We sit here in one of the richest enclaves of the richest country in the history of the world and we argue over issues that are important to us: our economy, our taxes, sometimes even the underlying philosophy of how to govern our country. In the grand scheme of the world we are still the great experiment in governance and I am so happy and so proud to be participating in the debate. And I say that as a former Brit and now naturalized American.
But I want to take time today to draw our collective attention to a proud people wracked by what the Red Cross has recently declared to be a civil war. A people whose current concerns are survival itself, a people who would yearn for the luxury of being able to debate, as we do, in civil terms about their future. The country is Syria and the site of the most intense conflict is the second largest and the foremost economic center of that country - Aleppo.
My interest? What could that be? As Neville Chamberlain said, so cravenly and shamefully of Czechoslovakia in 1938, "it is, after all, a far away country of which we know so little." We do indeed know little of Syria and even less of Aleppo. I, on the other hand, heard of Aleppo 60 years ago, when I was but 5 years old. I've never been there and I've never been to Syria but it is vivid in my mind for this reason: my father was posted there in 1941 with the RAF and would tell stories of those happy times. Happy? Only because the purpose of his posting to Aleppo was never fulfilled and because he got to know and like the people. His task was to radio back to Damascus if the "Axis hordes" came down through Syria to cut off the British Empire from its access to the "Jewel in the Crown", India. He was expendable and he knew it but he did his duty because he knew he was fighting in a just war and he made sure his children understood this elemental point about war, violence and its justified purpose.
Those armies never came, my father survived and he was posted back to "Blighty." But the people he knew in Aleppo and their descendants are now fighting for their lives and resisting tyranny. Mostly Sunni, they are battling an Allawite minority led by BasharAl-Assad. What should be our concern as Americans and what are our interests? Space does not permit me to expound though I have much to say about the role of Russia and China in the Security Council and about the extent to which the US should intervene in any foreign conflict. It is known that the CIA is involved and it is also known that we are planning for a post-Assad Syria but I would argue for more anti-tank and anti-aircraft support and above all for more humanitarian aid. We must admit, however, sadly, that the "rebels" in this conflict are doubtless not enlightened Jeffersonian democrats. The most that can be said for them is that they are representatives of the majority in their country.
Beyond that? Have sympathy with me for the ordinary citizens of Aleppo. Nice people. People my father loved and told me about when I was a boy.