With the over reaction to the cartoons, the Islamists have been able to achieve what they have not before. They have now been able to frame this conflict as that between the west and Islam, a clash of civilization. While many have believed this to be happening already, most responsible international leaders have avoided this context. After 911 Bush acknowledged a war against Middle Eastern terrorism, but he took great care not to make it a war against Muslims. In Afghanistan the US fought against fundamentalists. In Iraq the US fought against totalitarianism to bring democracy, rather than against Islamofascism. After the London bombing Blair was equally cautious not to be provoked and drawn into the clash of civilizations.
From the Islamist stand point, 911 has to be seen as a failure because while it did strike at the US heart, it failed to muster a global Muslim Jihad against the West. Worse, it ignited a US response to come into the Middle East. In Spain, while 311 likely cause a change in the electoral outcome and subsequent Spanish withdrawal from Iraq, this was at best a military tactical victory rather than a strategic victory. The Muslim streets remain silent.
But when Newsweek publishes reports that the US had flushed the Koran down the toilet, there were voices of protests and denunciation in the Muslim streets. Anyone watching could have seen that more than acts of terrorism; this was a more effective mean to mobilize the Muslim streets. Unfortunately for them, but fortunately for the West, the furor quickly abated; most likely due to that quickly reported error of the report, and that there were no accountable eyewitnesses.
But with the cartoons, especially with the additions of 2-3 fake ones, all could see for themselves. The Koran forbids idolatry; it does not forbid depictions of Muhammed himself. But this hardly matter, that line is fuzzy and can be glossed over by the Islamists. By conflagrating the fire, the Islamists intentionally are fueling the flames of the Muslim streets. Through these cartoons, the Islamists have been able to play up and highlight that the West are infidels and that Muslims are victimized. Time for righteous actions!
However, the West, especially Europe and her appeasing ways, do have limits. Freedom of speech is one of the most cherished values and freedoms, far beyond any particular ideology. I do not believe that even Europe would be so quick to give this up. To do so would mean the end of Europe as we know it. The Islamist will continue to push their agenda until it is too late for Europe. But if Europe holds, then the Islamist will continue onward, and add this as another grievance suffered upon the faithful. There is no satisfactions until war brings them dominion or defeat (which they do not believe possible).
Dominion is their goal. Terrorism was a favored mean that may be falling out of favor, as it alienate too many Muslims. So now they are playing the religious persecution card by ways of a public relation war.