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Editorial: Between more war in Ukraine or more war in Palestine, ‘Trump v Biden’ is a grim choice for the world

THE US presidential election increasingly resembles a ghoulish farce without anything resembling an amusing punch line to anticipate.

Barring some unexpected turn, Joe Biden and Donald Trump will face off against each other once more, two elderly men both displaying clear signs of cognitive impairment. Each routinely confuses countries and people, indicating unfitness for office without taking other considerations into account.

Much comment focuses on the risks for democracy in the US of a Trump victory, given his evident Mussolini-like tendencies. Indeed, the US is an unhappy marriage of an archaic and unworkable constitution and extreme culture war polarisation, presided over by a ruling class wallowing in its own cupidity.

However, the risks for the rest of the world are at least as great, given the outsize role the US plays in world affairs, expressed in the course of this century through a series of military aggressions.

On this front, the choice is just as unappealing. Joe Biden’s full-throated support for Israel’s genocide in Gaza reminds us that US liberalism is a political expression of imperialism.

Indeed, even before the Gaza crisis, the Biden administration had continued the main lines of Trump’s policy in the Middle East, with the exception of a fruitless attempt to revive the nuclear deal with Iran which his predecessor had recklessly scrapped.

So too in the Pacific, where Biden has maintained the posture of intensified confrontation with China which Trump had embarked on.

Of course, it is also impossible to present Trump’s years in office as constructive. On Cuba and Venezuela, he followed a belligerent course and he blocked efforts to tackle climate change in addition to his sabre-rattling against China and unqualified support for Israel.

The main potential difference relates to the entwined issues of Nato and the Ukraine war. Biden strongly supports the aggressive military alliance and has consistently pushed for the continuation of a proxy war with Russia.

The dangers of that policy become clearer by the day, with the leaks of German military brass discussing missile attacks on Russian territory — including the involvement of British troops in this provocative project — merely the latest indication.

Simon Jenkins put it well in the Guardian today: “Ukraine has come to seem ever more like a Nato mercenary for Western generals wanting to boost their budgets and relive the cold-war games of their youth. The price is paid by their taxpayers and Ukraine’s young men.”

Trump claims that he would bring the conflict to an end “within a day” if re-elected. He is also sceptical of Nato, although this seems to be largely on the grounds that its European members do not spend enough on their militaries.

However, the US Congress has overwhelmingly passed legislation blocking any president from withdrawing from Nato without their say-so.

Nevertheless, the presumptive Republican candidate speaks for a large body of US opinion in opposing any further transfer of US money or weapons to Ukraine.

Without those resources, the Zelensky government in Kiev would be forced to come to the negotiating table. A Ukrainian military victory over Russia is already a vanishing prospect.

So it is at least possible that a Trump presidency would bring the Ukraine conflict to a conclusion, even as it would certainly entrench Israeli aggression in the Middle East and stoke further tensions elsewhere in the world.

Biden offers a continuation of futile policies aimed at resisting the ending of the epoch of unipolar US power and the emergence of a multipolar world.

The faster that world develops, the sooner the rest of us can stop worrying about US presidential elections.

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