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.