Last Sunday, Spanish voters turfed the American-friendly government of Jose Maria Aznar in favour of the local socialists, who were not expected to win the election. This occured after a brilliantly-timed terrorist attack in Madrid, carried out by Al Qaeda or some subset of it.
Now, many Spaniards (and other appeasers) are saying that they did not surrender to Al Qaeda when many of them switched their votes at the last minute. Probably many of those who switched their votes even believe this (although I have heard some comments from Spanish voters admitting they voted out of fear). Unfortunately for them, the jihadists have other reasons and far older grievances with Spain than their participation in Iraq.
It doesn't matter though - what matters is that Al Qaeda believes their operation was successful, and now that they believe that they have found out how to control the foreign policies of European governments, we can expect them to use this relatively simple tactic again.
In terms of European foreign policy, there can be no greater victory for Al Qaeda than sundering the alliance between Britain and the US. However this will not be as easy for them to pull off. Britain will likely not have a general election until 2005 sometime, and that is a long way off. The opposition Conservatives are probably more likely to remain friends with the US than even Labour is, so it would not help Al Qaeda to precipitate that change. From a recent speech by the Conservative leader Michael Howard:
"It would be a terrible thing indeed if last week's murders in Madrid led the terrorists to conclude that attacking America results in retribution, but attacking Europe results in victory.
"Countries cannot insulate themselves from terrorist attack by opting out of the War on Terror. We cannot buy ourselves immunity by changing our foreign policy. Apart from the moral cowardice of that position, it can never work in practice."
No, where Britain is vulnerable is within the Labour party itself. There is significant opposition in that party to Blair's policy of close alliance with America and the operation in Iraq.
I don't know enough about British politics to know if Blair may face some sort of leadership challenge before the next election. Here in Canada the parties have various requirements for leadership reviews at some interval between general elections. Of course they are usually a mere formality. Perusing the Labour Party website I was unable to find their party constitution or rules which may pertain to this.
So, the important question for Britons today is - how will Al Qaeda attempt to replace Blair with a more compliant appeaser? If Blair faces some sort of scheduled leadership review before the next election, I believe they will definitely use that opportunity to attack with the hope of replacing Blair with one of his rivals, who would then do what Spain is doing and pull Britain from the American-led coalition in Iraq.
If such a leadership review is not scheduled, what else might Al Qaeda try? How would Britons (and most importantly sitting Labour MP's) react to a spate of coordinated subway bombs? Might enough Labour MP's decide to bring down their own government in Parliament, or at least threaten Blair with the possibility, in order to force a withdrawl from Iraq? Would the Conservatives and other opposition members support such a move?
I believe Britons would be crazy to think that pulling out of Iraq would make them safer in the long run, but I thought that about the Spanish too, and now I know they are crazy. Hopefully, for all our sakes, the Brits are not.