Tag Archives: Syria

Election 2016: It’s a Presidential Campaign, Not a Geography Quiz

Former Gov. Gary Johnson
Gary Johnson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On September 8, Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, where panelist Mike Barnicle hit him with the question:

“What would you do if you were elected about Aleppo?”

Johnson: “About?”

Barnicle: “Aleppo.”

Johnson: “And what is a leppo?”

Barnicle: “You’re kidding.”

Johnson: “No.”

Maybe you’ve heard about this exchange. Maybe you know (or maybe you Googled and found out) that Aleppo is the largest city in Syria and a focal point of the war between Syria’s government and Islamic State rebels.

Be warned: If you listened to MSNBC’s “expert” on Syria, or read the New York Times account of Johnson’s “faux pas,” you got bad scoop. They didn’t know much about Aleppo either, inaccurately describing the city as the Islamic State’s “capital” (that’s Raqqa, not Aleppo).

My gut feeling is that the average American will come down on Johnson’s side of this teapot tempest, for two reasons.

First, most Americans likely know little if anything about Aleppo and don’t care to, so they can probably sympathize. Johnson’s foreign policy focus as a presidential candidate is “big picture.” He wants the US to stop militarily intervening everywhere around the world at the drop of a hat. He doesn’t have to know the name of every city in the world to know that he doesn’t want to bomb them.

Secondly, the question was transparently framed as an ambush. Barnicle’s obvious intent was to try and get a Dan Quayle or George W. Bush type howler or malapropism out of Johnson.

Any TV talking head who queried Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump on the subject would do so roughly as follows:

“Moving on to Syria: If elected, what is your plan to address the civil war there, destroy ISIS and bring peace to the region? And what do you think of reports of new chemical attacks in the country’s largest city, Aleppo, where fighting between regime forces and ISIS has flared up again?”

Not: “What would you do if you were elected about Aleppo?”

To Johnson’s credit, he quickly owned up to and apologized for his knowledge gap in the area of Syrian geography. But he shouldn’t have had to, because he shouldn’t have been asked that question in that exceedingly unprofessional manner.

Running for president is not a geography quiz.

And Morning Joe isn’t — or at least shouldn’t be — an arm of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, charged with helping her regain traction among voters who have abandoned her for third party candidates because of her demonstrated personal corruption and incompetence, not to mention her dangerous foreign policy belligerence.

Yes, Clinton knows where Aleppo is — and she’d turn the city of more than two million into a lifeless crater given the opportunity.

Is Johnson all that and a bag of chips? Maybe not. But at least his ideas on foreign policy and military adventurism don’t constitute an existential threat to the US and to humanity. The same can’t be said for the ideas of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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Millennials: Let’s You and Them Fight

English: Marines of Regimental Combat Team 5, ...
Marines of Regimental Combat Team 5, transport a non-ambulatory patient via litter, outside of Fallujah, Iraq in 2006. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An October/November survey covering the midsection (adults between 18 and 29) of the “millennial” demographic  finds that after the November terror attacks in France (but before the December 2 attack in San Bernardino), that demographic’s support for deployment of US ground troops against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria jumped from 47% to 60%.

But when asked a followup question — “[i]f the United States needed additional troops to combat the Islamic State, how likely would you be to serve?” — 85% responded “probably won’t join” or “won’t join.”

Assuming that all or nearly all of the 40% who oppose a ground war answered “probably not” or “heck no,” it follows that the other 45% who answered that way support the idea as long as it doesn’t involve actually putting on uniforms, picking up rifles, and placing their own lives on the line.

I’m a war veteran myself, but I don’t count myself among the “if you haven’t served or won’t serve, you’re not entitled to an opinion” crowd. Everyone’s entitled to an opinion. Even those who don’t actually do the heavy lifting pick up some of the costs. They pay taxes. They support loved ones in uniform. And the risk of personal harm from blowback a la 9/11 and San Bernardino, while minimal so far, is real.

On the other hand, that differential/overlap bugs me. I wish I could get inside the heads of the three-quarters of military-age people in this survey who support the IDEA of a war enthusiastically enough to send OTHERS off to potentially die or return minus limbs or with traumatic brain injuries, but not enough to risk those things themselves.

As the late economist Milton Friedman pointed out, incentives change depending on whose money you’re spending, and on whom. If you’re spending your own money on yourself, you have a great incentive to get value for price. If you’re spending other people’s money on yourself, that incentive lessens; and a little more so if you’re spending your money on someone else. But if you’re spending other people’s money on other people, the incentive pretty much disappears. Why should you care? You’re neither paying the price nor gaining the benefit.

In this situation, what’s being spent by those who support a war but don’t plan to enlist is not money, but lives — the lives of other people (US troops), to be sacrificed for other people (Iraqis and Syrians).

They’re entitled to their opinions. But given the incentives, I’m not inclined to give those opinions too much weight. I’m a little older than the “millennials.” I’ve seen this movie before. In fact, I was one of the thousands of extras.  I’m against another remake.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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The US and the “Refugee Crisis”: Three Complaints, One Solution

Syrian refugees arrive on a dinghy after crossing from Turkey to Lesbos island, Greece, Sept 9, 2015. (Public domain image from Freedom House)
Syrian refugees arrive on a dinghy after crossing from Turkey to Lesbos island, Greece, Sept 9, 2015. (Public domain image from Freedom House)

I oppose president Barack Obama’s plan to import and re-settle 10,000 Syrian refugees at American taxpayers’ expense. But hey, I’m a libertarian. It’s hard to find a government program I DO support.

On the other hand, as the old saying goes, “you break it, you buy it.” Sort of, anyway. The warmongering politicians (of both parties — yes, I’m looking at you, Mrs. Clinton) do the breaking and stick us with the check, then we spend money cleaning up after them too. Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria … make no mistake about it, the “refugee crisis” is THEIR mess.

And finally, yes, it sticks in my craw to hear those same “bomb’em all, let God sort’em out” demagogues turn on a dime and grandstand on an over-hyped danger fantasy over letting a handful of their victims escape the American-made carnage and make a fresh start in America itself. If God is just, there’s a very warm corner of hell for that particular variety of hypocrite.

So there are my three complaints: The US role in creating the problem, the hypocrisy among the foremost cheerleaders for creating the problem, and running the additional expense of making very small amends for the problem through those same warmonger tax-and-spenders.

Enough complaining, Tom — how about a solution! Hey, as it happens, I have one.

Let’s assume reasonable expenses for helping 10,000 refugees get to the US, settle in and become productive immigrants. How about $100,000 each, just to be on the safe high side? (Note: I’m omitting the cost of security theater “vetting”  — let the War Party nutjobs pay for that nonsense out of THEIR own pockets)

$100,000 times 10,000 is, lemme hit my calculator … one billion dollars. Call it $3.50 per American citizen.

The US Department of “Defense” spends more than that EVERY DAY busting up the places these people are fleeing from, so it really wouldn’t be a major budget item, would it? But I still think letting the government handle it is a bad idea.

We’re a giving nation. I don’t see any problem with rounding up a billion dollars through our churches and other charitable institutions. That would come to $14 from my family of four. Heck,  we’ll go $21. Donald Trump’s and Marco Rubio’s shares are on us, just to deprive them of excuses for more drama queen antics.

So how about it? Who else is in?

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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