The dramatic upset by Spain's Socialist Party in Sunday's (March 14) election represents a setback in the war on terror. The killers of 200 people on trains in Madrid last week made a calculated gamble that their horrific act would change the outcome of the election and put in office a new president who opposes Spain's participation in the stabilization of Iraq.
Incoming Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has promised to bring home Spain's 1,300 troops from Iraq when their tour of duty closes at the end of June. Somewhere, Osama bin Laden must be smiling.
Haven't Europeans learned anything from history? Don't they recall the resignation of Austria's president in 1938 and the annexation of his country by Germany to "avoid war"? This merely increased Hitler's appetite, and he launched World War II by invading Czechoslovakia following British and French appeasement at Munich. Spain will make itself and the rest of the West less safe if Zapatero follows through on his promise of a troop withdrawal.
The possibility that terrorists will try to repeat their political success in Spain during America's election season will be greatly enhanced if Spain cuts and runs. President Bush has done more to stand up to terror and evil than any president since Ronald Reagan. If he is elected president, Sen. John Kerry would return American decision-making to the dithering and powerless United Nations, which is precisely what America's enemies would like to see.
The message Europeans should have received from the Madrid bombings is that the days when they can criticize America for its approach to terrorism are, or should be, over. This is a world war, not a regional one. This is a war against not only American and Spanish values, but against all values based on personal freedom, religious pluralism and individual conscience. This is a war that will not be over in a year or a decade. There will be no returning to "business as usual," because fighting terrorists worldwide is now usual business.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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