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March 20, 2004
Jack Straw to Spain: No Guts, No Glory

In another article in today's London Telegraph, Jack Straw lays a smackdown on Spain equal to that of Michael Howard, noting that the Brits are "made of sterner stuff":

Mr Straw said the reason why many Spaniards changed their vote to the anti-war Socialists in last weekend's election was unclear.

Were there to be a terrorist attack here, he said, the British electorate would not be "blackmailed" by al-Qa'eda. "They are made of sterner stuff than that."

Translation, as provided by the ever-excellent Strange Women Lying in Ponds: "Mr. Straw says that the Brits have more cojones than you."

Mr. Straw, Britain's Foreign Secretary, also had some harsh words for the previous American administration, noting that intelligence had been gathered at the time of the first World Trade Center attack that al-Qaeda had been involved and were planning on continuing their campaign against America and the West. Straw insists that had the Americans decided at that time to pursue al-Qaeda instead of just the individuals involved in the bombing, 9/11 could have been avoided -- to say nothing of Madrid, or the USS Cole in 2000, the Khobar Towers bombing in 1996, and the two simultaneous American embassy bombings in Africa in 1998.

"What the international community should have done is to heed the earlier warnings about the nature of al-Qa'eda and taken earlier action to deal with it and the failing state which was harbouring it, which was Aghanistan," he says.

"Because if we had have done we might have avoided September 11 and everything that has followed that."

Straw is, of course, entirely correct. Had the American public been given the information on al-Qaeda at that time, and had we not been fed a diet of BS about the end of history and all the money we'd save in the "peace dividend" at the end of the Cold War, the Clinton administration would have been able to nip Osama in the bud. In fact, he probably would have been what Tony Blair has become since: a leftist who united his country in its defense, who receives rhetorical support from even his political opponents, since the Democrats would hardly be sniping as they've done to Bush the past two years, and the Republicans would have given much more support than they did to Clinton's adventures in the Balkans. Had Clinton not chosen the law-enforcement approach, we'd be debating Al Gore's re-election now, and Hillary might be Vice President.

Brant at SWLiP wonders whether the Europeans would have been willing to go into Afghanistan in the mid-90s, and it's a very good question. I think that Clinton could have convinced most of them, although I bet Russia would have balked. They would not have been thrilled to see American forces marching into Afghanistan (which is right on their doorstep) just after the collapse of Soviet power. What I don't think they would have had the will to do would be to actually depose the Taliban; they would have targeted only the camps themselves, which would have proved fruitless while al-Qaeda retained political cover from Mullah Omar and his gang.

Clinton would never have risked his presidency on any foreign adventure that carried any risk of significant American casualties, and so he convinced himself that WTC 1 was simply a crime that required arrests and trials because it was the path of least resistance. It's no coincidence that this mythical "plan to defeat al-Qaeda" that the Clintonites claim they handed to Bush on a silver platter was never drafted in reality during their own administration; Clinton simply would never have implemented it. Even Sandy Berger, Clinton's national-security advisor, scoffed at the notion that such a strategy was ever drafted: "There was no war plan that we turned over to the Bush administration during the transition. And the reports of that are just incorrect."

It comes down to a problem similar to what we saw in Spain this past week: lack of political will to do the right thing. It's what comes of electing leaders that base their decisions not on a firm set of principles but by sticking a moistened finger in the air to see which way the wind blows.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 20, 2004 5:25 PM

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Tracked on March 20, 2004 9:15 PM

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