Soci-Political and Socio-Economic Challanges

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By Mahir Ali

A certain phenomenon witnessed of late in parts of the Western world must have excited the envy of many a Muslim ruler, elected or - more likely - not. Nine-Eleven, as last month's horrific events in New York and Washington have been dubbed by the imaginative Americans, and the declaration of war against virtually defenceless Afghanistan appear to have been accompanied by an extraordinary surge in support for incumbent leaders, particularly in the US, Britain and Australia.

George W. Bush desperately required reaffirmation of his leadership, not least because in last year's farcical presidential contest he obtained less votes than his Democratic opponent. The recently re-elected Tony Blair, faced with insignificant parliamentary opposition, must have relished the globe-trotting opportunity that arose more for narcissistic reasons than short-term political gain.

No politician objects to approval ratings of more than 90 per cent, and Mr Blair has evidently been delighted to assume the role of de facto deputy leader of the so-called free world, oblivious of the irony that he has fallen in line with the absurdly simplistic "you're either with us or you're with the terrorists" dichotomy by his White House chum just when a "third way" could have offered a viable antidote to blunderbuss militarism.

The British prime minister would do well to note that when history takes them to task for perpetuating terror in the name of combating it, Mr Bush will at least be able to plead diminished responsibility.

It is conceivable, of course, that the momentum he has unexpectedly gained, courtesy of Al Qaeda, will help Mr Bush to overcome the re-election hurdle in 2004, although three years is a very long time in politics. As for Mr Blair, he will need little extraneous help to maintain Labour in power as long as masochism remains the driving force of his Conservative rivals. In electoral terms, therefore, the chief...
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