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Gary Johnson knows exactly what to do about Aleppo

Thursday’s Facebook was full of condescending sneers from highly educated liberals laughing off Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson as a mere dilettante. How silly that a presidential candidate doesn’t know what Aleppo is.

Johnson was a guest on a television program called Morning Joe, hosted by the bilious Joe Scarborough, one of those nominal Republicans like David Gergen or David Brooks who get paid to fill the role of sensible conservative beard for media outlets feigning objectivity. Like the Davids, Joe is there to wag his finger at anyone extreme enough to venture outside the accepted range of debate that spans all the way from John McCain to John Kerry.

The linchpin of that orthodoxy is internationalism, by which is meant not humble diplomacy and actual free trade (of the Cobden and Bright variety), but carrying out the economic agendas of multinational corporations, international banks, and defense contractors while justifying the bloodshed with the Jacobin rhetoric of neoconservatism or whatever it is that Samantha Power believes.

At the beginning of his segment, Johnson gave his standard rundown on what kind of candidate he is, including that he is “skeptical when it comes to our military interventions, skeptical when it comes to our going in and supporting regime changes that have not resulted in a more safe world.”

Scarborough and celebrated Boston hack Mike Barnicle were ready to pounce on such naiveté.

Before you read any further, watch the entire segment here:

So, Barnicle phrases his question in a way specifically designed to throw Johnson off balance—fair enough. Though not once have I ever heard anyone bring up the Syrian war or resulting refugee crisis by referring to Aleppo, and not Syria. It’s as if, instead of asking you where you wanted to go for lunch, I instead said, “What are your thoughts on macronutrients?” But Barnacle really overdid it a little with the haughty “you’re kidding?” Not the fist time Barnicle has sold words he really didn’t mean—he’s the guy who got fired from the Globe for plagiarizing George Carlin and fabricating a story about kids with cancer.

They knew they had their headshot—the screen now displaying “JOHNSON: WHAT IS ALEPPO?”—but Scarborough had to pile on with his mock outrage at Johnson’s desire to cut the military budget by 20 percent, something that in a sane world would be a very moderate step taken by a country as far in debt and ridiculously over-militarized as the United States. Scarborough’s type are always on about no politicians having the guts to take on the lobbyists and special interests in the interest of fiscal responsibility. Put one in front of him calling for just that—and with a record of doing it as a governor—and he reacts like the clientele at Chez Paul when Jake and Elwood walk in.

Hours later, the New York Times’ Alan Rappeport reported on Johnson’s flub, or gaffe, or whatever:

Gary Johnson, the former New Mexico governor and Libertarian Party presidential nominee, revealed a surprising lack of foreign policy knowledge on Thursday that could rock his insurgent candidacy when he could not answer a basic question about the crisis in Aleppo, Syria.

Journalists who write should do a better job of reporting facts and putting facts in context than people who just talk on television. Instead, Rappeport sheds dark on the matter by making two facile judgments that are not based in fact.

In fact, Johnson a) did answer “a basic question about the crisis in Aleppo, Syria,” and b) did so not with a “surprising lack of foreign policy knowledge,” but with a sensible, clear approach to the Syria crisis that acknowledges both the specific geopolitical situation and serves as a cogent critique of the usual US foreign policy stance that has wrought Hell across the world since, let’s say, the McKinley administration.

…with regard to Syria, I do think that it’s a mess, I think that the only way we deal with Syria is to join hands with Russia to diplomatically bring that at an end. But when we’ve aligned ourselves with, when we’ve supported opposition, the Free Syrian Army—the Free Syrian Army is also coupled with the Islamists—and then the fact that we’re also supporting the Kurds, and this is just, it’s just a mess. And that this is the result of regime change that we end up supporting and inevitably these regime changes have led to a less safe world.

We all know that Vladimir Putin is not a nice man, which is exactly why we should prefer a president who wants to talk about the horrible war in Putin’s backyard rather than threaten to shoot down Putin’s planes or arm some lucky band of “rebels” who might not do nice things with those guns. Throw in the Kurds, who are about as popular with Russia and Turkey—another country run by a tyrant with nuclear weapons—as the proverbial narc at a biker rally, and you’d have to be a coldblooded narcissist or clownish egomaniac to suggest doing anything other than ditching interventionism in favor of diplomacy.

Speaking of the coldblooded narcissist, Rappeport writes:

Even Hillary Clinton, Mr. Johnson’s Democratic opponent, had a laugh at his expense on Thursday. Asked about the Libertarian candidate’s lack of knowledge about Aleppo during a news conference, she joked, “You can look on the map and find Aleppo.”

We know that Hillary knows where Aleppo is, and where Benghazi is, because she was running guns though the latter to get to her lucky rebels working in and around the vicinity of former.

It would be a better world if Hillary never knew where Aleppo is. Or if Bush never knew of Fallujah, Clinton of Mogadishu, Nixon of Phnom Penh, LBJ of Khe Sanh, Wilson of Ypres, McKinley of Luzon, or, especially, that butcher Lincoln of Shiloh or the Yazoo Valley.

Footnote:

In the course of ridiculing Johnson, Rappeport and his editors misidentified Aleppo TWICE, the type of error that would have gotten me an F in journalism school:

nyt-aleppo-errors