Introduction: explaining the dynamics of “monarchic peace”

Almost half a century ago, Huntington seemed convinced that authoritarian monarchies were a thing of the past, claiming that the "future of the existing traditional monarchies is bleak.... The key questions concern simply the scope of the violence of their demise and who wields the violence” (Huntington 1968, 191). The "king's dilemma” (cf. also: Huntington 1966) became the new paradigm in authoritarianism research: the monarch's choice was only between increasing repression or increasing irrelevance. Huntington’s quote embodies the sentiment that the word "monarchy” often invokes to this day - “an anachronism in the modern world of nations” (Hudson 1977, 166) that is likely to disappear soon. In light of waves of democratization and the founding of new states as republics, they seem to be relics of the “Zeitgeist of an earlier era” (Maddy-Weizmann 2000, 37). Such an ancient and obsolete form of government may seem a fitting topic for historians and nostalgic audiences but hardly relevant to the politics of the modem world in the 21st century.

Yet this peculiar type of political system has survived in one region in particular: the Middle East and North Africa, the home of eight of about 15 remaining authoritarian monarchies worldwide (Friske 2008). In this region, almost half of all states are monarchies - from Morocco in the utmost west of North Africa to Oman on the Persian Gulf in the east.

The transformation of the region following the Arab Spring has reignited popular and scholarly interest in this group of states, because they proved remarkably resilient in contrast to their republican neighbors. No monarch was overthrown amid the disturbances that brought down four (or five, including both regime changes in Egypt) presidents, with another one fighting in a vicious civil war in Syria to conserve his rule.

While scholars have focused on the monarchies’ seemingly unique resilience, they have so far overlooked an even-more-puzzling feature of monarchic foreign policy: monarchies in the Middle East do not wage war against each other. However, they sometimes go to war against other types of states. These patterns mirror those found in the foreign policy of a different group of political systems: democracies.

How can the fact that there has not been a single case of interstate war between monarchies in a region so highly accustomed to military conflict be explained?

After all, the Middle East witnessed 11 major interstate wars since 1948, and monarchies have always formed a large share of all states -even the majority until the 1960s.

This book argues that this monarchic peace has the same explanation as the democratic peace: similar political systems do not go to war against each other. Instead of a peculiar democratic or monarchic pacifism, it is that when weighing their choices on war and peace, an important part of the calculation of states is who their counterpart is and whether it is part of their ingroup or an outsider. The rules on conflict management inside an ingroup differ strongly from rules toward those on the outside. The foreign policy patterns of Middle East monarchies help uncover this similar political systems peace (abbreviated here as SPSP) that trumps monarchism and democracy alike.

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