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Thicker Than Oil: America's Uneasy Partnership with Saudi Arabia 1st Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195367058
ISBN-10: 0195367057
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Editorial Reviews

Review


"Rachel Bronson's Thicker than Oil: America's Uneasy Partnership with Saudi Arabia takes on an important subject matter, the history of the U.S.--Daudi relationship, and makes an important contribution to the literature. Bronson's book is thoroughly researched, with extensive citations to diplomatic accounts, autobiographies, government documents, and intersting interviews woven into a storyboard text that is lieable and enjoyable to read."--Amy Myers Jaffe, International Journal of Middle East Studies


About the Author

Rachel Bronson is Vice President of Programs and Studies at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Her writings have appeared in publications such as Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, The National Interest, The New York Times, Washington Post, and The Chicago Tribune. She has commented widely on foreign affairs in outlets such as N.P.R., C.N.N., The Lehrer News Hour, The Charlie Rose Show, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (June 25, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195367057
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195367058
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 1.1 x 5.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #849,116 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. Michael Adams on April 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Every so often a book comes along that sheds so much light and understanding on the events and people who shaped world events that the reader can honestly say; "Now I understand." Thicker Than Oil is one of those books.

Saddam's invasion of Kuwait, Iran-Contra, the rise of Muslim fundamentalism, the seeds of 9/11 sown at the end of World War II: each turns out to be the logical effect of a cause put into play over many years by presidents, kings, generals, entrepreneurs and ambassadors, all appropriately greased by oil, money and a mutual distaste for communism.

Rachel Bronson follows the trail, adds the insights, and uses the voices of the people who were actually there to document the U.S.-Saudi partnership over the last sixty years. It is the most clear and most compelling history available yet of the "uneasy" partnership.

Enjoyably readable, impeccably researched, interspersed with humor and understanding, Thicker Than Oil is everything you want a book to be. If only the future could be as clear as the author makes the past.
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Format: Hardcover
Reducing bilateral relations between America and Saudi Arabia to oil alone is a mistake, argues Rachel Bronson, director of Middle East and Gulf Studies at the Council of Foreign Relations, in this provocative book. Contrasted with recent titles on US-Saudi relations, her target is not the malevolence of the House of Saud or the supposed infesting character of America's alliance with the sentry of the Muslim faith; instead, Ms. Bronson asks: how could two countries as different as America and Saudi Arabia forge such a close alliance for so long?

Two parts form the answer: the first is that the alliance has not been airtight, much less free from squabble. Over the years, America and Saudi Arabia have clashed repeatedly, not least over America's position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ms. Bronson's thorough research elucidates the ups and downs of America's rapprochement with Saudi Arabia, clarifying times when America's leaders have wanted closer ties with the kingdom and others when distance was warranted. Dispelling the myth that America and Saudi Arabia have always been close, Ms. Bronson pulls together the different strands of the story and highlights the conditions under which the two states have been attracted to one another.

From the close examination of history comes the second part to the answer: that the alliance was always about more than oil. Anti-communism and real-estate were equally important factors that brought the two countries together. America's anti-Soviet agenda found an natural partner in a devout country that was awash with money; time and again, America would turn to Saudi Arabia to finance anti-communist struggles the world over. The Saudis often obliged, for their own anti-communist reasons.
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Format: Hardcover
I honestly find this book very hard to criticize and give "only" a 4 star rating to. As far as a work of history goes this is pretty impressive. The author clearly researched the living heck out of her subject and has more than ample footnotes to prove it. There's no reason to doubt any of her facts as anything but 100% true, and mostly comprehensive. She has a dispassionate writing style letting the facts she has uncovered speak for themselves, untempered by either leftist or rightist interpretation. And although her topic itself can be a bit dry at times, she writes quite well and the book is not a chore to finish. All of these things are like rare sparkling gems in most works of history geared towards popular audiences (i.e. as opposed to textbooks . . . in which case the above traits would probably be even more precious.)

You will learn some good information in this book. It has a brief review of Saudi Arabia's history, but the focus of the book is really on the relationship between the US government and the Saudi government so it doesn't really start until the '20's or '30's where America first begins exploring for oil in the peninsula, and doesn't get meaty until the '40's when official government relations are upgraded to embassy level and FDR and Abdel Aziz met onboard the USS Quincy. True to her title the US Saudi relationship has been about more than oil, and has taken on an air of surprising friendship in many cases, where both sides really are genuinely helping themselves out by helping out each other. On the oil front Saudi Arabia has used it as a weapon against America far less so than it's neighbors and other OPEC nations, being a reliable source to counterbalance what OPEC is doing, and covertly supplying the US military even during periods of embargo.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As one very familiar with Saudi Arabia--and who blogs about it at Crossroads Arabia--I find Rachel Bronson's book to be the current best on the topic.

Without shying away from problems in Saudi Arabia, or within the US-Saudi relationship, Bronson treats all parties involved fairly. I lived and worked in Saudi Arabia in the early 80s, and then again from shortly after 9/11 'til October of 2003. Much of what she writes about, I experienced from within the US Embassy in Riyadh and my travels around the country. Her observations and assessments almost exactly match my own.

She carefully points out that for most of its history, Saudi Arabia and the US had mutual interests, primarily in fighting the Cold War against the Soviet Union. These mutual interests overrode differences. For example, using religion as a weapon in that war was something both the Saudis and the American governments--from Eisenhower through the early Clinton administration--saw as desirable and useful. But due to domestic political pressures, as well as those from a revolutionary Iran, the Saudi government let things go too far.

After jointly chasing the Soviets out of Afghanistan, the US government--as well as the Saudis--largely forgot about all the people who were sent there on a mission, both religious and military. We are all still facing the consequences of that negligence today.

Bronson also points out that Saudi reforms are real; that the Saudis provided far more support to the US government in its wars against Afghanistan and Iraq than it's generally credited for; and that pressuring the Saudi government to pick up the pace of reform requires something more careful than simply shouting at them from a newspaper or Congressional hearing.

If you're interested in what's going on in Saudi Arabia right now, there's no better place to start than with this book.
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