the Aznar government failed to adequately protect their citizens. True that the real bad guy here is Al Qaida, again, but why was the tough on terror crowd in Iraq instead of taking down Al Qaida? Aznar should have lost because this bombing happened. It’s a victory for democracy because the people of Spain decisively chose a new direction. It’s also, unfortunately, a victory for terrorism because they know that they can still plan these kinds of attacks while our leaders are spending their resources rebuilding a country that had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks on the U.S.

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Rajeev Advani 03.16.04 at 11:06 pm

GMT, citing double standards in the past will not damage the fact that the US is aligned against forces of reaction in the current conflict in Iraq. The US today is fighting for a modern Iraq; the resistance is fighting for a retrograde tyranny. It doesn’t take an Orwell to realize which side represents the liberal cause. Your inability to accept this reveals to me only your inflexibility — some liberals would rather cower behind eroding double standards than reluctantly side with the Bush administration.

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Sigivald 03.16.04 at 11:26 pm

Maurinsky: PP “should have lost” because the bombing happened?

Does that indicate, then, that any party that did not prevent a bombing should lose an election?

If so, doesn’t that imply that the way a party “deserves” to win is by preventing bombings… at any cost? The only way to stop such an attack is, well, martial law (unless you can think of some other way… I certainly can’t, and even martial law isn’t foolproof. But, realistically, I can’t think of any other way a government can come close to preventing a determined group from committing a successful attack at some point. The Israelis are damn close to martial law now, and they still can’t stop all attacks, and that’s with a much smaller country and lots of anti-terror training and experience!).

Are you actually intending to suggest that any party that would not introduce martial law before a successful terrorist attack, to prevent it, deserves to lose an election?

If not, what exactly are you trying to tell us about what party “deserves” to win or lose?

(And to assert that Iraq had “nothing to do with the terrorist attacks on the US”, while possibly true (though possibly not true) is irrelevant; do you attempt to deny that Iraq did not support terrorists, even if not the ones that attacked the US? If so, are you going to provide evidence to counter the training facilities, harboring Abu Abbas and others, and paying off suicide bombers?)

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mc 03.17.04 at 3:38 pm

Bravo, Chris. Nothing to add. Perfectly said, and you touched something that really disturbed me a lot in that kind of comments about the Spanish elections.

They also keep missing the point that the difference between the PP and the Socialists was a mere 4%. I’ve read this pointed out everywhere but it just doesn’t sink in with the “victory for Al Qaeda” crowd.

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mc 03.17.04 at 3:46 pm

By the way, there is one letter of response to the article from a Spanish person who is certainly being very, very, very polite to Steyn. Too much, in fact: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?menuId=1588&menuItemId=-1&view=SUMMARY&grid=P8&targetRule=0 (letter is “Aznar’s arrogance”)

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mc 03.17.04 at 3:49 pm

PS – Chris, why don’t you send your post, as is, as a letter to the Telegraph? They just have to publish it too. It would speak for a lot of people. There can’t be only ONE letter of extremely self-restrained disagreement with Steyn. Come on… Yours is still polite, but a lot more forceful.

Just a suggestion…

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