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Patterns of monarchic peace - monadic or dyadic?

Mirroring the early findings and discussion of the democratic peace, two variants of a monarchic peace emerge: a monadic variant linking monarchies in general to greater pacifism and a dyadic variant linked to only two interacting monarchies who refrain from war in times of conflict. In another parallel to the DPT discussion, the evidence for the monadic effect is weak. War is a rare event, and there are only a handful of monarchies left in the postwar era, so this effect is not statistically significant. In other words, there are not enough instances of war to filter out unambiguous significant distinctions between monarchies and republics per se, regardless of the opponent.

Of much greater interest is the dyadic variant: why have monarchies (after WWII) never gone to war against one another, neither globally nor on the smaller scale of the Middle East with its abundance of both monarchies and war? To get to the core of the dyadic phenomenon - jointly peaceful monarchies - a dyadic explanatory mechanism is called for - in other words, a mechanism which kicks in only when a monarchy encounters another monarchy.

The similar patterns of the separate peace among monarchies and democracies suggest a shared or at least similar explanation instead of a monarchy-specific one. If there is indeed a shared explanatory factor involved, it cannot be based on the specific institutional features of democracy or monarchy alone. Instead, the explanation would have to fit both equally. This suggests an ideational or constructivist approached based on a broader concept of political similarity that is not intrinsically tied to, for example, the openness of the democratic system or the hereditary succession of monarchies.

As has become evident from the foregoing preliminary descriptive statistical data, there is an intriguing empirical puzzle to match the theoretical research gaps which calls for a focus on monarchies and their foreign policy. Without the prism of monarchism, these empirical patterns might not have been uncovered.

Questions, hypotheses, and concepts

Given the context of the research problem and the gaps in existing literature outlined earlier, the overarching research question is, what are the typical patterns of monarchical foreign policy in the Middle East, and how can they be explained? This in turn can be broken down into three sub-questions relating to interstate conflict, ingroup relations, and changes in the patterns of making of monarchic foreign policy:

  • 1 What factors shape the interplay between domestic structure and external state behavior in MENA monarchies, especially relating to war and war avoidance?
  • 2 How do MENA monarchies engage in interstate conflict and cooperation?
  • 3 What factors shape the pattern of MENA monarchy interaction over time?

The units of analysis or subjects of investigation are independent authoritarian monarchical nation-states in the MENA region, which applies to Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco. Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, which still persist, and the historic monarchical periods of Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, and Iran up to the 1950s through to the 1970s. A monarchy, originally and etymologically the “rule by one”, is here understood as a political system with "a hereditary head of state with life tenure and wide-ranging powers”, adapting the definition of Merriam-Webster.11 Excluded are therefore all 15 Commonwealth monarchies and the 11 European kingdoms, principalities, and grand duchies and other formal monarchies where the head of state performs merely ceremonial functions, such as Japan.12

The focus lies on war avoidance patterns of monarchies and intra-monarchic solidarity. The core thesis is that monarchies do not go to war against one another, because they identify as one ingroup wherein violence has been eliminated as an appropriate method of conflict resolution. This allows us to situate this monarchic peace inside the broader phenomenon of the similar political systems peace (SPSP). The SPSP is explained through a social identity theory (SIT) approach, which posits that states identifying as members of a shared “community”, or ingroup, are restrained from war by ingroup norms. Inside an ingroup, violence has ceased to be a viable option as “interaction has literally eliminated defection (war) as a possibility-where there exists the ‘impossibility of imagining violence'” (Abdelal et al. 2006, 697). In view of the small number of both monarchies and interstate wars, the chosen approach is a qualitative comparative multiple case study analysis.

To analyze the monarchic peace as a subtype of the SPSP, the theoretical framework needs to be adapted for monarchies. To answer our main research questions addressing monarchic foreign policy in the region, we connect the empirical observation that no war between two monarchies has ever taken place since 1945 with a SIT-centric theoretical framework that leads to the following hypotheses.

Primary implications of a monarchic peace via SIT - war - are supplemented by secondary implications of a monarchic ingroup - alliance and monarchic solidarity’.

General patterns of foreign policy and the nexus between political system structure and foreign policy behavior:

1 What factors shape the interplay between domestic structure and external state behavior in MENA monarchies, especially relating to war and non-war?

Hypothesis Hr monarchies recognize each other as equal and part of the same ingroup, which encourages distinct types of behavior for monarchies toward one another and toward other regimes.

2 How do MENA monarchies engage in interstate conflict and cooperation?

Hypothesis H,: ingroup identity’ leads to ingroup favoritism (but not necessarily outgroup hostility’).

Hypothesis H2a: ingroup favoritism leads to the de-escalation of severe conflicts and crises and thus prevents war.

Hypothesis H,b: ingroup favoritism leads to monarchic alliance or solidarity beyond ad hoc coalitions.

Change of foreign policy behavior:

3 What factors shape the pattern of MENA monarchy interaction over time?

Hypothesis H}: MENA monarchy interaction is shaped by the salience of monarchic ingroup identification, which varies over time.

Hypothesis H3a: the salience of monarchic ingroup identification is raised in times of crisis when monarchies face a common threat and when they form a (decreasing) minority of states in the region.13

Hypothesis H,b: the salience of monarchic ingroup identification is lowered by a divisive ideology among monarchies.

Hypothesis HJc: even in periods of low salience, the ingroup bond precludes military action in intra-monarchic conflicts.

There is no clear theoretical expectation of a weighting or ranking of the factors. They are therefore assumed to have equal importance and effect.

To eschew oversimplification and reductionism, monarchism is not meant to be a mono-causal explanation for peace and war in the region but an additional understudied aspect that helps in illuminating previously obscured features. Indeed, omitted factors like resource wealth, geostrategic location, alliance structure, and size go a long way to explaining foreign policy in the region, both of monarchies and of republics. Nevertheless, the lens of regime type difference can explain some of the variance left hitherto unexplained by other shared qualities of the group of states in focus.

Why should we search for an explanation on the political system level at all? First, as shown earlier, there are group differences in foreign policy behavior and especially war between Middle East monarchies (and even monarchies in general) and Middle East republics. These group differences align more clearly with the monarchy-republic distinction than other overlapping similarities that the respective states share, such as capabilities, economic system, and Western alliance, which also happen to cluster in monarchies. Second, neither this difference nor possible explanations have been explicitly covered in the previously mentioned research literature still marked by the tenacious assumption of monarchic obsolescence. Most importantly, Middle East monarchies fit the ideal type of similar political systems, which makes them a fitting candidate for a test of the SPSP.

In conclusion, we expect to see a less-hostile attitude of monarchies toward other monarchies than toward republics, especially relating to war. We would also expect to see a difference in monarchic solidarity, depending on the overall salience of the monarchic distinction, conditioned by the level of threat toward monarchies, their share in the system, and the presence or absence of a divisive ideology.

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