Some Facts on the Spanish Election

The hawks’ interpretation of the Spanish vote is mostly wrong.

First, several days before the bombing the election was already very close (42 – 38) and trending toward the Socialists. Second, the biggest issue for the voters who switched was the aggressive dishonesty of the Aznar government, which went so far as to mislead the U.N. and German police officials. Third, while Aznar’s party did support Bush in Iraq, its counterterrorism policy per se was not very good. And finally, the Socialists are not planning to surrender to terrorism; they are simply rejecting Bush’s leadership and his discredited strategy.

The Spanish Socialists are not alone. They were followed almost immediately by several Central American countries and South Korea. President Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland meanwhile expressed serious doubts about the way the war had been sold. (Kwasniewski’s initial statement had said that Poland might withdraw from the coalition, though a later statement, which presumably had been made under pressure, declared that Poland would stay.) And finally, the Dutch are also showing signs of restlessness.

Furthermore, during the controversy about Kerry’s claims of foreign support, any one of the coalition members could have come forward to make clear that it was Bush whom they supported. But no one did — not Tony Blair, and not even Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, who met with Bush recently.

The hawk’s conclusion is that the formerly plucky Spaniards have been mysteriously transformed into loathsome Old European appeasers — and that Western civilization is doomed. A more reasonable conclusion is that Bush’s Iraq-based counter-terrorism strategy has almost no international support, and should be replaced by a different and better counter-terrorism strategy. It’s Kerry’s job to make that case.

(Searching “Aleksander Kwasniewski” in Google News seems to show that the Polish story didn’t get much coverage in the US, and that the later statement of Polish support got more coverage than the earlier expression of doubt. So it never really happened.)