Corridors of Power in Madrid, Spain: G-20 Fallout, U.S.-Spain Reconciliation and More

Corridors of Power in Madrid, Spain: G-20 Fallout, U.S.-Spain Reconciliation and More

MADRID, Spain -- FRIENDS AT LAST: Every Wednesday, a large crowd gathers at noon on the edge of the parade ground of the Royal Palace in Madrid to watch the ceremonial changing of the guard. Started a year or so ago, the ceremony involves all the traditional elements of military choreography -- colorful uniforms, a band, cavalry, and even two horse-drawn field artillery pieces.

Unlike at Buckingham Palace, where a similar drill has been carried out every day for centuries, the guard does not have the symbolic duty of protecting the Spanish monarch: Spain's king and queen live some distance away from the Palacio Real in the more modest Sarsuela Palace, which is more of a large mansion. Still, the changing of the guard underlines the strong ties between Spain's armed forces and the monarchy, and the prestige of the military in Spanish life. And the tourists love it.

Moreover, Spaniards know that these are no toy soldiers, but rather some of the same troops that served in Iraq, Lebanon, Kosovo and Afghanistan. The government's sudden decision recently to pull out of NATO's Kosovo peacekeeping force was something of an embarrassment to the military. That has since been balanced by the commitment to add several hundred more troops to Spain's contingent in Afghanistan.

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