Unsolicited Advice for Arab Monarchs

Watching events play out in Libya, it seems to me that the best advice the US government could offer to friendly regime leaders in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, etc. is to get on the phone with King Juan Carlos I of Spain. The impression I get is that it’s pretty good to be the king, even if you reign rather than rule. And constitutional monarchy is a fairly widespread and successful form of government found in the British Commonwealth, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Japan. But of all those people it’s only King Juan Carlos who actually personally oversaw a transition to constitutional government.

Whether or not oil-rich monarchies have what it takes to withstand the current wave of political change, surely it must be obvious that these ruling families can’t continue to exercise dictatorial power forever. Far and away the most plausible way for them to stay in positions of privilege and influence is to get ahead of the curve and lead change to a scenario in which elections, rather than royal favor, determines policy outcomes.