Interestingly, though, the baseline assumption is that the ousted government was on the Right Path to fighting terror - because they supported George W. Bush's war on Iraq. A war which has diverted resources from the actual war on terror to such an extent that a systematic and coordinated manhunt for Osama bin Laden has only now begun on the eve of the US elections, fully two years after the 9-11 terror attack. Tacitus pre-emptively dismisses this argument :
I have argued that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, initially connected only on an arguable conceptual level, are now inseparable parts of the same campaign. The inability to recognize this -- and the concurrent inability to grasp that defeat in one arena heartens and directly aids the enemy in the other -- is a surefire sign of one's politics overriding one's sense.
The argument to which Tacitus refers is really a very good one - about why withdrawal from Iraq is a bad idea. I agree. But to try and portray the fact that withdrawal from Iraq is bad policy as justification for the decision to wage war on Iraq in the first place is circular reasoning.
Tacitus argues that the inability to recognize "this" (ie, withdrawal of American troops from Iraq) is a bad thing betrays politics overriding common sense. I agree. And I add that the inability to recognize that the war on Iraq has been a net distraction from the War on Terror - and precisely because we can't withdraw, will continue to be one - betrays precisely the same thing.
Likewise, Kevin Drum pays some lip service to the appeasement theory, but at least frames it as a hypothetical rationale. He gives more weight to the argument that the Spanish voters are punishing Aznar for politicizing the terror atack by trying to blame the ETA. The jury is still out on that score, and the ETA is a valid threat of perhaps equal scale as Al-Qaeda, so the entire issue is murky. My initial reaction was to agree that it was more likely the ETA, but at this point I lean more towards Al-Q in terms of motive (Tacitus provides an invaluable service on that score).
Contrary to these rationales, I see a very simple explanation for the vote in Spain. The spanish electorate is wise - they have punished their government for failing to take terror seriously. The Aznar government supported the war on Iraq against the will of the Spanish people, and the consequence of this was free rein to the Islamist fanatics to pursue Al-Andalus. Aznar has now been held accountable, and the new government will know that their mandate is also going to be held to the same standard.
I also think it's wise for Spanish troops to return from Iraq, from a Spanish perspective - America will stay the course in Iraq regardless and Spanish troops are better spent rooting out Islamic terror cells in Spain, not Mesopotamia.