The Telegraph explains why the devastating impact of Spain’s elections may turn out to be even worse, and claim more lives, than the explosions in Madrid.
The thumping defeat inflicted upon the Right-wing Popular Party in yesterday’s Spanish elections was a blow for the war on terrorism. Jose Maria Aznar, the outgoing prime minister, took big risks to back the United States after September 11, and most especially to send troops to Iraq. Even his decision to take on his home-grown insurgency in the Basque country went against the grain of much elite opinion. He may well have mishandled last week’s terrorist atrocities in Madrid. But whoever was responsible – whether al-Qaeda or ETA – will be pleased to have intervened so successfully in a democratic ballot. Spaniards died in industrial quantities, and the first instinct of many voters was to take it out on their government. If terrorism has succeeded there, where will be next?
The election will be remembered as heralding the rise of ”euro isolationism”. Large numbers of Spanish voters succumbed to the delusion that if Mr Aznar, had not lent support to the Anglo-American coalition, then their homeland would be safer. The credibility of the government was affected, as in this country, by the apparent failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. This, in turn, impacted upon the public trust placed in their interpretation of who was responsible for last week’s atrocities. It also appears that elements in the Spanish security forces were angered by what they considered to be their government’s opportunism in initially blaming the more obviously unpopular target of Eta (rather than al-Qa’eda) and went over the heads of the Interior Ministry to speak to the opposition Socialists and to the press. They seem to have based their reasoning upon the need to alert Europe as a whole to the Islamist threat, but the effect appears to have been to hand victory for the Socialists who have taken a far less robust view of the war on terror.
Why do such wide swathes of Spanish – and, indeed, British opinion – take a “nothing to do with us, Guv” view of international terrorism? Partly, it has been a failure of communication, not least of American public diplomacy. The European Left, no less than Islamist polemicists, has for years been besmirching the United States as the ”Great Satan”; and, in the face of that, most American missions have for much of the time emitted little more than a pip-squeak. Above all, the Americans and sympathetic European governments have not managed to convey the idea that there is no policy shift which they might undertake that would appreciably alter Islamist behaviour. The idea abounds that if the West somehow withdrew from Iraq or transferred more wealth to the mases of the Maghreb that all of this would stop. De-ideologised, post-modern man is particularly bad at grasping the ideological nature of its foes. The fact that many Islamists believe in reversing the reconquista of the Iberian peninsula appears to have made little difference to millions of Spaniards. The desire not to take our enemies at face value, in word and deed, is the hallmark of much of contemporary Europe.
James Lileks nails it:
I thought at first it must be Al Qaeda, given the significance of Spain to these horrid farkwits; the whole “tragedy of Andalusia” thing figures large in their menu of grievances. You think: that was half a millennia ago. Move on. But it’s not as if they are stuck in past history. There is no such thing as history for these people. There is simply a condition that must be changed. The world must submit. The aberration of the Reconquista must be reversed. These are obvious truths. They will come to pass. If you oppose these truths, you oppose God. Look at this great hall, full of the proud and the profane, intent on their wordly lives; if only they knew their sins, they would clamor to take your place and push the button themselves.