Did Al Qaeda knowingly influence Spain’s election?
In the aftermath of the Socialist Party’s victory in Spain’s national elections — after trailing in most polls to the People’s party before last week’s Madrid bombings — what does it all mean? Is this a harbinger of Al Qaeda’s ability to influence European voters? Was the electoral outcome what Al Qaeda intended? Andrew Sullivan ...
In the aftermath of the Socialist Party's victory in Spain's national elections -- after trailing in most polls to the People's party before last week's Madrid bombings -- what does it all mean? Is this a harbinger of Al Qaeda's ability to influence European voters? Was the electoral outcome what Al Qaeda intended? Andrew Sullivan believes the answers to both questions are yes:
In the aftermath of the Socialist Party’s victory in Spain’s national elections — after trailing in most polls to the People’s party before last week’s Madrid bombings — what does it all mean? Is this a harbinger of Al Qaeda’s ability to influence European voters? Was the electoral outcome what Al Qaeda intended? Andrew Sullivan believes the answers to both questions are yes:
It’s a spectacular result for Islamist terrorism, and a chilling portent of Europe’s future. A close election campaign, with Aznar’s party slightly ahead, ended with the Popular Party’s defeat and the socialist opposition winning. It might be argued that the Aznar government’s dogged refusal to admit the obvious quickly enough led people to blame it for a cover-up. But why did they seek to delay assigning the blame on al Qaeda? Because they knew that if al Qaeda were seen to be responsible, the Spanish public would blame Aznar not bin Laden!…. And in yesterday’s election victory for the socialists, al Qaeda got even more than it could have dreamed of. It has removed a government intent on fighting terrorism and installed another intent on appeasing it. For good measure, they murdered a couple of hundred infidels. But the truly scary thought is the signal that this will send to other European governments. Britain is obviously next. The appeasement temptation has never been greater; and it looks more likely now that Europe – as so very often in the past – will take the path of least resistance – with far greater bloodshed as a result.
Matthew Yglesias is not so sure about either proposition:
[E]veryone’s beliefs about these matters are so obviously going to be colored by their partisan political preferences that I don’t know if there’s a particular point in trying to argue for one version or another. It just seems worth pointing out that it’s certainly not clear that this is what the terrorists were trying to achieve. Personally, I very much do not favor withdrawing troops from Iraq, and will be disappointed if that is the ultimate outcome of this tragedy. One ray of hope is that the circumstances of the attack would give the Socialist Party a possible excuse for flip-flopping were they so inclined. I doubt, however, that they will be.
I’m on the fence on this issue. The fact is, authoritarian/totalitarian actors have had a pretty lousy record at consciously influencing democratic elections in other countries. That said, it seems difficult not to believe that AQ got what it wanted from this attack. UPDATE: Mickey Kaus speculates about whether and how Al Qaeda would try to spring an October Surprise in the United States. Eugene Volokh also has interesting thoughts on the matter. FINAL UPDATE: This story would seem to vitiate Yglesias’ argument.
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner
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