The Washington Institute has sponsored a series of discussions about sudden succession in the Middle East. Each session focuses on scenarios that might unfold if a specific ruler or leader departed the scene tomorrow. This essay sets the scene by asking whether a major leader’s departure is necessarily history-changing. Martin Kramer examines past cases of unexpected departures of twentieth-century regional leaders, in Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia. He suggests that the impact depends mostly on where the hand of fate interrupts the leader’s career. Paradoxically, the more successful a leader has been in realizing his larger goals, the less consequential his exit.
The career of Bernard Lewis was punctuated by three wars: World War II, the Cold War, and what he himself called “the crisis of Islam.” The article seeks to demonstrate that for Lewis, these wars formed a continuum, the common thread being the struggle to defend freedom and democracy against the forces of tyranny.
Bernard Lewis, historian of the Middle East, was widely misunderstood. But no other person in our time has done as much to inform and influence the West's view of the Islamic world and the Middle East.
The author recalls his long friendship with the late Shabtai Teveth, renowned journalist and the biographer of David Ben-Gurion. Teveth, largely unknown to younger readers, may have been the first to challenge the excesses of the “new historians," and his work deserves to be rediscovered.
Much maligned for his truth-telling about Arab political culture, Fouad Ajami became the bête noire of the Middle East studies establishment. Some went so far as to call him “pro-Israel,” even a “Likudnik.” The author knew Ajami from his student days, and often assisted him on his visits to Israel. The article sets the record straight on Israel in Ajami’s worldview.
Barry Rubin, analyst of the Middle East, followed an improbable journey, from a radical of the 1960s American left, to a hard-nosed Israeli critic of Arab politics and U.S. policy. Martin Kramer recalls his long friendship with Rubin, and traces the stages in his evolution as an intellect and scholar.
A study of Muhammad Asad, a European Jewish convert to Islam, who played a prominent role in mid-20th-century Muslim intellectual life, as a thinker and Qur'an translator. The study places him in his political context, with some emphasis on the impact of his Jewish origins.
A biography of Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah, often identified as the "spiritual leader" of the Lebanese Shiite movement Hizbullah, covering his rise to influence, his political ideas, and his religious concepts.
An impressive array of scholars, biographers, and critics from the disciplines of anthropology, history, political science, and psychology explore the diversity of approaches both to writing biography and to reading self-narratives.