Source material

Chris, in a comment to my post on Syria, Strategy, and Policy, asked me about what I look at for source material. While both Cervantes and BobS weighed in with some good recommendations, I promised I’d put something up for Chris yesterday. This has slipped to today. I’m going to break this into three parts and actually start with the final third.

A lot of my research and analytical work is done using open source resources. When I do this type of work I’m basically relying on targeted key word searches that lead me to source material. I then vet that source material in several ways. First, I try to vet the author and the outlet. So if its on a blog or some other form of commentary site, I’m looking to see if I can identify the author and determine if they actually know anything about what they’re talking about and what, if any, biases I can determine. I’m also looking for links to related material at every source I’m looking at. For two reasons: 1) as documentation/citation for what I’m reading and 2) to widen my source material pool as I’m working my way through the subject search. I’m also constantly bookmarking and saving links to potential material that I might possibly need in the future. So that’s a portion of how I go about looking for, finding, and vetting source material. I go where the search takes me, vet continuously, and work the links in the sources I’m finding. The kind of work I do requires me to basically live in information overload, so I do.

So now back to the first third. For news sources, as in straight news reporting and not commentary, I largely avoid US news media. Rather than CNN or FOX or ABC or etc, I prefer the BBC, al Jazeera English, Agency France Press, the Guardian. I will use the AP and Reuters wires, as well as the Christian Science Monitor and McClatchy. For long form reporting I’ve found that the best stuff seems to be at Harpers, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Pro Publica, the New Yorker, and likely several others I’m forgetting. Overall, however, I tend to avoid initial straight news reporting from the US news media. Some of this goes out the window when I doing open source research and analysis. So if, while doing that, the best source is CNN or Time, I’ll use it. So that’s an important caveat.

In the middle third I understood Chris to be asking about material pertaining to the Middle East. I have several go to sites that I like to start with depending on the issue. These include Juan Cole’s Informed Comment (full disclosure: I’ve guest written a couple of posts for Professor Cole, specifically back in 2008 and 2009 shortly after I got back from Iraq) and COL Lang’s Sic Semper Tyrannis (full disclosure for those not paying attention: I used to be a front pager there and COL Lang helped train me). One of my favorite sites regarding the Middle East is Jadaliyya. Great site, interesting and informative material across a variety of topics. I also like to use the Middle East Monitor and for Israel-Palestinian specific issues +927 Magazine. I’ve also used the National AE, as well as Haaretz. A great site, that I actually used a lot when deployed to Iraq to get a good overview, is Musings on Iraq. The Al Monitor is very useful as they provide good translations of reports from Middle Eastern news sources. There are other sources that I use, but I don’t think we need to belabor this.

And that, as they say, is that. I know I promised to do something about the Levantine drought and I’ll try to get that up tomorrow. Everyone have a great night! Or evening for those of you in Mountain, Pacific, or points farther west.

35 replies
  1. 1
    Corner Stone says:

    Adam, I love you and all but…damn nation, son.

  2. 2
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Corner Stone: I read the Nation when there’s something I want to read. The above isn’t meant to be exhaustive. Or was that short for damnation as in the state of being damned? Because I just stepped on your last nerve.

  3. 3
    sharl says:

    Adam, do you think there would be much to gain if you could read Arabic? It’s always been my impression that learning that language is usually a daunting task for those of us raised speaking English and other Western languages. At the same time, I’ve also read that a deep understanding of Arabic cultures is greatly facilitated by understanding the language.

  4. 4
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @sharl: I used to be functional in Arabic and fluent in Hebrew (started Hebrew first and its basically super simplified Arabic anyway). I haven’t really had much reason to use them for a long time, so I rely on translation or I spend a lot of time with a dictionary, a lexicon, and a grammar text getting a migraine…

  5. 5
    sharl says:

    @Adam L Silverman: In thinking about it further, I guess it makes sense that – to the extent you communicate directly with Iraqi tribal groups – that would be more via conversational Arabic. There is probably little need to read Arabic texts, unless you need original sources for history or background that have not been translated previously.

