What's Aleppo?

Gary Johnson, being quizzed by 3 hostile journalists, was asked (out of the blue) "What about Aleppo?" He responded with "What's ... Aleppo?" Negative 10 points for tired and misunderstanding a question. When clarified, he went on to say that our attempts at regime change in Syria made matters worse. Transcript here.

Negative 20 points to the media for turning the question into "Where is Aleppo", editing off the front and back of the hostile interview, and talking up their misrepresentation as Governor Johnson's ignorance. 4 (or 8) years of Trump (far worse than negative points) to the American voters who let agenda-driven media do their thinking for them.

What's Aleppo?

Aleppo is the former capital of the Aleppo (arabic: Halab) province. It was the west end of the Silk Road, and very wealthy until world trade moved to the oceans. After that, it remained the governing center of a rich agricultural region, which produces most of the world's pistachios. It was conquered by the Ottoman empire and remained part of that loose confederation until the weak empire was forced into the losing side of World War One.

After that awful war (which killed my grandmother's brother), the Ottoman empire was taken apart by the British-French Sykes-Picot agreement to become the Balkan states, Iraq and Palestine (owned by the British), and Syria and Lebanon (owned by the French). A small remnant of the empire became Turkey.

Aleppo province was dismembered; the northern half went to Turkey, some of it to the French colony of Lebanon, and the rest (including the city of Aleppo) went to the French colony of Syria. The residents of 1923 Aleppo had zero influence on this decision. Syria became independent on 24 October 1945. The Ba'ath Party took power in 1963, and its president Hafez al-Assad ruled until 2000, when his son Bashar al-Assad took over.

In 2012, civil war broke out, and Aleppo was split between pro-Ba'ath government forces, the Syrian Democratic Forces, and ISIL. Perhaps 32,000 were killed, and many more fled the war-ravaged city. Perhaps 400,000 have died in the nationwide civil war.

Perhaps 1.7 million have died in the Afghan war, 1.6 million in central Africa, 500,000 in the Somali Civil War, and millions of others have died of conflicts around the world over the last decade.

By comparison, perhaps 5 million Americans died of smoking over the last decade, and 6 million died from watching television and consuming the unhealthy products advertised.

Where is Aleppo?

Glad you asked (unlike Governor Johnson, who asked what). Aleppo's Great Mosque is at 36.199N, 37.157E, which serves as the center of this mostly-Muslim city. It is long, long way away from anything that matters to most Americans.


km from Aleppo

Turkish Border


The northern half of Aleppo/Halab is in Turkey

Russian Khmeimim Air Base



Yes, Syria invites Russian military bases

Incirlik Air Base



US military base with tactical nuclear weapons

Russian Tartus Naval Depot






National Capital




National Capital




Nearest domestic Russian Air Force base


Saudi Arabia








The ultimate source of the problem

cutoff for who cares?

Hanscom Air Force Base, MA

United States


Nearest domestic US Air Force base

Washington, DC

United States


Portland, OR

United States


Los Angeles, CA

United States


Farthest US city > 10 million people

Buenos Aires



Farthest city > 10 million people

Hilo, HI

United States


Farthest US urban area

Naalehu, HI

United States


Farthest US town


New Zealand


Farthest city > 1 million people

Pape'ete, Tahiti

French Polynesia


Farthest urban area

Ahurei, Rapa Island

French Polynesia


Farthest town

Russia is much closer to Syria, and has strong ties to Syria's current government. Let the Russians fight and die there. After they lose 14,000 soldiers like they did in Afghanistan, they will go home and change leadership. We do not need to follow their footsteps (the leadership change would be nice, though).

Central Ottoman Empire, 1900


Note that Halab province was much larger than Damascus province, and that Aleppo was a much larger and more important city than Damascus. The political reranking was a French idea.

More than half of Halab province was taken by Turkey.

Note that Dar Az Zawr (Deir ez-Zor) is Syria's most eastern city. A botched US airstrike in September 2016 that killed 62 Syrian Army soldiers resulted in ISIS taking the city.

This map is modified from a wikipedia map (in Latvian) of the Ottoman empire in 1900.

Aleppo - The Rise and Fall of Syria's Great Merchant City

Philip Mansel, 2016, 956.91 M286a 2016

I read the first third of the book, a compressed history of the city of Aleppo in the context of the Malmuk and Ottoman empires, followed by the rapid changes stemming from 20th century European wars. Aleppo "peaked" as the inland western terminus of the Silk Road; its seaport Iskenderun (aka Alexandretta, 160 km NW) was bombarded or invaded by Europeans, but Aleppo was relatively safe, a major cosmopolitan city with many peacefully coexisting ethnic groups, religions, and foreign consulates, where the deals were made and goods were transshipped from camel caravans to the short journey to and from Iskenderun. In the 19th and early 20th century, Europeans did light manufacturing in the outskirts of the city.

Aleppines emigrated to the rest of the world - US, South America, elsewhere - expanding Aleppo's trading sphere. But World War 1 changed this from expansion to flight; Aleppo was no longer a safe and profitable place to be. Aleppo was repeatedly conquered by invading British and French armies; the Ottomans took the north half of the province (including the Iskenderun seaport) from French Syria in 1938. IMHO, this is when Aleppo ceased to be economically viable, degenerating from one of Islam's three greatest cities (along with Istanbul/Constantinople and Cairo) to the hub of a small agricultural zone. Emigration turned into a flood.

The Al-Assad dynasty dictatorship in Damascus led to the destruction of Aleppo, with the final war beginning in 2011, sputtering to an ignominious end as I write this; nobody left to kill with barrel bombs dropped from helicopters. The refugees of the region are following their relatives out into the world, though it may take a generation for the last millions to be absorbed. There will still be a small, impoverished city named Aleppo, sharing only a name with the great trading center of the previous millennium. The more enlightened receiving nations will winnow the refugees, absorbing the spirit of trade and tolerance that created the old Aleppo. The rest of the refugees may perish in camps and slums. Tolerance and cooperation can build great cities; hatred and isolation destroys them. The US should welcome the best into our own country and decision-making councils (before others get them) to immunize ourselves against self-destruction; it can indeed happen here.

Definitions of unexplained words in the text

WhatsAleppo (last edited 2017-09-24 20:33:38 by KeithLofstrom)