Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Threats to Monarchy Around the World
Moving on to monarchies in the first degree, we will look at the largest concentration of them in Europe, specifically western Europe. Here, again, most would think there is not too much cause for alarm. Even in countries where monarchs have undergone recent downturns in popularity (Sweden or Spain for example) most of the people still seem to prefer a new monarch rather than no monarch at all. However, while there are no countries posing a threat to the monarchies of Europe, there is a more subtle enemy at work in their very midst. It is a socialistic, egalitarian, fundamentally republican mindset that can, perhaps, be best summed up with two words: European Union. Admittedly, the EU cannot be blamed for every threat to monarchy in Europe but it embodies so much of it. For one, there is the economic policies that push for unsustainable social welfare states that invariably drive countries into debt and risk economic collapse. When those hard times come, anger frequently turns to the monarchy which is portrayed as an unproductive drain on the national purse (ludicrous though that argument is). There is also the egalitarian attitude which we have seen pushed on monarchies further and further with changes to succession laws, embracing ‘alternative lifestyles’ and any number of things that all push the same message; that everyone is equal and everyone is the same. It should be obvious that this is a mentality which is contradictory to monarchy and if it continues to strengthen, monarchy will become impossible to defend.
In Africa there is not too much to talk about. There are only three independent monarchies remaining, one of them is in no danger and another (Swaziland) is mostly in danger from international busy-bodies and their own poor decisions. The Kingdom of Morocco fits in with monarchy across the Islamic world and can be viewed in that context. Islamic monarchies face threats and challenges that are roughly similar from Morocco to Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and even to a lesser extent to Malaysia. Most monarchs face condemnation from one of two sides; they are either condemned by the western democracies for being fundamentalist and tyrannical or they are condemned by some of their own people for being too modern, “westernized” and not sufficiently Muslim (whatever that means). Many are also under constant criticism by the international busy-bodies who consider lèse majesté laws to be just as terrible as shooting people for their religious beliefs or killing a woman with a rock because she was accused of adultery. Malaysia would seem the most secure but for the Islamic monarchies of the Middle East there is little doubt that the biggest threat is Iran. At this point, most seem to have dealt with the problems of the Arab Spring well enough but ever since the 1979 Revolution the Iranian regime has been actively working to thwart monarchy in the Islamic world and is today building a network of alliances across Iraq, Syria and Lebanon that pose a direct threat to the monarchies of Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. Even without direct action by Iran, one of their clients or simply a spark caused by the arms race that will be set off if Iran obtains nuclear weapons could cause a conflagration that would be devastating to the cause of monarchy in the region. All in all, to summarize as much as possible, the biggest threat to monarchy in the Islamic world remains extremism and how swiftly its advocates resort to violence.
The Kingdom of Thailand also enjoys a mostly happy position with the current King being widely revered and the monarchy highly respected and viewed as the cornerstone of the entire national structure of the country. However, the current King is old and ailing and cannot live forever. The Crown Prince does not enjoy the same popularity and prestige (though it has increased somewhat) but more concerning is the internal politics of Thailand. This came to world attention mostly with the rise of the red shirts and yellow shirts. The yellow shirts are those most supportive of the monarchy and traditional Thai values but the red shirts, while claiming to support the monarchy, want less of a role for royals and nobles whereas the yellow shirts want more. They have an agenda that is much more class-driven and egalitarian and thus, at heart, fundamentally hostile to the basic values of monarchy. They have also held more support in the heavily populated urban areas and their increasing hold on power combined with the deteriorating health of the King is undoubtedly the biggest cause for concern the Thai monarchy faces. Cambodia is in a relatively worse position, certainly since the death of the controversial but undoubtedly powerful figure of King Norodom Sihanouk. King Norodom Sihamoni does not have the same power his father had and is more or less at the mercy of Prime Minister Hun Sen, dictator of Cambodia in all but name, who was placed in power first by the Vietnamese when they invaded Cambodia and overthrew the regime of Pol Pot. So long as the status quo remains, the monarchy is secure but if Hun Sen or perhaps even the government in Hanoi, Vietnam feels it would benefit them to get rid of the monarchy the situation could change in an instant.
Anything that existed in Japan prior to the surrender in 1945 is singled out as “proof” that Japan has not sufficiently cut ties with its imperial past and that, of course, includes the monarchy as well as it is certainly not lost on any of these people that the Emperor of Japan was the only Axis head-of-state to retain his position after the war. Japan has apologized on numerous occasions, paid tens of billions of dollars in reparations yet it is never enough and the campaign to vilify, isolate and weaken Japan continues. That is a threat to the monarchy but so also is the response this generates inside Japan. On the left it encourages those who want to go to any lengths to win popularity, whether that is getting rid of the national flag or the national anthem and that leads to getting rid of the monarchy as well. On the right it encourages those who say that any reconciliation is impossible, playing nice has not worked, so the answer is to rearm and become more strident which itself would mean running the risk of a confrontation that could prove disastrous. It is also true that many on the right in Japan do not appreciate the threat to the monarchy and close their eyes to the ideological struggle going on against traditional authority in the world in favor of viewing everything through the lens of race. They do themselves no favors by criticizing other monarchies while denying any wrong-doing on their own part. To link back with the beginning of this look at threats to monarchy, similar to the situation in some other countries, this also involves foreign powers, whether countries or international organizations, defining an existing monarchy, its national legacy and dictating what is or is not acceptable in what is supposed to be an independent, sovereign country.