Skip to comments.Kings Of Mesopotamia (Don't Go There)
Posted on 08/23/2002 7:31:34 PM PDT by blam
August 23, 2002, 9:00 a.m.
Kings for Mesopotamia?
Dont go there.
By Claude Salhani
In an article titled "A Time for Kings?" National Review's senior editor, David Pryce-Jones, proposes reinstalling the Hashemite kings in Baghdad, once a U.S.-led invasion force rids the world of Saddam Hussein. The author of the NR article even puts forward a name Jordan's former Crown Prince Hassan to become the new king of Iraq.
Here are just a few words of caution to Pryce-Jones and others who follow his line of thinking:
Colonialism is dead long dead.
It died sometime in the 1960s when a wave of nationalism swept over much of the developing world, from Algeria to Zanzibar. Yet, there appears to be a certain group of people who refuse to accept this fact, believing instead that the West, particularly the United States, should interfere in other country's internal policies, deciding which rulers to install and who is apt to rule. This line of policy can be dangerous.
There are some in Washington's inner circle of power who believe reinstalling the monarchy in Baghdad might actually work better than trying to identify an heir to Saddam Hussein amid the cluster of silk-shirted opposition leaders, uniformed army generals and turbaned religious clerics currently vying for the job.
Pryce-Jones asks, "Can an even passably democratic government be devised to take the place of a dictator who has stripped his people of decency and trust in others?" He goes on, "Why should Iraqis have confidence in self-selected and evidently ambitious leaders whose legitimacy is questionable?"
"The last ruler in Baghdad to enjoy legitimacy was a Hashemite, King Faisal II, grandson of the man appointed," argues Pryce-Jones, "imposed, if you will by the British after World War I to rule Iraq. The legitimacy was admittedly tenuous, but better than none at all."
Does this argument not contradict itself?
Why should the people of Iraq trust an appointed royal any more than they would an ambitious leader who has risen through the ranks, political or military?
On the one hand Pryce-Jones says the Iraqi royal family was the "last ruler in Baghdad to enjoy legitimacy," and in the very next sentence, he goes on to admit this legitimacy was nonetheless "tenuous." In other words, in the eyes of Pryce-Jones, a colonial-imposed royal family holds greater legitimacy than a popular nationalist revolution, albeit one turned bad.
Given that line of neocolonialist reasoning, should one interpret it to mean that all nationalist-led movements are wrong and illegitimate? One could thread the same line of argument from Nasser's coup in Egypt to oust King Farouk (who was not of Egyptian but of Albanian-Turkish origin), to George Washington's American revolution that rid the 13 colonies of King George III's dominance.
Preposterous? Of course. Ridiculous? Definitely. Double standard? Certainly.
The West cannot, and should not, engage in a double standard one reserved for dealing with the Arab world and another for the rest of the planet. Much of the Middle East's troubles today arise from leftover political failures of colonialism's miscalculations. Much of the Levant's ills come from trying to redraw lines in the sand that were sketched by Monsieur Picot and his British counterpart Skyes in their 1916 agreement dividing the Levant into French and British spheres of influence.
What is needed, not only in Iraq but in the rest of the Middle East as well as in much of the Islamic world, are incentives to move forward, to democratize, to encourage open markets, to engage in dialogue, to promote a free press and greater freedoms for opposing political thought, for greater participation of women in society, and added respect towards people with different religious beliefs.
Why do some policymakers in Washington believe that democracy can be imported, like supermarket convenience goods, and installed overnight in Baghdad when the entire Middle East with possibly the exception of the southern half of Cyprus suffers from lack of true democracy?
"A return to a constitutional monarchy might provide the framework for law and order and national unity," writes Pryce-Jones. Yet anyone who has spent any amount of time in Iraq will quickly realize that the Iraqi people are fiercely proud of their heritage and would reject the imposition of a "foreign royal" (such as Jordan's Prince Hassan), much as an antibody rebuffs an invading germ. As Hugh Pope correctly points out in Thursday's Wall Street Journal, "the Hashemites are not indigenous to Iraq." Such a move would simply lay the groundwork for more problems down the road.
Yet others put forward the name of an Iraqi royal Sherif Ali bin al-Hussein, an exiled pretender to the Iraqi throne, and the last remaining relative of Iraq's last ruling monarch. But Sherif Ali left Iraq as an infant more than 50 years ago and is unfamiliar with today's complex political and social structure of the country. (Ali's reply: "I watch a lot of Iraqi satellite TV.")
Another school of thought calls for the dismemberment of Iraq. Also not a good idea. While the Shiites who populate the southern part of the country are particularly opposed to Saddam Hussein's despotic regime, and despise him for his brutal retaliatory actions against them almost as much as their Kurdish countrymen in the north, they nevertheless remain attached to the notion of a unified Iraq. Turkey, a key NATO member, would never allow for an independent Kurdistan in the north, and neither would Iran favor that idea very much.
The argument can be made that some of Arabia's kings Qatar, Morocco, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Oman, for example have been beneficial for their countries, when compared to "elected" or self-imposed rulers, such as in Syria, Libya or Iraq.
The Sandhurst educated Sultan Qaboos of Oman is popular in his country because he ousted his old father, putting the country on the road to modernity, and offering his people greater freedom. The same happened in Qatar. Jordan struggles in a delicate balancing act between allowing some form of democracy-lite and reigning in the opposition whenever it becomes too vociferous. The same can be echoed of Egypt, Lebanon, and Tunisia.
The restoration of the constitutional monarchy in Spain offered the "basis of a successful democracy," writes Pryce-Jones. Yes, true, but Spain is not Iraq. And neither is the comparison with Afghanistan a good one either, where King Zahir Shah was pulled out of his Roman exile to rally the various warring parties around a central figure.
Even more dangerous is the final counsel offered by Pryce-Jones: "But if justice were properly to be done, Saudi Arabia ought to be broken up, and the Hijaz and the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina returned to the Hashemites, who have a more legitimate title to rule than the Saudi family. There might then be a "liberal" Islam after all. That would be a truly historic vindication."
This line of thinking will only reinforce the belief that many in the Islamic world already hold: that America is not to be trusted, and is only interested in its own egoistic well-being, even to the detriment of other nations. Contrary to what Pryce-Jones advances, such a solution would offer a far more radical Islam with the proliferation of dozens more of Osama bin Ladens.