Ignorance vs. Reason: Aleppo and a Vote for Gary Johnson

By JD McCloud:

Gary Johnson’s gaffe of showing ignorance about Aleppo, Syria, is not enough to justify not casting a vote for him for President of the United States.

Two of my colleagues, one a retired military officer and the other a small business owner, have commented to me how ridiculous it is that Gary Johnson did not know the significance of Aleppo. When I expressed my thoughts about Johnson relative to Clinton and Trump, I was met with incredulity by these colleagues. How could I, an educated and intelligent human being, seriously consider supporting a presidential candidate with such a (seemingly) limited grasp of geography? The implicit assumption communicated to me by my colleagues was that since Johnson had to be reminded of the significance of Aleppo (on air, no less!), then he is obviously unfit to receive support for the U.S. presidency.

Both of these colleagues are very well educated, and both have a wealth of life experiences. One is a staunch Clinton supporter; the other will likely vote for Trump. However, my colleagues’ reasoning in this matter is flawed. The premise of their disdain for Johnson, relative to the support they give their respective candidates, is not sound. Therefore, the objection to casting a vote for Johnson on the grounds that he was unaware (at least, momentarily) of the importance of Aleppo is unsound.

First off, let us, as (purportedly) reasonable people, consider the inanity of the current this-versus-that/right-versus-wrong/my-candidate-is-better-than-your-candidate environment for public discourse. If my personal opinions are assumed to be always in conflict with yours, then every conversation we may have will be adversarial in nature. If I see you in an adversarial light, then my behavior towards you will be deliberately designed to achieve some measure of victory over you; and vice versa. Such an environment is self-perpetuating (if I don’t win, I lose; so, I must win over and over) and polarizing (if you’re not with me, you’re against me). Such behavior is not the intellectual, mutually respectful treatment among equal parties; but the interaction of superior and inferior. And such is the stuff of tyranny.

Next, consider that no U.S. president considers and makes decisions in a vacuum. The preparation, discussion, and deliberation leading up to a presidential decision is very much a team effort. Since 1939, each U.S. President has been supported not only by the members of his Cabinet, but also by the support structure organized within the Executive Office of the President (EOP). Together, the Cabinet and the EOP constitute a wealth of expertise and (arguably) well-informed opinion. Dozens of counselors, advisers, thought leaders, and subject matter experts are gainfully employed in ensuring the President has the best information, insight, and context available when a decision is needed.

Certainly, we do not want an imbecile sitting in the Office of the President. Yet, we would be foolish to think that any person voted into our highest office would not be ignorant in some form or fashion regarding the myriad issues that would require presidential attention.

Consider also that foreign policy has not been as prominent a campaign and debate topic as has been the case in some prior election years. Thus, the impetus to remain on the spot with such information has been largely absent this time around. Indeed, the main party candidates have spent more time denigrating each other than they have in publicly describing the details of their policy positions. (At least, this has been the perception portrayed through most media sources.)

Finally, if the fact that Gary Johnson showed on-air ignorance of an epicenter of a politically charged conflict is believed to be sufficient to divert a voter to one of the main party candidates (Clinton or Trump), then by the same single-fact-decision-making thought process a voter should be equally unwilling to vote for Clinton or Trump. Consider that both Clinton and Trump have come under federal investigative scrutiny during the current presidential race.

If Johnson’s ignorance of a particular point on a map is enough not to vote for him, then the investigations of Clinton and of Trump is enough to refrain from supporting either of them with a vote.

Where does that leave us? We will know soon enough. I am keeping my fingers crossed that we will all make reasonable and defensible choices on November 8th.

Jeremiah D. McCloud is an OpsLens Contributor and former U.S. Marine Corps intelligence officer.  McCloud spent nearly four years as an enlisted Marine, then attended the U.S. Naval Academy where he earned a BS in International Relations.  McCloud deployed to Afghanistan, and has since acquired an MBA from the University of Virginia in International Business and Communications.

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