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April 29, 2004

Comments

It's amazing how many American right-wingers are simply accepting without question the al-Qaeda spin on the results of the Spanish elections.

Well, I suppose given that Bush supporters must believe (against all the evidence, but never mind) that invading and occupying Iraq had something to do with fighting al-Qaeda, it's not really amazing.

But it is appallingly dangerous.

Who is in and who is not in Iraq has nothing whatsoever to do with who is fighting al-Qaeda and who is not. However, the immense resources devoted to Iraq are resources that cannot be used against al-Qaeda. It is to al-Qaeda's obvious advantage that the US (and as many other countries as possible) remain in Iraq, spending resources there.

While naturally al-Qaeda would claim the results of the Spanish elections as their victory whichever way they had fallen, Aznar's folly in trying to claim that the al-Qaeda attack was ETA was (almost certainly) the tipping point in turning the Spanish electorate against him.

Sebastian, please try to remember for future reference: al-Qaeda is your enemy. When your enemy tells you to believe something, look for the catch. It will be there.

Fareed Zakaria was on the Daily Show tonight and he's of the opinion that Al Qaeda has been essentially decimated. His theory is that the attacks we've been seeing are localized copycat organizations emulating Al Qaeda's MO. Take that for what it's worth.

On a different note, this post does (re-)raise an interesting question: if one thinks a policy is stupid, wrong-headed or disastrous, but altering that policy will provide your enemies with a victory of sorts, what should one do? Continue with the disastrous policy to spite our enemies, or rescind the policy and give them their PR coup?

Bear in mind, Anarch, that al-Qaeda's success in making the Spanish elections/Spanish withdrawal from Iraq look like a PR coup for them (insofar as it is a "success") has only been achieved by the American right-wing's determination to perceive the results of the Spanish elections, and Spanish withdrawal from Iraq, as a PR coup for al-Qaeda. Sebastian's post being a prime example: he concedes victory to al-Qaeda and blames the Spanish voters for it. It would be funny, if it were not such a dangerous attitude to take.

Additional note: "has only been achieved by the American right-wing's determination to perceive the results of the Spanish elections, and Spanish withdrawal from Iraq, as a PR coup for al-Qaeda."

I take back "only", if considered worldwide. There are doubtless plenty of pro-alQaeda organisations who take al-Qaeda's word for it that the Spanish elections were a victory for al-Qaeda and that Spanish withdrawal from Iraq would be a victory for al-Qaeda.

It still seems both amusing - yet indicative of an extremely dangerous pov - to see people who are anti al-Qaeda accepting al-Qaeda's point of view so unquestioningly, simply for partisan political reasons.

George W. Bush is widely unpopular for his domestic policies. He is, however, still perceived as "strong on terrorism" - primarily because he and his administration have successfully conned a large proportion of the American public into believing that the war in Iraq had something to do with fighting al-Qaeda.

The results of the Spanish elections, and consequent withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq, can be seen as a "victory for al-Qaeda" if, and only if, the war in Iraq is seen as having anything to do with fighting al-Qaeda.

Sebastian (and other right-wingers who still claim a belief that attacking Iraq was somehow connected to fighting al-Qaeda) must therefore declare al-Qaeda's claim to have won a victory by its M-11 attack on Spain to be true, and to blame the Spanish voters for it: since acknowledging that fighting in Iraq is a waste of resources that would better be used to fight al-Qaeda is, quite simply, an acknowledgement that George W. Bush is fundamentally weak on terrorism.

I also note that Bin Laden or whoever is impersonating his voice has offered the nations of Europe a truce if they withdraw from the Middle East. The window of opportunity for the truce was put at three months.

I may be missing the point, Sebastian, but Bin Laden's offer came after the elections, as I recall, and after Zapatero's vow to remove troops, which itself came before the Madrid bombings.

Basing any life decision on whether or not someone else is going to approve (or disapprove) is silly.

Trying to base political decisions on what will please (or displease) al Qaeda is folly.

Sooooo ... when we decided to withdraw from Saudi Arabia, what was that?

Jesurgislac has it exactly right:

When your enemy tells you to believe something, look for the catch. It will be there.

Also, GOPers would like to ignore a number of facts concerning the Spanish elections and only focus on the Madrid attack. For example, the Spanish populace was deeply opposed to Spanish intervention in Iraq; I've seen polling that indicated 9 out of 10 Spaniards opposed the war in Iraq. In fact, opposition to intervention was greater in Spain than other European nations, including France and Germany.

Moreover, the Socialist Party ran on a campaign pledge of withdrawing Spanish troops from Iraq.

Another fact is the elections were nearly a dead heat prior to the attacks in Madrid. It was an election that was up for grabs even before the terrorist attacks. The PPI's gross mishandling of the attack's aftermath without question swung the election.

I am surprised Bird Dog has not awarded one of his famous Carnak awards for this post. Or do they only go to Democrats?

I think the fast withdrawing (instead of waiting for june 30th) also had to do with the fact that the Spaniards were posted around Najaf. If you allready think that being in Iraq is folly, attacking a holy muslim-site might definately be too much.

withdrawl? Isn't that a Southern manner of speech?

I suspect he isn't willing to wait, because the US is dealing with the UN and he needs to get the troops out before there is any chance of a UN resolution which might have fulfilled his stated position of leaving the troops in under UN auspices.

The chronology here clears things up a bit.

Zapatero was willing to keep Spanish troops in Iraq if the UN was in charge of them...the troops...not just the window dressing on the transition, which is clearly being dictated by Negroponte now, despite how vigorously Brahimi tries to hog the spotlight.

