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« Worst of the worst | Main | Impertinence and impropriety »

March 15, 2004

Comments

Cosmo

Well said: "Their message is directed not to us (“adopt different policies!”) but to their followers (“kill the infidels!”)."

But you and Andrew are both right. Andrew, because anti-warriors have been putting words into Jihadi's mouths since at least 9/11. So, "adopt different policies" is the interpretation of the Jihadist message we're already hearing in the wake of 3/11 from our commentariat. Oliver, you are right, because influencing elections is but a stop on the road to what you've described -- a mortal struggle with an enemy who has no list of negotiable demands, save our complete surrender.

And for those concerned about the imposition of democracy by U.S. imperialists at then point of a gun: Jihadis have effected their first regime change, imposed perhaps, by the light of a fuse.

Peter Bocking

Whilst wanting us dead,bin Laden would like to see us cringe before plunging in the knife.It is in that light that, part of the motivation for the Spanish atrocity can be viewed.
The Islamic terror movement is just that,different groups do have political aims whilst operating under the al Qaeda umbrella.
Certainly this will give al Qaeda a lever against European governments,there are certainly a number which are craven enough to pre-empt al Qaeda's wishes.

bill dawson

I totally agree with Oliver's assessment of the al-Qaeda threat, but I think the fault-finding re Sullivan's statements is a real stretch.

The election result was indeed a spectacular success for Islamists and a chilling portent for Europe. It may be true that the end-game is annihilation and that a PP victory in Spain would not have stopped al-Qaeda's quest one iota, but surely tactical success will and does mean something in this war. If al Qaeda can convince parts of a civilization to NOT fight -- out of fear -- then that is a success for them and a "chilling portent" for their enemies.

Nor is there anything bizarre in thinking that Islamists wish to influence western elections. It's true that the goal of their influence is not to bring western policies into some sort of alignment that results in peace, but we must be awake to the fact that they will try everything they can to weaken us from within, and this very definitely includes manipulation via elections.

It is a very significant tactical success for al-Qaeda to be instrumental in severing a relationship between the United States and one of its allies. We cannot ignore that simply to avoid raising the hopes of clever anti-warriors who will mistakenly see some sort of connection between policies (things subject to a vote) and the making of peace with mass-murderers.

Chris Lightfoot

"The restoration of the Caliphate and the destruction of the Jews are not aims of the same type as that of getting 1300 Spanish peacekeepers withdrawn from Iraq."

I don't understand what you mean by this. Surely the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq is both a part of and a necessary prerequisite to Bin Laden's wider aims? In particular the restoration of the Caliphate must be predicated on the removal of non-Muslim troops from the area which would lie under the Caliph's control, of which Iraq is a part.

hello

Chris,

" In particular the restoration of the Caliphate must be predicated on the removal of non-Muslim troops from the area which would lie under the Caliph's control, of which Iraq is a part."

Of course. Non-Muslim troops should also be withdrawn from Spain and the South of France.


MeTooThen

Previoulsy in the comments section of this website, I questioned that when the bombs start to explode in London, Berlin, Madrid, etc. what will the "anti-war" protesters do next?

Sadly, now we know.

It is difficult to find fault with Mr. Kamm's analysis, except for this point, the socialist victory in Spain, is an expression that to go to war in Iraq to dislodge Saddam, begin the long and difficult road of democratization in the Arab Middle East, was wrong, or in the words of the new Spanish PM, "a disaster".

And herein lies the schism, for whom was the war a disaster? The 40 million Iraqis and Kurds? Or the Madrid commuters?

No, it is a sad and dark day indeed.

When then, is it unacceptable to murder civilians?

In this case, the Spanish electorate seems to indicate that the bombing of the train in Madrid was understandable, given the circumstances of Spain's participation to overthrow a brutal dictator and international criminal. Yet it was not the Iraqis who carried out the bombing, and it was the fault of the US, UK, Australia, and Spain.

This all fits nicely into the workings of Lenin's "Big Lie".

And the Islamists have won this battle, but hopefully not the war.

