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Monday, March 15, 2004
 
Spanish Self-Interest

Kevin Drum believes that it "would reflect very poorly indeed on the Spanish electorate" if they "were upset that Aznar's support for the Iraq war was responsible for al-Qaeda targeting Spain." I'm having trouble with his math. If there's one thing pretty much everyone on the left agrees, it's that the Iraq war was not an "anti-terrorist" act, and especially not one targeted at Al Qaeda.

However, the war is an instance of the infidel West attacking Muslims. One of the main goals of AQ is to foment hatred of the West among Muslims. Before the Iraq war, they cited as grievances what they contended was America's support of Israel's brutal repression of Palestinians, US military presence in Saudi Arabia, and the general history of Western interference in Islamic countries. Before the Iraq war, these grievances alone were enough to inspire 19 men to blow themselves on 9/11, to say nothing of their other attacks.

The war in Iraq itself furthers their purpose. Had we limited ourselves to attacks on those who had attacked us, little sympathy for the jihadists' cause would have resulted. Killing thousands of Iraqi civilians in the course of toppling a dictator who was obviously unaffiliated with AQ and who presented no threat to the West is another matter entirely. Terrorists deserve what happens to them. The Iraqi civilians didn't. The war is being presented by the jihadists as yet another example of the West's high-handedness and contemptious disregard for the lives of Muslims.

The goal of terrorism is to affect public opinion and to scare people into not opposing the terrorists' aims. If (if!) the Spanish electorate was punishing Aznar solely because they perceived his actions as being anti-terrorist enough to provoke an al-Qaeda attack, the terrorists have accomplished their goal: the Spanish public has shown that if they are attacked they will vote against a politician who strongly opposed the terrorists.

Remember, this is all about perceptions and it's all hypothetical. But if (if!) it's true it gives al-Qaeda reason to think that they can affect elections simply by committing a terrorist attack. Sounds like a victory to me.


This logic only makes sense with regard to governments that supported the Iraq war. Had the attacks occurred in Germany or France, the electorate there would be more, not less, likely to favor hardline anti-terrorist politicians. Elections would turn on not doing something dumb in the future. In Spain, the election was about having done something dumb in the past.

Aznar's government was an enthusiastic supporter of and participant in the Iraq war. That, and not any anti-terrorist actions, made them a target of AQ. Making yourself a target for no good reason isn't a good idea.

I think the Spanish people are smart enough to figure this out.