From Austin Bay’s response to Fouad Ajami’s essay on Syria as the final stage of the Cold War. I’ve always felt as Bay below, no, this is the last act of World War 1 and the resolution of all that was left undone with the Ottoman Empire.
The current Syrian revolt, the entire Arab Spring phenomenon, and for that matter, the Cold War share a sobering (and I suggest more explanatory) origin: World War I, the Great War. Four authoritarian empires fell in that conflagration: the Ottoman Turk, the German (Hohenzollern), the Austro-Hungarian (Habsburg) and the Russian Romanov. The Western Front slaughterhouse damaged France and Britain; though decolonization came decades later, the democratic imperialists never really recovered. What to do with all the imperial fragments? The Nazis, exploiting German grievances with World War I's outcome, tried to create a super German empire, but lost. The Soviets did resurrect the Russian empire, and extended it, until 1991. Gone forever? As Ajami noted, Putin exhibits commissar tendencies. He is not above creating an empire with an authoritarian sword.