Michael B

A forward and energetically affirmed position, but the supporting rationale leaves one partially satisfied only. Walking near a precipice can sometimes yield a remarkable view, but one too many steps in the wrong direction and disappointment is likely to ensue in a rather determinative manner.

No doubt there is nothing very opaque in the jihadists' desire to kill, subjugate and think some ungentlemanly thoughts about us infidels. Minimally though, such a goal does not preclude tactics and even broader strategies that would help to further that primary goal. Too, to what degree of certainty do we know there are not attendant and secondary goals? This is not the 8th century, but rather the 21st where political and other complexities cannot but help to influence what tactics and strategies the jihadists are likely to consider and employ. Still further, do we know that all the jihadists are simply aligned with bin Laden in a single minded, univocal, creed-like manner? If bin Laden is captured or killed will that kill the jihadists' motivations and interests, whatever those migh be? Seems doubtful.

I'm happy to eschew the assignment of derivative and far too simple Marxian, Freudian, etc. motivations to the various jihadists we are dealing with. But that does not necessarily mean there are not yet other complexes of motivations, fears, etc. at play that our presumptively modern and post-modern minds are not readily attuned to. Your manichean script has merit, among other things it doesn't balk at commitments and decisions that need to be made; that is a qualitative good, especially so when compared to the prolixity, evasions and the endless array of non-committal tergiversations the Left is forever proffering. Nevertheless, such a view does not need to be the only view we entertain in approaching the overall threat (e.g., bin Laden, Taliban styled madrasses, war lords, Arafat, the Saudis, Iran, Syria, various African based groups, Indonesia, the Philippines, Muslim transplants in Western democracies, etc.), all of which does not even take N. Korea into account.

And why use such highly generalized language such as "...the policy complexion of western states."? No one is suggesting the jihadists, bin Laden and the rest, are concerned as policy wonks, we're essentially suggesting a concern with, tactical or otherwise, a set of policies vis-a-vis the various anti-jihadist initiatives. (On the other hand, as a side-note only, are they entirely unconcerned with for example the banning of head-scarves in France?)

Finally, where exactly does this leave one in terms of attempts to decipher the murderous terrorist attack Thursday, just three days prior to Spain's election? A barren coincidence? Coupled with the fact the pre-election polls, just a day or two prior to the murder and butchery, showed the PP ahead by appx. 5%, yet the election evidenced a 10 point swing, allowing the opposition a win by 5% over the incumbent PP? That's too much coincidence barring some theories that are better supported.

Dan

Oliver:

Like some of the comments above, I find myself disagreeing with you (for a change), on the important question of whether bin Laden and his mercenaries consider their long-term goal of destroying the West--and above all the U.S., as its most potent incarnation--"incommensurable" with influencing the policies of wobbly western states.

I worry you're woefully underestimating the enemy.

An enemy who has revealed himself acutely conscious of both Western and Middle Eastern politics and the methods by which those politics are affected (i.e. by spectacle, by mass media propaganda, by the opportunistic exploitation of legitimate political grievances, etc..). And all as intermediate steps toward realizing his dream of emasculating, and thereby finally triumphing over, "the Great Satan."

You quoted bin Laden admitting that an essential element of his grand design involves attacking and otherwise destabilizing "those who are behind [the U.S.] so that they may learn a lesson."

While there's surely no compromising with bin Laden in the traditional sense, he's clearly interested in pursuing a brutal kind of political dialectic: submit or die. Or perhaps merely submit and die.

I've no doubt that bin Laden judges any lesson resulting in the isolation and weakening of the U.S. as one well worth teaching.

As you remarked: "the Spanish result...compounds what is, with the remarkable exception of Tony Blair, the weakest European leadership in my lifetime." Such impotence would seem a necessary, if insufficient, precondition for bin Laden's vision of the final submission and cultural eclipse of the godless West and the restoration of the Caliphate.

Far from impeding bin Laden's long-term goal of "dhimmifying" an already tentative Europe, influencing "the policy complexion" of Europe through such lessons is to his strategic advantage. (Whether he did so in Spain's specific case is a different question, of course, since the Socialists had announced their intention to pursue such a change in "policy complexion" long before this latest terror operation, and the Popular Party's apparent mishandling of those attacks was an unforeseeable variable.)

