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May 6, 2004
Zapatero Refuses to Quit Digging

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Zapatero ignores the proverb that instructs those who find themselves in a hole to quit digging. The New York Times reports in tomorrow's paper that Zapatero insists that Spain remains a loyal ally of the United States, even while he informs the Times that he has backtracked even from the appeasement stance he took when he was first elected:

Spain's new prime minister said on Thursday that he would never send Spanish soldiers back to Iraq, even if foreign troops there were put under the authority of the United Nations or NATO.

"Spanish troops have spent time there and have completed their mission in Iraq," said Prime Minister Jos Luis Rodrguez Zapatero. "There's no point in them going back."

This contradicts Zapatero's claim that he only opposed having Spanish troops in Iraq due to the lack of a UN Security Council resolution governing the Coalition Provisional Authority. When the US and the UK tried to propose a new UNSC resolution to satisfy Zapatero before his announced withdrawal date of June 30, Zapatero suddenly announced Spain's immediate withdrawal of troops at the end of April due to the improbability of any such effort succeeding. And now, not only does Zapatero rule out participating in any future UN or NATO effort to stabilize Iraq, but he floats a notion so ridiculous that Spanish credibility should be forfeit until Spaniards vote him out of office:

In an interview at Moncloa Palace, Mr. Zapatero dismissed the creation of a peacekeeping force under the United Nations as "rather improbable or utopian" because of the unstable security situation in Iraq.

Similarly, he rejected the idea of a NATO-led force similar to the one that exists in Afghanistan, saying that it was more likely that a force assembled by the Arab League "could give the Iraqis peace of mind."

Zapatero thinks the Arab League would provide "peace of mind"? Has he looked around the Arab world recently, or at all? The most stable of the Arab nations, Saudi Arabia, is an intolerant Wahhabist theocracy that not only spawned the nutcases that formed al-Qaeda, but whose troops are used to keep their own people from rising up and tossing the House of Saud into the Persian Gulf. Egypt also barely manages to keep the lid on their society as President-for-Life Hosni Mubarak rules by emergency decree, following the same long tradition as his predecessor, Anwar Sadat. Syria would dearly love to march into Iraq to reclaim Baghdad for the Ba'athists and put the same thugs back in power that we kicked out. Jordan, Qatar, and Kuwait couldn't put a division together between them with any effectiveness. Zapatero couldn't possibly make a worse suggestion; pulling out entirely might do less damage than inviting the Arabs in the area to invade and pull Iraq apart.

Elaine Sciolino indulges in wishful thinking when she describes Zapatero as "largely unknown" to people outside Spain; we've seen plenty of the appeasement-minded Socialist already. However, Sciolino does include an amusing, if disturbing, moment with Zapatero:

Since his election, Mr. Zapatero has doubly enraged the Bush administration. The first time was when he announced that he would carry through on a campaign promise to withdraw Spain's 1,300 troops - the sixth-largest foreign force in Iraq - unless they were put under a United Nations command by the end of June, when some degree of sovereignty is scheduled to be given to the Iraqis.

Then Mr. Zapatero decided not to wait and began a unilateral withdrawal instead.

"We have not deceived anyone," Mr. Zapatero said in explaining the policy shift. "In order to avoid any uncertainty for our troops and our allies, I made the decision quickly."

He reiterated that according to polls, 90 percent of the Spanish people were opposed the war and that it was his duty to respond to the will of the people. Even his daughters, who are 8 and 10, weighed in. "From the day I won the election they were asking me every night, 'Daddy, when are you going to bring the troops home?' " he said.

Those of us old enough to remember the 1980 US presidential campaign will immediately be reminded of Jimmy Carter. In an infamous declaration during one of the debates, Carter was asked to name the biggest problem facing the world. He replied that he asked his teenage daughter Amy the same question, who told him, "nuclear proliferation". Carter likely would have lost the election anyway, but the cheesy invocation of Amy and the idea that her judgment overrode his own capped his reputation as an earnest but dangerously clueless fool. From Sciolino's portrait of Zapatero, he's making that impression right from the beginning of his term in office.

He also manages to be pretty impressed with himself:

Asked about the American presidential election, Mr. Zapatero said that since he took office he promised to say nothing about other countries' elections. But he felt certain that his own victory would have a ripple effect. "It's obvious that the election in Spain necessarily has to have an impact," he said.

Maybe ... but probably not the impact he thinks.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 6, 2004 10:25 PM

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