Seven Black Swans in the Middle East

From the Yom Kippur War to the Arab Spring, events considered impossible happen in the Middle East with unusual frequency. Here are seven; when will the eighth appear?

Protestors gathering on November 25, 2011 in Cairo, Egypt in one of the early protests of the Arab Spring. Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images.

Protestors gathering on November 25, 2011 in Cairo, Egypt in one of the early protests of the Arab Spring. Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images.

Observation
Sept. 24 2019
About the author

Martin Kramer teaches Middle Eastern history and served as founding president at Shalem College in Jerusalem, and is the Koret distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.


The subject of strategic surprise is a large one, and it has inspired a fair amount of theoretical literature. The following catalogue isn’t intended as a contribution to theory. It is the evidence behind my personal observation that, for as long as I have studied the Middle East, all of the profoundly formative events have been “black swans,” imagined or predicted by almost no one. For an expert, that’s humbling (or should be).

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More about: Middle East, Politics & Current Affairs