If the U.S.'s allies, over time (and I think we both suspect our enemies of operating on a timetable of decades, not months or years), increasingly back away from her, if they increasingly embrace isolationist governments advocating "co-existence with totalitarian, misogynistic, antisemitic, genocidal, theorcratic fanaticism," how could bin Laden and his jihadist lieutenants be anything other than giddy?

As despicable as bin Laden is, I give him more credit than to imagine he is blissfully unaware of such possibilites, or uninterested in them.

Although you're probably correct that any acknowledgment that al Qaeda actually does include "the political" within its terror toolbox may provide unfortunate opportunities "to affect umbrage" and encourage "seductive and wrongheaded" arguments among those who are blind to bin Laden's truly Messianic ambitions, I think that's a small price to pay beside the benefit of examining al Qaeda's operations, past and future, in the most strategic and long-term light possible.


Barry Meislin

An eloquent post, Oliver.

Keeping in mind that this is a battle of Islamic absolutists with a western civilization that questions, ponders, wonders, discusses and debates, that tries to understand the motives of those who do battle with it. It is a battle of terror against those who would so dearly like to get along and believe it possible, or if this does not seem quite possible, would seek to understand why.

And it is precisely because of the west's tendency toward ratiocination that it is at this moment at a disadvantage. For while to seek to understand is a tremendous strength, leading as it does to growth, discovery, and development (and one reason why the Islamic world is so feeble), at certain times of crisis it is a singular weakness.

And one should not doubt that an enemy, which shows not the slightest compunction about either mass killing or dying---and is fiercely proud of both, seeing it as an affirmation of their spiritual faith---should also wish to first sow confusion amongst those whom it wishes to destroy.

And there is, most definitely, confusion.

Thus the enemy of the west has succeeded in confusing its enemy. In weakening the west from without and from within. In making it appear as though the west can save itself by "adapting." In provoking the west to blame itself for its predicament. In keeping the west wondering what the true motives of its adversary are. In giving the west certain hope that it can preserve itself by refraining to fight back.

And in placing the onus for west's predicament solidly on the Jews.

It is a strategy that worked magnificently in the 30s and early 40s (even if the results may have been ultimately catastrophic to those that orchestrated it and others in the audience). And there is no reason why such a strategy should not be even more successful this time around (especially with the help of god, and WMD).

Which might raise the question: having experienced all this once before, and only 60-70 years ago, why is so much of the west currently so perversely craven and lethargic?

Richard Lee

I find Oliver's final paragraph deeply important, that is to form a coalition of like-minded realists to counter the arguments of the anti-war coalition/apologists for terror.
I felt angered and impotent during the anti-war marches of last year. So many of my friends and colleagues share the naive assumption that we bring these massacres on ourselves.
A classic example of the Stockholm syndrome.


Charles

Unfortunately, I agree with Andrew Sullivan as to the significance of the Spanish election result, and I was in despair yesterday when the news came in (and even more when I heard the despicable, shallow, thoughtless comments on the Iraq war made by Spain's prime minister-elect). For the first time, I felt a deep fear that we will indeed lose this war.

While the jihadists indeed have the broader goal of annihilating or conquering us in mind, they are nonetheless capable of making short-term tactical judgments and taking steps designed to increase their advantage incrementally. This they have done, by striking a blow at one of the weaker members of the coalition (weak because of the lack of popular support for the PP government's principled stance).

By effectively blaming Aznar for the carnage in Madrid, and giving the jihadists the election result which favours them, the election amounts - in the face of a monstrous, unprovoked attack - to a statement by the Spanish people that "Sorry, we were wrong, we will now do what you [the terrorists] want, and please forgive us". It is a refusal to recognise - despite the hideous evidence now in Madrid - that they and we are literally at war, and that we are not the aggressors.

The Spanish electorate has also encouraged our enemies to use similar tactics elsewhere. Why not Britain, where the constant drip-drip of criticism of the Iraq war may fatally undermine the resolve of the British people to support Tony Blair in this? Where the Labour Party may (in a panic) force Blair from office if he is perceived as being responsible for any terrorist attacks on British soil? Why not Australia, where an election will take place in the next year and where public support for the war is also wobbly after a year continual sniping?

