The Rise and the Fall of the Prince: Fear & Cruelty

The Rise and the Fall of the Prince: Fear & Cruelty
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The Rise and the Fall of the Prince: Fear & Cruelty

A ruler needs then to be a fox to recognize traps and a lion to frighten away the wolves. The mysterious and gruesome stories about the disappearance of anti-Saudi Washington Post writer Jamal Khashoggi has left many people wondering and afraid. A former insider in the Saudi government and Royal family who became one of their most frequent critics disappeared and Turkish sources claim he was tortured and killed

By Abdennour Toumi

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Abdennour Toumi

The mysterious yet unexplained missing of Saudi journalist Mr. Jamal Khashoggi has left political observers and journalists in the region, indeed world-wide, wondering what happened to him on the Tuesday afternoon, October 2nd, when he entered the Saudi General Consulate in Istanbul to request a banal divorce paper and seemingly never re-emerged.

In the wake of his unexplained disappearance, Turkish media claim to have information revealing the Saudi authorities had him ambushed inside the Consulate shortly after he entered. According to the latest news from Istanbul, the Saudis are preparing a report that will acknowledge his assassination was the result of an interrogation that went fatally wrong. 

What made his perpetrators commit such a cruel act? Did his criticism of the Crown Prince provoke this amount of fear in the palace? Or are the Prince’s governing methods to be feared?

Political violence as a State form of repression and marginalization involves the use of disproportional force to silence dissidents and political opponents whether are journalists, academicians, religious thinkers or Human Rights activists. Nonetheless, these reprehensible characteristics of repression fundamentally violate individual’s  human rights, commonly advocate in the West by NGOs and Human Rights Groups.

The systemic abuse of power, however, which Arab regimes in particular have the habit of employing; it is based on the assumption of “legitimacy” to govern in the eyes of the Prince, so repression or political violence is a tactical means for a strategic end that the regime pursuits in the name of the country’s homeland security and naturally military objectives. Sometimes, for the sake of national security purposes, the Prince rules with Martial laws for decades or Emergency law in Western countries when terrorist attacks occurred.

Jamal Khashoggi, former Saudi Royal family insider turned critic at the Washington Post, courtesy of Wikipedia

Jamal Khashoggi, former Saudi Royal family insider turned critic at the Washington Post, courtesy of Wikipedia

Clearly all regimes have “threat” ability and can implement it because the concept itself is inherent in the State in these countries, hence a monopoly on the legitimate use of coercion or physical force, including repression. According to Max Weber, [they] have agents of repression, and those agents have assets available to them to act when and where they want. This includes technology, physical force, resources, Intelligence (Mokhabarat/Shabeha) and readiness.

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These agents could be military special forces, spies, militia and mercenaries. They get a legitimate function appendix in the regime’s institutions. Why do non-democratic governments use repression and violence?

Though in Modern Arab countries, nation-states built in the 1950s and the 1960s, for instance, collapsed in Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya. The “rifle or the sword tool” analogy has made the concept of violence not only the tyrannical “rule of the game” in the Prince’s hands, but the basic “rule of the game” for the State itself…

Otherwise, Ibn Khaldoun advises the Prince to avoid tyranny because it caused irreparable consequences leading to the destruction of the State. Which is what is known in MENA region as the “culture of political violence,” whose practice permeates the political sphere at every level in the society, in schools, pop markets, traffic jam, public administration buildings, stadiums and lately even in Mosques along the lines of other underground practices, like the “culture of corruption,” and the “culture of cronyism.”

Such sentiment led to what Machiavelli noted on violence in politics and suggested that “the Prince should make himself feared in such a way that if he is not loved, at least he escapes being hated.” On the other hand, he didn’t suggest the Prince should be “cruel” towards his people and his opponents just because his position of power allows or might allow for it. He preferred that any cruel acts be committed all at once instead as a series of constant predictable events.

This has made the use of such cruelty by the Prince incomprehensible at the present time where political awareness rhymes with polity and civility; whereas, Machiavelli stated also that despite the occasional act of violence against the Prince opposition: “it cannot be called ability to kill his subjects, to betray friends, to be treacherous and pitiless.”

Comparing the views of Machiavelli and Ibn Khaldoun concerning the state-of-mind of the Prince towards his subjects, and considering the on-going dire situation in the Arab and Muslim countries, one could not escape Ibn Khaldoun’s analysis. The geo-historian and the sociologist wrote about States and rulers, but these remarks seem to indicate another round of the Khaldounian paradigm, the foundation for reform and accountability.

So it is significant that the rulers seeking a new social order were not just one more nomadic group mobilized by a religious aim to form a State. In an Arab tribal mind-set the term of al-a’asabia was another Saudis existential determinant with local tribal leaders and religious in al-Hijaz in the creation of the Kingdom; the Saudis based their dynastic authority on this political identity in the region.

Certain modern instruments of repression and control make it easier for Arab regime governments to keep power intact. Hence the late Arabs’ Spring relaunched the a‘asabia factor, the street became greatly divided, and the elite separated to pros and cons because of the political violence that emerged. Consequently from these popular uprisings forced the Prince either to leave or ask for help! It was seen as a curse from

Allah to the masses, and as blessed bread to the Prince to continue ruling with fear and cruelty.

The presence of a nation-state generic, the a‘asabia multi-systemic behavior, among Arab regimes seems to be an important political seed allowing the regime to rule with fear and cruelty regardless of its ideology; in this stance what happened under the Ba’ath party in Iraq and Syria and the Nasserism in Egypt and libya. On the other hand, the Bedouins in Arabia and Nomad tribes in the Sahara desert areas in Algeria and Libya, whom Ibn Khaldoun liked, are now becoming relevant actors in the political process to decrease the degree of a’asabia with the Central State, in a sort of social contract with the Prince.

Nevertheless, this is not just something that Machiavelli considered in the context of relationship of rulers with their subjects, but also in a broader sense as well. For example, he believed that diplomacy, unlike military service, was not virtuous and in foreign policy was not a substitute for arms and money; it did enhance, however, the virtue of even the strongest Prince.

To Machiavelli, a ruler has to “know how to act like a beast, he should imitate both the fox and the lion.” A ruler needs then to be a fox to recognize traps and a lion to frighten away the wolves. But the idea of glory that he discussed becomes the pattern by which a great ruler is measured, not how feared he was by his subjects or enemies.

Unlike Ibn Khaldoun who sees the Prince authority as noble and enjoyable position, so he urged him to reign to the right extent, to avoid excess and not to rule by neither a “rifle nor a saw.”

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Abdennour Toumi
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Abdennour Toumi

Abdennour Toumi:
- France correspondent for The Arab Daily News.
- www.bareed-areej.com Editor-in-Chief
رئيس تحرير مجلة بريد الأريج
- Political consultant at IMPR a Think-Tank based in Ankara, Turkey.
- Member at the European Observatory for Arabic Language Teaching based in Paris, France.
- Affiliated with Sociology of Islam Journal and contributor at Middle East Studies / International Studies, Sociology of Islam and Muslim Societies Center, Portland State University in Portland, OR.

EDUCATION: Diplôme des Études Approfondies (DEA) in Political Science from Toulouse University I, France. Master’s degree in Law from Algiers University, Algeria.

Email im at: nourhty@gmail.com
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