Thursday, March 25, 2004

Tom Friedman today tries out a historical analogy:

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to the war on terrorism what the Spanish Civil War was to World War II. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is where airline hijacking, suicide bombing and assassinations with helicopter-mounted guided missiles were all perfected and made ready for export.

But it's not only types of violence that were perfected there. It was also there where Palestinian terrorists regularly attempted to hijack democratic elections on the eve of the vote. Liberal Labor Party candidates in Israel, throughout the 1980's and 1990's, always had to hold their breath that there would not be a big terrorist attack on the eve of an election. Because if there was, swing voters would usually move to the right and the Likud candidate would benefit. The Palestinian terrorists always "voted" Likud, not Labor. They wanted hard-liners at the helm in Israel because they would build more settlements and further radicalize and destabilize the situation.

And he cascades that, in turn, to a second analogy -- between those Israeli elections, and the recent elections in Spain, which currently has troops occupying Iraq, and was just subject to a massive terrorist attack. This is a powerful and lofty argument -- no matter that the Spaniards, in their own election, voted their own hawks out.

Friedman, you see, is focused on his grand vision of a long-term occupation, building a perfect, Western, free-trading secular democracy in Iraq. An early end to the occupation, no matter for what reason, would imperil that vision. But take heart, Tom. The Spanish contingent just isn't that big; most of the troops are American, and it's American policy that will tell the tale of what kind of occupation we get.

Right now, American policy seems to be to get the hell out by June 30th, and devil take the hindmost.

I'm not nearly as optimistic about Friedman about what the continuing occupation could bring -- but if a continued occupation is what he wants, he should write about the real problems with sustaining one. The fall of Aznar's reign in Spain has nothing to do with that. But this column does show us what makes Friedman unique: how many other columnists would greet a new Spanish government by publicly lecturing them on the lessons of the Spanish civil war?


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