Mark Steyn explains why, shortly before the midterms last week, the US didn’t suffer the equivalent to the Madrid subway bombing–an 2004 Al Qaede attack carefully timed to occur shortly before that country’s elections:
The enemy aren’t a bunch of simpleton Pushtun yakherds, but relatively sophisticated at least in their understanding of us. We’re all infidels, but not all infidels crack the same way. If they’d done a Spain — blown up a bunch of subway cars in New York or vaporized the Empire State Building — they’d have re-awoken the primal anger of September 2001. With another mound of corpses piled sky-high, the electorate would have stampeded into the Republican column and demanded the U.S. fly somewhere and bomb someone.
The jihad crowd know that. So instead they employed a craftier strategy. Their view of America is roughly that of the British historian Niall Ferguson — that the Great Satan is the first superpower with ADHD. They reasoned that if you could subject Americans to the drip-drip-drip of remorseless water torture in the deserts of Mesopotamia — a couple of deaths here, a market bombing there, cars burning, smoke over the city on the evening news, day after day after day, and ratcheted up a notch or two for the weeks before the election — you could grind down enough of the electorate and persuade them to vote like Spaniards, without even realizing it. And it worked. You can rationalize what happened on Tuesday in the context of previous sixth-year elections — 1986, 1958, 1938, yada yada — but that’s not how it was seen around the world, either in the chancelleries of Europe, where they’re dancing conga lines, or in the caves of the Hindu Kush, where they would also be dancing conga lines if Mullah Omar hadn’t made it a beheading offense. And, as if to confirm that Tuesday wasn’t merely 1986 or 1938, the president responded to the results by firing the Cabinet officer most closely identified with the prosecution of the war and replacing him with a man associated with James Baker, Brent Scowcroft and the other “stability” fetishists of the unreal realpolitik crowd.
Whether or not Rumsfeld should have been tossed overboard long ago, he certainly shouldn’t have been tossed on Wednesday morning. For one thing, it’s a startlingly brazen confirmation of the politicization of the war, and a particularly unworthy one: It’s difficult to conceive of any more public diminution of a noble cause than to make its leadership contingent on Lincoln Chafee’s Senate seat. The president’s firing of Rumsfeld was small and graceless.
Still, we are all Spaniards now. The incoming speaker says Iraq is not a war to be won but a problem to be solved. The incoming defense secretary belongs to a commission charged with doing just that. A nostalgic boomer columnist in the Boston Globe argues that honor requires the United States to “accept defeat,” as it did in Vietnam. Didn’t work out so swell for the natives, but to hell with them.
And that does seem to be the incoming strategy du jour, doesn’t it? As Glenn Reynolds writes, acquiescing to a retreat from Iraq is “the sort of thing that could make the Republicans a minority party for the next 40 years, and deservedly so“.