The countless woes of the Middle East are complex and, as we've seen, utterly confounding to Western meddlers. In my previous career I found that the line about not being able to see the forest for the trees is often very true. Sometimes when you step back you see amazing things you missed by looking too closely. I think we're doing a bit of that in the M.E.
How can Western nations hope to bring peace to the M.E. so long as there are powerful undercurrents of conflict that are not being addressed? Here's one: Sunni versus Shia Muslims. That's a problem that isn't isolated to Iraq but reaches across the Islamic world. It erupts, periodically, into clashes such as the Iraq/Iran war, but it always simmers in the background adding a dimension of inchoate conflict that can make solving other issues vastly more complicated, even impossible.
Just how much can we achieve until this dispute is resolved? Better yet, is there anything we can do to help or force these sects to find peace between themselves? There has been a lot of bad blood and distrust between them that continues, even on a national level, today.
Our hopes for democracy to flourish in the Muslim world are probably unrealistic until internal problems such as these are brought under control. Remember, our own democracy didn't really take hold until we were able to find enough common ground among ourselves.