If the events in Ukraine are to appear as more than a series of disconnected events, you really must take the long view. So if you want to understand why it looked last night as though war was about to break out in the Crimea, perhaps take a look at this piece of analysis by Stratfor. It's a company that focuses on geography and history to explain what is happening in the world. Stratfor makes its money by signing up paying subscribers, but makes some of its work freely available. The book from which this is taken, The next hundred years, is also worth reading.
I've sat through enough town hall meetings to know why people - especially students - ask why we bother (a question I readily concede I have asked myself a number of times).
Here's a good example of why it is worth it.
Some elected members have a tendency to forget they are speaking in public forums and suffer from the something that can afflict us all - the-foot-in-mouth-syndrome.
And sometimes we are grateful they suffer such lapses.