Voters in Spain have spoken. But what did they say?
Apparently they said that al Qaeda has targeted them because of their government's support of the Bush Administration's opening of an Iraqi front in the War on Terror. But that's odd . . . I thought Iraq and al Qaeda were not related?
They said that barbaric violence against innocent people is actually a pretty persuasive political tactic, persuasive enough to throw a national election.
They said that the only moral position that Spain is willing to take in the world is peace. Peace at all costs. Peace even if innocent people elsewhere, anywhere but in Spain, have to die or be subjugated or be denied basic human rights. This is the peace one might find in a prison cell or the sort of peace Spain enjoyed under the Franco regime.
The New York Times runs a picture on its front page this morning that looks like a crowd of Spaniards holding up their hands in mass surrender. (here's another) This image is complemented by an insightful quote:
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."
The bit that died seems to have been their courage.
Perhaps it's not surprising to see people acting this way after being conditioned by political hacks and provincial media to despise George Bush rather than think through the policies he's advocated. The core policy is this: terrorism, particularly unreasoning religious-based terrorism, is unacceptable in a globalized society and should be countered not tolerated.
This sort of clarity does not sit well with people used to moral relativism. And it's easy to stoke this discomfort and translate it into political advantage as Gerhard Schroeder had done, Joerg Haider is doing, and Jose Zapatero just did.
In this campaign Zapatero pledged to mend fences with France and Germany and "return Spain to its rightful place with in Europe." That may be a popular position but it is a strategic disaster for Spain.
President Aznar's great policy innovation was to turn Spain toward the West, toward the United States and Latin America, rather than take its traditional place, frankly, as a second tier European country.
Aznar saw Spain as a bridge between stagnating Europe and the vibrant nations in the Americas. He recognized that the United States is one of the world's great Spanish speaking nations and he saw an opportunity to forge a "special relationship" with the U.S. He saw an opportunity to raise Spain's profile and prestige by taking a lead against Islamic terrorism. Aznar would have done this had Gore or Kerry been president of the U.S.
Now, because the voters in Spain were unwilling to admit that the swaggering, arrogant, cowboy, oilman, Texan, cowboy, Texan Bush might have been right about the existential threat posed by religious fanatics equipped with weapons powerful enough to actualize their apocalyptic agenda, Aznar's vision of a New Spain are dashed. And worse still, the terrorists have demonstrated that violence gets results.
Thanks to the peace-minded voters of Spain, there will be no peace in Europe.