Thursday, May 7, 2015
Conflicts that Impacted the Cause of Monarchy
As for the so-called “American Revolution” (more correctly the American War for Independence), the effects of it on the cause of monarchy has been considerable but probably not as significant as most think. Its importance tends to be exaggerated for two reasons; American hyper-patriots who like to think that the world revolves around the United States and everyone follows their example and longs to be just like America and, ironically, the anti-American crowd that has the same mentality but viewed negatively rather than positively. They also tend to look at how powerful the United States eventually became and so simply assume that so powerful a country must have had a great deal of influence on the rest of the world. It certainly did have some impact, even if for no other reason than that it made a new generation of people view republicanism as a viable possibility. It also aided in, indirectly, bringing about the more consequential French Revolution though it was certainly not the determining factor. Americans were more influenced by fashionable liberal thought in Europe than Europeans were by anything that came out of America.
Obviously, the French Revolution was a conflict that had enormous impact on the cause of monarchy worldwide. The Americas, Africa, Russia, even Southeast Asia have been impacted by the French Revolution in their republican movements. For example, the aforementioned political divisions in Spain that spurred the Latin American wars for independence were a direct result of the spread of the values of the French Revolution to Spain and eventually a new French-imposed regime on the ‘Land of the Setting Sun’. The civil wars that plagued Spain for so long afterward and which led to the loss of the empire were all based on political disputes that were born out of the French Revolution. Even the ultimate Allied victory in the Napoleonic Wars sometimes benefited the republican cause in certain cases depending on which changes, caused by the Revolution, were reversed and which were kept in place. It may not have been immediate but tensions remained that would ultimately prove detrimental to the monarchist cause. In both republics and monarchies the conflict coincided with an increase in nationalism across Europe. This did no harm, and in some cases even helped, monarchies which managed to make themselves the champion of nationalist causes but it proved very harmful to those who set themselves against it as people who were forced to choose between their monarch or their fellow countrymen tended to choose their countrymen.
The French were also involved in the conflict that, I think, had a far greater impact on the monarchist cause than most realize which was the Franco-Mexican War of the 1860’s. It can, of course, be hard to be definitive and is very easy to romanticize “what might have been” but, having given that period of Mexican history no small amount of study over the years, I very much believe that it was one of the most pivotal struggles in the contest between republicanism and monarchy that the world has seen. I do believe that the subsequent history of not only Mexico but much of Latin America would have been changed dramatically for the better if the Second Mexican Empire had endured. I also tend to think that it would have had a beneficial impact on the institution of monarchy in Europe as well. Had Emperor Maximilian and Empress Carlota persevered on the Mexican throne, putting all of their plans into effect, and had Napoleon III carried on with his own further aspirations for the region, I see no reason why the Mexican Empire could not have become a monarchial power just as successful as the United States went on to become. Of course, the United States (or at least the northern half of it) is more responsible than anyone for the ultimate victory of Juarez and the defeat of Maximilian so that, one could say that the American Civil War was a pivotal conflict for the cause of monarchy as the victory of the free states over the slave states in that conflict doomed the cause of Maximilian and absolutely ensured the victory of Juarez and the republicans. Though, that may, perhaps, be the reason many monarchists do not wish to dwell on it.
Another example which most will surely be expecting is the First World War. There is no doubt that World War I had a very negative impact on the monarchist cause, beyond simply the loss of the monarchies in Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia and eventually Turkey. The war itself really did not have much of an immediate impact on the wider cause of monarchy beyond these countries but the events which the war set into motion certainly did. One area in which I differ from many monarchists I know is my belief that the war itself was the problem, not which side happened to win. I do not take the view that everything would have been uniformly better if the Central Powers had emerged victorious, though certainly in several cases that would have been true. Once started, I see no reasonably probable way in which it could have failed to end in disaster for both the winners and the losers. A negotiated peace, a “peace without victors” may have been better but given how much both sides had lost, I just don’t see that as being likely. The more one loses the more one is going to demand in order to justify such tremendous sacrifices. I also tend to think that, even if the United States had stayed out of the last year of the war, the Allies would still have won. The British blockade had been too successful, the advent of tanks would have broken the deadlock and the non-German Central Powers were already on the verge of collapse or in the process of collapsing before the United States made any significant contribution at all.
Where the Second World War does stand alone, at least somewhat, as a conflict directly impacting the cause of monarchy was in the East Asian theater of the war. In this case, the outcome of the war does matter as much as the war itself in that the war upset the existing, mostly pro-monarchy status quo but another, also mostly pro-monarchy state of affairs could have emerged but only if the Empire of Japan had been victorious. The problem with that, of course, is that Japan never had a prayer of winning the war and so some will doubtless be bitter about Japan upsetting the existing state of affairs with the succession of attacks across Southeast Asia in late 1941 and early 1942. For the most part, the impact was in the fact that the dominant power in East Asia would have been a monarchy (the Empire of Japan) if Japan had won the war rather than republican powers like China and the United States when Japan lost. Other than that, not a great deal would have been different on a country-by-country basis except that Manchuria and, perhaps, Inner Mongolia, would have been monarchies after the war was over. China, the Philippines, Burma, India and Indonesia would have become republics no matter who won the war. Laos and Cambodia did remain monarchies but Vietnam did not and, if Japan had won, it is probable that the Empire of Vietnam that the Japanese belatedly established, would have endured with Japanese support.
The overthrow of the Egyptian monarchy in 1952 is often credited with awakening Arab nationalism but, in fact, that had already been done during World War I with the British-backed Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Turks. However, that led to a succession of almost uniformly Arab monarchies emerging, the sole exceptions being Syria and Lebanon (thanks to France). However, the Egyptian Revolution led to specifically republican, anti-traditional and largely secular nationalist revolutions or attempts at such throughout several areas of Africa and the Middle East. It provided the inspiration for the 1958 overthrow of the monarchy in Iraq and from 1962 to 1970 Egypt provided the most support for the republican rebels in the civil war in the Kingdom of Yemen with Saudi Arabia backing the royalists. The Nasser vision of authoritarian socialist republicanism was also taken up by rebels in Oman where royalist forces and republican forces clashed with sympathetic regimes backing each; Great Britain, Imperial Iran, Jordan, the UAE and Saudi Arabia backing the Oman monarchy and China, Soviet Russia and East Germany among those backing the rebels.
Today, there are not really any major conflicts that exist or seem eminent which would pose a threat to monarchy in general. Unfortunately, that is not quite as good as it sounds. The institution has been so greatly reduced that, though some fervent monarchists may not believe it, most major powers no longer consider it worthy of much consideration. Other priorities have taken precedence and various regimes may oppose or tolerate existing monarchies depending on their own national interest. It also means that the greatest threat to existing monarchies is almost entirely internal and that can be harder to deal with than external enemies. From what I have seen, there also seems to be a fairly radical breach between some people in existing monarchies and their governments (transcending parties and administrations) as to who exactly constitutes a threat to their continued existence. Many countries also like to maintain the appearance of cordiality, pretending to be friendly with practically everyone, even regimes that most everyone knows they thoroughly despise, that every individual has cover to pick and choose their own ‘state of the world’ as best pleases their existing views.