Deterrence in the Twenty-first Century

Deterrence in the twenty-first century - Air University Press


aim is “to make one or two of the allies to leave the Coalition

because this will cause others to follow suit and the dominos

will start falling.” That is an exact quote from the strategy document.

Then, the document goes through various countries

that are supporting the coalition in Iraq. It goes through them

one by one. It concludes that Spain is probably the most promising

country to attack. Spain, in the words of the authors of

that document, represents the weakest link because opposition

to the war is almost total; the government is virtually on its

own on the issue. That is pretty strong evidence of there being

some rationale—clear, logical rationale—for attacking Spain,

and indeed two months prior to that document coming out, bin

Laden had used one of his video messages to call on attacks

against, among other countries, Spain.

All this seems to suggest that al-Qaeda, if not directly steering

the attacks, was at least doing everything it could to direct

the attackers in the direction of Spain. Indeed, one of the leaders

of the Madrid network upon hearing bin Laden’s message

entered 11 March as an important date into his mobile phone.

The people who were involved in the Madrid attacks clearly

believed themselves to be part of al-Qaeda. They regarded bin

Laden as we now know as an emir. They had watched copious

amounts of Jihadist propaganda. Indeed, the roots of the Jihadist

network in Spain go back to people like Abu Dada, who had

been fighting in Afghanistan in the 1980s and who was certainly

part of the Jihadist milieu. Abu Dada in fact was a close associate

of Abu Qatada and had met him 17 times, quite often in London.

They had people like Abu Dada—even though not directly personally

involved as Bruce Hoffman would probably argue—engaged

in the careful building, subversive action that would lead

to the emergence of Jihadist structures in Spain. Clearly, the

people who had carried out the attacks were keen to act on the

strategic guidance that was issued by al-Qaeda central.

At the same time, there is no evidence whatsoever that al-

Qaeda central ever ordered this attack, that it directed the attack

in a close operational sense, or that al-Qaeda central had

been in touch with the perpetrators prior to the attack. There

is no evidence also that any of the attackers had read the strategy

document to which I have just referred. In fact, the strategy

document on the Internet concluded by saying that the most


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