Zapatero's "immediate" withdrawal was a response to the US's clear indication that the UN would not be in charge of the troops in Iraq at any point in the foreseeable future.

Trying to suggest he pulled them out to beat a change in policy that was clearly never coming is doing a serious disservice to an ally in Afghanistan.

And, for the 1 billionth time, it's not whether they have 250 troops or 250 million troops in Afghanistan. It's whether they have the number most appropriate for them there. There are definitely logicistical differences to be accounted for...and as the whole point of our having a coalition in Afghanistan is to locate and capture/kill al Qaida, I can't how anyone could spin that increase into "appeasement." They're sending more troops to kill al Qaida where they actually are hiding.

Really...let's give the Spanish their due.

It still seems both amusing - yet indicative of an extremely dangerous pov - to see people who are anti al-Qaeda accepting al-Qaeda's point of view so unquestioningly, simply for partisan political reasons.

If Al Qaeda isn't spinning the Spanish withdrawal as a moral victory -- well, the closest they can come to "moral", at any rate -- I'll be incredibly surprised. I'd argue that, because of the grain of plausibility, this will be an effective recruitment tool, and the fact that it's politically advantageous for the right wing in this country to point that out is merely coincidence.

What concerns me is the larger question that I invoked above, namely: does the fact that Al Qaeda will likely gain strength from the Spanish withdrawal mean that the Spanish should have kept their troops there even though they felt the policy was ruinous? More generally, are we obligated to enact policies simply because our enemies would prefer we enact different ones, regardless of their actual merits?

Yes.

Dantheman:

I have three Carnak awards on my mantle courtesy of Bird Dog, and will relinquish two of them for the ceremony.

I'll get more. Bird Dog bestows them indiscriminately. My basements full of them because I can actually write Bird Dog's posts before he does on any particular issue. And have.

He is, however, still perceived as "strong on terrorism" - primarily because he and his administration have successfully conned a large proportion of the American public into believing that the war in Iraq had something to do with fighting al-Qaeda.

Great comments, Jesur, but I doubt if many of the people who support the unfortunate Iraqi adventure care about the difference between Iraqis and AQ, Arabs and AQ or Muslems and AQ.

Sebastian He is no longer willing to wait for the UN. I suspect he isn't willing to wait, because the US is dealing with the UN and he needs to get the troops out before there is any chance of a UN resolution which might have fulfilled his stated position of leaving the troops in under UN auspices.

I think that almost everyone knows that there is not the slightest chance of a UN resolution anytime soon. Any leader of a UNSC member nation who endorses a UN resolution that might pull Bush's chestnuts out of the fire, and possibly help him get re-elected, are going to face the wrath of their electorate, in the same way as the Spanish punished Aznar. So will go Howard of Australia and Blair of the UK.

Lots of comments but two broad themes.

My main response is, the problem isn't just Al Qaeda, and if you want to talk about dangerous points of view the idea that Al Qaeda is the only (or at this point even the main problem) is about as dangerous as it gets.

"Bear in mind, Anarch, that al-Qaeda's success in making the Spanish elections/Spanish withdrawal from Iraq look like a PR coup for them (insofar as it is a "success") has only been achieved by the American right-wing's determination to perceive the results of the Spanish elections, and Spanish withdrawal from Iraq, as a PR coup for al-Qaeda."

This is frankly ridiculous. You are blatantly mixing together the difference between creating a problem and pointing it out. This also reveals an almost silly US-centric view.

Almost none of the people who might listen to the 'right-wing' are the target audience for Al Qaeda propaganda in this regard. Their ability to credibly claim to change Western election results and foreign policy is aimed at other people in the Middle East. It is aimed at potential allies--see we are strong enough to get things done, come help us. It is aimed at potential moderates--see the West is too weak and afraid to help you, you might as well give up before we kill you.

None of that has ANYTHING to do with what your scary 'right-wing' says about the situation. The only way you can come to such a conclusion is to complete ignore the Middle East, which is kind of an important part of the discussion.


James Casey, the timing of the Spanish troop pullout was changed after bin Laden's offer. Once again, even if unrelated, Spain creates the appearance of playing Al Qaeda's tune.

"And, for the 1 billionth time, it's not whether they have 250 troops or 250 million troops in Afghanistan. It's whether they have the number most appropriate for them there."

They don't have 250, they have 125. And if either pathetically low number is 'most appropriate' it is appropriate because they don't want to have a major commitment in Afghanistan, not because there is some sort of special thing about Afghanistan that makes keeping more than 300 troops there ideal. And if you don't think there is a difference in number of troops between 250 and 250,000 (I'll give hyperbole room for the million) then please refrain from future whining about the number of American troops in Afghanistan.


To those who, rightly, think that changing policy shouldn't be dictated by our enemies: For a side which believes so much in diplomatic efforts I would think you could understand the diplomatic effect of timing your announcements properly. Zapatero could have quietly removed the troops after actually gaining power. Al-Qaeda would still claim a victory, but not half the victory they got when he makes removing the troops the centerpiece of his very first set of speeches immediately after winning the election and less than a week after Al Qaeda successfully murdered people on the Madrid trains. Zapatero's move was not calculated to worry about the effect it would have on the war against terrorism--even if you believe that Iraq ought not be a part of it. The same goes with his announcement of a quicker removal than he originally scheduled. This announcement came scant days after bin-Laden's truce offer. It was also made very publically, and right before well-publicized talks between the US and UN were to begin.

There are so many false assumtions that are used to reach a conclusion of thought here that it is quite daunting to know where to begin.

Jes said:

It's amazing how many American right-wingers are simply accepting without question the al-Qaeda spin on the results of the Spanish elections.