  6. 6
    srv says:

    While John’s cousin Juan is OK, I pretty much consider RT to be the only non-biased source on Obama’s foreign policy idiotology.

    You liberals will never understand, but you might ask yourself what single media platform actually broadcasts Chomsky.

    Seriously, ask yourself, “how many times has Chomsky been on Maddow?”

    The answer is less than zero.

  7. 7
    sharl says:


    The answer is less than zero.

    What does a negative number mean in the context of your overall thesis? It must mean that Maddow comes onto Chomsky’s show. How might one see/hear this show hosted by Chomsky? Why have we not heard about this before?

    The libs demand answers!

  8. 8
    sharl says:

    Returning to Adam’s post, that Musings On Iraq blog is run by a guy (Joel Wing) who seems to be pretty passionate and dedicated to writing in detail about what’s going on in Iraq. If you like maps, scroll down and you’ll see a bunch on the right. Collectively they tell a story, though often a pretty grim one (e.g., the ethnic cleansing in Baghdad in the aftermath of our Glorious Invasion).

  9. 9
    Redshift says:


    I pretty much consider RT to be the only non-biased source on Obama’s foreign policy idiotology.

    Since the modern conservative definition of “biased” is “disagrees with conservative orthodoxy,” it’s not too hard to see why you’d consider RT “non-biased.”

  10. 10
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @srv: A bit of trivia about John’s cousin, his given name is John R. Cole.

  11. 11
    srv says:

    @BillinGlendaleCA: omg. Juan is self-loathing?

    The circle is complete.

  12. 12
    piratedan7 says:

    man… the things you find on the internet… here’s an Evangelion/Beat Farmers mashup

  13. 13
    raven says:

    13 posts since 11:30, wtf-k?

  14. 14
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @raven: I guess everybody’s sleeping.

  15. 15
    satby says:

    Site was down a while last night.

  16. 16
    satby says:

    I also avoid US media if I want information, especially about anying international. I used to rely on the BBC but I have really enjoyed al Jazeera’s longer deep dives on subjects.

  17. 17
    raven says:

    @satby: Ah, I hit it @ 10 so I was “in the dark”!

  18. 18
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @satby: aJ does impressive work.

  19. 19
    satby says:

    @raven: Seemed to happen about 11:30, but I hadn’t been on before that. 5 minutes later it was still down so I just went to sleep too.

  20. 20
    satby says:

    I’m wondering if the paucity of comments also means people are locked out of commenting somehow?

  21. 21
    NotMax says:


    Nothin’ much to say other than that the sinuses are doing a fandango after I did some lawn mowing today just ahead of the rain.

  22. 22
    satby says:

    @NotMax: feel better soon! I wake up sinus-y every morning now that I sleep in the “dogs room”. I had my allergies so well controlled, but part of that was no animals in my bedroom.

  23. 23
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @satby: The site wasn’t down much more than 5 minutes, but it was pretty unstable yesterday evening.

  24. 24
    MomSense says:


    I had a busy “day off” yesterday. Too many chores. I was ready for bed at 730 but that was embarrassing so I managed to stay up until 8.

    Adam, I have found poets to be excellent sources of information. This may sound strange to Americans but poets and poetry are revered. Any time I see interviews or lectures, I try to listen.
    The publications links at universities like AUB and AUC are also helpful. I really miss the old shortwave radio days when I could tune in to broadcasts from all over the world. My language skills have deteriorated rapidly since.

  25. 25
    satby says:

    @BillinGlendaleCA: That’s about all the time I gave it, I needed to get to sleep anyway. Some nights I drop off in the middle of a mclaren comment. Works like a charm.

  26. 26
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @satby: I’m okay now but that will end as soon as I get to work. I open windows but it doesn’t help much. Not really sure what to do.

  27. 27
    mikefromArlington says:

    Hi Adam. You might find this blog useful.

    Good reporting on the region

  28. 28
    Cervantes says:


    You liberals will never understand, but you might ask yourself what single media platform actually broadcasts Chomsky.

    Democracy Now?

