Originally posted by Teinosuke
Which is why I said "these kings", referring specifically to the three I'd singled out, and wondering if their rule was more benign than that of the specific presidents I compared them with. But in fact I was enquiring if the issue was specific or general. I was trying precisely to pose the question of whether the different outcomes in different Arab at, again, a Sunni ruler was being installed to govern a majority Shia population.
While I know that Iran's not an Arab society, it's a Middle Eastern society with
considerable influence in 'the Arab world', so it seems appropriate to include
it in this discussion.
"...I said 'these kings', referring specifically to the three I'd singled out, and
wondering if their rule was more benign than that of the specific presidents I
compared them with..."
One could 'cherry pick' a few European monarchs who seem comparatively
'more benign' than a few European dictators just as easily as one could 'cherry
pick' a few Arab monarchs and a few Arab dictators. What should an 'apples and
oranges' comparison supposedly 'prove' about the nature of Arab governments?
"...the different outcomes in different Arab countries are simply a matter of
relatively civilised autocrats versus relatively barbarous ones..."
'Different outcomes' to whose interests? The Arab masses? The Arab elites?
The USA's or the UK's imperial interests? Israel's? And how should one define
'relatively civilised' and 'relatively barbarous'? Westerners tend to regard the
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as 'relatively civilised', yet its women have fewer rights
and opportunities than in the Islamic Republic of Iran (I know it's not Arab), which
Western governments tend to regard as 'relatively barbarous'. While Saddam
Hussein was ruthless in crushing Iraqis whom he suspected of opposing him, he
also helped establish educational and health systems that were better (according
to an Iraqi-born academic whom I knew) than those set up under the US-led
military occupation of Iraq.
"...that monarchy as an institution is seen by many Arabs to have a greater
legitimacy than presidential rule."
Conservative Britons such as General Sir John Bagot Glubb (an Arabist of some
distinction) liked to believe so--particularly about his favourite King Abdullah I of
Jordan--but it depends upon the context. Egypt's Nasser was much more popular
than King Farouk I, notwithstanding his lengthy royal lineage.
"One reason that I think monarchs may have a greater legitimacy is that
they can claim to some form of religious authorisation for their rule."
In Iran (which I know is not Arab), did the Shah's regime have 'greater legitimacy'
because he could claim 'some form of religious authorisation'? Of course not.
Egypt's Nasser was popular and generally accepted as a 'legitimate' leader
notwithstanding his ruthless suppressing of the Muslim Brotherhood.
"This (religious difference between the king and most of his people) could
explain the greater intensity of the protests there (in Bahrain)."
In part, yes, yet I hope that you (Teinosuke) can understand that Arab people,
even Muslims, also can have non-religious grievances against their rulers.
"Why did they choose a Hashemite (Faisal I, as King of Iraq)? Partly because
the Hashemites claimed descent from the Prophet...."
Who's 'they' in 'they choose'? The British or the Iraqi people?
All this Hashemite 'family business' failed to help Faisal keep his position as the
King of Syria (1920) *before* the British appointed him as King of Iraq (1921).
The French kicked Faisal out of Syria, and then he found refuge in the UK.
So the British began to shop around, in effect, for an Arab country in which
their client, Faisal, could be appointed king, and so he became King of Iraq.
When Western imperial interests came into conflict with an Arab ruler's claims
of 'descent from the Prophet etc.', Western imperial interests always prevailed.