ACROSS THE POND
Neville Chamberlain, en Español
Spain's new leader is an anti-American appeaser.
BY RAMON PEREZ-MAURA
Saturday, March 20, 2004 12:01 a.m. EST
MADRID--Spain will have a new government now: It is Socialist, as we know, and vehemently opposed to the war in Iraq. The prime minister-elect, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, is an old-fashioned European man of the left: pacifist in his "distaste" for war, and deeply anti-American in his posturing and rhetoric, to say nothing of his innermost instincts. If one were, as a laboratory experiment, to manufacture precisely the sort of Spanish leader the U.S. would find most uncooperative at this juncture in history, he would resemble Mr. Zapatero almost exactly.
The Popular Party, which lost, was by contrast a standard-bearer for the most pro-American policies in Spain's democratic history. Its departing leader, Jose Maria Aznar, was George W. Bush's foremost European ally--in this he was no less constant than Tony Blair--and a man who believed passionately in an Atlanticist direction for Spain. An alliance with the U.S., he knew, was also the way to restore to Spain a modicum of her old clout in the world--as well as to free Spain from the asphyxiating grip of France. And as all Americans know, he believed in the prosecution of the war against terror, of which he saw the war in Iraq as an inseparable part.
So where does this leave the Spanish-American alliance, so refreshing in its departure from the "Old European" mold, and so effective in its harmony between Messrs. Aznar and Bush? What will the impact of the Socialist victory be on the foreign policy (such as it is) of the European Union, which has been at its least anti-American in years, thanks to the muscular Atlanticism of Mr. Aznar and Tony Blair? And what is Washington to make of--and to do about--the manner in which the Socialists exploited last week's terrorist attacks in Madrid?
The Socialist Party took a free ride on that atrocity and placed blame for the deaths on the governing Popular Party for having aligned itself with the U.S. and British governments on Iraq. Mr. Zapatero's message to Spain's electorate on the eve of the election was as simple and powerful as it was invidious: We have been attacked for siding with the U.S. in Iraq. More ire was directed at America than at those who slaughtered innocent Spaniards.
If the Socialist Party were to win, voters were told, Spanish troops would be withdrawn from Iraq and any further Islamist terrorist attacks avoided. The ethical implications of such a stand didn't make much of an impact on the voters. The fact that al Qaeda may have killed 200 people in Madrid and a contender for power reacted by promising retreat and not retaliation was seen--in the terrible shadow of the event--as a good option by a majority of the electorate. But the message to al Qaeda from our Spanish "Neville Chamberlain" was: If you manage to strike at us, we will run away.
Early on Monday morning, the prime minister-elect, Mr. Zapatero, announced that all Spanish troops would be withdrawn from Iraq by June 30. He also said that "Blair and Bush must do some reflection and self-criticism. . . . You can't organize a war with lies," before going on to declare that he would "try to restore magnificent relations with France." The implications of all this for bilateral Spain-U.S. relations could not be more clear.
The Socialist Party believes that it was wrong for Spain to become a close ally of the U.S. over the last few years, and those ties will be loosened forthwith. The Spanish left has frequently depicted the Bush administration as a bunch of warmongers seeking to expand U.S. imperialism around the globe. The left's policies are so radical that when, in January, Mr. Zapatero asked to be received by his fellow socialist colleague Tony Blair as a boost for his election campaign, Downing Street turned down the request. This happened even as Mr. Blair found time to host Mariano Rajoy, Mr. Aznar's presumptive successor, for breakfast.
Washington had better take careful note. The Spanish Socialist party has not the slightest interest in trying to save the privileged relationship that Spain and the U.S. have had during the last four years. On the contrary, Mr. Zapatero is determined to put Spain back into the fold of France--back, in fact, to where Spain's foreign policy had been for 200 years until Mr. Aznar decided to stand up and give Madrid its own voice. Spain will now, once more, be infantilized as France's junior partner--or, to put it bluntly, will become France's Sancho Panza. (Dominique de Villepin must be uncorking champagne by the caseload. Spain will be pliant again; all's well with the world.)
