One thing I think affects us here in the U.S. - and has the effect of violently skewing our perspective on the wars we have been fighting since the end of WW2 - is the degree to which our government, and to an extent, our military and diplomatic arms, have figured out how to control and when in their interests spin the accounts we read of those wars.
Nir Rosen has just released a book about his view of the war in Iraq. One of the few non-embedded journos in the U.S.-occupied Middle East, Rosen has connections inside the Arab/Muslim world that we seldom hear from our news media. Obviously he has his biases, just as Tom Engelhardt, Tom Ricks and Michael Yon have theirs, but his biases are a bit useful in coming from what the British used to call "the other side of the hill".
I don't think that anyone reading here will be shocked that Rosen's account suggests that the U.S., while effective in subduing the Sunni muj (who in many cases were coopted not as much by the fear of American power as the fear of the Shia ratissage that would follow the departure of American power...) and the Sadrist Shia nationalists, seem to have neither a plan for nor a clue as to what will emerge from the wreckage. But there's knowing something and really knowing it, and I highly recommend Rosen's work (I've already gotten through the first chapter) as a window into the really terrifying complexity of the reality we have had such a large hand in creating.
Worth getting on your Christmas list..!