You know, I usually have a sharp radar for overdone current events allegories, but I didn't notice this one. You're right, it is a little too close. But yes, Martin's refusal to ignore the wake of his characters' warpaths is one of his best qualities.
It also seemed too on-the-nose current event-wise, with its foreign invader bogged down in a desert-ish land by a disgruntled populace and an insurgent war. ...I still don't think it works well for the flow of the story, but I do appreciate how Martin does not let his readers or characters ignore the messes they make.
Yeah, now that I think about it more, I think he does work well as the sweet young idealist with big hero dreams who gets crushed unceremoniously, even though he's got a lot of things going for him: earnesty, innocence, and determination. I suppose book 6 will tell us more.
For me, Quentyn Martell worked better. He serves as a contrast to Dany (and maybe also Bran) as a character who, despite being guided by idealism, personal integrity, birthright, political cunning (not his own, unfortunately), and even prophecy ("the blood of the dragon", perhaps), fails completely. He might even serve an important role in advancing the plot--not dragon-wise (poor guy), but in delivering his friends to Meereen (I have a feeling we'll see Drink and the big man again).
I guess most of my frustration was about the regression of Dany. I hadn't really thought her character was capable of the kind of swooning that happens in this book. But maybe Martin has done this so that her resolve will strengthen in a different direction toward the conclusion. She begins to think more and more like a Westeros queen in this book, which was an interesting twist. I guess I was hoping for Dany the Barbarian in this installment.
Re: Dany the Barbarian, me too. She seemed to be just closing in on full-throttle "waking the dragon" territory, and then it all kind of fell to pieces. I guess she already had the compassion and strength needed for a queen of the Seven Kingdoms, but what she needed was temperance and wisdom, since she had lost or driven away nearly everyone who could cultivate it in her. She is only a "young girl" after all, and nothing can replace the experience of seeing one's own city burnt to a crisp by one's own dragons. It's basically Robert's reign (or Aerys's) writ in brief.