I read this in Harvard Mag, the essay of an Islamic scholar, but his point was this: what's going on in the MIddle East is not what you think. It's really a conflict between Muslim "protestants" and "catholics," (not Shia and Sunni, not "moderate" and "extremist"). The west, he argued, is really on the fringes of this conflict, since it is not Muslim.
What the US is doing, with Afghanistan and Iraq, and the escalation, with encouraging the Ethiopians in Somalia, is attempting to put our thumb on the scale. The effect, in most cases is exactly the opposite of our intent: opposition by Muslims who may not like the "protestants" but who like foreign, western, Christian intervention even less.
Of course the US has its own reasons...
which I went into in the previous post: the massive oil reserves (made accessible by the future oil law) and markets generally.
The point, however, of seeing the chaos of the Middle East through this lens, is that the US really has little to do with the conflict, and that most of our military efforts will end up being counter-productive.
What we should be doing is letting the chips fall where they may, but not giving up on penetrating these markets with our consumer goods and our ideas.
What we are doing now is de-stabilizing, not only with our armed interventions, but by making it necessary for virtually every state and failed state to be heavily armed to protect itself--from us, first of all. Of course that creates markets for our defense industry, but it does not redound to our ultimate interest.
I remember discovering that the Viet Cong armed themselves from the supplies we gave the South Vietnamese. Well, if we continue to tromp all over the region with our weapons, we can expect to see more and more of them used against us. And against those we might want as friends.
Better to just get out, let the defense contractors go broke, and sell the Arabs I-pods. I-pods would be a much more effective counter to "the protestants" than any number of bombers, fighters, machine guns and tanks.