In today's Wall Street Journal (subs. req'd), Robert Kaplan alternates between endorsing the need for a complete shake-up of the Middle Eastern political map and criticising George W. Bush for failing to think through the consequences of his efforts at this task. But the overall tone is one of crisis=progress, even allowing for Bush's lack of foresight. This extends to the benefits of an aggressive Tehran, which he argues is making Sunni Arab states more aware of the need for change; perhaps therefore he implicitly claims that Bush's call for a boycott of last year's Iranian presidential election, which helped elect Ahmadinejad, was actually a good thing.
But there is a strange element to the argument -- that not only are we witnessing the final breakup of the Ottoman Empire, which was bound to be messy, but:
Europe's recent past should warn us about the Middle East: Recall the violence that ensued when authoritarian regimes unraveled in the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, where populations were divided on the basis of sect and ethnicity, and kept poor by a mafia state socialism. The states closest to Central Europe, blessed by the enlightened imperial legacy of the Prussian and Hapsburg empires, have enjoyed a much easier transition to democratic rule than those under the rule of the Ottoman Turks.
Note the mix-and-match of time horizons. The Turks get blamed for an empire that they dumped in 1920, but the Germans and Austrians get the credit for 19th century institutions that came into play only in the 1990s. Wasn't there some other stuff originating from Germany and Austria between those periods?