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The Difference Is In The Details

Mar
17
2004

There were a lot of things that didn’t make sense about the initial analysis of what’s going on in Spain, particularly the U.S.-centric take that the country had decided to kow-tow to terrorists by voting in a Socialist government.
Spain has had Socialist governments before. And its experience with ETA, the Basque separatist group, is long and bloody. ETA has been bombing parts of the country for years regardless of who was in power. Ever visited Picasso’s Guernica? In New York’s Museum of Modern Art, it was just hung on the wall. At the Reina Sofia, it’s behind more than six inches of special bullet-proof plexiglass, more closely guarded than, well, than almost any other national relic. These people know what it means to be under attack.


The argument goes like this: Newly elected Spanish prime minister-elect, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has said – still says – he will withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq by the end of June. Therefore, goes the reasoning, he and the rest of the Spanish people must be cowards. If they don’t want to fight terrorism in Iraq – which Al Queda is using as a pretext for bombings just as it uses the U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia as an excuse for 9/11 – they must not want to fight.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Spain, Richard Gardner is one American who isn’t buying the Iraq War argument or the idea that an unwillingess to support Americans in Iraq is the same as cowardice against the constant threat of Islamic-based terrorism. Iraq is, he said Monday night on Charlie Rose, a distraction. The Iraqi invasion and efforts to fight terrorism are not the same thing, not the same effort; they are and were two different campaigns with different purposes, different causes and different goals. Pre-emptive strikes against terrorist are necessary; pre-emtive invasion of other countries are not. Knowing and seeing that difference, said Gordon, is the message to receive from the Spanish election.
It’s far more likely – as my Spanish friend explains in the post below – that a host of problems with outgoing prime minister Jose Maria Anzar’s government have led to his getting booted out of office. The Atocha train station bombings – my friend lived right up the hill from the station – were just the last, final straw.
My friend’s comments on the personal economic aspects of Spain’s transition to a free-market, less unionized, more flexible — in a word, more American economy — haven’t been taken into account by any commentators I’ve seen. Globalization isn’t pretty, it isn’t painless and American-style workplace ethics are new to many countries. That, itself, can create a back-lash that affects foreign policy, one we’re clearly overlooking because, of course, we assume they’re just like us. Well, that ain’t the case and the Spanish elections are a good example.
More troubling, many – most – American commentators seem to accept what is becoming an extremely effective campaign tactic on the part of the Bush White House. Calling himself a “war president,” Bush is harking back – oh, this is so clever and so deliberate and so subtle that you just have to admire it – to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s campaign re-election during World War II. Historians out there will remember that FDR was president during our last “just” war, the war we fought against a clear evil – Hitler – in which only “appeasers” failed to see the true danger confronting civilization. That’s the same war that’s been romanticized by the Vietnam generation in books and movies. It’s no coincidence that the language of that neater era is being used again today when there is so much conflict and chaos about.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 11:05 AM | Permalink

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