By Aijaz Zaka Syed
Given the unprecedented interest in the fascinating juggernaut undulating across the United States, you would think six billion people of the globe have a stake in the US presidential election.
And why not? Although only some 126 million Americans actually get to vote in this most complex of all electoral exercises, its consequences are experienced and felt by all of us on the planet.
America is not just the world’s reigning superpower with the deadliest weapons known to Man at its disposal. No country has ever enjoyed the kind of overarching power the USA exercises today. And this isn’t limited to military and political spheres.
If the US dollar has come to be accepted as the currency that the world does business in, it’s because of the US economy’s central role in the world economy.
From powerful European economies to the Middle East’s oil markets to emerging players like India and China, every economy is joined at the hip with the US economy. Which explains why the world markets tend to catch cold if the US economy so much as sneezes. The case in point is the global panic over the sub-prime crisis in the US.
But nothing beats America’s all-pervasive cultural influence. You can’t escape it wherever you live on the planet. The empire of the mind built by the US over the past couple of centuries, especially during the 20th century, is the most powerful the Man has known.
And the Weapons of Mass Persuasion at the beck and call of this empire are Hollywood, the mighty US media and the pop culture of Mac America that rule the world, from Alaska to Australia. These forces are far more powerful than the world’s most powerful military that reports to the US commander-in-chief.
All of us – Asians, Arabs, Europeans and Africans – are subjects of the American empire, whether we like it or not. Which is why it’s only fair to ask we be given a say in the election of the man (or woman?) who will rule us from 1600, Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC.
And of all the American subjects, no other people deserve this right to elect the US president more than the people of the Middle East and the Muslim world.
Here’s why: At least two Muslim countries, Iraq and Afghanistan, are under American occupation. Between them, Iraq and Afghanistan have nearly 200,000 US troops on their soil. This is the biggest US military deployment since the World War II anywhere in the world.
Besides Afghanistan and Iraq, several Arab and Central Asian Muslim countries are home to US military bases and facilities. More important, no other people have suffered the consequences of the US policies and actions as those living in these regions.
The US influence over the Muslim world goes beyond the obvious. From its strategic relations with allies like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states to its unquestioning support to Israel, the US has played a crucial role in the affairs of the Islamic world for nearly a century now.
If you noticed the grand, red carpet welcome unveiled for a lame duck and the most reviled president in US history recently across the Middle East despite the mess he has visited on the region, you’d know what I mean. So Abdul Bari Atwan of Al-Quds Al-Arabi wasn’t far off the mark when he recently described the US as a ‘Middle Eastern’ country in a chat with CNN.
Returning to the US vote, the Muslim world has never been this excited about any election. No prizes for guessing what inspires this unprecedented interest in a distant vote.
Barack Obama, who was once condescendingly dismissed by Hillary Clinton as an upstart has captured the imagination of the American people like no candidate has. Like most of us, Americans seem to have been repelled by Hillary’s ludicrous sense of entitlement and her two-for-one offer (“Get me and you get Bill!”).
Obama on the other hand has lifted the Bush-whacked country out of gloom making the Americans once again feel good about themselves and their country. His message of hope and optimism has united a deeply divided society. The Democratic presidential hopeful acts and speaks like a messiah promising the Americans a new dawn of hope and opportunity: “Yes, We Can.” He repeatedly reminds the Americans: “We are the CHANGE that we SEEK.” “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”
How can you not be moved by this? How can you not vote for such a compelling message of hope? When this race began, this son of a black Kenyan Muslim father and white, all-American mother, was seen as one of the many, regulation also-rans who join every presidential race. In opinion polls too, he was way behind ‘the experienced and tested’ Hillary. Less than four months ago, in October 2007, he was trailing Hillary in his own community of African Americans. And look at him today. He already looks like President Obama with highest number of delegates and biggest vote share in his kitty.
The momentum that began with a small rally and hesitant speech in Springfield, Illinois last May has turned into a movement that has rejuvenated a despondent, directionless country. Obama has confounded critics and establishment pundits with his winning streak that began with Iowa Caucuses and has already won 25 out of 35 contests.
So short of some unforeseen accidents or behind-the-scenes manipulation by Super Delegates (top party leaders and officials), Obama looks all set to take his battle all the way to the White House. It’s not just the eligible US voters who are plumping for candidate Obama. The whole world is rooting for the nomination and eventual victory of the young Illinois senator.
After a long, long time America has got in Obama a leader who could restore the world’s trust in the land of the free and all that it once stood for.
And perhaps more than anyone, it’s the people in the Muslim world who want the Obama revolution to succeed. Given a chance, the Arabs and Muslims would vote for candidate Obama. He is the best guy around for the job – not only for the president of the United States but also for the President of the Middle East! We have a stake in this vote, after all. After the unholy mess that you see from Palestine to Pakistan, the last thing we want is another trigger-happy cowboy in the White House! So we are all for the CHANGE that Obama promises. God knows America needs change. And we all need this change. America needs to be rediscovered as the land that once inspired us all.
-Aijaz Zaka Syed is a senior editor and columnist of Khaleej Times. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com