Wednesday, March 17, 2004

More on Spain

Lee Harris proposes the following thought experiment:

Suppose that last week's attack had not been the work of terrorists, but the work of the United States. Suppose American jets had flown over Madrid on Thursday morning and dropped a scattering of bombs on the commuter trains, killing and maiming the exact same people who were killed and maimed in the terrorist's attack. Suppose, further, that President Bush had subsequently announced that Spain would be subjected to further attacks if the Spanish voters did not vote as he wished them to vote.

Had the Spanish people docilely obeyed such a brutal command, and voted as the United States bid them vote, the world would be left in no doubt who really ruled Spain. The election would have clearly been understood as an act of collective capitulation and an abject abandonment of all claims to national sovereignty. Henceforth Spain, with good reason, would have been looked upon as a puppet state of the USA -- in the exact same way that Soviet tanks in the streets of Prague in 1967 proved to the world who really ruled the Democratic Republic of Czechoslovakia.

The Spanish people did vote, which is what we do in a democracy, though we may not always like the results. Unfortunately,

The Spanish people elected to blame the massive act of terror on the USA, and not on the men who murdered their fellow citizens. They elected to abandon their own national dignity, in order to appease fanaticism. They elected to turn their democracy into a tool of terrorism. In sum, they cast their vote for the forces of anti-civilization, and in doing so handed these forces their greatest and easiest triumph since Hitler ordered the German army to occupy the Rhineland in 1935, at the cost of not a single life.

From this he wonders about democracy, especially in Europe's parliamentary system. A system he claims is:

. . . an illusion that depended upon the peace and stability that the Pax Americana brought to that region of the world. But once the Pax Americana is shattered, the illusion will come to an end; and European politics will rapidly become the plaything of terrorist sects bent on forcing democracies to do their will, until the point is inevitably reached when democracy will no longer be an option in Europe.

Americans should be aware of this, Harris warns. Additionally,

Democracy will not save us from terrorism; democracy is rather one of the many infinitely precious things that must itself be saved from terrorism. Americans who are willing to die to bring democracy to people who lack it, must ask themselves after last Sunday what is the point of their immense sacrifice if a democracy like Spain's can be so easily intimidated by an act of catastrophic terror into betraying the cause of civilization, and rallying to the side of its enemies?

Is Harris being too pessimistic? It's safe to say that many, especially in Europe, don't view Spain as as a puppet state of Al Queda. To do so, one must accept that this is a War and not a law enforcement issue. Further, he may not be giving enough credit to Britain, Italy, Poland and others who may not wither in the face of the scare tactics of Al Queda so easily. The important point is that it is time for leaders to lead. These are the perils of democracy. The people get what they want, no matter whether it is good for them in the long run or not. The Spanish electorate will live by their decision and suffer any consequences. Or maybe there will be none, which will, in turn, buttress their belief that they acted in the proper way. Regardless of their flawed logic, pure chance may prove to be the determinant. I don't doubt that Al Queda, or whomever, purposedly targeted Spain in hopes of influencing the election. Given this, should we doubt that they would be cagey enough to leave Spain alone to show that the electorate acted in a proper manner?

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