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I would have to ask you how you reached this conclusion. I don't remember receiving any opinion polls for the VRWC club that you assume so many of us are in...

Jes said:

Well, I suppose given that Bush supporters must believe (against all the evidence, but never mind)

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As opposed to all the evidence that you conveniently ignore about Al Qaeda ties to Iraq... but never mind.

Jes says:

However, the immense resources devoted to Iraq are resources that cannot be used against al-Qaeda

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You seem to have a difference of opinion about what it takes to be successful in Afghanistan. For example, there is a strong military logic to using small forces in place of large ones. Hence, the creation of commandos. They can get around easier and don't create as big of a target for the enemy, but can be devastating.

Jes said:
Sebastian, please try to remember for future reference: al-Qaeda is your enemy. When your enemy tells you to believe something, look for the catch. It will be there.

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I think it would be more accurate to say that Radical Islam is the enemy.

Anarch says:
thinks a policy is stupid, wrong-headed or disastrous, but altering that policy will provide your enemies with a victory of sorts, what should one do?

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But, I think you misunderstand the situation and the end objective. People don't seem to believe Bush when he says he wants to bring democracy to the ME and through that deal with Radical Islamists. We can argue if he has a good strategy if we want, but let's don't deny what the stated objective is. If the policy can't be achieved or then the strategy will naturally change. But, we are not seeing that it can't be achieved yet.

Jes:
Sebastian's post being a prime example: he concedes victory to al-Qaeda and blames the Spanish voters for it. It would be funny, if it were not such a dangerous attitude to take.

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He concedes victory because it was a victory for al Qaeda. Regardless, of what goes on in the U.S. it was still a victory for them. Even if Spain left because they were allergic to the desert it would still be seen as a victory for the terrorists. Pretend America doesn't exist... Spain is in Iraq. Terrorists want Spain out of Iraq. Spain leaves Iraq because the desert is too hot. The terrorists still win.

Granted the overall vote is more complex than that. I imagine M-11 wasn't the sole reason people voted the way they did. But, it is still a perceived victory for terrorists regarless of VRWC.

Jes:
see people who are anti al-Qaeda accepting al-Qaeda's point of view so unquestioningly, simply for partisan political reasons.

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Again who are these people that you seem to know so well? And how do you obtain this information about them. Give sources, please! I think you are operating on that false assumption that Americans are naive... which I have personally experienced in Europe and the ME. Whether on the right or left Americans are not unquestioning. If only so... then VRWC and I could take over... ; -)

Jes:
George W. Bush is widely unpopular for his domestic policies

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By widely unpopular do you mean that more than half of Americans support him... 30% hate him and 20% aren't sure.

Jes:
primarily because he and his administration have successfully conned a large proportion of the American public into believing that the war in Iraq had something to do with fighting al-Qaeda.

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Are you sure that wasn't Clinton and Richard Clarke that convinced Americans. Clarke just testified that Iraq intel and Al Qaeda were working together in Sudan? Or should we just ignore all the intel from 1992-2000. Just a thought maybe, it was the Al Qaeda that went to Iraq after the Afghanistan war that helped convince Americans about Iraqi compliance. I am too tired to go on here about us easily convinced Americans.

Jes:
Sebastian (and other right-wingers who still claim a belief that attacking Iraq was somehow connected to fighting al-Qaeda)

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Hence, you don't understand the war that we are waging. We are fighting more than just Al Qaeda.

asdf:
Sooooo ... when we decided to withdraw from Saudi Arabia, what was that?

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America does not want to be in other countries. America is not an empire that wants to keep soldiers in other countries. Our boys and even politicians on the left and the right want to bring them home when the job is done. While many people... mostly in other countries... just can't imagine a country that would think like that it is true. Saudi Arabia has a fire under its butt. They are fighting terrorists every day. Iraq didn't not behave like that... getting so tired now.

Jade:
Also, GOPers would like to ignore a number of facts concerning the Spanish elections and only focus on the Madrid attack. For example, the Spanish populace was deeply opposed to Spanish intervention in Iraq; I've seen polling that indicated 9 out of 10 Spaniards opposed the war in Iraq. In fact, opposition to intervention was greater in Spain than other European nations, including France and Germany.

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As an accused member of the VRWC and GOPer, I agree with what you say about Spain, except the part about GOP'ers wanting to ignore the facts.

Jade:
The PPI's gross mishandling of the attack's aftermath without question swung the election.

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So the actual bombing itself didn't sway anyone? I find that difficult to accept.

Edward:
and as the whole point of our having a coalition in Afghanistan is to locate and capture/kill al Qaida,

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Actually, another big reason for us to be there is to rebuild the country.

Fabius:
Great comments, Jesur, but I doubt if many of the people who support the unfortunate Iraqi adventure care about the difference between Iraqis and AQ, Arabs and AQ or Muslems and AQ.

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As a member of the VRWC and a supporter of the unfortunate "Because Hussein was a tyrant" Iraqi adventure care about the differences between Iraqis and AQ, Arabs and AQ and Muslims and AQ.

Please remember that in the U.S. we have many Arabs who are great Americans. We even have one that is in charge of the Iraqi adventure. No one has killed more Arabs than Hussein. No one has gone out of their way to try and protect more Moslems than the U.S.

For a side which believes so much in diplomatic efforts I would think you could understand the diplomatic effect of timing your announcements properly.

