Charles Krauthammerwrites that the terrorists are eager to see President Bush defeated at the polls this November. "Of course the terrorists want Bush defeated. How can anyone pretend otherwise? Why are we collectively nervous about terrorism as the election approaches? Because, as everyone knows, there are terrorists out there who would dearly love to hit us before the election. Why? To affect it. What does that mean? Do they want to affect it randomly? Of course not. . . Their obvious objective is to drive from power those governments most deeply involved in the war against them. . . The point is not only to radically alter an enemy nation's foreign policy -- as in Spain -- but to deter any other government contemplating similar support for the American-led war on terror. . . An electoral repudiation of President Bush would be seen by the world as a repudiation of Bush's foreign policy, specifically his aggressive, pre-emptive and often unilateral prosecution of the war on terror, most especially Iraq. It would be a correct interpretation because John Kerry has made clear that he is fighting this election on precisely those grounds. . .It is perfectly true, as Bush critics constantly point out, that many millions around the world -- from Jacques Chirac to the Arab street -- dislike Bush and want to see him defeated. It is ridiculous to pretend that Osama, Zarqawi and the other barbarians are not among them."
It sounds plausible, but is it true? There is a contrary argument made by terrorists themselves. In the August 2, New Yorker, Lawrence Wright(not on the web) reported that Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades sent a message to a London Arabic newspaper claiming responsility for the terror attack in Spain and implied that they would disrupt future elections, except for one. "'We are very keen that Bush does not lose the upcoming elections,' the authors write. Bush's 'idiocy and religious fanaticism' are useful, the authors contend, for they stir the Islamic world to to action."
Recent American history gives an example of how terrorists might approach one of our elections. In 1980 Jimmy Carter was seen as a weakling, particularly against the terrorists holding Americans as hostages in Iran. His opponent, Ronald Reagan, was the very soul of resolute toughness (little did anyone know at the time just how irresoluteReagan would be in the face of the Iranians). If the hostage takers wanted to tilt the election to the weaker candidate, they could have given Carter a tremendous boost by releasing their captives sometime in Ocotober of that year. Instead they contiued to hold the hostages, until moments after the new president had taken the oath of office; heaping further humiliation on Carter.