It seems logical that the best way to fight terrorism would be by fighting on the ground and rooting out the people who lead and support terrorist groups. Instead, recently elected Spanish Prime Minister Jon Luis Rodriguez Zapatero offers a fresh new approach, one which will “create a dynamic of dialogue to find a way out of the crisis.” Rather than create a stable government, Zapatero seems to think that a much better plan is to abandon Iraq and hope that we can talk to the insurgents diplomatically and peacefully. While he had already planned to rescind his support for the war against Iraq before his election, his decision to do so after the Madrid train bombings makes it look as if the country is caving to the demands of al-Qaeda.
Attacks on Spain, while tragic, should encourage the people to rise up and fight against countries which harbor terrorists. It is an opportunity to show Europe’s strength and determination to bring peace to the Middle East. Instead, Spain, Germany, and France are now working together to prevent future attacks by removing European troops from Iraq. What does Zapatero hope to accomplish through this? In the short run, a quick escape will prevent Spanish soldiers from dying and possibly another terrorist threat. But in the long run, terrorism is not a problem which will simply go away.
Zapatero, along with Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder, have all criticized Bush for fighting a war that they feel is illegitimate. Even if we set aside the question of the war’s justice, logic tells us that turning back now will create a much larger problem.
Consider what has happened in previous occasions when the U.S. left a job unfinished. When the UN attempted to quell the violence in Mogadishu in 1992 and left in 1994, Somalia was left in shambles. No central authority had been put in place, and the violence in Somalia became even more pronounced. This fueled the anti-West antagonism among Somalian citizens Soon after, there was the 1994 fiasco in Afghanistan, when the U.S. supported the Taliban in an attempt to bring stability to the country. Before ensuring that Afghanistan had a solid central government, the U.S. once again abandoned its project, stoking the flames of Afghanistan’s anti-U.S. enmity and creating a perfect nest for future terrorists. It takes little imagination to predict that a similar situation will arise if we make the same mistakes again. Iraq will emerge as another hiding place for Al-Qaeda members and other terrorist groups, while allowing anti-U.S. sentiment to brew.
Europe’s repeated chastising of Bush for starting what they believe to be an unnecessary war does nothing to ameliorate the current situation. This childish “I told you so” attitude merely exacerbates the problem in Europe and the rest of the world. It is unfortunate that Spain has adopted such an attitude and is working on forging a stronger relationship with Germany and France. Furthermore, Europe’s new political axis will also have a strong influence on the European Union. This opens up the possibility of a Europe united against the U.S. and further attempts to thwart the resolution of a situation that is already very difficult.
It is also unfortunate that Zapatero has not only chosen to abandon the U.S. in Iraq, but also to make the job more difficult than it needs to be. Before Zapatero was elected to become Prime Minister, he promised to remove Spanish troops from Iraq after June 30 if the United Nations agreed to take control. Though this was probably not the best idea, it sounded like a typical liberal stance. Fast forward two months: the newly elected Zapatero decides not only to leave early, but to declare that even if the UN had not taken control, he still would have given the order. Furthermore, he told soldiers to depart two weeks ahead of schedule, leaving the U.S. with an empty base in Diwaniyah.
Not only does Zapatero’s decision leave the U.S. stranded, it comes at a time when Muqtada al-Sadr has emerged with a tightly organized group of insurgents. With real military strength, this group poses a serious threat to the hope for a democratic Iraqi government. Such blatant disregard for the burden this causes the U.S. shows that Spain’s new Prime Minister wishes to antagonize Bush and impede all further U.S. military efforts. At the end of the day, Zapatero’s decision to do exactly as the terrorists asked will only strengthen their resolve and encourage more bombings. Spain’s departure from Iraq sends a clear message that Europe will pull out if enough people are murdered. Zapatero’s election reflects Spain’s general cowardice and strategy of appeasing, rather than combating, the terrorists, and the larger socialist cowardice of Europe as a whole. Europe must realize that stopping terrorism means not giving in to terrorist demands—its survival hangs in the balance.
Jose Maria Aznar II is a rising sophomore in Timothy Dwight College and Senior Editor of the Yale Free Press.