Deterrence in the Twenty-first Century

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Deterrence in the twenty-first century - Air University Press

THE MADRID TRAIN BOMBING

attacks. Other interpretations say that Zapatero, rather than

being scared of al-Qaeda, was rather scared of the allies and

how they would put pressure on him in the following days to

reverse his decision. That was stated in the party political manifesto—to

pull out of Iraq—but he wanted to commit early to

make it impossible for him to retreat on that election promise.

In any case, whatever the truth, the conventional wisdom is

the attacks were seen as related to the Iraq war and prompted

the election defeat of the one party that was supporting the Iraq

war. The new government immediately pulled out of Iraq. That

is indeed how supporters of the Iraq war perceived it. Look at

what one leading politician, John Howard, said nine days after

the attacks: “Countries cannot insulate themselves from terrorist

attacks by opting out of the war on terror. We cannot buy

ourselves immunity by changing our foreign policies. Apart

from the moral cowardice of that position it can never work in

practice.” Similar statements were made by other supporters of

the coalition.

The question is, Is that what actually happened? Let me introduce

one or two layers of complexity here. The first one is

about what actually happened in the three days between the

bombings and the election. No one denies that there was a

swing from the Conservatives to the Socialists. The question is,

Why did voters change their minds? Conventional wisdom says

it was because of Iraq. Many people in Spain would deny that.

The truth is that for the first two days after the bombings, the

Aznar government insisted that this operation had been carried

out by ETA. It did not look anything like ETA, but on the

day of the bombings, the Spanish interior minister came out

and said, “Be in no doubt, there is no doubt, ETA is responsible,

ETA has been looking for a massacre. In Spain today it

achieved its goal.” All Spanish embassies across the world were

instructed to follow this line. In fact, the UN Security Council

passed a resolution condemning ETA for these attacks. Aznar

was personally calling the editors of all the main newspapers in

Spain insisting that it was ETA and not al-Qaeda or any Islamist

group. The day before the election of course, it became

more obvious that this claim could not be sustained. Pursuing

the various leads, police discovered more and more evidence of

Islamist involvement. It eventually became clear just the day

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