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From monarchy to republic – from peace to war?: “Quasi-experiments” of collapsed monarchic couples

The case studies presented so far in this book do not reject the possibility that monarchies might have special characteristics that make them amenable to de-escalation, which has nothing to with whether they face monarchies or republics. To make sure, we need to compare two mostly identical cases differing only regarding joint monarchy. In contrast to scientists and engineers, social scientists are not able to conduct large-scale controlled experiments inside a lab. The closest approximation, however, would be a “quasi-experiment” that aims to keep other variables as constant as possible while changing only one - in this case, the monarchic political system. The following two case studies investigate pairs of monarchies where one experiences revolution that changes the political system while other factors (size, capabilities, geostrategic location, oil revenues, etc.) stay mostly the same. In reality, of course, a revolution or coup results in the change of other parameters as well. However, by identifying the continuities and changes, we can try to distill the effect of joint monarchism through third factors as clearly as possible.

The following two cases cover different countries and combinations of countries with vastly different trajectories. In both cases, interstate conflicts did not just arise after revolutions but were present and salient in jointly monarchic periods as well. Still, following the regime changes, their bilateral relationship became significantly more antagonistic, in the case of Iraq and Kuwait even leading to war.

Iraq and Kuwait: from “sister people” to the conquest of the “19th province”

The relationship of Iraq and Kuwait is an ambivalent one with many ups and downs. The territorial dispute between them goes back to a claim based on the boundaries of the Ottoman Empire and has been raised since the beginning of the statehood of Iraq and later Kuwait. In 1958, Iraq changed its political system to a republic after the overthrow of the Hashemite monarchy. While the Iraqi monarchy never attempted to take the territory by force, republican Iraq tried so twice, in 1961 and in 1990.

There are caveats to the conclusions to be drawn from the case, particular connected to Kuwait’s relatively late formation and independence. The context

From monarchy to republic 153 in the two time periods to be compared is not exactly the same, because Kuwait was not yet independent at the period of the Iraqi Hashemite monarchy. Also, since state building there was a more recent process than it was in Iraq, its nation-state character was not consolidated during the monarchic period. We have established independence (and state consolidation) as a scope condition, implying that the theorized effect is less likely to be observed without it. Yet we do observe a clear effect consistent with the theory that might even strengthen the theory, given that it seems to work even in less-than-ideal circumstances. If Kuwait had become independent and had been more consolidated as a state while the Iraqi monarchy was still intact, the effect might have been even stronger.

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