You know, that's the first time I've heard anyone criticize the timing of the withdrawal without subsequently accusing the Spanish of being terrorist appeasers. Some kind of congratulations are in order, I think :)

And, fwiw, I agree with your subsequent point that Zapatero's move wasn't calculated in the light of the war on (Middle Eastern) terrorism. [Partly, I'll wager, because the "... on terrorism" (thanks, von!) is regarded as a fundamentally American endeavour in many circles.] I'd be careful about including all terrorism, however, as I'm not sure how the Basques will regard the refocussing of Spanish efforts on domestic matters.

I think that I now can agree to most of what Sebastian is saying. Zapatero's public diplomacy has been awful, I agree.

[Sorry for the length of this post. Blame it on the fever.]

But, I think you misunderstand the situation and the end objective. People don't seem to believe Bush when he says he wants to bring democracy to the ME and through that deal with Radical Islamists. We can argue if he has a good strategy if we want, but let's don't deny what the stated objective is. If the policy can't be achieved or then the strategy will naturally change. But, we are not seeing that it can't be achieved yet.

Huh? I've never once disputed Bush wants to bring democracy to the ME and end Radical Islam. Nor have I lost sight of that objective, although I sometimes think the Administration has. All of which is besides the point, since you're putting yourself in the wrong perspective here. I deliberately framed the question from our point of view to avoid the (legitimate) debate over the state of play in Iraq; in practice, the correct perspective is that of the Spanish.

To be completely clear: the Spanish, as a nation, feel that Iraq was a disastrous policy. Their government made the withdrawal of the troops a centerpiece of their platform, so it's not like the Spanish voters didn't know what they were getting when they ousted Aznar. Now we, as Americans, can criticize this action on three grounds:

1) The "... on terrorism" is a worthy endeavour and one in which all nations should participate -- and Iraq is its centerpiece.

2) Spain's withdrawal was poorly timed and poorly played, endangering the lives of those still remaining in Iraq, or even those whose troops remain in Iraq.

3) The withdrawal will provide Al Qaeda with a PR coup that will likely embolden their forces and cause more terrorist attacks in the future.

Now, it's patently clear that most on the right (and some on the left) in America believe #1, but -- and this is the key point -- the Spanish don't. You can throw that at them until you're blue in the face, but until you stop taking it as axiomatic and construct a more persuasive argument you won't find any traction. The best that can be said about that criticism from a realpolitik standpoint is that it's cathartic for us; the worst is that it will drive other nations away from whatever coalitions we plan to build.

[As a sniping aside: it's odd that, for someone so steeped in the evangelical tradition, Bush can't convert people to save his (or, more pointedly, others') life. Were he more of a "uniter not divider", Spain might have been amenable to this argument.]

The second criticism is the one that Sebastian made above, and one that I think the Spanish might be receptive to. I've heard no mainstream Spanish opinion (although I admittedly have very little knowledge of Spanish politics) that seem to be encouraging, or even indifferent, to the suffering of other nations... and even if they possess moderate anti-American sentiment it shouldn't be too hard to convince them that this could result in more innocent casualties. This, it seems to me, is the useful approach -- which is why my congralulations to Sebastian above are both sincere and, given the relative lack of this consideration, damning with faint praise.

The problem is that, while #2 is almost never cited by itself IME, #3 is hollered from the rooftops: Spain gave in to Al Qaeda! The Spanish are objectively pro-terrorist! They're a bunch of cowardly appeasing pussies! Etc, etc. Not only is this counter-productive diplomatically -- which will only make the achieving of our end objective all the harder -- but I think it's dangerously broken logic. It's essentially equivalent to asserting that Al Qaeda gets to run our foreign policy, only in negative: anything they don't want us to do, we do.

Now that's fine provided that the policy itself doesn't hurt us into the bargain, but the problem is that, by phrasing the question purely about their negatives, we neglect to ask the larger question: what does the policy do for us? By way of a reductio, I'm fairly sure Al Qaeda doesn't want us to annihilate the Middle East. Does this therefore mean that we are obligated to nuke it until it glows?

That's what my comments are attempting to illuminate, ideally before the US has to make a similar decision: how much influence should our enemies' antipathy have over our policy if the policy itself is ruinous? Should we do it anyway, just to spite them? Should we withhold, knowing that this will make them stronger?

I don't know the answer to this question, but I can say with certainty that artificially framing the debate to exclude the possibility of a lose-lose situation (or maybe just a Pyrrhic victory) is a surefire way to poor policy and ultimately a failure to accomplish the end objectives: democratizing the Middle East and ending the terrorist threat.

Anyway, this is where I'll have to stand for now; must get a few more hours of sleep before I have to teach. Good debating, everyone :)

"...and as the whole point of our having a coalition in Afghanistan is to locate and capture/kill al Qaida...."

That's not remotely close to the truth. A major reason, as well, is to stablize Afghanistan so that the government becomes a real government, actually controlling the country, providing it with security, democracy, and growth, rather than just controlling Kabul, and letting the rest go to a combination of warlords and Taliban.

The Spanish could preserve some credibility by putting 1,400 troops (more would be better, but that's a minimum) into Afghanistan. This has nothing to do with letting al Queda boss them around.

Fine...let me rephrase then

the whole point of our building a coalition to go into Afghanistan was to locate and capture/kill al Qaida

everyone OK with that?

You know we would have let them struggle on with the Taliban for years had AQ not been there.

The Spanish could preserve some credibility by putting 1,400 troops (more would be better, but that's a minimum) into Afghanistan.

If the US said that number would be appropriate, I'd support that...otherwise, it's silly to suggest numbers.

Thank you anarch for your 3 points. Number 2 directly impacts the strength of number 3. And the way that the Spanish, and I suppose most specifically Zapatero have been engaging in point 2, has dramatically strengthened Al Qaeda's propaganda value with respect to the whole bombing--which will in the long, short and medium run cause more deaths due to terrorism. And that is my largest criticism of the whole thing. Because after all, the actual number of troops from Spain has always been too small to make a big difference. This was never about an Al Qaeda military victory. It was always about being a propaganda victory.