I believe this election result has increased the danger to our lives. Islamist terrorists have judged the West (and Israel) as weak, decadent and lacking in resolve. So far, some countries have proven them wrong. The action we took in Iraq and Afghanistan gave us the immense advantage of showing our resolve - and maybe giving pause to some wavering supporters of the Islamist cause. But this advantage has been squandered by the continual criticisms of our "peace" party and by (for example) the otherwise decent people who fail to recognise the danger we are in and naively march in protest against our prosecution of the war in an event organised by supporters of totalitarianism. It is getting more and more difficult to maintain public support for a firm stance against terror and aggression. Any sign of hesitation or retreat is encouragement to the terrorists, and they will characterise more things than we would as a retreat - for example, consider the disastrous consequences of Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon (which at the time I thought was the right thing to do), turned retrospectively into a triumph for Hezbollah and an incitement to Arafat, Hamas, the Syrian Baathists et al. Each "victory" of this kind, major or minor, only encourages more aggression. This, of course, was the lesson of the failure of appeasement in the 1930s, and what the neoconservatives understood about the Communist states during the Cold War.

With this in mind, I am contemplating voting for the Australian conservative government for the first time: because Prime Minister Howard did what was right by unequivocally supporting (both by his statements and by sending Australian troops) the coalition in Iraq. I am a former member of the Australian Labor Party, but I am disgusted with the conduct of the Left over the past two years on this issue.

Otherwise, I am in agreement with Oliver's post and affirm my own membership of the Party of War.

tony h

An excellent post that is devastatingly accurate in its diagnosis of the atrophying moral sensibilities of the apologists for terror. However, I would agree with some subsequent posts suggesting that this coalition of terror is an extremely loose one with opaque if obviously nihilistic motives and vastly differing levels of political acumen. It seems to me that the Madrdid bombings were carefully timed and planned to ensure maximum impact on the Spanish democratic process and, hence, polarise the debate both in Spain and beyond connected with anti-terror policies. In Iraq, by contrast, the concerted effort to foment civil war by attacking ordinary Iraquis not only on the highly dubious premise of 'collaboration' but on the even more reprehensible basis of ethnicity and/or religious affiliation has clearly been disastrous from a political point of view. This strategy has obviously alienated not only ordinary Iraquis but many of those in the West who were under the deeply misguided impression that a 'resistance' to the intervention would be led by chain-smoking, absinthe drinking Trotskyite intellectuals. Most people would now agree that a robust U.N. presence (ideally with a healthy Arab and Islamic component)in Iraq will be vital to secure any transition to democracy. That includes, from what I understand, the new Spanish prime minister as well as the old one.

Barry Meislin

Alas, the term "robust UN presence"---in fact the concept itself---has been proven all too often to be an utter oxymoron. And with the more recent machinations regarding the past decade of UN profiteering from the UN-imposed sanctions against Iraq, as well as (from my point of view) shameful episodes in the run-up toward the latest Iraqi campaign, not to mention, Kosovo and Rwanda, nor is this the end of the list) the UN appears to be well past redemption.

While one may understand the desire behind the sentiment---which on the face of it, should "make sense"---the reality of it, however, seems clearly impossible, a function of the need to try to find any and all solutions that will, it is hoped, be acceptable to the enemy (and to those westerners suspicious of American motives), and ultimately, a handicapping of the process that hopes to enable true, secure Iraqi independence which task is, admittedly, by no means simple.

Certainly, the general Iraqi, for good reason, does not see the UN as a force for good. And the terrorists see it as a weak entity.

Not a promising combination.

youcancallmemeyer

According to the Bandow piece

“it was not in Spain's or Australia's interest to back war against Iraq."

Nor in Britain's interest? Presumably, not in America's interest either.

It is important to note that the decision, to commit troops to Iraq, was made by the Howard Government after the Bali bombing and the year before the Government faced the electorate. The early opinion polls showed substantial opposition to the war unless our commitment was with the backing of the UN.

