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Petro-Aggression: When Oil Causes War Paperback – January 31, 2013

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Editorial Reviews


"Jeff Colgan significantly expands our understanding of the relationship between oil and war, explaining the domestic politics of oil's role in enabling revolutionary leaders to pursue aggressive foreign policies. Petro-Aggression presents a clear theoretical argument, which it supports with a wealth of qualitative and quantitative data. Colgan has made a major contribution to the study of energy security."
Charles L. Glaser, The Elliott School of International Affairs, The George Washington University

"There are hundreds of books on global security and oil. Yet it would be hard to find one as compelling and original as Petro-Aggression, which develops new insights into the foreign policies of countries that are both oil-rich and have revolutionary aims. Colgan's analysis breaks important new ground in the study of organized violence and natural resources."
Michael L. Ross, Department of Political Science, University of California, Los Angeles

"In Petro-Aggression: When Oil Causes War, Jeff Colgan provides an indispensable starting point for researchers interested in the relationship between oil and international conflict ... he offers a theoretical foundation for future research on a topic likely to grow in importance over the next several years - both within the field of international relations and out in the "real world"."
Rosemary A. Kelanic, H-Diplo

"... this book moves the research frontier forward and will set an agenda for future work - particularly since the author has posted the replication data on his American University website."
Nils Petter Gleditsch, Journal of Peace Research

"Resource wars, including coverage of struggles over access to oil, have been the focus of many studies in recent years. This book, however, features a different angle: countries that produce significant amounts of oil that do not act aggressively to enhance their oil supplies, but instead instigate interstate wars ... Recommended. Professional collections."
A. Klinghoffer, Choice

Book Description

Jeff Colgan explores why some oil-exporting countries are aggressive, while others are not. Using evidence from key countries such as Iraq, Iran, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, Petro-Aggression proposes a new theoretical framework to explain the importance of oil to international security.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (March 28, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1107654971
  • ISBN-13: 978-1107654976
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #653,095 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By david sorenson on July 6, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Colgan asks whether "petro-states" are more war-prone than non-oil states. He notes that while modern petro-states have initiated several wars in recent decades, some have not, like Saudi Arabia, a major oil producer. His key variable is revolutionary leaders, whom, as he notes, are more risk-prone than tradional leaders like Saudi Arabia's Al-Saudi family. Thus the combustable combination of revolutionaries like Khomeinei, Qadhafi, and Saddam Hussein and a dependency on petroleum for more than 10% of GDP are the key ingredients for war-proneness. This is a well researched book with both theoretical chapters and case studies that probe the details of petro-aggression decisions. Essential for students of war and of the Middle East.
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Format: Paperback
This book is a welcome addition to the literature; as the author notes, “the academic and policy discourse about the role of oil in world politics has traditionally been dominated by a single narrative about resource competition. One contribution of this book is to highlight how narrow that narrative is.” Yet the book’s contribution comes more from its focus on the links between oil and conflict, rather than by proving the thesis that it is postulating.

The book kicks off with a big thesis: petrostates (states where oil exports exceed 10% of GDP) are more likely to initiate inter-state conflict than non-petrostates; moreover, petrostates with revolutionary governments are even more aggressive. The prima facie case for this statement comes from a powerful chart, showing that petrostates are involved in conflicts more often than non-petrostates, and, more importantly, they are significantly more likely to start conflicts. When you mix oil dependency with a revolutionary government, you get an explosive mix. Jeff Colgan also lays out a plausible causal link for this: oil income reduces domestic accountability and hence lowers the costs of foreign policy adventurism, while revolutionary governments are generally led by risk-taking individuals. So far, so good.

The trouble comes, in my mind, with the testing of the thesis. The quantitative model makes (inevitably) a number of judgment calls, which I just happen to think weaken the thesis. In particular, by treating “petrostate” as a binary variable, the model ignores how changes in a country’s oil revenues might impact its behavior. Interestingly, Mr. Colgan notes that, “it is … unlikely that there is a tight correlation between changes in oil revenues and the state’s propensity for international conflict” (p. 50).
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