Anarch:
I deliberately framed the question from our point of view to avoid the (legitimate) debate over the state of play in Iraq; in practice, the correct perspective is that of the Spanish.

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It sounded to me as if you were referring to Bush policy as being so misguided that it needed correcting. I see now you were trying to see it from the Spanish perspective.

I agree that the most Spanish were against the war. Politics and the bombing impacted their decision. I don't judge the Spanish too hard because it seems that even America could make the same mistake by electing Kerry.

I also agree that the Spanish don't see the war on terror the same as the U.S. Actually, I have exprienced that first hand... so I would never want to debate that. I am amazed that they don't see that Bin Laden consistently mentions Al-Andalus as a reminder of the greatness of the Moslem empire and how symbolic it is. This started happening long before 9/11. But, I suppose that is another subject.

Anarach:
Spain gave in to Al Qaeda! The Spanish are objectively pro-terrorist! They're a bunch of cowardly appeasing pussies! Etc, etc. Not only is this counter-productive diplomatically -- which will only make the achieving of our end objective all the harder -- but I think it's dangerously broken logic

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I don't think that logic is valid either. I think we would then have to apply it to ourselves right now because of the election. There is no doubt it is not a a given for Bush.

Anarch:
how much influence should our enemies' antipathy have over our policy if the policy itself is ruinous? Should we do it anyway, just to spite them? Should we withhold, knowing that this will make them stronger?

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By "our" I am confused again. Do you mean the U.S. or Spain?

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If by "our" you mean our and not Spain...
This seems self-evident to me. If we discover our policy is ineffective we change it as soon as possible. This is partly what happened in Spain.

OdysseusInRTP - that's definitely an improvement, but frankly, with long posts, HTML is still better when you're quoting/replying to several people at such length. check out this site for some easy basics: scroll down to text tags.

Odysseus: This seems self-evident to me. If we discover our policy is ineffective we change it as soon as possible. This is partly what happened in Spain.

You've somewhat missed the point, which I'll strip down to its barest essentials: if the policy is ineffective BUT changing it might give our enemies aid, should we then resist the change?

Sebastian: And the way that the Spanish, and I suppose most specifically Zapatero have been engaging in point 2, has dramatically strengthened Al Qaeda's propaganda value with respect to the whole bombing--which will in the long, short and medium run cause more deaths due to terrorism.

Had this been the point as I had seen it elsewhere in the blogosphere, I'd've agreed more or less completely. I'm not convinced that Zapatero could have withdrawn the troops without some kind of Al Qaeda PR coup, but his apparent indifference to such matters has probably made things worse than they needed to be.

Sebastian: My main response is, the problem isn't just Al Qaeda, and if you want to talk about dangerous points of view the idea that Al Qaeda is the only (or at this point even the main problem) is about as dangerous as it gets.

I've been trying to think of a way to word this that corresponds with the posting rules, and it's difficult.

Spain was attacked on March 11 by al-Qaeda. It was the worst terrorist attack in Europe since the Pan Am bomb in 1988. Ten bombs on rush hour trains packed with commuters - office workers and school children: killing around 200, injuring around 2000. Sebastian, how do you dare tell the Spanish that al-Qaeda isn't "the main problem"? As far as you're concerned, al-Qaeda may not be a "main problem" - but for a country devastated by an attack, I think the Spanish have every damn right to say that for themselves, al-Qaeda is the main problem.

Your claim that I have a "silly US-centric view" is, to my mind, pot calling kettle black. The idea that the Spanish are "appeasers" is pure US-centric b-s - a scream from US right-wing bloggers affronted at a country daring to have different opinions from the US.

Almost none of the people who might listen to the 'right-wing' are the target audience for Al Qaeda propaganda in this regard. Their ability to credibly claim to change Western election results and foreign policy is aimed at other people in the Middle East.

And yet you seemed to believe it. What makes you think that you're not part of the target audience? Al-Qaeda would of course claim that any election result is the result they wanted: and their supporters will, of course, believe them. But what do you gain by believing that they're telling the truth?

To those who, rightly, think that changing policy shouldn't be dictated by our enemies

Rightly? ahem. It's exactly what you seemed to be advocating in your initial post.

For a side which believes so much in diplomatic efforts I would think you could understand the diplomatic effect of timing your announcements properly.

Anarch is right that this is a better point than your previous efforts. But it still assumes that Iraq is somehow connected to al-Qaeda - which is, as has been pointed out very many times, just basically false.

Jumping in here.

Lieberman (aka "Useless Joe") used a phrase in his sour grapes ranting at the Brooking Institute the other day that stuck in my claw:

Iraqi terrorists who are part of the same jihadist movement that mercilessly attacked us on September 11, 2001.

Is there any evidence, whatsoever, that the insurgents are in anyway, whatsoever, part of the same jihadist movement that attacked us?

Would you Republicans PLEASE take Lieberman over to your side? Really...you can have him.

"Sebastian, how do you dare tell the Spanish that al-Qaeda isn't "the main problem"? As far as you're concerned, al-Qaeda may not be a "main problem" - but for a country devastated by an attack, I think the Spanish have every damn right to say that for themselves, al-Qaeda is the main problem."

No daring is needed, I say it because it is true, and pretending that it is not doesn't help anyone.