"Polls taken in January(2003)this year showed more than three-quarters of Australians were opposed to the nation's involvement in a war in Iraq without backing from the United Nations."

However,

"The Newspoll shows a total of 57 percent of Australians are now (15 April 2003) in favor of their troops fighting in Iraq, compared with 36 percent opposed. This compares with 45 percent in favor and 47 percent opposed less than a month ago."

http://edition.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/asiapcf/auspac/04/15/sprj.irq.australia.politics/index.html

The distorting factor in the earlier poll was the presence of the UN proviso. When it became clear that the UN would not back the war the Australian public backed Howard.

Australians are used to fighting wars in places other than Australia. Gallipoli, The Somme, Tobruk, New Guinea, Vietnam and Korea spring to mind.

Australians are not like the Spanish.

We have always had to assess our willingness to fight for a cause without the distraction of being directly threatened(Japan excepted).

Bandow's patronising nonsense will be ignored by thinking Australians (if that's not an oxymoron to the English).

Another enjoyable read Oliver.

Charles

youcancallmemeyer, I find your comment reassuring. But I still fear that not enough of our countrymen (or the British public, or a large segment of the Democratic Party's constituency) understand the nature of the war or the gravity of the situation. Without broad awareness of this, support for the Iraq commitment may prove brittle.

The significant of the Madrid attack and its aftermath in the election will be recognised and debated. I hope our fellow Australians will prove you right.

John Farren

While I agree that our enemies goal is the destruction of our civilisation (though they permit some to live on as dhimmi), I think Oliver may underestimate their capacity for tactical exploitation of internal politics.

An indication that they may have based their actions on such considerations can be found in a translation by Bjorn Staerk of document spotted by the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment on an Islamist website.
It is not proven it has an al Qaeda source, rather than a sympathiser; and it referred to attacks on Spanish troops in Iraq, rather than civilians in Spain. But it does indicate that at least some Islamists have considered the political context of their actions:

"To make the Spanish government pull out of Iraq ... one must take maximum advantage of the approaching election in Spain in March next year .. we expect the Spanish government won't withstand ... such attacks, because of pressure from public opinion. ...their continued presence will become an important issue for the Socialist Party."

If this does reflect al Qaeada thinking, then their desire to hit targets in, say, Italy or Japan, is very likely to have increased.

youcancallmemeyer

Charles,

I must confess that I was also a Labor Party voter for most of my life. Never a party member though, like you.

Latham will be defeated this year because he has no ability whatsoever. When Howard puts the blow torch to him, if you'll pardon the Keatingism, he will melt.

Howard is the only present day Australian politician, with any public profile, who has a sense of history. He was raised in a strongly moral Protestant home and has the irritating morality of a person so raised. He does not recoil when confronted with good versus evil choices.

It is Australia's good fortune that he leads the country when the choice between good and evil is so stark. His decision to commit our troops to Iraq was a brave decision, in the best traditions of Yes Minister, and he made it when others would have gone wobbly in the knees.

His implementation of the GST was another example of his character - a tax, I think, that is badly drafted and practically unfair.

He does, however, understands Australians and he epitomises some fine parts of our historical character. Pig headed sometimes, wrong sometimes and petty at other times but, as I said, a man who has a sense of history, a man who knows in his soul that his decision to fight terror front on is right.

I am but one person but I have a big mouth and I intend ear bashing everyone I meet to get them to see the truth. I hope you do the same.


tony h

Barry

I take your point about the toothless UN operations of the nineties but the last thing that motivates the idea of greater UN involvement, at least on my part, is that it will be 'accceptable to the enemy'.

You seem fairly confident in your assertion that 'the general Iraqui' does not see the UN as a force for good'. If that is so--and it may be-- then how does that 'general Iraqui' feel about young, non-Arabic speaking, exhausted and understandably nervous US troops breaking doors down in the early hours and sweeping through villages in personnel carriers?

The response to previous UN incapacity and the inadequacy of present international law--as Tony Blair implied in his Sedgefield speech the other week--should be to re-consider these matters in the light of a century of post-cold war genocide and terror.

