Figure out is probably the wrong word. I don't like the idea of trying to figure out something like that, because that kind of implies that I want to look it at it just long enough to plop a nice little label on it, or maybe if it's really complex a summary statement, and then file it away. Probably the better attitude to have is to see yourself as constantly gathering information, but with no delusion that it's ever going to be summed up and filed away.
Turns out though, this kind of thing isn't really an area where I feel confident about my ability to gather information. International relations was my least favorite of the Intro to Poli Sci course series, despite being taught by a guy with an awesome Bulgarian accent (it is possible that the guy himself was awesome, and the Bulgarian accent was just awesome by association, but there's no real scientific way to test that)...I didn't like all the talk of war and death.* So I didn't take any upper division IR classes. My bloggers aren't exactly a huge amount of help either. Turns out, when I go to theatlantic.com's international page, despite the fact that Atlantic bloggers make up a big bulk of my reading...it's mostly articles by people I don't read regularly. Or people I used to read, but stopped, because I was finding I wasn't really all that interested in their viewpoint. (James Fallows would be the exception, but Northern Africa isn't exactly his specialty and he's writing a book right now anyways.) It might be interesting to consider why that is, and how information gathering works in general...but that isn't really the point of this post. Maybe I'll tackle that later.
Anyways, all that is to say that I'm only managing to barely sift through this, but I did want to share two articles that I did find pretty useful:
I am still completely and utterly without useful opinions
*see also, reasons why I will never be able to successfully write a fantasy novel