Speaking of things that are true, the 125 soon to be (if Zapatero is serious) 250 troops in Afghanistan aren't exactly an overwhelming force against Al Qaeda either. So if this is how they react to what you think they believe is 'the main problem' it is awfully pathetic. Unless you believe that Al Qaeda can be destroyed by making a dozen arrests in Spain? Anyone believe that?

"But it still assumes that Iraq is somehow connected to al-Qaeda - which is, as has been pointed out very many times, just basically false."

Nice qualifiers at the end there. And I don't even have to make that claim. I claim that responding to an Al Qaeda bombing attack with the foreign policy change that Al Qaeda vocally desired, and doing so with great fanfare, immediately after the bombing, and then accelerating even that pullout immediately after bin Laden's truce proposal has maybe just a little something to do with Al Qaeda.

"Rightly? ahem. It's exactly what you seemed to be advocating in your initial post."

If that is how you choose to interpret my writing, I guess I can't help you.

The point that this was a huge diplomatic loss has been my theme all along. I never called it a huge military loss. It is only 1,400 troops for heaven's sake. This was a political win for Al Qaeda. This was a diplomatic win for Al Qaeda. That isn't a change in my argument, that has been my whole point from the beginning.

Edward, you are taking a ridiculously narrow view of 'jihadist movement'. You treat it as if Lieberman had said 'jihadist group'. He didn't. He wasn't alleging that they were all on the same e-mail list.

Therefore the response to:
"Is there any evidence, whatsoever, that the insurgents are in anyway, whatsoever, part of the same jihadist movement that attacked us?"
is absolutely. They have many of the same sponsors and most of the same long term aims. They are interconnected but not interchangable. The Red Guard Brigade and the Cambridge spies were part of the same movement but part of totally different groups.

Sebastian: No daring is needed, I say it because it is true, and pretending that it is not doesn't help anyone.

Got any contemporary evidence that this is what you were saying in October 2001? Or is it just that when al-Qaeda attacks in Spain it's not "the main problem"?

If that is how you choose to interpret my writing, I guess I can't help you.

Well, you're certainly (apparently) asserting that we should trust that al-Qaeda speaks the truth, and that whatever al-Qaeda says it wants, we shouldn't do it. Effectively, you're advocating that the enemy should be able to control what we do by simply saying it wants the opposite.

This was a political win for Al Qaeda. This was a diplomatic win for Al Qaeda. That isn't a change in my argument, that has been my whole point from the beginning.

Which is based on two false premises: One, that the war in Iraq has any connection with al-Qaeda, which it doesn't: Two, you are advocating that governments should pay attention to what al-Qaeda says and believe that what they say they want is what they want.

Why do you think that? What gives you the impression that al-Qaeda are so trustworthy?

You guys are so uptight about a few posts... please...

Ana:
I get your question... I just think you are making it more complex than it is and putting forth a false premise... that if one aides the enemy in any way then that is a failure. In a perfect world that might be true, but we don't live there.

...
Any strategy will have its ups and downs, rethinks and flat out mistakes.

If our policy is ineffective and stopping it aides the enemy then in someways it has to be effective. Even if it only distracts them. Is it not often good strategy to withdraw regroup and try another approach? Could it not easily be argued in every war at some point we have aided the enemy.

It's the premise of your question that seems inaccurate to me. You can ask it, but I am not sure it gets you anything to answer it.

For example, can the terrorist really fight us in a war and win. No! But, they can make things difficult. So "they" seem to be working off the assumption that an ineffective stratgey does accomplish something if it hurts your opponent in anyway. So from my perspective the terrorists have come up with their own answer for your quesion.

So this is really about what the U.S. should do and it really is about our perspective not really Spain's? Right?

We will constantly be updating our strategy so that whatever we do benefits us the MOST. If there is a small benefit to the enemy it will probably only be temporary.

Jes:
Anarch is right that this is a better point than your previous efforts. But it still assumes that Iraq is somehow connected to al-Qaeda - which is, as has been pointed out very many times, just basically false.

...
Again, how many dots must be connected between Iraq and AQ to get you to accept a connection. You claim they are false, but Clinton and Richard Clarke disagree with you. What information do you have access to that they don't? You seem to berate Seb for being duped, but who is really being duped here?

Odysseus, would it really be so hard to learn to use simple HTML codes? :-) Yowever, since I've just recently made an ass of myself on the Chao thread making mistakes with HTML codes, I feel a little embarrassed about insisting on that right now.

Odysseus: Again, how many dots must be connected between Iraq and AQ to get you to accept a connection.

If there were any evidence connecting Iraq and al-Qaeda, the Bush administration would be on it and would have cited it. They haven't. Instead, Bush & Co have made do with innuendo and false associations.

I don't know if you're a Wimsey fan, but I know other readers of this blog are (hi, Moe!). In the first Lord Peter Wimsey novel, Whose Body?, Wimsey dismisses the idea that the corpse was deposited in the bath by means of a ladder from below because, he says, Inspector Sugg looked for traces of the ladder, and couldn't find any. Wimsey's friend Parker queries this: neither of them have a high opinion of Sugg as a detective. Acutely, Wimsey points out that Sugg's main flaw as a detective is that he gets an idea and sticks to it. Sugg believes the corpse was got into the apartment by a ladder, so he looked for traces of the ladder thoroughly: if he didn't find them, Wimsey says, that means they weren't there to be found.

Similarly with Bush & Co and the supposed Iraq-alQaida connection. Politically speaking, it would be very advantageous for Bush & Co to be able to prove an Iraqi-alQaida connection. We know from the WMD debacle that they would be willing to use virtually any quality of "evidence": outdated, flawed, faked, and unverified. Yet at no point has Bush claimed he has evidence for an Iraqi-alQaida connection. I do them the credit of believing they would certainly have searched hard for evidence that would be so politically advantageous to them: the fact that they haven't cited such evidence is, as far as I'm concerned, the key point that proves there is none - not even of the level of very shaky evidence that suggested Iraq might still have leftover chemical or biological weapons.

