Monday, March 15, 2004

Turned by Terror

Sometimes technology isn't so bad. While doing a post on the election in Spain yesterday, which I mistakenly hoped would have turned out differently, blogger went down. Was I ever wrong about how that election was going to turn out -- as one perceptive reader told me who did catch it for the few minutes it was up.

Collin had it right all along when he wondered initially if the bombings wouldn't provoke a blame-Spain-first reaction.

A rather left-wing friend told me today that this is Bush's fault for backing Europe into a corner. My reply to that is that it's better to find out both our friends' and enemies' hands before taking another gamble like going into Iraq. We now know where old Europe stands, if we didn't before. Certain leaders may take positions with us, but they have only weak support of the people whose opinions may be changed by terrorism. Appeasement is the order of the day.

Collin is technically correct below to chastise the media for claiming that the vote was a referendum on Spain backing the U.S., because Aznar seemed to be ahead before the bombings. The vote was simply a response to the bombings which means that terrorism rather than Spanish foreign policy caused the result of the election. This is a subtle and important distinction, for it shows (among other things) that good statesmanship can imbue wisdom. The people, after all, had always been polled to be against the war, but until the end seemed to be willing to keep Aznar in power. Nevertheless, the ease with which terrorism turned the election shows how fragile liberal democracy is in Europe.

The terrorists took the temperature of Europe accurately. From the terrorist point of view, this may be a more brilliant move than 9/11. To control the outcome of an election in a Western democracy with one fell swoop is a big deal. They saw that the people want peace at all costs, even if the price to pay is their freedom; and they acted accordingly. There is some talk both inside and outside of Spain about high voter turnout being an act of defiance against terrorism. But turning out to vote wasn't the risk. The terrorists made it perfectly clear whom they wanted elected, and the people slavishly complied. The cry of defiance is almost sickening when one considers the result.

One victory that the Bush administration can (and should) take from these otherwise discouraging events is that Iraq and terrorism are connected. After all, the terrorists punished Spain for joining us in Iraq. Bush has shown that he sees the "larger picture" of this struggle which still eludes old Europe and his Democrat opponent.

We shouldn't be maudlin or morose; living gracefully in times of decline is a great virtue. But this is a rather crucial moment. Rome, London, and even cities in the U.S could be next on Al Qaeda's list. It remains to be seen whether Spain and the rest of Europe will reconsider the outcome of this election, will recoil in horror at the recognition of being manipulated by terrorists, or whether liberal democracy will suffer from less and less support.


Post a Comment

<< Home