Charles Krauthammer

``Clearly the conflict with the terrorists is not resolved with force alone.'' Sounds reasonable until you hear Prodi's amplification of the idea just two days earlier. ``We know that international terrorism wants to spread fear,'' said Prodi. ``Fear generates not so much justice, but rather vengeance, which chooses war to answer the need of security. ... We become prisoners of terror and of terrorists.'' In other words, making war on terror is unjust, fearful, mere vengeance, and ultimately a victory for terrorism.

If not war, then what? A centerpiece to Prodi's solution to terrorism: a new European constitution. I'm not making this up: ``to defeat fear we only have democracy and politics.... Today for us, politics means building Europe completely with its constitution and its institutions.... ''

This is beyond appeasement. This is decadence: Terror rages and we tend our garden.

Prodi is right that the war on terror is not resolved by force alone. How is it won apart from hunting down terrorists and destroying terrorist regimes? By reversing the Arab-Islamic world's tragic collapse into oppression, intolerance and destitution, in which popular grievances are cynically deflected by repressive regimes and clergy into the virulent anti-Americanism that exploded upon us on 9/11. Which means trying to give desperate and oppressed people a chance at the kind of freedom and prosperity that we helped construct post-World War II in Europe and East Asia.

Where on this planet is this project most engaged? Iraq, where, day by day, the U.S.-led coalition is trying to build a new civil order characterized by pluralism, the rule of law, and constitutional restraints. Even a modicum of success in this enterprise would constitute a monumental strategic advance, a historic change in the very culture of the Middle East.

Spain's response to this challenge? Abandon the effort.

So when Zapatero and, more importantly, Prodi speak of nonmilitary means to ``resolve'' the ``conflict with terrorists,'' they don't mean draining the swamp by gradually building free institutions. They mean buying off the terrorists, distancing themselves from America and seeking a separate peace.

Sure they will continue to track down individual al Qaeda terrorists. But that's no favor to anyone. They want to make sure there's not another Madrid, in case European appeasement is not quite thorough enough to satisfy the terrorists. But on the larger fight, the reordering of the Arab world that produced the terrorists, they choose surrender.

Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.

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