I get your question... I just think you are making it more complex than it is and putting forth a false premise... that if one aides the enemy in any way then that is a failure.

Precisely, which is why I found those who leapt to call the Spanish "appeasers" somewhat unnerving: it was predicated on exactly that kind of idealized notion of right and wrong.

If our policy is ineffective and stopping it aides the enemy then in someways it has to be effective. Even if it only distracts them. Is it not often good strategy to withdraw regroup and try another approach? Could it not easily be argued in every war at some point we have aided the enemy.

You're presuming this is a zero-sum game. That presumption could well be unwarranted, viz my remark about lose-lose scenarios and Pyrrhic victories above.

For a slight twist, consider my "nuking the Middle East" scenario: AQ almost certainly doesn't want us to annihilate the ME. If one believes that our policy should be dictated by their dislikes, that's an a priori reason to nuke the Middle East -- no moral or strategic component required. After all, by not nuking the Middle East, we're appeasing Al Qaeda!

This strikes me as profoundly dangerous, to say the least.

So this is really about what the U.S. should do and it really is about our perspective not really Spain's? Right?

I'm perpetually shifting viewpoints -- run with it ;)

Less flippantly, I'm trying to pinpoint the underlying moral/strategic/logical principle that permitted people to label Spain "appeasers" for their actions without consideration of the broader context, namely whether keeping troops in Iraq was in their interest. In particular, I'm interested in whether this principle also applies to the United States and the coalition in general -- that, whether this truly is a "principle" -- or whether this is merely being hurled at the Spanish as a post facto rationalization for a specific dislike.

There's a broader notion still that I'm interested in, namely the moral and ethical theory of "appeasement" (and the, IMO, debasing of its meaning), but that's really a topic for another thread.

We will constantly be updating our strategy so that whatever we do benefits us the MOST. If there is a small benefit to the enemy it will probably only be temporary.

So then Spain was right to do what it did, correct? After all, by their perception the war in Iraq was a disastrous policy; by their perception a withdrawal was not; hence removing their troops is warranted as the "small benefit" AQ derives (the PR coup) will be only temporary.

Except I'm not sure that we buy that argument coming from other people, which is another motivation for my remarks...

Again, how many dots must be connected between Iraq and AQ to get you to accept a connection. You claim they are false, but Clinton and Richard Clarke disagree with you.

You addressed this to Jesurgislac, but I'll bite: could you please provide cites [not due to Laurie Mylroie] that Iraq and Al Qaeda were connected prior to 9/11?

Yet at no point has Bush claimed he has evidence for an Iraqi-alQaida connection.

In fact, I believe he specifically denied such a connection.

In fact, I believe he specifically denied such a connection.

I believe what Bush specifically denied was any connection between Iraq and the September 11 attack - which isn't quite the same thing. (I'm nitpicking to save Sebastian or Slarti the trouble.)

I posted a whole list of "connecting the dots" just the other day here that was flat out rejected... but many of you seem to want to want a contract or something of that nature that was drawn up in blood between them.

I wonder if you guys were defending O.J. as much during his trial. He may have won in the criminal court, but he lost in the civil.

I don't think I implied anywhere that that this was the sole reason to invade Iraq. But, it was part of the overall reason.

Again... AQ is everywhere, but Iraq.... amazing...


"Well, you're certainly (apparently) asserting that we should trust that al-Qaeda speaks the truth, and that whatever al-Qaeda says it wants, we shouldn't do it. Effectively, you're advocating that the enemy should be able to control what we do by simply saying it wants the opposite."

You are just playing a debater's game with me at this point. Do you, yourself, actually believe that Al Qaeda desires for Spain to be in Iraq? If you believe that, and are willing to forthrightly state so, I will respond to this question. Otherwise you are just playing semantic games to score points. I don't have to believe EVERYTHING Al Qaeda says. For the purposes of this argument I just have to believe that Al Qaeda wanted Spain out of Iraq. And I do believe that, and I suspect you do too.

"You addressed this to Jesurgislac, but I'll bite: could you please provide cites [not due to Laurie Mylroie] that Iraq and Al Qaeda were connected prior to 9/11?"

You didn't address this to me, but I'll bite anyway. ">http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/003/527uwabl.asp"> WeeklyStandard quoting Clinton era (i.e. pre-9/11) intelligence on the links.

See also UNSCAM . What? Saddam diverted oil-for-food money to terrorists? Shocking!

I'm sure those tricky terrorists just fooled Saddam into giving them money. I'm certain that there is no way he could have realized that the money which was supposed to be used to feed his starving people got diverted to terrorist groups linked to Al Qaeda. They sure fooled him.

I posted a whole list of "connecting the dots" just the other day here that was flat out rejected

Yes, and I've just explained why. Again.

But if you want Anarch to read your list, provide the URL for the website where you got it.

Again... AQ is everywhere, but Iraq.... amazing...

Really? If al-Qaida is everywhere, doesn't that mean that the US should be invading everywhere? Including, self-referentially, the US?

but many of you seem to want to want a contract or something of that nature that was drawn up in blood between them.

I'd like something a lot more tangible than "so-and-so had surgery", yes.

I wonder if you guys were defending O.J. as much during his trial. He may have won in the criminal court, but he lost in the civil.

....and?

What, you think I can't evaluate cases individually? The bulk of the evidence on the OJ trial convinced me of his guilt; the bulk of the evidence connecting Saddam to Al Qaeda (thanks, Jes, for that correction) has not convinced me of the connection.

