What is Aleppo? The question we should ask ourselves
The reputable MSNBC show “Morning Joe” had the privilege of interviewing Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson on Sept. 8. The opportunity for Johnson to make clear his stance on the issue of foreign policy should he be elected president this November was too perfect, as the previous day a terrible gas attack was unleashed in Aleppo, Syria, causing at least 120 people to become gravely ill and killing at least three civilians.
“Morning Joe” host Mike Barnicle asked Johnson what he would do about Aleppo if he were president.
Johnson’s response: “What is Aleppo?”
After Barnicle explained that Aleppo is the “epicenter of the [Syrian] refugee crisis,” Johnson merely responded that Syria is “a mess” and the only way to clean it up is to diplomatically “join hands with Russia.”
The former Republican governor of New Mexico officially won the POTUS nominee for the Libertarian ticket in May of this year. While he has been putting up a fairly reasonable fight as a third party candidate against the two powerhouses, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and former secretary of state and current Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, there has been a lot of speculation on how his ratings would be affected after his embarrassing lack of knowledge on foreign policy.
An NBC political poll from Sept. 5–11 of this year (the Aleppo incident and Johnson interview falling at the midway point) showed that his stance remained at a solid 11 percent of support from voters on national average. However, a more recent poll (Sept. 11–13) from The New York Times shows his overall score having dropped slighting, rounding off at 8 percent, leaving him 33 points behind Trump and 34 behind Clinton.
Aleppo is the largest city in Syria, the latest census (2004) putting its population steadily around 2.1 million. Due to the continuous civil war and the large number of people fleeing the country, a more recent and accurate estimate is not possible.
Syria, as a whole, has seen a severe decrease in the last three years alone, its population dwindling to just 18 million from an average of 23 million.
Johnson can be chastised for his lack of knowledge on the Sept. 7 bombing of Aleppo only because of his political status. Naturally, as a candidate for the presidency of a country with such dire connections to the rest of the world, the public would expect him to know of such newsworthy events. But the general population of the United States probably didn’t know what Aleppo was before this incident, either.
The bombing, which, according to a BBC news report, left four dead and upwards of 120 injured, employed the use of chlorine gas. Many of the injured civilians were children and elderly citizens. One casualty, 13-year-old Hajer Kyali, had her home hit directly and did not succumb to her burns and breathing troubles until several hours later.
Chlorine is the active ingredient in common household bleach, while also being used in insecticides, disinfectants, plastics and sanitation solutions. As it is such a common industrial chemical, it has been banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention.
In November of last year, six consecutive bombings took place around Paris. The tragic and unexpected ISIL attack left 120 dead and hundreds more injured. It immediately provoked a global response of support, love and oneness, particularly with the “We Stand With Paris” movement that swept international news and social media.
Why, then, is nothing being done of the same nature for Aleppo? Why is there no “We Stand With Aleppo” movement?
It boils down to a global epidemic that plagues many industrial countries: ethnocentrism.
Ethnocentrism (believing one’s culture is superior to others) has a long history, ranging from the Crusades, to Nazi Germany, to countless acts of imperialism, terrorism and hate crimes. It is an ancient concept that still infects the minds of citizens around the world, each for their own belief system.
There is no denying that certain countries (such as Russia, Japan or the United States) believe their way is the way. They believe that if the rest of the world (or at least more parts of it) were like them, the world itself would be happier and more habitable. And of course the Middle East, always raging with conflict and war, has various forms of chaotic ethnocentrism.
That is why Syria is such a war zone: too many groups of too many people, both foreign and domestic, trying to gain control, push their views.
There will never be peace in the Middle East. It is a war-strewn area built on blood and conflict. We can’t gain anything from them, and we can’t help them, so what’s the point? Paris is full of innocent people who did not expect that diabolical attack. Is that why we stand with them? Is that also why we don’t stand with Aleppo, because they’re used to it?
Aleppo is too ripped apart by so many forms of ethnocentrism; there’s nothing we can do to help. They’re not as important as Paris. They’re less than us.
Though he hadn’t heard of the bombing of Aleppo, Johnson did have this to say during his MSNBC interview about Syria in general: “It’s a mess and I think the only way to deal with Syria is to join hands with Russia, to diplomatically bring that to an end…This is a result of regime change that we ended up supporting, and inevitably these regime changes have led to a less safe world.”
Similarly, last November, Johnson stated that we (the United States) need to “stop replacing bad guys with less-bad guys,” and that we have a sort of responsibility to help Syria at large by taking “our share of refugees; not too many, but not zero.”
When considering the ideals of ethnocentrism, perhaps the public shouldn’t be so rattled that Johnson didn’t know what Aleppo was. Nothing he has said has reflected that he would intend to further interfere with Syria by pushing American ways on them.
Maybe, in his own way, Johnson is standing with Aleppo. If nothing else, this interview debacle has brought the tragedy of the Syrian city a lot of attention.
Hopefully this will spark a global movement that Aleppo, all of Syria, or anywhere in the world plagued by war and death and destruction needs the support we gave Paris. We are all equal. No one country is any better than another.
Ethnocentrism cannot exist in a world we strive to have peace in.
Rob Francis is a contributing writer for The Spectator. He can be reached at email@example.com.