Spanish Retreat from the War on Terrorism

I was willing to give the Spanish a little bit of wiggle room on Zapatero’s implementation of the Spanish withdrawal from Iraq. I really tried to give Zapatero the benefit of the doubt here and here.

But I think I may have to revise my opinion.

First I thought Zapatero was just fulfilling a campaign promise to withdraw troops from Iraq if there wasn't a UN force there. I thought that he had a very poor sense of diplomatic timing with respect to the war on terrorism when he decided to make all of his early major speechs about the issue only days after Al Qaeda successfully bombed the Madrid train stations. Al Qaeda explicitly got the foreign policy change they wanted, and that victory could have been muted a bit by changing the policy quietly. Zapatero didn't do that, but I thought it might have been mere bad diplomatic judgment rather than real appeasement or a withdrawal from the war on terror.

Later he decided to withdraw his troops even earlier than expected, which seemed strange in light of the US-UN negotiations regarding troops. But he promised to double his forces in Afghanistan, so arguably (though I didn't really believe it since the Spanish commitment to Afghanistan was miniscule anyway) he wasn't retreating from the War on Terrorism.

But now it is becoming apparent that Zapatero really just wants to pretend that he can disengage from the War on Terrorism completely:

On Afghanistan, Moratinos said Spain supported the peacekeeping mission there because - unlike that of Iraq - it had a U.N. mandate, was under the command of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and had the legitimate mission of fighting terrorism.

"Bin Laden is not in Iraq. Bin Laden is in Pakistan or Afghanistan," Moratinos told the Telecinco television network.

But the government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is only exploring options for possibly increasing its 120-man contingent in Afghanistan. "For now no decision has been made," Moratinos said.

This is clearly an attempt to back away from adding even a paltry 120 additional men in Afghanistan. For those who employ their political skepticism only to attack Bush, when your defense minister says that you will be doubling the troops and two weeks later you specifically address that with a 'no decisions have been made', you are clearly signalling that unless there is a huge public outcry you aren't standing by the previously announced policy.

As I said before, the damage of the Al Qaeda propaganda victory caused by being able to plausibly claim that they changed the outcome of a Western election and got the foreign policy they desired could only be contained by a strong Spanish front somewhere other than Iraq. It is becoming clearer that Spain will not be doing that. They are retreating from the War on Terror.

Posted by Sebastian Holsclaw at May 13, 2004 3:15 AM