How do I become an informed citizen of the world?
May 3, 2011 10:59 AM Subscribe
What's the best neutral, digestible, comprehensive primer to politics in the Middle East?
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis to Society & Culture (13 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
A book or essay would be nice if it's not too dense, but a documentary or something like a TED talk would be even better for a general audience who might be intimidated by a long read.
I'm particularly looking for something that unclouds the waters of the American ethos. Most people I know couldn't distinguish Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan; for them the Arabic world is one big homogeneous desert full of burqa-wearing terrorists. I'm tired of my own ignorance about this stuff, but that's hard to overcome when my culture assumes everyone knows the truth while obfuscating all details about it.
I'm really hoping to find a clear breakdown of the different governments' policies, along with various other groups in the news (Hamas, Hezbollah, al Qaeda, the Taliban, etc.) and their ideologies. I hear that the United States actually installed people like Saddam Hussein and the Iranian Shah, and that the CIA created al-Qaeda and distributed weapons to terror groups. I'd like some concrete facts to clarify these accusations. Help me understand the different sects of Islam (I know they're not all the same but I couldn't list them or contrast their doctrines). I want to know why terrorists do what they do apart from "they hate us for our freedom." Bin Laden released statements and videos over the years, but the content of these was glossed over by the media. I assume there's a manifesto in there that probably shouldn't have been ignored but was. Some reason why certain groups are regarding him as a martyred hero instead of a mass-murdering villain.
I'd like to see a timeline of Middle Eastern history that doesn't begin on 9/11/01. I'd like to see clearly defined goals of the U.S. military on each of its campaigns, apart from "spreading democracy" or "stabilizing the region." I've heard the death toll of innocent civilians numbers in the tens of thousands — has there been any explanation for this by the American government? Surely they have some justification?
What about natural resources? Who owns the Middle Eastern oil fields and what is their relationship with western governments? How much personal involvement does the U.S. military have with those fields, and what exactly are they doing? I've heard reports that Afghanistan's poppy fields are similarly desired by the U.S. but I don't understand how such a thing isn't precluded by the War on Drugs. What's actually going on?
Sorry if I sound biased... a lot of what I said above is just what I've heard through the grapevine, which is a terrible place to glean information about important things. I am biased but I really shouldn't be, until I've got a better grasp on the situation. I also know that I've asked a ton of questions about a wide range of topics. I don't want you to answer them here, please just point me to good sources of information.
I only want verifiable facts with attribution. I don't want anything that's pro- or anti- America, Islam, or has any other bias. All opinions should be clearly marked as such. Speculation should be avoided. I simply want objective information about what's happening in that part of the world, without anyone telling me whose side I should be on. I'm trying to avoid controversy; if a "fact" is controversial it's probably not a fact (and thus not what I'm looking for here). If facts about something simply aren't available, I'd like to know why that is, and what's being done to change that.
The more I look into the Middle East, the more aware I become of how complicated it is. The more effective a resource is at uncomplicating things, the better. I don't want to spend months buried in research, I just want an overview that's good at breaking things down for regular Joes who want to be informed.