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What is Aleppo? Where is the grace?

Credit: Sputnik via APShakespeare thought "To be or not to be?" was the question, but Gary Johnson had a different question. The Libertarian presidential candidate was visibly stumped Thursday morning on an open-ended question about the Syrian civil war. Asked on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" what he would do about Aleppo—the major Syrian city that has been a stronghold for opposition forces and under siege by Bashar Assad's government—Johnson responded: "And what is Aleppo?"

Journalist Mike Barnicle responded, "You're kidding." Johnson was not. "Aleppo is in Syria. … It's the epicenter of the refugee crisis," Barnicle responded. "Okay, got it," Johnson said, and went on to call Syria a "mess."

Following the interview, the Johnson campaign responded, saying: "This morning, I began my day by setting aside any doubt that I'm human. Yes, I understand the dynamics of the Syrian conflict — I talk about them every day." Continuing, Johnson noted: "But hit with 'What about Aleppo?' I immediately was thinking about an acronym, not the Syrian conflict. I blanked. It happens, and it will happen again during the course of this campaign."

Johnson has been rising in the polls as of late. Former Republican candidate Mitt Romney just yesterday called for Johnson and his vice presidential candidate Bill Weld to be included in the fall debates. To qualify, they need to be polling at fifteen percent. Currently they are at ten.

Seeking to reassure voters and potential supporters, Johnson concluded: "Can I name every city in Syria? No. Should I have identified Aleppo? Yes. Do I understand its significance? Yes," he said.

If the past is any indication, Johnson answered his understanding of the significance question correctly. He agreed with Republican nominee Donald Trump when he said that President Obama founded ISIS. However, slightly distancing himself from Trump, Johnson added that President Obama did so "unintentionally." Speaking to MSNBC, Johnson said: "It wasn't intentional, but you can't make it up. When they go in and they support the opposition in Libya and Syria, and the opposition is aligned with ISIS, and we arm the opposition and they lose those arms to ISIS, unintentionally."

Speaking about Syria in the context of regime changes, Johnson noted two months ago: "In my lifetime I can't think of one example of regime change making things better." In the Military Times, Johnson went on to add: "I get incensed over politicians that beat their chest over going out to fight terrorism at the cost of our servicemen and women."

Johnson represents the Libertarian party, which declares itself as a party that maximizes freedom and minimizes government. Concerning foreign policy, the party platform reads:

"American foreign policy should seek an America at peace with the world. Our foreign policy should emphasize defense against attack from abroad and enhance the likelihood of peace by avoiding foreign entanglements. We would end the current US government policy of foreign intervention, including military and economic aid . . . We condemn the use of force, and especially the use of terrorism, against the innocent, regardless of whether such acts are committed by governments or by political or revolutionary groups."

Johnson describes himself not as an isolationist, but as a non-interventionist. His campaign website highlights the need to build a strong military, but continues, "We should not use our military strength to try to solve the world's problems. Doing so creates new enemies and perpetual war. Besides, we have enough problems to solve right here at home."

I think we all would agree with Johnson that we have many problems right here at home. But I think we could also agree that we have an exceptional home and a unique responsibility to the world. Our problems at home should not preclude us from addressing, to varying degrees, the problems around the world.

Ronald Reagan noted: "It is up to us in our time to choose, and choose wisely, between the hard but necessary task of preserving peace and freedom, and the temptation to ignore our duty and blindly hope for the best while the enemies of freedom grow stronger day by day."

To whom much is given, much is expected. Gary Johnson was given much support from the Libertarian party, thus it thrust him onto the television screen this morning. However, he failed to meet expectations concerning answers about Aleppo. But just as Johnson was given much support, Christians have been given much grace. As those who are intimately acquainted with their faults and lavished in God's forgiving grace, it is expected that we not only receive grace, but extend grace. Both to Gary Johnson and the 6.5 million Syrian refugees.

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