Not all of it is the result of armed intervention. Two pillars of stability in the region, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are on the verge of a potentially generational change in leadership, and of course the result is alarmism. In some ways I take a contrarian view of the Middle East: It’s neither as important nor as “on the brink” as it’s consistently portrayed. There’s a sometimes abrupt and sometimes gradual ebb and flow between violence and enmity on the one hand and hard-nosed realism and treachery on the other, all of which makes for a much more fluid strategic environment than we usually portray. Compare three regional snapshots — one in 1970, one in 1990 and one in 2010 — and you’ll see what I mean. And if you reduce the timespans between them — to, say, 1975-1985-1995-2005 — the contrast is perhaps even more striking.
In the post-Mubarak/Abdullah era, some things will change, others will stay the same. And we will probably have a much smaller impact in determining which is which than we would like to believe.