Politically inducing the withdrawal of coalition troops from Iraq was another route to thwarting Iraqi democracy.
Zapatero, a man steeped in the European left's liturgical anti-Americanism, came through for the bin Ladenites.
But it didn't work. Oh, Spanish troops left. Ironically, I arrived in Iraq for military duty as the Spaniards were departing. An operations sergeants told me the Spanish soldiers were crack professionals who had a high opinion of themselves -- a cocky esprit. "What about their opinion of Zapatero?" I asked. The sergeant scowled. Well, I thought, what kind of soldier likes it when his own politicians deal him a defeat?
In spring 2008, the "Iraq Precedent" -- forged by the Iraqi people with American help -- looks increasingly persuasive. Will the Iraq Precedent sway the Muslim world's disenchanted? It has had some success, and al-Qaida knows this: An increasing number of Muslims consider al-Qaida to be a criminal gang. However, cultural and political change is slow. We will have a better idea in a couple of decades.
Meanwhile, back in the United States: Democratic candidate Barack Obama promises a rapid withdrawal of American forces from Iraq. I can't call his plan the Obama Precedent because Hillary Clinton has toyed with the idea -- of course, she toys with many ideas, depending on the crowd.
But, golly gee, Obama may be spinning us -- you know, old-time campaign talk from the man promising change? Yes, his key foreign policy adviser Samantha Power has resigned (she called Hillary "a monster"), but before Power quit she suggested to the BBC's Stephen Sackur on March 6 that Obama's retreat pledge was iffy. "You can't make a commitment in March 2008 about what circumstances will be like in January of 2009," Power said. "He will, of course, not rely on some plan that he's crafted as a presidential candidate or a U.S. senator."
It appears Obama is pandering to left-wing voters steeped in defeatism, and if elected president, come January 2009, he may suddenly discover the Iraq Precedent is a damn sight better than any other option.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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