I agree and am grateful for the fact that the US is currently at the forefront of the fight against Islamofascism but this is a war, too, within the Islamic world. And,like it or not, the UN is the only institution at present capable of co-ordinating the only type of fight that will prove fully effective against Al-Qaeda and their tributaries--a transnational one.

The answer is to change the system, not simply ignore it.

Chris Lightfoot

On the attitude of Iraqis, this survey:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/nol/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/15_03_04_iraqsurvey.pdf
is interesting. The major message I took from it is that Iraqis don't much trust coalition forces and want the chance to sort out their own problems. (There's only sketchy information on the survey methodology in that paper, sadly.)

youcancallmemeyer

tony h,

Most fundamental problem with UN:

57 IOC Countries
191 UN Countries

30% block vote on any UNGA resolution.

Love to have 30% of the vote in my pocket at any meeting I wanted to control.Throw in most third world swamps, the french, the germans and you have one bad forum to control a "representative world body". Did I mention that Israel is the only country not allowed to have a seat on the Security Council?

The answer is not "to change the system" but to create a new system.

John Farren

IOC? What's that?
(The only IOC I can think of off hand is the International Olympic Committee, and I assume that's not what you mean :)

tonyh

OK, create a new system. I've no intention of defending the realpolitik underpinning security council decision making since 1945. We need a representative and transnational structure that at least offers the potential for meaningful multilateral action. Unilateralism should be the exception not the rule.

If democracies consistently disavow the need to persuade (rather than coerce) domestic and international constituencies then they'll soon cease to be democracies. Blair tried much harder and for much longer in both respects than Bush was prepared to last winter and spring. And that counts.

youcancallmemeyer

John Farren,

Dyslectic error - try:

OIC - Organization of Islamic conferences

Mark T

on a slightly more positive note, the FT makes a reasonable point that at least some of the backlash may have been at the way the Spanish government apparently sought to make political capital out of the tragedy by blaming ETA.

The real problem is that the Anti War media have adopted this to suit their own ends, maintaining the fiction that it is somehow our own fault (or more specifically America's) and that there can be a negotiated settlement. But as Hussein Massawi, former leader of Hezbollah, put it "We are not fighting so that you will offer us something. We are fighting to eliminate you." (Y)our move.

Cosmo

Excellent comments, as always.

Question: Many anti-warriors claim the WoT has made the world less safe and terrorism more likely. Does the apparent success of regime-change-through-terrorism in Spain raise the likelihood of more such atrocities? In other words, have Spanish voters -- God bless them in their hour of pain -- just done what so many accuse George Bush of doing?

William Beckett

"... he just wants them, and us, dead." Agreed. But doesn't the timing of this attack indicate that the terrorists sought, among other things, a tactical victory? The terrorists indeed "do not urge a different set of policies" but certainly they recognize that the adoption of certain policies benefits their cause. It seems to me that they were eminently successful last week in Madrid.

Many in the West fail to read the read the bloody writing on the wall but the terrorists are closely watching our actions -- especially our politics -- in order to discern our intentions, weaknesses and strengths. Our electoral outcomes do indeed influence the terrorists. If this were not the case, would they have chosen this country and this date?


Timbeaux

Response: http://bluecollarphilosopher.com/archives/000013.html

Brennan Stout

I'm must admit that I am surprised to read any mention of Turkey, Saudi Arabia or Morocco. The states are significant because each opposed the war in Iraq yet each saw no demotion on the Islamist hitlist. The factors that make someone or something a target are not representative of the state you live in. What makes you a target is your support for ideas contradictory to the narrow Islamist point of view.

For Turkey, Morocco and Saudi Arabia they are attacked BECAUSE they divert from the Islamist, pan-arab nationalist admiration for the return of the umma. The OIC may appear to be speaking on behalf of such ideology, but there's little doubt as to how quickly Islamists would attack an OIC conference if it was to serve a higher goal. Presently Islamists don't have much reason to destablise countries like Indonesia or Egypt or Saudi Arabia due to the fact that each country directs funds to and attention away from the activities of Jihadists.

