Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell on Tuesday that being able to “dot the I’s and cross the T’s on foreign leaders and geographical locations” allows leaders “to put our military in harm’s way.”
Johnson was responding to questions about his recent foreign-policy gaffes, including one last month, in which he asked “What is Aleppo?” when asked about the war in Syria, and another in a more recent conversation with Chris Matthews when he could not name a single world leader he admired.
“You know, when it comes to talking about a foreign leader that you admire, I have a hard time with that one,” Johnson told Mitchell on Tuesday. “That’s politics. That’s just who I am … maybe I think too much.”
Mitchell responded that Johnson was running to be commander-in-chief and that knowing how to answer such questions was “part of the portfolio.”
Johnson replied that “the fact that somebody can dot the I’s and cross the T’s on a foreign leader or geographic location then allows them to put our military in harm’s way.”
“We put our military in this horrible situation where we go in and support regime change,” he said. “They get involved in civil wars where hundreds of thousands of innocent people are in a cross-fire … we’re literally shooting at ourselves because we support both sides of a conflict. Syria is an example.”
Johnson was referring to the periodic violence that has erupted between Syria’s Arab opposition fighters and the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces, both of which are supported by the US.
“We wonder why our men and servicewomen suffer from PSD [sic] in the first place,” Johnson continued. “It’s because we elect people who can dot the I’s and cross the T’s on these names and geographic locations, as opposed to the underlying philosophy, which is, ‘Let’s stop getting involved in these regime changes.'”
Mitchell then asked Johnson whether there was “any level of engagement that would be justified.”
“What if Aleppo were falling and genocide were being – even worse genocide were taking place there?” Mitchell asked. “Would you intervene if you were president of the United States?”
“If we are attacked,” Johnson replied, “we’re going to attack back.” He added, however, that “when we involve ourselves in regime change – Syria, Libya, Iraq – there are unintended consequences.”
“We always go in because there are atrocities being committed,” he said. “Genocide being committed. These are horrible situations. But I can’t think of one example where we get involved where we make that horrible situation any better. In most cases, we make things worse, and I pose Syria right now as an example of that. We are contributing – we have contributed to making that situation worse.”