I don't think I implied anywhere that that this was the sole reason to invade Iraq. But, it was part of the overall reason.

I don't know that you did, but if there was no connection then Iraq is, at best, tenuously connected to the "... on terrorism" insofar as our national security is concerned. Furthermore, if one removes that strut from reason #1 above, the argument that Spain should have kept its troops in Iraq looses much of its force: there's a huge qualitative difference between a military engagement designed to destroy an enemy shown capable of striking at one's homeland, and a military engagement aimed at producing a radical, democratizing transformation of the Middle East. It seems perfectly logical to me that Spain would have (barely) willing to support the former venture, yet be opposed to the latter venture.

In other words, from Spain's perspective, without the Saddam/Al Qaeda connection they're spending lives on a starry-eyed American plan that is only tenuously related to their national security. [Indeed, that's basically my view.] And who are we to ask that they sacrifice their national security for our qualms?

All of which boils down to our fundamental PR problem, the need to actually convince the people of the world that what we're doing is necessary, yadda yadda yadda, which we've all heard a dozen times so I'll just take it as read and move on.

And is it just me, or did the server just blat and combine Sebastian's and Jes' most recent posts?

Oops, for want of a quotation mark my html link was lost.

UNSCAM was my other link.

Thanks for the link, Sebastian. On first glance, it looks to me like a classic case of using the bogeyman of Saddam Hussein to provide political cover to a policy that might otherwise have come under attack.

[To forestall your objection, yes, I think Saddam's been overly demonized since about 1990. {Karmic repayment for the years we covered up his sins? You be the judge.} He was a brutal tyrant and a wannabe-Stalin, sure; he wasn't Satan incarnate, despite what I heard over the past 14 years.]

Regardless, though, as mathematics has not, in fact, been proven inconsistent -- though it looked mighty close for a moment there -- it's time for me to get back to work. Catch y'all after the weekend. :)

I think my missing quotation mark killed part of the subsequent post. I can't fix it from here, will try to do so in about an hour.

Do you, yourself, actually believe that Al Qaeda desires for Spain to be in Iraq?

I believe that it certainly suits al-Qaida for the US to be in Iraq. Overthrowing Saddam Hussein was one of Osama bin Laden's declared objectives, as was getting US troops out of Saudi Arabia, which is much more likely if the US builds permanent bases in Iraq. It is obviously good for al-Qaeda if the US and other Western democracies appear to be taking part in a crusade against Islam: the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and the atrocities committed in Iraq by the occupation, can far more easily be spun into a crusade against Islam than can a focus on al-Qaeda itself. Plus, as I've previously said, resources being spent in Iraq are resources that are not being spent on fighting al-Qaeda, which is obviously a plus for al-Qaeda.

Now, with all that, Spanish resources are a drop in the ocean compared to US resources. But given the recent al-Qaeda atrocity in Spain, yes, I would imagine that al-Qaeda would much rather Spain were not planning to focus on al-Qaeda right now: if what Spain does matters to al-Qaeda at all, plainly a Spain agreeing not to focus on fighting al-Qaeda is preferable to one that has declared it will focus on fighting al-Qaeda.

For the purposes of this argument I just have to believe that Al Qaeda wanted Spain out of Iraq.

I realise that you do, but the only reason that you do is because you have to believe is that Bush wasn't catastrophically wrong to attack Iraq. Which I believe he was.

And I do believe that, and I suspect you do too.

You'd be wrong about that.

Understand, I'm not claiming that Bush invaded Iraq because that was what al-Qaeda wanted. But the invasion of Iraq was clearly a good thing for al-Qaeda, not a bad thing. Therefore, the more nations tied up in Iraq, not paying attention to al-Qaeda, the better for al-Qaeda.


"Is there any evidence, whatsoever, that the insurgents are in anyway, whatsoever, part of the same jihadist movement that attacked us?"

Depends on the meaning of "same."

You've never read Sayyid Qutb, I take it? Familiar with Sadiq al-Sadr? Dr. Abdallah 'Azzam? Shaykh Hammoud al-'Uqla al-Shu'aybi? Shaykh Salman al-'Awdah?

Read bin Laden's fatwas (linked on the upper left sidebar of my blog for two and a half years)?

If not, you may want to before addressing the topic, I strongly suggest.

On the flip side, certainly relatively few of the folks in Iraq would be sufficiently interested in attacking Americans to take action if we weren't in their country. And the tribally-based need to take revenge for those we've killed is a primary motive for many, now.

a:
But the invasion of Iraq was clearly a good thing for al-Qaeda, not a bad thing. Therefore, the more nations tied up in Iraq, not paying attention to al-Qaeda, the better for al-Qaeda.

...
this statement is just so inaccurate.

Bin Laden can't even make a video tape... geez


A:
What, you think I can't evaluate cases individually? The bulk of the evidence on the OJ trial convinced me of his guilt; the bulk of the evidence connecting Saddam to Al Qaeda (thanks, Jes, for that correction) has not convinced me of the connection.

...
Actually, I think your dislike of Bush forces you to raise the bar to an impossible burden of proof. It's not like AQ and Iraq weren't trying to hide their actions from us.

Also, how many times do I have to say that Spain can do whatever they want... good luck to them.

Ok, here's a theory.

Perhaps Al Qaeda want the U.S. to do its heavy lifting in taking out dictators like Saddam, whereupon it can swoop in, take advantage of instability, and influence events such that an Islamic regime is the result.

Think about it -- these guys know exactly what has happened and how it was done in places like Afghanistan, Sudan, Iran ...

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