TCS Daily

Lessons of Madrid

By Josi Marma - July 8, 2005 12:00 AM

In a world that is thinking straight, the attacks in London would lead public opinion in the European countries to support Tony Blair, the British government and the US government. The alliance against terrorism would be strengthened and all parties would close ranks in order to accelerate a return to normality in Iraq and bring democracy to the Arab countries.

Unfortunately, we do not live in a world like that.

The terrorists who attacked London have sent various messages. One is meant for the Americans. The Democrats and the progressive media have once again made intervention in Iraq a political issue. President Bush's popularity in the polls is low. The terrorists have reminded the Americans that the war on terror is going to be a very long, drawn-out affair. And that it will be fought far away, in Iraq, but also in Europe and perhaps in the cities of the United States.

Another message is meant for the British. It represents an attack on Blair's leadership at the very moment in which Britain is hosting the G8 Summit and has stepped up to propose reforms within the European Union. The terrorists are going to make them pay dearly for their success, even for having secured the Olympic Games for London in the year 2012.

The third message is aimed at public opinion in the rest of the European countries. It is meant to remind them of the high price they will pay for trying to fight against terrorism or, in other words, the penalty that will be imposed on them for being a loyal ally to the United States in the war on terror.

There probably will not be any fall-out for a few days. But it would not be surprising if the events that took place in Madrid in the aftermath of March 11, 2004 were repeated. In Madrid, the sense of unity based on grief and indignation lasted barely a day. The temptation to use the events for political purposes was too great.

We have embarked on the second stage of the war on terror. First the terrorists will try to convince public opinion in the Western countries - especially Europeans - that those who opt out of the war will be safe. This is what Spaniards thought after March 11. Then, just when this premise has been accepted, an even more brutal attack will be perpetrated in order to destroy any public confidence that may still exist regarding democracy's capacity to fight against terror.

Then the terrorists will have won the war.

What happened in Madrid was a test of the European nations' capacity to bear pressure. It showed that they have little capacity in this respect. Now we shall see how they react to this second attack.

A large part of what happens now will depend on what the British do. They will hold up better than the Spanish did. They are fine patriots and have a long fighting tradition. For his part, Blair has already been through a number of difficult trials. He has proven his leadership credentials. Now he faces the most difficult test of all. In the immediate aftermath of the attack he was formidable. We must support him and wish the British calm and courage.

The author is Lecturer on Spanish Literature, Language and Culture, at the Universidad Pontificia Comillas de Madrid (ICADE-ICAI).


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