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A couple of points

March 15th, 2004

The warblogosphere has gone into a predictably frenzy over the Spanish election results. In my previous post, I argued, from an antiwar position, that it was a mistake to interpret the result as punishment for Aznar taking a prominent stance in the struggle against terrorism. Now, following Micah’s advice I’ll present a couple of points that might be more convincing to those on the other side of the fence from me (or at least the subset who are open to argument of any kind).

First, it seems to be universally agreed, and was certainly believed by the PP government, that it would have electorally beneficial had it turned out that the bomb was planted by ETA. But the Aznar government was notable for its hardline stance against ETA. If the Spanish people were the cowards painted by their erstwhile admirers, this would make no sense.

Second (as far as I know), there has been no suggestion from the Socialists that Spanish troops should be withdrawn from Afghanistan[1]. If the Spanish people are terrified of bin Laden and want to appease him, it seems strange to show this through continued backing of attempts to capture or kill him and prevent the restoration of the only government that’s ever openly embraced him.

fn1. Of course, the same point applies to most opponents of the war in Iraq. The great majority supported the overthrow of the Taliban. Of the minority who opposed the Afghanistan war, most did not do so on prudential grounds but from a position of general opposition to US foreign policy (eg Chomsky).

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  1. March 15th, 2004 at 21:05 | #1

    you know i did not notice any one complain about afghanistan intervention, at least outside afghanistan

  2. m1
    March 15th, 2004 at 21:49 | #2

    The Socialists do apparantly have plans to withdraw troops, as noted on ‘ABC News Online’ today-

    “Spain’s prime minister-elect, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, says he intends to withdraw the country’s 1,300 troops from Iraq by the end of June.

    Mr Zapatero says no decision will be taken until he is in power, nor without wide political consultation.

    But he told Cadena Ser radio that Spain’s troops in Iraq would come home in accordance with his pre-election promise.

    “The war in Iraq was a disaster, the occupation of Iraq is a disaster,” he said.

    Mr Zapatero says Spanish troops will be pulled out of Iraq if there is no change there by June 30, the date the US has promised to transfer sovereignty to a provisional government”

  3. March 15th, 2004 at 23:58 | #3

    m1 you may wish to actually read what prof Q wrote.

    this time paying particular attention to the words “from Afghanistan”.

  4. James Farrell
    March 16th, 2004 at 09:52 | #4

    Right wingers use Chomsky’s name as a synonym for stupidity or insanity or both, and take it for granted that there is no need to engage with the details of his arguements. This is what I would expect from them. But I find it depressing that a growing number on the left find it necessary to sink the boot into him in order to establish their own credentials as sane and credible commentators. I don’t agree with all his conclusions, but his position against invading Afghanistan was complex and thoroughly argued, and not to be dismissed with glib phrases like ‘routine opposition to US foreign policy’.

  5. John Quiggin
    March 16th, 2004 at 11:22 | #5

    James, I will try to write something more than a footnote about Chomsky, but I don’t think it’s unfair to say he’s routinely opposed US foreign policy – can you think of any counterexamples?

    The main point I was trying to make was that Chomsky (to his credit) was not arguing against war in Afghanistan on the basis that it would raise the danger of retaliatory strikes.

  6. March 16th, 2004 at 12:20 | #6

    “…I don’t think it’s unfair to say [Chomsky is] routinely opposed US foreign policy…

    Yes, it is unfair. If JQ had put “inaccurate”, that would have been, well, accurate, but unfair is something else. That is why accountants report on figures as being “true and fair” – the former relates to the specific accuracy, but the latter about the directions it is leading you. Here, it is leading people in the direction of supposing that as he always says that, he has nothing to convey and can and should be disregarded.

    For an example of true as opposed to fair, here is a nautical story.

    Once, a captain noticed the first mate coming on duty drunk, and put it in the log as “first mate came on bridge drunk”. The following day the mate complained and the captain explained that he had to keep an accurate log.

    So the day after, when the first mate was handing over to the captain, he wrote in the log “captain came on bridge sober”.

  7. John Quiggin
    March 16th, 2004 at 12:53 | #7

    OK, I’ve changed “routine” to “general”, which I think is both fair and accurate.

  8. James Farrell
    March 16th, 2004 at 21:54 | #8

    Was it Captain Haddock by any chance, PML?

  9. parallel
    March 16th, 2004 at 22:04 | #9

    John,

    On the point of whether the Spanish are cowards, perhaps there is a difference between ETA and al Qaida that explains it. ETA is a purely Spanish movement: a sufficiently resolute government should have a good chance of suppressing it to the extent of keeping the Spanish people safe. But al Qaida is an international movement, and so much harder to control. It is also largely unknown: ETA has been around for yonks and is pretty well understood, al Qaida is much more mysterious.

    As for Afghanistan, since there was little differentiation between the PP and the Socialists on this issue, causing the election to swing from one party to another would have little benefit from their point of view. Naturally, this reflects the feeling of the Spaniards, who (as I understand) are generally supportive of the involvement in Afghanistan. The different between the PP and the Socialists – due to the unpopularity of the Iraqi involvement – gave a particularly good point of leverage for the terrorists.

    The problem is that now the precedent has been set, we can expect to see more of this. One might suggest that the best course would be for the ALP to align its Iraqi policy with the Coalition – hey! stop laughing back there! – since any great differentiation would give the terrorists a reason to strike.

    I, personally, don’t intend to use public transport or attend any large gatherings for the week or so prior to the election.

  10. derrida derider
    March 17th, 2004 at 08:46 | #10

    Its pretty obvious that the swing voters in the spanish electorate just did not appreciate being lied to yet again. Thats not the same as ‘buckling to al quaeda’ – though of course you can’t expect most warbloggers to understand the distinction, because they clearly do not resent being lied to.

    The Spanish voters did the right thing, throwing out a government that lied to them yet again on matters of life and death for partisan advantage.

    The stance of many of the warbloggers – that the Spanish should refrain from doing the right thing because it will give aid and comfort to the enemy – is, IMO, morally contemptible.

  11. March 18th, 2004 at 18:38 | #11

    ‘OK, I’ve changed “routine” to “general”, which I think is both fair and accurate.’

    Still wrong, I’m afraid – because you are addressing the term used and not the train of thought likely to be induced.

    The expression “… from a position of general opposition to US foreign policy (eg Chomsky)” will lead casual readers into the error of, as it were, arguing from anti-authority. It suggests that Chomsky is opposing simply because it is opposing, as opposed to having a mindset that, exploring the issues, finds itself aligned like that. So, a casual reader might suppose that Chomsky can be taken for granted, zero information content, and tuned out. That is the unfair part – pointing people that way. “The right thing for the wrong reason”.

    Oh, and I don’t think the story was Haddoccine (is that a word? it is now). That captain, in his seafaring days, was drunk.

  12. March 19th, 2004 at 09:44 | #12

    I opposed the invasion of Afghanistan because I didn’t think any convincing analysis had been provided to show that the benefit to the coalition exceeded the costs, at least compared to alternatives that still existed.

    That’s not to say that the Afghanitan war was not defendable, but it’s not up to me to justify not invading… it’s up to the pro-war person to justify invading. And unfortunately, the depth of their analysis generally amounted to “but they’re bad, mmm-kay”.

    My instincts tell me to ur on the side of government in-action until a convincing case can be made to the contrary. I guess that’s what makes me a libertarian.

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