What is inevitable is change, and if it doesn’t happen in Washington and state capitals – with reform candidates winning the Democratic and/or Republican primaries and eventually taking control, or a Democratic or Republican (more likely) reform wing breaking away and starting a third party – the form that change does take will not be very nice.
Anyway, I agree with about 80% of the Libertarian platform – which probably is about where I stand with the Democrats.
Then I saw this
When asked about Aleppo, Gary Johnson replied “What is Aleppo?”
His excuse, that he thought he was hearing an acronym, just might qualify for reasonable doubt about what appears to be either an institutionalizable stupidity or – considering that Johnson has been a governor and is a Presidential candidate – a pathological avoidance of the peopled world. Unfortunately, Johnson’s clumsy attempts to recover from his gaffe make clear that, indeed, he had not known the significance of Aleppo, and still did not know as he made his excuses.
There have been some snide, but not serious, suggestions that Johnson is suffering from marijuana-induced memory loss. His gaffes actually resemble not so much memory loss as the weird way one’s mind works when one is stoned. If you’re high, even though you usually know perfectly well what Aleppo is, the context of the immediate moment might induce you to hear the word as an acronym.
Mike Barnicle, the interviewer, segued into the subject of Syria and Aleppo with no introduction (something such as, “Now, let’s turn to the Middle East”) after a long response from Johnson to the previous question, “But do you worry about the Nader effect in 2000?”
On marijuana, one’s thoughts tend towards prolonged, complex riffs about whatever happens to be on one’s mind. If Johnson had been stoned, he well might not have realized that with his next question – “What would you do, if you were elected, about Aleppo?” – Barnicle was changing the subject. Nader; third party; Tea Party; Greens. Aleppo? What’s that? Must be an acronym. (In a previous gaffe, Johnson’s recovery when, taken to The Harriet Tubman Room in a convention center, he asked “Who was Harriet Tubman?” also points to the catacomb-like architecture of a marijuana high. After an aide reminded him who Tubman was, Johnson recalled that she was to appear on the twenty-dollar bill.)
Aleppo: humanitarian crisis, revival of the Cold War, localized geopolitical conflict between two regional powers, quagmire of contradictory alliances, petri dish for virulent religious fanaticism; there’s enough about Aleppo to score points for any position: humanitarianism (the NGO’s chomping at the bit); sanctimoniously reticent exceptionalism (Washington’s current stance); anti-Russian jingoism; blind rage (the operative word being “blind”), as in, “We will carpet bomb them into oblivion.”
The Libertarian position on Syria basically is: What are we doing there? This has nothing to do with us. Let them fight it out themselves. I broadly agree with that. I’m not an isolationist in general, but it’s the right policy when it comes to the Middle East – at least until Saudi Arabia and Iran finish slugging it out. I believe that however we involve ourselves in the conflict – making war or making peace – we are doing ourselves, and some of our friends, more harm than good.
I do not think we should abandon the victims of the Saudi-Iran Cold War (defining a cold war as a geopolitical rivalry fought out by proxy hot wars) – those in Yemen, whom we have ignored, as well as those in Syria. As ever, the United States should reach out to succor any population struck by a disaster.
The usual, and convincing, response to Middle-East isolationism is: But we caused it all in the first place – mainly by our invasion of Iraq, but also by a history disruptive interference in the region. It is our responsibility to fix it.
A Libertarian would not agree, but I do agree. It would be our responsibility to fix it, if we could. But we can’t – certainly not now, probably not ever. The most responsible thing we can do, at this point, is remove ourselves. After the dust settles, an awareness of our responsibility towards the nations at the far end of the Mediterranean and the Maghreb should inform our foreign policy.
A Libertarian, who by nature tends to think in terms of abstract principle, with as little reference to the real world as possible, might respond: We have lived up to our responsibility. We have delivered on our promise: We overturned a vicious dictator and helped the Iraqis set up a democratic political system. Whatever problems they have now are their own to solve, by themselves. (It’s a neat, legalistic position out of touch with civilized moral obligations.)
But not knowing what Aleppo is?
I’ll bet a hundred bucks that if I went up to the center of town and asked the first dozen people I met about Aleppo, all of them would know, at least, that Aleppo is a city out there somewhere, which is involved in the war in Syria and has been mentioned a lot in the news lately. Donald Trump knows at least that.
No. I won’t be voting Libertarian in November.