The former Governor of New Mexico and Libertarian candidate for President of the United States Gary Johnson is catching flak this morning for his ignorance pertaining to Foreign Policy.
When asked in an MSNBC interview how he would handle the deteriorating humanitarian situation and the escalating military conflict in Aleppo, Syria the governor responded: “what is Aleppo?”
Gary Johnson may be forgiven for not knowing what the frontline neighborhoods in the war for Aleppo are (the artillery college and Ramouseh district), or not knowing that the prewar population of Aleppo was estimated at roughly 2.5 million, making it the largest city in Syria before the war.
Not knowing of the existence of the city of Aleppo in any capacity, however, was met with a stunned reaction.
So here it is, Gary Johnson. A brief overview of Aleppo. What Aleppo is, and what it was.
Before the war in Syria began, Aleppo was a colorful mosaic, a gathering point for people from all of Syria’s many religions. Christians and Muslims harmoniously lived side-by-side, appreciating and even enjoying one another. it was more than tolerance, it was acceptance. Almost no English word can describe what Aleppo means to its people and the people of Syria.
The Christian Connection
After the Ottoman Turks began their genocide of Christians (Assyrians/Syriacs, Armenians, Greeks) in 1914–many fled to Aleppo, finding refuge amongst the hospitable Halabi (Aleppan) population. It was a refuge for those forced out of their homes, and over time, became the largest and most industrious city in Syria. Large factories churned out textiles in the industrial district, small craftsman and businesses could sell their wares throughout the Arab world and beyond. Aleppo was a large, modern city with a thriving nightlife of sheesha and song. A place where tourists could come to enjoy the monuments and archaeology of the many civilizations that helped develop it.
The War for Aleppo
When the war in Syria broke out; when armed men began showing up to peaceful protests, shooting at police officers and calling for an Islamic State in Syria, Aleppo was left largely spared from the increasing violence and sectarianism. Spared from protest itself. It remained neutral over the demonstrations, and categorically opposed to a “revolution”, especially of an Islamist nature. They paid dearly for their decision.
in mid-2012, with the war raging across Syria, now an armed conflict, it became the mission of Islamist terrorists to make Aleppo suffer for not joining their Jihad.
Terrorists and guns infiltrated Syria through the open border Turkey allowed them. They rounded up rural peasants from the countryside of Idleb province, and marched into Aleppo, exacting retribution, looting, burning, and occupying East Aleppo.
In those panicked moments before the rebels came to town, many packed up what they could and fled. others remained, some unwilling to give up on their home, others unable to.
The divide between East Aleppo where an estimated 300k civilians live under terrorist occupation and West Aleppo where at least 700k civilians live has solidified, but the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) backed by the air force and its allies have managed to reconquer large swaths of the city, and encircle the rebels of East Aleppo.
The city was never divided before 2012, but today, on both sides, for both people, the war been a humanitarian disaster. The economic opportunity the city afforded has collapsed, the price and scarcity of food and water are high, and electricity can go off for weeks at a time. It can be very difficult to access the internet or make phone calls to family. Tens of thousands have been killed. Bullet holes line the cities buildings. Snipers are positioned, ready to shoot at anyone in sight. Rockets are lobbied constantly on West Aleppo, especially the Christian populations.
Aleppo did not ask to be destroyed. Aleppo did not ask for an armed takeover or to be the Stalingrad of Syria, but that is what it has become. The American media has been happy to portray only one side of the civilian misery as a result of this unwanted conflict, always putting the rebels in the best light and the government in the worst.
It is hoped by many who follow events in Aleppo that eventually the encirclement will lead to a peace deal where rebels will be permitted to leave the city unharmed, like deals that have happened in other cities in Syria. But the proxy militias seem determined to not fail, and their external allies in the Gulf and Turkey are only too happy to fuel the conflict with more money and weapons anytime it looks like the city may be liberated.
Maybe that it what Governor Gary Johnson should focus his Libertarian foreign policy in Syria on; halting America’s support for proxy militias in a nation and a city that America has no vital interests in except to destabilize it in cooperation with its radical allies.