Political strife abroad. re: assasinations

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

How to deal with terrorists bent on destroying a way of life? That is the question of our age. Some build fences. Others elect pacifist socialists to lead them. Some churn out sharply worded pieces of paper. Others overthrow regimes and kill enemy leaders.
On Wednesday, the United Nations Security Council took the paper mill approach by attempting to condemn Israel?s recent assassination of Hamas founder and spiritual leader Ahmed Yassin. The motion was foiled by a veto from Israel?s ally, the United States.
In the past, the U.S. might have agreed with the rest of the Security Council, but now that the U.S. pursues a similar policy regarding terrorist leaders we cannot fault Israel. Curiously, Spain voted in favor of condemning Israel, despite suffering the worst terrorist attack in its history just a few short weeks ago.
The fate of this latest Security Council resolution demonstrates the polarization of the world between two irreconcilable schools of thought regarding terrorism. The first advocates backing off, giving in, and appeasing terrorists. The second advocates taking the fight to the terrorists though military and covert action. The UN obviously takes the former approach. In addition to condemning ?all terrorist attacks against any civilians as well as all acts of violence and destruction,? the failed resolution regarding Israel called for a ?complete cessation of extrajudicial executions.? This statement effectively says that attacking anyone if they are not, at the exact moment, attacking you as well is not okay with the UN. This is a dangerous concept. Everyone knows who Ahmed Yassin was: the spiritual fire behind Hamas? terrorist campaign who dedicated most of his life to the destruction of Israel. Will the UN only accept the capture and trial of a man like Yassin as a valid method for fighting terrorism?
Israel definitely takes the latter, proactive approach to dealing with terrorism. The United States, at least for now, does as well. At first glance it seems that being a victim of terrorist attacks is the best predictor for how a country reacts to terrorism, however such is not the case. Spain has recently been the victim of mass terrorist bombings of its rail system in Madrid, with nearly 200 dead. The presumed perpetrator is al-Qaeda and the event has even been called Spain?s 9/11. However, Spanish voters did not demand action against terrorists or rally behind current prime minister Jos? Maria Aznar, who supports the Iraq war with troops. Instead, Spanish voters caved in to terrorists the first chance they got by electing socialist Jos? Luis Rodriguez Zapatero as Aznar?s replacement.
Aznar was projected to easily win the election before the attacks, thus the upset serves as a testament to the power terrorists can wield over Western politics. A recent cover of The Economist depicted al-Qaeda?s enemies as a deck of cards, with Aznar?s face crossed off. No doubt al-Qaeda can count as friends leaders like Zapatero, whose election platform was the removal of Spain?s small but politically significant contribution of troops to the occupation of Iraq. Despite concerns of cowardice on the part of Zapatero and pressure by the U.S. and UK, Zapatero is holding firm and intends to remove Spanish troops unless coalition forces are put under control of the UN. Evidently, he trusts the UN to more effectively administer a terrorism-saturated country.
In the wake of Spain?s abrupt about-face in its terrorism policy, one might wonder what American voters will do in November. John Kerry, although voting in favor of the Iraq war, criticizes Bush?s handling of it and in the past consistently voted to cut our nation?s first line of defense against terrorism ? the CIA ? along with the our military.
Kerry, being the political chameleon that he is, leans more toward the pacifist school of thought in order to capitalize on the Left?s disdain for the war. Much of his terrorism platform involves improving America?s response capability. In other words, he advocates waiting for us to be attacked again and doing a better job of ameliorating the damage. No more invasions of other countries. What Kerry has in his favor is that most of the rest of the world subscribes to this school of thought.
Recent events in Spain cast into doubt the idea that another major terrorist attack on American soil will seal George W. Bush?s victory in November. Is the U.S. really safer after the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq? If you ask France, Germany, the UN, and now Spain, the answer is no. If you ask George W. Bush and Ariel Sharon, the answer is yes. Come November, we will see which school of thought American voters believe in.

Jeff Cullers (jcullers@) is a senior social and decision sciences major. He accepts all responsible replies.