  29. 29
  30. 30
    Cervantes says:

    I know I promised to do something about the Levantine drought and I’ll try to get that up tomorrow.

    Hidden depths, Dr. Silverman, hidden depths.

  31. 31
    Cervantes says:

    Via @srv:

    Nursultan Nazarbayev […] has poured huge sums of his ill-begotten wealth back into Washington DC and London to pay off politicians, academics, think-tanks, and media hacks to lie about what a wonderful reformer he is and what a great place Kazakhstan is turning out to be—they also get paid to attack and undermine human rights advocates who report unpleasant truths about what goes on there

    Entirely true.

  32. 32
    Sherparick says:

    @Cervantes: That is about it. I disagree with Chomsky a lot (frankly most things since he takes the America is the root of all evil to the point that other nations and their leaders are as much ciphers and non-actors as they are in the fevered dreams of the Neocons) And he has not had any influence on American political life since the early seventies. But it is a shame that no MSM would interview him, or Chris Hedges, or Tom Engelhardt, or Naomi Klein (with the exception of perhaps Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow and how much longer I doubt) or put them on a panel while at the same time Bill Bloody Kristol is spouting from my TV whenever I turn the damn thing on (which is less and less often). In my opinion, the reason the U.S. has “no strategy” for Syria is very simple. We don’t have have any fundamental interest in the place. Assad and his Father ruled the place for 50 years and it did not affect the U.S. one iota except to the extent Russia felt it had to lean on us to hold Israel back in the 1973 war. Further, Assad’s Dad became an “an ally in the 1990-91 war against Saddam, actually sending an armor division to Saudi Arabia which took part in the “liberation of Kuwait.” Due to a combination of factors (a terrible drought that ruined the small farmer economy, the Iraq war and influx of Sunni refugees, embittered Iraqi Baath officials who had an enduring hatred Assad Alawite Baath Governing Syria, being the deepest underlying causes, and the active work of Saudi and other Sunni state Intelligence agencies working to undermine a Alawite/Shiite regime that Government broke down. But the U.S. had no interest in sustaining Assad (for debatable reasons within Russia, Russia perceives that it does since Assad is long time client) and we don’t have an interest in seeing that regime replaced by a militant Sunni regime, always the most likely alternative. If we wanted a pro-Western regime, we should have supported the French in maintaining Syria and Lebanon as French colonies, because the only way to do it now is the American colony model which worked so well in Iraq (not).

  33. 33
    Cervantes says:


    I disagree with Chomsky a lot (frankly most things since he takes the America is the root of all evil to the point that other nations and their leaders are as much ciphers and non-actors as they are in the fevered dreams of the Neocons) And he has not had any influence on American political life since the early hours seventies.

    I can’t tell if you want to discuss the above, or if it’s a purely axiomatic prelude to the rest of your comment. If the former, you should elaborate.

  34. 34
    mikefromArlington says:

    I enjoy exiled online but that spastic character assassination of Faust sure seemed way over the top. I followed a few of the links. While some support his claims, others don’t. There is something else going on behind his lashing out at Faust. Anyways, the blog is legit, regardless of what Ames is trying to prove .

  35. 35
    Sam says:

    @Sherparick: there is also the small fact that all of our interventions in the last 14 years have been decidedly ineffective. Our interest map keeps growing. Afghanistan in 2001, Iraq/Afghanistan 2003, Syria, iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Libya in 2015. Lord savw my country from middle East interventions. We had one interest in Syria: getting rid of the chemical weapons. Done, or mostly done.

    It seems hideously complicated but it really isn’t: a lot of people in the middle East, none of whom like America or American culture, are fighting each other for reasons that have nothing to do with us. As the global hegemon, we cannot stand the thought that we are irrelevant to these conflicts, so we try to make ourselves relevant, and always have a malign impact.

    Yep, I study this, been deployed, all of that crap. I know the tribes, confessions, political currents, etc. All completely unimportant to us national interests. We just have a hard time accepting it.

    So: stop even thinking about the middle East and enjoy life is my motto.

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