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America's Kingdom: Mythmaking on the Saudi Oil Frontier (Stanford Studies in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies and Cultures (Paperback)) New Updated Edition Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1844673131
ISBN-10: 1844673138
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“A devastating critique of the US-Saudi relationship.”—Tariq Ali, Guardian

“A scholarly and readable book on the interaction between Saudi society and Aramco, the US oil giant that had its beginnings when the Saudi government granted its first concessions to Standard Oil of California in 1933. Combining history with political geography, Vitalis sheds a bright light on the origins and less savory aspects of the Saudi-US relationship.”—London Review of Books

“Groundbreaking is a word too often used in assessing historical scholarship. Yet its application to Robert Vitalis’s book is nothing less than a necessity. The result of painstaking research in not only heretofore unused but previously unknown records, the book makes a major contribution to a variety of fields: international history, US-Saudi relations, business history, American race history, and more ... Those seeking to explain the present US place in the world should consider it essential reading.”—American Historical Review

From the Inside Flap

America's Kingdom debunks the many myths that now surround the United States's "special relationship" with Saudi Arabia, or what is less reverently known as "the deal": oil for security. Taking aim at the long-held belief that the Arabian American Oil Company, ARAMCO, made miracles happen in the desert, Robert Vitalis shows that nothing could be further from the truth. What is true is that oil led the U.S. government to follow the company to the kingdom. Eisenhower agreed to train Ibn Sa'ud's army, Kennedy sent jets to defend the kingdom, and Lyndon Johnson sold it missiles. Oil and ARAMCO quickly became America's largest single overseas private enterprise.
Beginning with the establishment of a Jim Crow system in the Dhahran oil camps in the 1930s, the book goes on to examine the period of unrest in the 1950s and 1960s when workers challenged the racial hierarchy of the ARAMCO camps while a small cadre of progressive Saudis challenged the hierarchy of the international oil market. The defeat of these groups led to the consolidation of America's Kingdom under the House of Fahd, the royal faction that still rules today.
This is a gripping story that covers more than seventy years, three continents, and an engrossing cast of characters. Informed by first hand accounts from ARAMCO employees and top U.S. government officials, this book offers the true story of the events on the Saudi oil fields. After America's Kingdom, mythmakers will have to work harder on their tales about ARAMCO being magical, honorable, selfless, and enlightened.
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Product Details

  • Series: Stanford Studies in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies and Cultures (Paperback)
  • Paperback: 354 pages
  • Publisher: Verso; New Updated Edition edition (March 2, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844673138
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844673131
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #202,496 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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This book has a labor-history focus that transcends traditional breaks between diplo and social history. The title does not capture the book's incredible scope and synthesis. WOW! People should, IMO, get this book now.

WOW! Hard to imagine a book withe more disparate intersections of key themes in 20th century US AND ALSO international history! The only book I could compare it to is the incredible Thy Will Be Done: Nelson Rockefeller, Evangelism, and the Conquest of the Amazon in the Age of Oil, a title which ALSO completely fails to capture the essence of its intersections. That and of course, the best book yet written on the history of the US National Security State, JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters, a book that Charlie Rose censored from PBS when RFK Jr. held it up in Dallas, January 11, 2013.

Among other things this book helps you understands key buried Big Inch and Little Inch moments that run through the history of the 20th century Democratic Party. There is too much money to be made in our not seeing this longer term view, so this book is necessary.
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Most accounts of the establishment of the Saudi oil bonanza, and this one in particular, concentrate on the manipulative power of Aramco and the U.S. government in bringing a sweet deal to American investors and creating an unequall alliance between the United States and Saudi Arabia. They analyze a transaction that unfolded over three quarters of a century in terms of colonial aggrandizement by the west and articulately the United States. This although Saudi Arabia was never colonized, and eventually nationalized its supposed colonizer (Aramco) on favorable terms.

These accounts consistently fail to grasp is the brilliance that the Saudis, and especially Ibn Saud, demonstrated in the long dance which brought such great wealth to Saudi Arabia. The Saudi kingdom was politically fragile and militarily weak. It completely lacked the financial and technical ability to locate and develop its resource. Their choices were the British, who they had previously found unreliable, the French, the Dutch and the Americans. The French and the Dutch were pitifully weak financially, militarily and technologically compared to the Americans. And with the Americans they could deal with Aramco, a private corporation, which was an independent force not directed or controlled by the American government. Indeed, through Aramco, the Saudis could influence American policy in ways they never could have achieved directly. In addition Aramco delivered the goods technologically and financially, and was an ideal temporary instrument for the Saudis to increase their leverage and power through their oil resource.

The winner in this elaborate game was Saudi Arabia. It's success in the world oil market is due in part to the richness of the resource that is located in their country.
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"America's Kingdom" by Robert Vitalis is a deeply fascinating history of the U.S. in Saudi Arabia in the mid 20th century. Mr. Vitalis, who is an Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, seeks to correct the mythmaking that has obscured the real story for far too long, dedicating many years of research to this project. The result is an exacting piece of scholarship that produces remarkable insight into the forces that have shaped U.S. relations with the Middle East.

The book is divided into two parts. The first section focuses on the labor practices of ARAMCO in Saudi Arabia. Mr. Vitalis astutely compares and contrasts the industrial practices of other U.S.-based extractive industries to find that ARAMCO simply imposed upon its Saudi clients what had already been learned elsewhere: namely, to divide and conquer the local labor force; control the political process; and extract maximum profits. In this particular case, of course, Mr. Vitalis details how ARAMCO's efforts were fully supported by a U.S. government intent on pursuing its geopolitical ambitions on the world stage, in which the control of oil played no small part.

The second part tells the story of worker struggle, politics and power. Debunking the myths that had been carefully constructed by corporate public relations professionals and sympathetic government officials, Mr. Vitalis decisively shows how worker's rights were gained by popular struggle and not from enlightened corporate policies. Through Mr. Vitalis' engrossing narrative, we see how American interests came to ally itself ever more closely with the Kingdom as a means to ensuring a steady flow of oil and projecting American power into the region.
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I bought this book without much thought, and began thumbing through the introduction by chance. I could not drop it afterwards. This very detailed study of the policies of Aramco in Saudi Arabia manages to connect Middle Eastern history, orientalism, racism and US Jim Crow practices into a very cogent and fluent narrative. Fact-orientated, it does not eschew theory (in the introduction only though), and should be, despite its narrow subject, a must read for anyone vaguely interested in modern Middle Eastern history, as it gives a glimpse into the changing terms of the Saudi-US relationship.

Not to mention that anyone having worked in an expatriate environment in the Middle East will recognise quite a few of the nowadays subtler forms of ethnic discrimination and domination described in Vitalis' book...

To be recommended!
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