A few European governments will be delighted to see the volte-face in Spain's foreign policy. Five days before the Spanish elections, France's Le Monde newspaper, an icon of Europe's left-wing intellectuals, published a two-page interview with Mr. Aznar under the front-page headline "The lesson of Jose Maria Aznar to the French right." France's Gaullist president, Jacques Chirac, who never even tried to conceal the disgust Mr. Aznar's policies provoked in him, is likely to receive Mr. Zapatero with a big-brotherly hug.
The same will happen with Gerhard Schroeder, Germany's chancellor, and the leaders of a few other middle-sized European countries. The implications for other European leaders who took a stand like Mr. Aznar's on Iraq--Mr. Blair, Silvio Berlusconi or Portugal's Jose Manuel Durao Barroso--are transparent. What if terrorists strike next in London, or in Rome, or Lisbon, and the opposition parties there say--as they did in Spain on March 11--"We told you so!"
The demise of the U.S.-Spain alliance will be bad for Madrid. Prime Minister Aznar visited the White House more times than all the previous heads of the Spanish government combined. He created a relationship that was decisive when Morocco invaded a Spanish-held island off its coast in July 2002. European allies, headed by France, ignored Spain's plea for diplomatic support, claiming it was a purely bilateral dispute. Secretary of State Colin Powell had to act as a go-between for Madrid and Morocco and conferred American approval as Spanish troops retook the island.
Furthermore, U.S. intelligence cooperation in the fight against Basque terrorism has been decisive in many successful strikes by the Spanish police, which now has ETA virtually surrounded. All of that could now be lost.
The U.S. stands to suffer, too, from the "Zapatero effect." In December 2002, it was the Spanish navy that so expertly intercepted a North Korean ship bearing Scuds destined for Yemen. And Spanish troops, as everyone knows, have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with American soldiers in Iraq. On the political stage--whether in Brussels or at the U.N. Security Council--Washington has relied on Spain to break France's lock on European foreign policy.
There is still a chance that relations between Madrid and Washington will not take a calamitous course in the long term--and that is if John Kerry wins in the U.S. elections in November. Spanish Socialists are praying that the Bush administration will depart in defeat, and are looking forward to Mr. Kerry with an unseemly impatience. A Kerry administration, they hope, will accept--and even welcome--the new soft approach of the government in Madrid. After all, how is Mr. Kerry's foreign policy different from Mr. Zapatero's?
In the meantime, the U.S. must prepare for drastically reduced cooperation from Madrid, and start to plan for the departure of Spanish troops from Iraq. Spain is no more a pillar in the war against terror, and Washington had better get used to it.
Mr. Perez-Maura is assistant editor of the Spanish daily ABC.
I ran across this editorial from Spain and I'm looking for comments specifically to this article. I thoroughly understand opposition to the war in Iraq and their new leader wanting to withdraw troops from Iraq but I also feel that Al-qaeda has won by bullying and terrorizing the people of Spain. For some reason I'm picturing Al-aqaeda sitting around on pillows high-fiving each other as they did after 9/11. Well, they didn't actually high-five but if anyone remembers the video tape of Bin Ladin smiling and bragging about how the planes hit the twin towers just as he had planned or even better I have a feeling there is a similar celebration in their cave now.
And what's up with this loyality that Al-qaeda has with Iraq or is it just b/c Al-qaeda hates the US. I was told that there is no connection between Al-qaeda and Iraq.
Mar 21, '04
No Don, if you bend over for Bush you're a visionnary. If you choose to do what you think is right for your own country you're a terrorist appeaser.... Honestly, you Scotts must not have gotten the memo
I'm with Marie on this one. The way the media here has been making Zapato's commitment to withdraw troops from Iraq seem to be a reaction to the Madrid bombings is really misleading. It was a part of his platform from the beginning and something Spaniards seem to have wanted for a long time.
Last edit by fergus51 on Mar 21, '04