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