Yes, I know countless blogs and op/ed pieces around the globe have discussed the impact that the Spanish elections are already having on the war On terror but I couldn’t resist adding my .02. I’d been thinking about this all week and wanting to post something about it. When I woke up this morning and read the latest Opinion Pieces from the Wall Street Journal, I came across one that caught my interest. And it’s written by the editor of a Spanish daily. Looks like there are a few in Spain who get the implicit message behind the elections there last week. The piece compares prime minister-elect, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, to Neville Chamberlain:
So where does this leave the Spanish-American alliance, so refreshing in its departure from the “Old European” mold, and so effective in its harmony between Messrs. Aznar and Bush? What will the impact of the Socialist victory be on the foreign policy (such as it is) of the European Union, which has been at its least anti-American in years, thanks to the muscular Atlanticism of Mr. Aznar and Tony Blair? And what is Washington to make of–and to do about–the manner in which the Socialists exploited last week’s terrorist attacks in Madrid?
The Socialist Party took a free ride on that atrocity and placed blame for the deaths on the governing Popular Party for having aligned itself with the U.S. and British governments on Iraq. Mr. Zapatero’s message to Spain’s electorate on the eve of the election was as simple and powerful as it was invidious: We have been attacked for siding with the U.S. in Iraq. More ire was directed at America than at those who slaughtered innocent Spaniards.
If the Socialist Party were to win, voters were told, Spanish troops would be withdrawn from Iraq and any further Islamist terrorist attacks avoided. The ethical implications of such a stand didn’t make much of an impact on the voters. The fact that al Qaeda may have killed 200 people in Madrid and a contender for power reacted by promising retreat and not retaliation was seen–in the terrible shadow of the event–as a good option by a majority of the electorate. But the message to al Qaeda from our Spanish “Neville Chamberlain” was: If you manage to strike at us, we will run away.
It’s a pretty powerful piece. I’ve noticed a lot of Aussie papers are writing similar type op/eds. They get it.
Schroeder, Chirac, and Zapatero are forming the new “Axis of Weasels” – a “Coalition of the Backing Down” if you will. To some extent, you can’t blame them – their political constituencies demand that they come down on the anti-war side. Yes, we got some help from all of the above after 9-11 in Afghanistan. That is not to be forgotten nor is it to be underappreciated. But at the same time, one can’t help but think back to a time some 60-70 years ago when Winston Churchill stood against the appeasing Euros in the face of evil. Churchill ended up being lauded as a hero for doing the right thing, even though he had a lot of people against him.
Doing what’s right doesn’t always mean doing what’s popular.
The Axis of Weasels are clearly doing what’s popular in their countries. Running campaigns based on anti-America rhetoric seems to get someone elected there quicker than it would should that candidate tell the truth about what America is doing and how their country should not back down, nor waver from its commitments to fighting the war on terror. Iraq is the central front now in the war on terror, whether anyone over there likes it or wants to admit to it or not. The more allies we have on our side in Iraq, the better. Only a world united can defeat the terrorists who want to kill it from the inside out.
History will judge the war on Iraq as being the right thing to do and it will judge George W. Bush and Tony Blair to be great leaders in the face of almost insurmountable opposition overseas. Obviously, Tony Blair took a big risk in joining the US in the invasion of Iraq and he’s likely going to pay a heavy price come the next election. What should have been clear in the case of Blair is that he did something that wasn’t popular – he took the risk – because he knew he was doing the right thing. The President convinced Congress and a majority of Americans about the dangers of allowing Saddam to stay in power in Iraq so the political risk he faced was minimal in comparison to Blair’s courage. Now, W is facing a lot of backlash here in the US – and he’s taking even more heat than he did before the war from the Euros about whether or not his decision to go into Iraq was the right one to make. As always, he’s not backed down one iota from his commitment to democracy in Iraq, nor is he apologetic about his decision to invade and overthrow a brutal dicator who harbored terrorists and who possessed a desire to make WMD while nobody (read: the UN) was looking.
In the long run, it will be the US and the UK who will be judged to be the ultimate heros in the war on terror. Where others fear to tread, we’ll be there – not capitulating like the new Spanish PM or some in the EU – but standing tall, firm, resolute, and determined. The blood of US & UK soldiers is being shed to make the world a safer place – again.
Someday, Spain and its new PM might actually thank us for it.