Commentary. Cornel West’s warning: The choice is between World War III and Civil War II.

Biden’s Achilles heel isn’t his age, it’s Netanyahu

On November 5, the choice will be between “World War III” and “Civil War II.” As an alternative to both the first scenario, i.e., Joe Biden, and against the second scenario, i.e., Donald Trump, presidential candidate Cornel West is proposing his pacifist and radical agenda. At the same time, he has zero chance of becoming a realistic contender against the two main challengers.

Nonetheless, the great Black philosopher and activist must be taken seriously. If not as a candidate, certainly as the bearer of a message that progressive America would do well to listen to.

At the end of a fine interview on Sunday with the BBC’s Stephen Sackur, West offers a very unsparing account of the current administration, especially its international policy, concluding with the warning about a third World War if Biden is re-elected and a new Civil War if Trump becomes president again.

Neither scenario is likely to come true in such stark terms. Nonetheless, Biden himself often evokes the specter of a catastrophe to democracy if his rival is elected, casting the November vote as a referendum on democracy itself. And Trump, for his part, is confirming these fears with a campaign that is a torrent of hatred and violence towards opponents and threats of revenge against all those who have tried to stop his abuses of power and attempts at insurrection.

As for Biden, he is indeed raising fears of a slide towards World War III, with an interventionist foreign policy that doesn’t result from a coherent and comprehensible strategy, or even from demands for “national security” (however specious), but from an incremental series of tactical errors and his unconditional submission to an ally who dictates his moves.

There is a very high risk that the November 5 vote will take place in a climate of maximum chaos, fueled by Trump’s repeatedly stated intention, also shared by the most prominent figures in his party, to abandon the NATO allies to fend for themselves. In such a climate, a highly eventful handover of power could take place, which would make January 6, 2021 seem like only a dress rehearsal.

In the White House and in the Democratic Party, there is a keen awareness of the atmosphere of negative tension around the president’s re-election hopes, and attempts are being made to neutralize the issue weighing most heavily on the campaign trail, namely Biden’s military aid and political and economic support for Israel.

Biden has changed his tone with Netanyahu, Blinken is trying to temper the ire of the Arab allies, and campaign strategists have been dispatched to Arab- and Muslim-majority electoral districts, especially in the Detroit metropolitan area, to try to quell the growing outcry from members of traditionally Democratic communities intent on no longer supporting Biden.

If the Middle East timebomb is not defused, Biden’s reelection is really at risk, especially if the growing anger of the Arab and Islamic voters also finds support among the African-American community, who empathize with and share the cause of Gaza. One must also add the unprecedented phenomenon of large portions of the black and Latino electorate determined to leave the Democratic camp to vote for Trump. This outlook also also affects the fate of many Democratic congressmen running for reelection and many new candidates in swing states. Biden’s defeat would mean their defeat as well, and with that the loss of their current majority, however slim, in the Senate.

Biden’s impasse is thus first and foremost a political one, although the media – and, of course, the Republican foes – are pouncing on what they see as his Achilles’ heel: his advanced age and related issues that put his fitness for the job into question.

If this narrative proves effective, reiterated time and time again between now and November, it could wear down the president’s image among the independent electorate, of great importance in the swing states. Nevertheless, the alternative option, Trump, has exactly the same handicap (if it can be called that), plus a very heavy baggage of trials and investigations which might not shake the blind faith of his base, but will have a negative effect on the moderate conservative electorate, both independent and even in his own party.

In the absence of primaries to weave stories around, the personalization of what is being treated as “a duel” has begun, with the associated series of personal low blows – a type of clash that is normally found in the last stretch before the election in November, after the summer conventions of the two parties. If and when Biden will show that he has regained political strength – such as that he’ll be able to command respect, for example, from Trump’s devious ally, “Bibi” Netanyahu – his frailty due to age will no longer be the issue, just as in Italy the 82-year-old Mattarella is being described as the true and trustworthy leader of the Democratic front.

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