I commented on the Spanish vote on Monday. The election results are symbolic of Spain moving the wrong chess pieces at the wrong time. To assume that Deathcult™ idealists fail to recognize such weakness is to contemptably ignore the historical knowledge and admiration that Islamists revere in their culture.

What Iraq represents is a radical shift in Western approaches to the major problems they have faced. Europe and Asia are only what they are today because of the Marshall Plan. The aftermath of world war was not something the victor could excuse themself from and return to its shores. No, a radical new policy was necessary to disinfect the culture of destruction represented by German Nazism, Italian Fascism and Japanese Imperialism. The occupation and reconstruction of Iraq is the Marshall Plan of the 21st century.

I don't know my post WWII history all that well, but I suspect the Spanish are bluffing on removing themselves from Iraq for they wish not to be left behind like the French and Germans are right now. Remaining committed to the Iraqi people is a stance in support of a future Iraqi government that will most certainly play a HUGE role in future regional relations.

David Gillies

That bin Laden's ultimate goals are not rational is not in doubt. I am sure you are correct, Oliver, in stating that the complexion of the Spanish government is a matter of supreme indifference to the Jihadis. But what about the old-style terror groups, the IRAs, ETAs and RAFs of this world? They have now received further confirmation that terror in support of a political goal can reap dividends. It's paradoxical that had the Madrid bombings been carried out by ETA, Aznar would have won and ETA would have been crushed, whereas the fact that it was carried out by Islamists led to one of ETA's greatest foes being defeated.

Andrew Ian Dodge

Excellent comments all and much here I agree with in the end. I feel for the Spanish people in their hour of need, but think they may have made a horrible mistake. It will embolden Al Queda and Islamo-kazis everywhere, unless the socialists set about to hammer islamist terrorists as hard as they plan to do so with ETA. I doubt there would be a scenario where such an outrage would not affect elections if they were to occur as close as the recent Spanish ones. We shall have to see what affect the bombing/vote has on the West. I am sure it will be a bad one, we just have to wait and see how bad it will truly be.

Brennan Stout

I think after the polls are parsed out into identifiable statistics we will learn that the youngest voters are responsible for the rise of the Socialists. Too young to remember the corruption of the previous socialist governments and still to young to know a Spain not in such good shape thanks for the Popular Party's remarkable 8 years of domestic policies.

This factor is something I try to observe whenever I am among my fellow American peers. As as young voter myself I try to game the issues that appeal most to my age demographic. One thing my peers often neglect is history. Like the South Korean youth of today, many in this world are too young to know the life of imminent danger posed during the Cold War and so terrorism is not just a replacement for the Cold War, but in fact a reminder that freedom isn't free and happiness doesn't come without sorrow.

GMT

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.
I think you misrepresent both the present and the past of Iraq and relations with that nation. Progressives are not the ones shoving history down the memory hole in service of the present, failed policy, nor should we start. Those guilty must be held accountable, from Saddam to Perle, and any solution in Iraq must begin with the removal of the offending party.

David Gillies

In other words, the US should allow Iraq to descend into either anarchy or repression, all out of some faux ideological purity of motive? If a more perfect growth medium for terror could be created, I can't think what it would be.

Regarding the silly canard about US support for Iraq - this has been exposed as silliness of the highest order time and again. For heaven's sake, Brazil sold more weaponry to Saddam than the US did.

Matt

A commenter above notes:
"I'm must admit that I am surprised to read any mention of Turkey, Saudi Arabia or Morocco. The states are significant because each opposed the war in Iraq yet each saw no demotion on the Islamist hitlist."

Don't forget the abortive Strasbourg, France bombing- France was a target even before the headscarf issue reached full burn.

Copeland

Isn't it a little pathetic to be the party of war. It's one thing to target a faction like al-Qaeda, in a specific sense, and quite another to take a roundhouse punch at Iraq and find yourself in a cultural and military quagmire, with no way home. The Manichean frailty of Oliver's worldview is in no sense liberal. Don't criticize the Spanish for voting in the Socialists. Don't forget the legacy of the Spanish Civil War.

