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.
Many believe that the 1916 Anglo-French partition of the Ottoman Empire, known as the Sykes-Picot agreement, was a precursor to the Balfour Declaration. To the contrary: Zionists regarded it as "fatal" to their plans, and they worked to undermine it. The Balfour Declaration negated Sykes-Picot, and superseded it.
In The War on Error, historian and political analyst Martin Kramer presents a series of case studies, some based on pathfinding research and others on provocative analysis, that correct misinformation clouding the public’s understanding of the Middle East. He also offers a forensic exploration of how misinformation arises and becomes “fact.”
The book is divided into five themes: Orientalism and Middle Eastern studies, a prime casualty of the culture wars; Islamism, massively misrepresented by apologists; Arab politics, a generator of disappointing surprises; Israeli history, manipulated by reckless revisionists; and American Jews and Israel, the subject of irrational fantasies. Kramer shows how error permeates the debate over each of these themes, creating distorted images that cause policy failures.
Kramer approaches questions in the spirit of a relentless fact-checker. Did Israeli troops massacre Palestinian Arabs in Lydda in July 1948? Was the bestseller Exodus hatched by an advertising executive? Did Martin Luther King, Jr., describe anti-Zionism as antisemitism? Did a major post-9/11 documentary film deliberately distort the history of Islam? Did Israel push the United States into the Iraq War? Kramer also questions paradigms—the “Arab Spring,” the map of the Middle East, and linkage. Along the way, he amasses new evidence, exposes carelessness, and provides definitive answers.
In a changing Middle East, some argue that Israel should align itself with the region's minorities. Martin Kramer warns against the reliance on the weakest elements in the region, which are more likely to drain Israeli power than enhance it.