Saturday, March 20, 2004
# Posted 12:30 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
The question of whether or not Aznar's government lied about the evidence seems to have been answered in the affirmative. Still, it is more than possible that the Socialists' would have won the election regardless. That is the point made in an excellent essay by Timothy Garton Ash (link via TPM):
Rightwing American commentators charge Spanish voters with "appeasement". This is crass. More than three-quarters of the Spanish electorate turned out for a massive defence of democracy in the face of terror. Every single Spanish voter was a soldier in the "war on terror". They voted different ways for all sorts of reasons. Historically, high turn-outs have favoured the left. Some of the former communist electorate voted tactically for the socialists. Many swing voters punished the conservative government of Jos? Mar?a Aznar for initially attributing the attacks to the Basque terrorist organisation Eta. And, yes, some emotionally blamed him for having made Spain a more likely terrorist target by supporting Bush's war on Iraq. But to say that this vote adds up to "appeasement" is a stupid slur.So now what? According to Robert Kagan,
The Bush administration needs to recognize it has a crisis on its hands and start making up for lost time in mending transatlantic ties, and not just with chosen favorites. The comforting idea of a "New Europe" always rested on the shifting sands of a public opinion, in Spain and elsewhere, that was never as favorable to American policy as to the governments. The American task now is to address both governments and publics, in Old and New Europe, to move past disagreements over the Iraq war, and to seek transatlantic solidarity against al Qaeda.That kind of advice is very, very surprising coming from Neo-Conservative #1 -- and all the more important because of it. On the other hand, Kagan seems to have written his column before becoming aware of the backlash against Aznar's deception. Would he still describe the Spanish elections as "al Qaeda's most significant geopolitical success since Sept. 11, 2001" if the elections results were a reflection on the Spanish Prime Minister's dishonesty rather than the Spanish public's supposed receptiveness to blackmail?
Then again, as Garton Ash points out, the precise cause of the Spanish conservatives' defeat may simply be irrelevant. We need to demonstrate that terrorism simply does not work. The best way to do that is to capture Osama bin Laden. In the meantime, we do have to improve relations with Europe and work harder than ever to promote democracy in Iraq.
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