Whether the attacks were, in fact, linked to actions in Iraq is beside the point. The Spanish assumed that they were, and took action to distance themselves from Iraq as soon as possible, in the hopes of preventing more attacks -- the very definition of caving to terrorism. By allowing the random murder of 200 citizens to change the outcome of an election, the people of Spain have demonstrated that terrorism against them works, and works well. Rest assured that every radical pressure group -- from lunatic Muslims to lunatic nature-lovers to lunatic Basque separatists -- has noticed, and will now change their tactics accordingly.
It is unlikely that the impact will be limited to Spain -- certainly the resolve of other countries in Europe will be likewise probed and tested, as the various Islamist and other terror groups keep pushing the envelope, trying to figure out how much they can actually get away with. An attack on Americans would be less likely -- our response to 9/11 clearly demonstrated that such things are counter-productive -- though not altogether impossible. But more mega-attacks in Europe (and Spain especially) are now a virtual certainty. Efforts to arrest the perpetrators and disrupt networks will be too little, too late -- it's clear that the network only needs to succeed once, and their members are not afraid of European jails. If the conflict with Islamic terror is World War IV, then Spain is its Sudetenland.
This isn't permanent, of course. People will only tolerate dumb ideas for so long, and eventually, I expect the Spanish to reject this pacifist nonsense, just as Europe eventually rejected appeasement of Nazism. But it is clear that this will take much longer than I'd hoped, and we will see many more attacks, and many more mangled corpses of pedestrians and subway riders, before the bloody lessons seep through. How ironic, that in their search for a quick way to peace and stability, the Spanish should launch what may be their most violent era since the civil war.
Some more comments at Iberian Notes.
Update: Nelson Ascher at Europundits is less optimistic than I am:
Today's election in Spain proved that what didn't work in Israel worked pretty well and will go on working in Europe. . . Islamism became today the real power-broker in the European continent. Sometime in the future some European government will try to fight them and, after a bombing or two, it will be deposed by voters decided to become, in practice, "dhimmis" rather than to risk their necks. The Thursday bombers gave the orders and the Spanish voters followed them. That means that shariah is beginning, slowly, to be imposed on the whole continent. . . As Churchill once said, they'll have both war and dishonour.I don't know if I'd go quite that far: the problem with yielding to terrorism is that it encourages more terrorism, but eventually people's tolerance for terrorism runs out. The trick is to stretch out the time before it happens, by keeping the attacks small-scale, as the IRA, the ETA, and the Palestinians have done -- and also by having concrete demands that are at least not completely insane. The scale of the Madrid bombings is unsustainable in the long-term, nor the demands of the return of Muslim rule to Andalusia in any way grantable. I believe that eventually, the Spanish will realize that yielding to terror doesn't bring peace, and act accordingly. Sadly, for the voting majority, that day is not today.
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