A reader writes:

I agree with your main point, but the line
In fact, recent events suggest a move backwards as the entropy of the Arab and Muslim world reasserts itself.
suggests a Tom Friedman-style derogation of Arabs and Muslims and a lazy analysis to boot.  Isn't it more a case of the continuing fallout from Britain's creation of an artificial state designed to be perpetually at war with itself? (Yet another reason why many of us who hated Saddam still thought the war was a really bad idea.)  
 
Is the never-ending fight of the Sunnis and the Shiias and the Kurds to rule their own lands with no influence from foreign tribes any different from what's going on in Israel?  Or Ireland?  The entropy of religious and nationalist extremism reasserts itself everywhere.

Yes it does, and I was too glib in that throw-away.

My point is that in most regions of the world, the rare experience of a liberal state that tries to counteract the atavistic impulses of fundamentalism, tribalism and sectarianism is entirely absent. These pathologies are human pathologies, not just Muslim or Arab ones. But with no real tradition of liberalism to counter them, the struggle is quixotic. Look at how sectarian America now is! If the country of Jefferson gave us Palin, the rest of the world seems worthy of cold-eyed realism before we declare freedom on the march. If we haven't learned that these past few years, we have learned nothing,

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