In one of history’s shortest and most successful strategic bombing campaigns, Islamic Fourth Generation forces have brought about "regime change" in Spain. The conservative Popular Party, which had allied itself closely with American President George W. Bush and sent Spanish troops to Iraq, was badly defeated in Spain’s national election following last week’s bombings on Spanish commuter trains. As one Popular Party MP said to the Washington Post, "The terrorists have killed 200 people and defeated the government — they have achieved all their objectives." The new Spanish government will be headed by the Socialist Party, which has promised to pull the Spanish army out of Iraq, withdraw from the U.S.-British axis and realign Madrid with Paris, Berlin and Moscow.
How could a strategic bombing campaign waged with a handful of explosives-filled backpacks attain such dramatic results when strategic by bombing fleets of aircraft has usually failed? The answer lies not in the purely military sphere but in the larger field of politics, where Spain’s Popular Party government had left itself extraordinarily vulnerable.
The Popular Party’s error was trying to wage a cabinet war typical of the 18th century under modern conditions. In terms of national interests, Spain had nothing at stake in America’s war with Iraq. Polls indicated that the Spanish people were strongly opposed to sending the tercios to Iraq, by as much as 90%. But the Popular Party’s Prime Minister, Jose Maria Aznar, saw a chance to get his name up in lights. And he did, with frequent invitations to the White House and even President Bush’s Texas ranch. He felt like one of the big boys, and the price seemed small — a few dead Spanish soldiers. Like Bush and Blair, he assumed that war could be a one-way street where only the enemy suffered.
And now he’s out in the cold, his party defeated in an election the polls said it would handily win. The Madrid bombings brought the war home to Spanish soil, which suddenly made Spain’s participation in it issue number one. Why was Spain in Iraq? The government had no answer, because there really was none.
Spain is not the only country whose government is playing the game of cabinet war. Britain’s involvement in Iraq is a cabinet war. So for that matter is America’s; Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, Saddam was not working with America’s real, Fourth Generation enemies and the United States had no vital national interests at stake. All over Europe, countries are "reforming" their militaries to prepare them for cabinet wars, wars in far-off lands where the key quality is "rapid deployment." Nations such as Norway have troops fighting in places like Afghanistan.
The whole notion that the 21st century can suddenly revert to the 18th and governments can fight wars in which the people and vital national interests are not involved is absurd. That is the real lesson of the Spanish election. War is no longer a "game of princes." The people are involved, and Fourth Generation opponents know how to make sure they are intensely involved, by bringing the war home to them.
The Washington Times quoted a Pentagon official as saying of the Spanish election, "This was a big defeat for us. Al Qaeda caused a regime change better than we did in Baghdad. No cost." That is exactly correct. Using the simplest of technologies, al Qaeda or whatever Fourth Generation organization did it undertook a strategic bombing campaign of unprecedented effectiveness. Their backpacks outperformed our B-2 bombers.
But if al Qaeda bowled the ball, the pins were set up by the fools in Washington, London and Madrid who believe they can wage 18th century cabinet wars in an all-too-democratic 21st century.
William Lind [send him mail] is Director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism at the Free Congress Foundation.