A couple of months ago the press tsk-tsked Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for president, after he blew an MSNBC interview: How, he was asked, would he deal with the refugee crisis in the war-wracked Syrian city of Aleppo?
“What is Aleppo?” Johnson answered, revealing his lack of knowledge about the Middle East. This seemed appalling for one who seeks the presidency, but to his credit Johnson admitted his fault, promising to learn more about the region.
The episode savaged his reputation, wrecked his chances for inclusion in the presidential candidate debates.
It also illustrates the wrenching complexity of issues for those who seek to lead the nation or represent its broad constituencies in legislative chambers. The Middle East is no quick study. The region fractured with religious and tribal conflict rooted in centuries of unrest and upheaval; the lessons from meddling in the area have never been learned – not by the Romans, Mongolians, Turks, Italians, Germans, British, Dutch and, of late, Russians and Americans – to name a few.
The situation is so confangled that even the New York Times has a difficult time keeping things straight. Following a report on Johnson’s mishap, the Times issued a correction, saying it had earlier “misidentified Aleppo as the de facto capital of the Islamic State. In fact, it is Raqqa.
That was quickly followed by another correction: “An earlier version of the above correction misidentified the Syrian capital as Aleppo. It is Damascus.”
At last, settled.
– JOHN MARSHALL