Salience of ingroup identity’

Another key finding is related to the salience of monarchy, the main factor behind changes in the relations between monarchies over time. Salience affects the mutual perception of monarchic elites as being part of a community. As illustrated by the case studies, intra-monarchic cohesion waxed and waned according to external circumstances. In brief, when salience was low because some of the driving factors behind it were weak or absent, social processes of ingroup identification declined, resulting in lower levels of ingroup favoritism and consequently weaker monarchic cohesion. In general, no salience meant that military conflict was a possibility because there was no recognition as equals and no formation of a special community (as was the case up to the 1930s). Low salience meant weak ingroup identification and weak ingroup favoritism - non-war but also little to no instances of monarchic solidarity and mutual support (as in the outset of Saudi-Hashemite relations). High salience usually meant alliance and/or solidarity among monarchies, sometimes leading up to attempts to institutionalize these alliances (as during the period of the Arab Cold War).

However, the case studies did not clearly establish a hierarchy between the different factors affecting salience and did not settle the question whether some might cancel others out. The findings support the interpretation that the strength of this intervening factor has a stronger explanatory power for monarchic alliance than for monarchic non-war. In other words, a low salience might be enough to preclude war, but a higher salience is necessary for further monarchic favoritism. However, given that the analysis is set in the postwar (post-world war) period, when monarchies had been declining for a long time, a basic level of monarchic salience had been present at all times since the 1940s, although its level varied strongly.

Two factors are identified as catalysts for ingroup identification: a common threat and a low and/or decreasing share of monarchies in the regional system. In addition, a divisive hierarchic ideology could be shown to obstruct ingroup identification: this was a main stumbling block for the cohesion of the republican camp during the Arab Cold War, as illustrated in the initial case study of monarchic intergroup conflict: the Nasserist and Ba'thist variants of pan-Arabism called for a unification under a strong leadership, thereby dividing the revolutionary republics instead of uniting them against the monarchies. The case studies of monarchic foreign policy during periods of intragroup conflict provided additional evidence for this mechanism. Although Middle East monarchies are marked by their proclivity to pragmatism, during the rare episodes when a divisive ideology emerged (whether Hashemite irredentism or Persian supremacy), these ideologies either weakened ingroup identification (in the latter case) or precluded it altogether (in the first case). The Saudi-Hashemite and the Iran-UAE case studies thus provide some evidence for its influence on monarchic salience. The monarchic variants of divisive ideologies, however, also went hand in hand with imperialist foreign policies or occurred during the early period of state and regional system consolidation, and both factors impede ingroup identification and are therefore scope conditions for this analysis.

Since the inception of the modern Middle East state system, the share of monarchies in the regional system has continuously been on the decline (with the exception of a small bump due to the independence of the small Gulf monarchies). Monarchies never again reached majority status after 1962, when North Yemen imploded into civil war and Algeria became an independent republic. Taken together with the typical monarchic ‘’pragmatism” that made them less susceptible to strong ideologies of any kind, the salience of monarchism as a defining characteristic for foreign policy actors remained prevalent to different degrees throughout the decades from this point on. Consequently, the main parameter of change for monarchic salience and thus monarchic foreign policy behavior throughout the period was a common threat directed against monarchies. This should not be confused with the conclusion that common threat has a stronger impact on salience than on other factors per se (although that could also be the case): it means merely that it has varied more widely than the other two factors affecting monarchic salience.

While the analysis showed that the presence of a direct threat heightened the salience of monarchism by intensifying the social processes of ingroup identification, increased threat levels also led to more-demanding norms of intragroup conduct - alliance and solidarity in addition to mere non-war. This effect could be observed, for instance, after the breakdown of the Egyptian and the Iraqi monarchies in the 1950s or during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Sometimes, it even triggered military action in support of other monarchies, as in the Gulf War 1990/1991 or the Peninsula Shield operation in Bahrain in 2011.

If the monarchic system comes under threat, it becomes a strong politically relevant characteristic that might trump larger (Arab world) or smaller (tribal, personal, confessional, etc.) identification frames. If the option is "hanging together or hanging separately”, the answer for foreign policy decision makers is clear. A feeling of immediate and often-existential threat also creates "communities of fate” by, in Wendt's words, “identification with the fate of the other” (Wendt 1994. 385, emphasis in original) through “shared norms and political culture” (1994, 386). A threat to one becomes a threat to all and triggers a joint response. These communities of fate are then transformed from ad hoc coalitions of "collective security” into more-enduring alliances of "collective defense”. Inside them, violence becomes both unacceptable and unfathomable, while alliances are created for joint action in order to defeat external threats.

Nonetheless, a common threat is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for long-term cooperation or alliance. The lack of republican cohesion in times of a monarchic threat during the Arab Cold War shows that it is not sufficient. The case of Bahrain and Qatar, on the other hand, shows that the preference to cooperate and engage in foreign policy restraint can be ingrained even without a shared threat as long as the ingroup is sufficiently developed.

The fact that there has been no intra-monarchic war and only seven MIDs (out of 444) between Middle East monarchies in the examined period (of which only three actually involved any use of force)1 supports the conclusion that even low salience might preclude war - although it does not necessarily trigger mutual support. The absence of military conflict cannot serve as a confirmation of the hypothesis beyond doubt, although it makes a solid case for its plausibility, especially given the analysis of the causal mechanism. However, salience is not a trivial condition, because the historical context of the case studies also showed that when monarchy is not salient at all, war or at least militarized altercations can happen - as in the pre-World War II period of Saudi Arabia and the Hashemite states. Salience, we can deduce, is key - and not the existence of monarchies per se. Only both combined can explain the patterns that we see in the case studies.

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