I’ve been reading up on the history of the Middle East, trying to find out why I keep seeing pictures of people just before they’re beheaded.
Trying to reconcile scant memories of the Iran/Iraq war in the 1980s with more recent knowledge of two Gulf Wars, the Arab Spring and ISIS has been the mental equivalent of trying to herd cats.
I grew up in a house where news was constantly consumed – the Six O’Clock News on the BBC, the ITN News at Ten, the then Portsmouth Evening News, naturally, and then a Sunday paper.
But even with all that information over the past 30 years, ask me what’s going on in the Middle East and why and I’m stumped.
I’m not afraid to admit it. I actually think more of us should hold up our hands and say we haven’t got the first clue about the fighting, why we have to step in and why we’re breeding jihadis in Portsmouth.
As I write, MPs are spending hours debating what the RAF has known is coming for weeks – to join the US in bombing ISIS targets, probably mostly Syria.
That we are already at war with ISIS is not in question. Killing Western hostages in the most public and brutal ways is designed to get us to do the very thing we are doing – formally declare war by hitting back.
But is it really the answer? Can there be any answer? These conflicts have been raging for centuries and we’ve been meddling in them for just as long.
From what I’ve been reading our meddling leads to more meddling, which lead to escalations.
For example, after the second Gulf War the Iraqi army was reduced to trying to sever all ties to Sadaam Hussein’s Baath Party, of which many soldiers were members.
But those trained and redundant soldiers joined insurgent groups like ISIS and now we get to fight them all over again.
Perhaps it’s not just me who needs to go back to school. It might be better for everyone if we all did and actually understood what we should be doing in the long term rather than lurching from one battle to another.