Opinion

Be informed about the world around you

An editorial from the Parkersburg News and Sentinel 

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — While it may not be the best idea to talk about politics or religion around the table Thursday, it will be impossible to avoid both entirely, if the conversation turns to ISIS and Syria. Those who find themselves tempted to expound on the topics would do well to dig in to a little research before digging into the turkey.

Do not take the word of a few talking heads – of any political leaning. For example, speaking of Turkey, why would that country feel threatened enough to shoot down a Russian fighter jet Tuesday?

What does Russia have to do with all this, anyway? For that matter, what is the U.S.’s stake in the region?

Who is Bashar al-Assad? Who are his supporters? And how has U.S. support (or not) of him evolved?

What is the difference between an immigrant and refugee? And what, exactly, has Congress said about the U.S. policy on Syrian refugees?

How does any politician’s – including President Barack Obama’s – rhetoric on the matter stand up to fact-checking?

What are the U.S. military and Central Intelligence Agency doing in the area? How long have they been there? And what has been the result of their action?

Who is Ayatollah Ali Khamenei? What role has he played?

What is ISIS? Why do some politicians call it ISIL? For whom and against what do they say they are fighting?

What is the difference between a Sunni and Shia Muslim?

How old (ancient?) are the divisions we see at play?

What other players are in the game? What about al-Qaida and Hezbollah? The Kurds? What do Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Israel, Iraq or the other countries in the region have to say about it all?

Why attack France, Mali or Tunisia?

Why would Pope Francis call this “piecemeal World War III?”

Speaking of World Wars, what are the lessons from history we should be applying to our thinking on this?

Becoming informed on these questions is not easy. Even the most educated scholars dedicated to studying the region and its turmoil have difficulty unraveling it all.

But those who wish to deliver informed opinions will take a little time to learn more. Those who wish only to emulate Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in delivering zingy soundbites will not be bothered.

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