Deterrence in the Twenty-first Century

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Deterrence in the twenty-first century - Air University Press

THE MADRID TRAIN BOMBING

Aznar was leading in the opinion polls. The lead had been

shrinking in the days running up to the election, but the party

was still four or five points ahead of its Socialist rivals. People

in Spain were quite happy with how the Conservatives had run

the economy; Spain at that point was prospering. People were

also happy with the Conservatives’ hard line on ETA, the Basque

Nationalist group in the northeast of Spain. A previous Socialist

government had tried to negotiate with ETA; that had completely

failed. A new government, the Conservative Government,

came into power promising a hard line towards ETA,

arguing that ETA could not change, could not be negotiated

with, and that the only way to deal with them was to defeat

them. The one Conservative policy that people were almost

unanimously opposed to was the Iraq war. Aznar was one of the

key allies of the Bush White House. Spain had committed significant

numbers of troops to Iraq initially. Thirteen hundred

troops had been taking part in the initial invasion of Iraq, and

even though that number had come down significantly by the

time of the Madrid attacks, Spain was still considered to be a

significant contributor.

As soon as it became clear that the Madrid bombings had

been directed or inspired by al-Qaeda, they were immediately

interpreted by the Spanish population, the Spanish media, and

key opinion formers as a punishment for Spain’s participation

in the Iraq war. Three days later, the last-minute swing that

happened was seen as a direct response to the Madrid bombings

because the Conservative Party was in favour. The Socialist

Party had always been against the Iraq policy. Indeed, on

the night of the election, when it became clear that the Socialists

would lead the new government, Jose Luis Zapatero, the

new prime minister, made an immediate announcement to the

effect that Spain would pull out of the coalition in Iraq. That

was unprecedented. Spanish political leaders normally do not

make policy announcements during election night. Zapatero

did not make any announcement on any other policy. He made

that one statement during election night to the effect that Spain

would pull out. Some have interpreted that as an indication of

how al-Qaeda had intimidated the Spanish government. That

Zapatero was making that statement was indicative, they said,

of how scared the Spanish government had become of further

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