By Andrés Lozano
Previously, I argued that Canada and México are terrorism’s potential soft targets. Close enough to the US, while outside the realm to invite American retribution. Also, that any such attempts might occur in the heat of 2004’s presidential campaign, thus the title 10/11. It is my contention that Al Qaeda and akin terrorist organizations’ top priority is disrupting the Fall elections. Disrupting as handing an electoral upset victory to John F. Kerry and defeating as many Republicans running for office as possible in the process. The logic is impeccable: GWB’s administration has declared war on terrorism in all its forms, landed major defeats upon shady and open terrorism in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and has it on the run elsewhere. Meantime, JFK approach boils down to criticizing the President’s antiterrorist aim. Any terrorist Tom, Dick or Harry has a clear choice: Four more years of Bush will crush them, whereas a Kerry’s administration might be less committed.
Bold actions abroad, successfully carried out by terrorism may shaken up the undecided electorate’s resolve on the president’s approach and support Kerry’s wooly style. After all, did not the British support Chamberlain’s appeasing style, in lieu of Churchill’s no nonsense one towards Hitler? Again, the logic is impeccable. So, from a terrorist perspective, the right approach is attaining this objective at the lowest possible cost: in come the Canadian and Mexican settings.
Canada has a substantial Moslem population where sleeping terrorist cells, probably already in place, can easily be activated into action to carry out a major outrage within. A Montreal and/or Toronto display of terrorist impunity can send shivers down the border and inhibit voter’s determination to support the President in toss up Northern and Northeastern states, a sort of Spanish syndrome revisited. In a contested election, the combined votes of states from Wisconsin to Maine may very well hold the key to Kerry’s victory. Therefore, the terrorist’s temptation to act is loaded with promise for them and the Democrats. Of course, an added bonus to this approach would be straining US-Canadian relations at a time when Canadian politicians are largely in denial and, in Churchill’s words: “Feeding the crocodile with someone else hoping to be the last devoured.”
Mexico has to be the softest spot ever dreamt by terrorist perpetrators. Added to the ease of arrival and operation, the Mexican government is in a state of perpetual disavowal of everything and rather hoping nothing happens instead of acting to avoid it. Irresolution is the trademark of Mexican politics since the arrival of Cortez. Mexico City and/or Tijuana are, therefore, prime terrorist targets with enormous shockwave effects, precisely what terrorists aim for. Both marks offer a combination of impunity and feeble civil defense means available, thus ensuring the maximum damage at the lowest cost: More bang for the buck! The Mexican political class unanimously would put the blame on GWB’s antiterrorist effort and the Mexican media would have a field day. Opportunities to divert for a while public attention from the never ending political Telenovela are always welcomed changes. In the case of Tijuana, it would send immediate tremors across the border and, as in the Canadian setting, tilt undecided cagey voters towards the Democrats. Ominously, a large percentage of Hispanic voters leaning towards Bush would switch their vote intentions in California, Arizona and New Mexico.
On the matter of terrorist dividends, a Canadian approach could yield Kerry up to 170 electoral votes and up to 70 in the case of a Mexican strategy, altogether 240 out of 270 needed to win: Not a bad harvest for a day of terrorist mischief. Therefore, the point is not if they are going to attempt them, but how to foil the threats.
In order to eradicate terrorism, ideally, the best approach is bipartisan. Unfortunately, both JFK and the Democrats are lukewarm at best if not altogether antagonistic to support a sensible national policy with meager returns for them in the short term. Their noncommittal backing to the war on terror erodes Bush’s support with the unfortunate side effect of putting America in harms way, but this is not their concern, at least for now. Therefore, the nation faces, simultaneously, two terrorist challenges, one from the terrorists proper, another from opportunistic politicians.
The choice available to the Administration is, not without potential cost, only one: Publicly warn beforehand the Canadian and Mexican governments of the danger in their midst and have them acknowledge the potential threat or at least serve notice of having been forewarned. With the element of surprise evaporated, terrorists’ may rethink their strategy and leave unharmed Canadians and Mexicans.
Andrés Lozano can be emailed at: email@example.com