The news podcast Media Matters, with Bob McChesney had as a guest historian Juan Cole of the University of Michigan, who is a specialist in the Middle-East. One can directly read Juan Cole's updates in his thoughts about the region if one follows his website JuanCole.com which has the simple form of public emails containing assorted remarks. Aside from more breadth, much more depth is to be found there than in the podcast.
In the podcast, McChesney tried to get Professor Cole to explain the Middle-East to the average American. Relatively much time was dedicated to Iraq and Afghanistan. While the assessment is certainly worth listening to, Cole necessarily, because of the time constraints is forced to paint with crude brush strokes. It results in inapt representation of facts, for example sorting the Iraqi populace into categories Shii, Sunni and Kurd - mixing religious denomination with ethnic. Maybe it works for all practical purposes, but adds as much as it takes away from ignorance.
When there are a mere six minutes left in the show (it is, after all broadcast on radio) Israel and Palestine are rushed through the ether. How much can one say to inform the public in six minutes about a complicated issue? I had a feeling Cole got wasted on an effort to discuss too much in too diluted a way. Still a worthwhile show, but really this should be an initial step towards more investigation to get the records straight and some real insight in.
Previously about Media Matters: