Summary of Thicker than Oil

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  • Eye Opening
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American foreign policy exists simultaneously at several levels. Talk radio and TV pundits occupy the surface level, while foreign policy professionals understand increasingly deeper layers of information, history and interpretation. Rachel Bronson uses a scholarly approach for this in-depth discussion of America's complex relationship with Saudi Arabia. Linked by their animosity toward communism, and a fundamental supplier-customer relationship based on oil, the Saudis and Americans were allies throughout the Cold War. Then, they worked clandestinely to thwart the Soviets. But in the post-Cold War environment, conditions changed. The Saudis faced a major threat from other Islamic nations over their monarchy and their close relations with the U.S. Bronson densely packs her book with historical events in diplomatic, military, religious and cultural frameworks. Much of this material was classified and unavailable previously, so Bronson has fresh information. getAbstract considers this essential reading for anyone who wants a deeper understanding of the vital, evolving relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States.

About the Author

Rachel Bronson, Ph.D., is a senior fellow and director of Middle East Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

 

Summary

The Cold War's Legacy

The U.S. and Saudi Arabia share a close relationship based on shared interests in oil and anti-communism. They spent several billion dollars each to help Islamic extremists in Afghanistan defeat the communist U.S.S.R. They politicized religion to fight for mutual goals in Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia and Pakistan in the '70s and '80s. And, the U.S. buys Saudi Arabia's oil, the lifeblood commodity. The Arab state owns 25% of the known supply, which accounts for 95% of its export revenues.

Standard Oil of California (Socal) won the right to produce oil in Saudi Arabia in 1933, beginning U.S. involvement in Saudi oil. This strategic relationship strengthened as world demand for oil steadily increased. In World War II, the U.S. Army used 100 times more gas in Europe than it used in all of World War I. After WWII, two events shook the Middle East: dominant Western colonial powers withdrew and, in 1948, the U.N. created the state of Israel.

As England and France left, some Arab nations, especially Egypt, began to renew dormant Arab nationalism. Russia filled the patrimony vacuum by giving Egypt political and military aid. Preoccupied at home, Washington...


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