Norman Birnbaum, professor emeritus at Georgetown University Law School, writes "The Popular Party is not a gang of fascists. However, its hypernationalist ideology, its authoritarianism, and its self-righteous lying were nonetheless unpleasant reminders of the past. People were reminded that Aznar's grandfather had a very successful career under Franco. Zapatero's was an officer in the Republican army, executed after being taken prisoner.

Didn't Aznar follow Bush's dogma about WMDs in Iraq? Didn't Aznar frustrate debate about this issue in the Spanish Parliament? Too many misrepresentations have led to the disaster in Iraq. But I understand that Oliver has an objection to the word "disaster" being used in this context.

Vinteuil

Copeland:

"Cultural and military quagmire?"

Have you read the latest polls of Iraqi opinion?

Are you *sure* this is a "quagmire?"

Or are you just hoping?

Copeland

Vinteuil:

Consult those who have paid a price in blood, and see if they can check the box marked *optimist*.

Look in the eyes of Scott McClellan, the Press Secretary. Listen to his non-answers.
Even Rumsfeld has confessed that the war will be "a long hard slog".
Even the perpetrators in the White House fail any test of optimism.

Come on man. Clerics are having one another assassinated in Iraq. Unemployment there is at levels we can't even comprehend. And this fracas was sold to us so cheerily!

Vinteuil

Copeland:

I take it, then, that your answers are:

No.

No.

and Yes.

Just so we're clear on that.

John Farren

Copeland:
"Don't forget the legacy of the Spanish Civil War".
Are you serious? Are the people of Spain voting according to the careers and tragedies of the grandfather's of Aznar and Zapatero?
For how many generations are these legacies to be damned or praised, and people to vote according to ancestral allegiance or atavistic loyalties?

As for Birnbaum, pehaps Professor Muabnrib can reply:
"The Socialist Party is not a gang of communists. However, its ideology, its statism, and its self-righteousness were nonetheless unpleasant reminders of the past."
Makes about as much sense.

Michael B

"The Manichean frailty of Oliver's worldview is in no sense liberal." Copeland

Horse feathers, it most certainly is. It represents a substantive aspect of what is being confronted; not the totality, but nonetheless an appreciable aspect thereof. The Baath party, the Taliban, the black and brown shirted vigilante groups who support the Mullahs in Iran, different factions of the jihadists in general, they all represent thorough-going totalitarian elements, incorporating Leninist/Stalinist and fascistic tactics of terror, summary executions, massive political imprisonment, death squads, oppression, cynical manipulation and deceit, power plays writ large across a broad ideological and geographic landscape in the middle east and elsewhere. All very similar to but not at all identical with Leninist, Hitlerian and Stalinist totalitarian visions and themes of a prior era.

Your own manichean script essentially posits the U.S. as the Great Satan, more or less bunching up Osama and Saddam Hussein (and Beelzebub himself no doubt) with Wolfowitz, Perle, Rumsfeld, etc. - all on the "evil" side of the script. Puhleeeez, sell that Chomskian theology and liturgy to your own congregants and choir members. Or follow Jehova Witnesses around the neighborhood, see if you can cull their rejects into your own group of ideological devotees, zealots and paranoids.

Your manichean script is posited in order to trump what you claim to be a "frail" one. And all that is reminiscent of the naysayers and scoffers throughout the Cold War, aka WWIII, from the Truman doctrine in the late '40s, itself invoked to help protect Greece, Turkey and others from the totalitarian threat of Soviet expansionism, on through the Reagan era in the '80s that eventuated, finally, in the velvet revolution from '89 thru '91 and the finally in the demise of the Soviet regime itself.

We're in the middle of another war that will have cold, warm and hot aspects to it, Iraq being a forward positioning within the overall conflict that will require some real mettle and back bone for some unknown, prolonged period of time. We hope for as much of a velvet revolution as is possible but with the threat of and use of real terror, possibly some forms of WMD in the future, we've decided not to take a spectators, status quo, wait-and-see view of events as they unfold. That too is similar to tactics and strategies during the Cold War, however imperfectly they were sometimes used during that period; in the end the guys wearing the white hats, the good guys, won.

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