One particularly important aspect of the Jyllands-Posten cartoon controversy that has been mentioned less often than I think it should be is the reaction of the various governments in the middle east. As the Danish embassy in Beirut was being burned, Lebanon's interior minister resigned because he did not want to order the use of arms against Lebanese to stop the torchings. Also notable are the mad rantings of Iran's most powerful official, who has found in the publication of the cartoons a Zionist conspiracy (surprise, surprise!).
These people simply cannot be trusted to think or behave rationally. I'm optimistic about the ultimate effects of the cartoon controversy, because I believe that it shows the nonrational, mad behaviour of fundamentalists and leaders in the Middle East pretty clearly. Ultimately, it is of no consequence to world history whether a few Danish embassies were torched; however, whether Iran has a nuclear weapon is of great consequence. The expected costs of an air strike on Iran designed to destroy their nuclear program - the lives lost, Iran's retaliation (which could make things more difficult for the US in Iraq) - pale with the expected cost of letting the mad fundamentalists ruling Iran posess nuclear weapons (and the missiles to deliver them).