Friday, 4 November 2016

Shermineh Salehi Esmati: Monarchal Questions

The monarchical rule is a system of influence where the authority of a crown is inherited to lead the state, not the government. In particular, the Arab Spring showed the resilience of Monarchies when the negative impact on republics had a far more detrimental impact. There are differing arguments as to why monarchies largely stay intact but do not consider the near success of social revolutions in Bahrain. To argue regimes are exceptional due to an innate feature of cultural inheritance or institutional destiny pre-determines long-term outcomes. Prospect for a popular revolution in Arab kingdoms will remain slim as long as leaders continue to
maintain broad-based coalitions, secure access to hydrocarbon rents, and enjoy support from foreign patrons. 

When analyzing the argument made in support of monarchial ability to bring regional stability it is necessary to assess J.J Waldron’s article for the Spectator, “Why the Middle East needs more kings.”  He argues that monarchal leaders are the best antidote to fighting off dangerous none state actors such as “ISIS” like in the good old days.Interestingly, the article attacks American military influence within MENA and throws support behind British monarchial influence in the past that according to Waldron, benefited countries includes Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, and Libya. To make a fair assessment of Waldron’s claim, it is necessary to reflect on the current national security disasters that the mentioned countries are presently enduring despite British monarchial influence to this day.

By focusing on the argument that political stability is provided by monarchical states it suggests durability and integrity of regime that reduces levels of amount of violence, terrorism and improves economic prospects for the people. When considering the question as to whether monarchies provide for greater stability than other regimes within a region, one must acknowledge observations of scholars including Professor’s Gregory Gause III and Victor Menaldo. Despite being on opposite sides of the argument, the two acknowledge the existence of cultural legitimacy and dynastic institutions. Nevertheless, regardless of disagreement both scholars made legitimate arguments however Gause honest approach to colonial influence in designing superficial monarchal Arab dynasties prove the approach has not worked in the long term within the MENA region, evident when studying cultural legitimacy and dynastic institutions. Although Menaldo is correct that old tribal families have managed to maintain a level of stability, it does not go beyond the nation’s borders, therefore, in this case, Gause makes a more appropriate assessment. 


The term cultural legitimacy is where the bedrock of a people’s identity solidifies a space in the world permitting a member to exercise power through influence. In an article titled “Resilient Royals” Professor Gregory Grause III states that the argument in support of monarchial cultural legitimacy does not hold since there is much evidence where royal authorities failed is recent history when looking at Egypt (1952), Tunisia (1957), Iraq (1958), North Yemen (1962), South Arabia (1967) and Libya (1969). The Professor identifies a strong point that intrinsic legitimacy must mean the royal is respected to such a degree the throne is untouchable and due visionary tendencies no opposition leader can outwit the King. Another important fact highlighted by Gause is that Arabs within MENA are not all Muslim or of tribal descent. Peoples of sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia are evidence that Muslim tribal societies can transition away from monarchism and towards democratization. Gause well framed his argument when stating, 

“We cannot reason from the absence of revolution to the presence of legitimacy, for by this measure any and every regime must be legitimate unless overthrown.” In truth, Arab royals stem from organized colonial efforts to create superficial King’s in order to wield regional influence from afar. 
In contrast, Menaldo took the position of the advocate arguing that tribalism provides cultural legitimacy of monarchal governments. He argues that “—these societies have been composed, since time immemorial, of nomadic and seminomadic pastoralists, organized intro tributes and clans that have had an outside role in brokering a long-distance trade.” It is argued that certain tribes deserve present government influence since the ancestors created the nation's fundamental trade system, as shown with the Berbers who controlled the trans-Saharan trade between the Maghreb and Sahel. 

Tribal families have the right to be viewed as royals as seen with Al Khalifa of Bahrain, Al Nuhayyan UAE or Al Thani in Qatar. Menaldo went further to make the argument more convincing by generating a variable called Agricultural Legacy, the time elapsed since the Neolithic Revolution weighted by soil quality. Waldron will likely support the statistical scientific analysis Menaldo found that longer history of settled agriculture are more likely to sustain larger populations today and a larger population may be more conducive to political instability. The legacy of settled agriculture in former monarchies as in Libya bear a greater resemblance to surviving monarchies than to countries that always have been republics. Again, Waldron’s argument is similar, yet both do not consider the region as a whole or the present mess that has overtaken society. Monarchs are still in positions in influence to some degree in all these post-monarchal British made nations yet the problem persists and these scholars are not hitting the root issue.  


Dynastic institutions provide a system of government in which a sequence of rulers is derived from the same family, group, or stock. Both Gause and Menaldo discussed the problem with dynasticism in Bahrain concerning its destabilizing impact on the nation. He made the valid point that those who argue in favor of dynastic rule need to study the Gulf region as a whole, where ruling houses fill top spots like an assembly line whether in bureaucracy, security or the economic sector. As a result, the monarch is confined to the interests of relatives and pressure for change. In the case of King Hamad in 2011, the major opposition petitioned that he appoint a new cabinet. It was the influential hardline relatives including his prime minister and military chief whose rejection of the concession had the greatest impact. The effort backfired on the monarch and his family when protests escalated to end the family dynastic leadership. Over a hundred-thousand Bahrainis marched in protest, a significant proportion when considering the population of 570,000. 

In contrast to Gause argument, in Professor Victor A. Menaldo’s “The Middle East and North Africa’s Resilient Monarchs” he brings attention to Myerson and Weingast theory of how monarchies succeed in sustaining a political culture by spreading the families authority across sectors. Menaldo reasoned the success of MENA monarchs credited, “the successful dissemination of political culture by MENA monarchs has been possible by their ability to publicize their regimes norms and information about adherence to them.” According to Menaldo, the analysis by Myerson proves that monarchal efforts to produce gathering places provides a shared acknowledgement of the ruling group members and its norms with the existence of institutions that make it easier for the elites to gather be seen and observe the monarchs actions which allow the elites to create common knowledge among their own. 
A “shared gathering place” is important for national stability but the argument like Waldron’s claims monarchies can stabilize the entire region yet these separate kingships have shown little evidence of working together to ensure the Arab people across borders feel secure politically and economically. Today when looking at GCC states despite being led mostly by royals these countries are highly competitive among themselves and do not make an effort to use any grain of knowledge provided by the British who shaped the governments. The problem within Arab nations cannot be fixed by ancient tribal rulers if there is not a cohesive effort made by all king’s to work together in an honest democratic fashion for mutual benefit. Furthermore, the argument here claims that dynasticism creates political stability and legitimacy amongst citizens who seek economic stability. 

All the more, despite disagreement both scholars, made legitimate arguments however Gause honest approach to colonial influence in designing superficial monarchal Arab dynasties prove the approach has not worked in the long term within the MENA region, evident when studying cultural legitimacy and dynastic institutions. Although Menaldo is correct that old tribal families have managed to maintain a level of stability, it does not go beyond the nation’s borders, therefore, in this case, Gause makes a more appropriate assessment. Furthermore, Waldon’s argument much like Menaldo do not answer the question on regional stability since Arab kingships designed by British colonial efforts have shown more evidence of competition with neighboring states than making an effort to ensure mutual benefit from peace and stability across borders. Further research must spend less time blaming the west and more effort in changing the mindset of power driven king’s in the MENA region. 

Gause Gregory, “Resilient Royals” How Arab Monarchies Hang On.” Project Muse. Journal of Democracy, Volume 23. PP4
 Menaldo Victor, “The Middle East and North Africa’s Resilient Monarchs” Research Gate. The Journal of Politics. July 2012
 Menaldo Victor, The Journal of Politics. July 2012. Pp6