What are the sources of simmering hostility toward America that helped fuel these demonstrations?

Protesters gather outside the U.S. embassy in London. (Reuters)

As the Muslim protests subside, more and more people have come to realize that what seems to have sparked them--one of the worst YouTube videos ever, which is saying something--isn't what they were mainly about.

But what were they about? Here theories differ, and some of the best theories haven't been getting much attention, because they're not on the talking-points agendas of Democrats or Republicans--which means they won't be occupying much airtime on network or cable TV during an election campaign.

Ross Douthat, writing in Sunday's New York Times, embraces a theory that's true insofar as it goes: these protests often got a boost from local political jostling. For example, in Egypt the struggle "between the Muslim Brotherhood and its more-Islamist-than-thou rivals" is what led those rivals (Salafis) to call protestors onto the streets.

Fine, but since people aren't sheep (though they sometimes do a good imitation), we have to ask why the protestors responded to such calls in Egypt and elsewhere--and why sometimes the crowds swelled.