"Oil monarchies" means the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman). In a very useful survey, Gause reviews the internal and foreign policies of the six states and concludes with some thoughts on U.S. policy.
Perhaps the author's most original argument concerns the allegedly traditional quality of the states in question. He notes that the advent of oil revenues gave the central governments unprecedented powers, which the rulers then used to limit the power of Islamic and tribal institutions, then dominate those domains. What we on the outside see as tradition "is in fact a construction of recent decades, in which rulers employ a political language redolent of Islamic and tribal overtones to convince their citizens" of their legitimacy." To those who see the oil monarchies as fragile blossoms, Gause notes that they survived the era of Pan-Arab nationalism and look to outlast radical Islamic ideologies. Indeed, he calls their legitimation formulas "remarkably successful" and concludes that "they must be doing something right."
Gause's only weak suit becomes apparent when he takes up U.S. policy. On the one hand, he would have Washington begin a dialogue with Tehran about the future of Iraq; 192 on the other, he advises against American efforts to combat fundamentalist Islam or to increase female rights in Saudi Arabia. It's hard to say which is a worse idea.